Secrets to Small-Group Training Success

by Megan Senger on Jul 19, 2013

Marketing is the process of reaching out to potential new customers. Done right, it’s a systematized, targeted and reusable way to gather fresh sales leads. But marketing small-group training—the profitable industry trend wherein one trainer works with three to 10 clients at a time—has its own special considerations.

A wealth of information is available about marketing in general and marketing fitness in particular. Here we focus on issues specific to developing new-customer leads for semiprivate sessions.

Consider these key small-group marketing secrets.

Secret #1: It’s Easier Than You Think

First, the good news: Relative to one-on-one training, small-group is often easier to market.

That’s because images of groups look safer to newbie exercisers, says Hayley Hollander, training and education coordinator for PTA Global and owner of two Las Vegas–based fitness businesses.

The novice realizes that in small groups there will always be other people to relate to. “The fear of being alone with a ‘drill sergeant’ trainer goes away,” Hollander explains. This is why your marketing collateral should include photos and/or videos of small groups in action.

Consider showing such photos and videos in the form of “before” and “after” testimonials. Why? Because they show that your programs work, says Brent Gallagher, MS, the owner of West U Fitness, a private training studio in Houston. For more about crafting effective testimonials, see

Secret #2: Systematize and Recycle

Marketing is an area that fitness entrepreneurs frequently neglect and rarely systematize. So says Vito La Fata, creator of Fitness Profit Systems consulting and owner of Fitness Evolution—a training club in Laguna Hills, California.

“Scrambling from promotion to promotion, trying to come up with different marketing ideas every month and year, is what I call the ‘Black Hole of Profits,’” La Fata asserts.

Instead, your marketing campaigns should be like the mesocycles of a periodized athletic training program: organized, cyclical and goal-oriented. And, of course, planned out months in advance.

Novice trainers should map their marketing efforts at least 3 months out, La Fata advises. And as you find what works, build out 6 months of plans, then 12 months and so on, he remarks.

Secret #3: Actively Build Buzz

Most of your small-group business will come from converting existing customers, says Hollander. However, the camaraderie inherent in small groups makes it easier to gain outside referrals and penetrate your current clients’ networks of friends and family.

Your goal, therefore, is to create a tightknit social culture among trainees. This is what La Fata calls “your tribe.” How can you facilitate this?

Don’t always break a sweat. Regularly host nonworkout events—such as client appreciation parties or barbeques—for your small-group participants, suggests Fred Sassani, founder of Bodies by Design Personal Training in Austin and Pflugerville, Texas. He takes advantage of “any excuse to get together” and tells his clients to bring their friends along. Such events create loyalty and build internal marketing momentum.

Play the name game. Introduce clients to each other by name, and by shared hobby or interest if you know it. Get trainees chatting with each other before and after workouts whenever possible.

Keep workouts communal. Include drills designed to drive participant interactions. Try partner exercises that require clients to work together for a set (such as medicine ball throws). Or use team challenges that pit half of the small group against the other (like a fun competition to complete a set of push-ups).

For more secrets, please see “Small-Group Secrets: Marketing” in the online IDEA Library or in the May 2013 issue of IDEA Trainer Success. Note: The full article is available to personal trainer and business members. If you can’t access the article and would like to, please contact our Inspired Service Team at (800) 999-4332, ext. 7, to learn how to upgrade your membership.

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About the Author

Megan Senger

Megan Senger IDEA Author/Presenter

Megan Senger is a writer, sales and marketing consultant, and fitness instructor based in North Carolina. Active in the exercise industry since 1995, she holds a bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology and English. She specializes in writing and editing technical and promotional content for small business owners in the fitness industry for their blogs, brochures, books, websites, articles and more. For help with your fitness-related writing and editing needs, visit