Do you believe that fitness is for everyone? Do you struggle to accommodate people who can’t afford to work with you? You may be so passionate about reaching everyone that you volunteer in the trenches, speak at service clubs, host health fair booths and support charitable runs. In addition to sharing your goodwill, you can build a thriving business while serving a low-income market. In fact, you can be wildly successful, make money and have a significant positive impact.
Before you slash prices or cram more bodies into your training sessions, invest in a powerful message. Tailor your facility’s services to fit a population that has less disposable income, more health risks and challenging schedules. Learn how to reach people in a low-income market and grow your business doing it.
To succeed, you will need to adjust your programs to fit this population’s unique challenges.
3 Challenges in a Low-Income Market
1. Limited discretionary income. Although money is tight, people still spend it on things they want. Consumers are cutting back on basics and spending more on indulgences. Don’t get bogged down in the fear of limited money. You don’t have to give your services away or come up with a two-for-one gimmick. Create outrageous value—programs that yield results—and price them fairly. Adopt the mindset of a successful professional with whom people want to do business.
For example, provide payment plans to make it easier for people to do business with you. At Bay Athletic Club, we invite people to make installment payments on “payday Friday” during our 6-week program. We also let people pay half at the beginning and half at the end. We want them to finish! Also, be smart about how you ask for money. Encourage people to invest in themselves. Tell them they deserve it, and then be quiet. Let it sink in. Often, they smile.
2. Greater health challenges. The low-income population is also associated with a higher number of health risks, including poor diet, smoking, sedentary lifestyle and obesity, which can lead to diabetes and heart disease. Design comprehensive programs that offer more than a workout.
For example, include life-coaching techniques to help people make real, long-standing changes. Ask a lot of questions about schedules, eating habits, fitness history, stress points and support systems. Help people find solutions. Provide simple nutrition guidelines, a food journal, recipes and grocery shopping lists to help clients make smarter choices. Share educational articles about clients’ health risks. Include low-impact exercises to help people who are overweight, weak or simply out of shape.
3. Limited time. Low-income clients often have less free time because they work multiple jobs, work nighttime shifts and/or have limited access to childcare. Make simple adjustments to serve them. Empower people to become healthier on their own by creating at-home workout routines and by sharing products and DVDs that will support them (become an affiliate of those companies so you get credit for your referrals). Clients will still perceive you as the expert and will return to you for help.
Offer ongoing coaching and accountability programs that provide value yet don’t require a lot of time; for example, weekly weigh-ins, 30-minute express workouts and coaching via phone and email. If possible, offer workouts early in the morning, at lunch and late at night to accommodate all shifts.
Another option is to offer programs with specific start and end dates and a limited time commitment, such as a 10-day boot camp, a 6-week wellness program or a 30-day challenge. In my community, low-income participants routinely line up extra babysitting help, swap shifts at work and even cash in vacation time to make time to reach short-term goals. If you create value, these clients will come back again and again.For more information, please see “How to Thrive in Low-Income Markets” in the online IDEA Library or in the March 2012 issue of IDEA Fitness Manager.