Top 10 Ways to Drive Revenue in a Downtrodden Economy

Best Practices: To survive tough economic times, personal trainers need to spend more time and effort on their business, not just in their business.

Man, times sure are great, aren’t they? You’re doing what you love working in a thriving industry of infinite opportunity, getting paid tons of money and also making a real difference in people’s health and fitness.

Whoa! Does this sound a lot different from what you’ve been hearing about in the news lately? Good! You may not believe this now, but this bump in the economy may turn out to be the very thing that propels your career to success. It’s times like this that separate the elite personal trainers from the average. Now more than ever, trainers need to focus on the business side of this industry and learn how to provide the services they need to succeed against the competition: customer service, marketing, business systems and profit centers.


Uncertain times are also when you need to focus on all the positive things in your life, your unique strengths and competitive advantages, and the business opportunities awaiting you. For me, one of the biggest challenges we face is the blind fear and negativity that dominate our discussions and mindset; this kind of fear, anxiety, hopelessness, sense of depression and general lethargy only breeds more of the same. Yet a great opportunity exists if we stay and fight the biggest war of all: negative thinking in our clients, our colleagues and maybe even ourselves!

There are ways you can improve your own business while fostering and restoring faith and hope in your clients, your business and yourself. Here are my top 10 methods to drive revenue and fight negativity in an economy that may seem bleak.

1. Do the Exact Opposite of Everyone Else
In a time when doubt, fear and anxiety run rampant, it’s important to appear to be the exact opposite: positive, faithful and energized. When everyone else is running scared and tightening up, it’s time for you to loosen up and play big. Focus on your competitive advantages, let your energy flow, and be sure to choose your thoughts and words carefully. Keep in mind that your thoughts are critical in determining and shaping your energy, and it is energy that attracts people to you. Your culture is your business, and your personal energy is the face of your business and the center of your culture.

2. Increase Your Marketing
This axiom goes hand in hand with standing out from the crowd, because most business owners cut their marketing efforts and expenses in tough times. My recommendation is to double your marketing effort, which doesn’t necessarily mean doubling your marketing budget.

Now is the time to focus on internal and “guerilla” marketing. Dive into your database to create internal competitions among staff, referral programs for current clients, anniversary rewards, etc. Create your own brand of guerilla marketing by posting fliers on windows prior to a local road race or at a local shopping center or farmer’s market. Become an expert in social media outlets like Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter, all of which offer free exposure to your business and brand. Increasing and focusing your marketing efforts will help attract new clients to your services and enable you to improve on how you care for your existing clientele. Don’t forget to increase your efforts to reach out to local media outlets (e.g., newspaper, television and radio); these outlets are also hurting in this economy and may be more open to negotiating special deals with you.

3. Create New Programs
Tough times force us to be creative. For example, I recently conducted an online “21-Day Transformation” program that was a great success in terms of outreach. More than 100 people participated in this program, which included daily workouts, nutrition strategies, inspirational stories, meditations, motivations and three teleseminars, in which clients could call in and ask questions about a specific topic. The online venue allowed me to reach out to many people at once. While this is not a substitute for one-on-one service, it is a new, cost-effective way to keep in touch with busy, budget-conscious clients. Because I was able to serve 100 people in an hour, I earned more income for my time and saved time in the process.

This freed me up to develop new programs that offered clients a wider variety of options to fit their personal needs and circumstances. Other ideas for creating additional revenue include offering youth programs (parents often spend more on their kids than they do on themselves, and the research shows that parents are cutting out all other expenses before spending less on their kids), sports camps or other passive streams of revenue, such as DVDs, retail products, etc. Any one of these can add to your bottom line. Choose an area where your passion and interests intersect with your willingness to invest the necessary time, and you’re on your way to a new revenue stream.

4. Offer Small-Group Sessions and Monthly Continuity Programs
There will always be a need and a market for one-on-one personal training. But tough times may also foster the current trend of partner training, small-group training, and group training classes. These options offer people great opportunities to work out with a trainer at a fraction of the cost of individual training. Plus, they provide valuable social opportunities for clients and amp up the unique energy of a small-group environment. There is a different vibe in a group setting, which may be preferable and advantageous to many clients.

Additionally, it would behoove you to create monthly continuity programs like boot camps, which can also maximize your time, expertise and money. A continuity program provides clients with the chance to participate in and pay a set monthly fee for specialized programs, such as Mastermind Groups, which unite like-minded, success-driven entrepreneurs and allow them to network, strategize, share resources and provide ongoing business support for each other. Continuity programs like boot camps and Mastermind Groups foster a feeling of belonging for clients and can translate to a more predictable revenue stream for you. Be creative!

5. Improve Your Business Systems
Challenging times force us to examine and improve our business systems so they are clear and efficient for staff and clients. Critical business systems include customer service policies; operational procedures; marketing practices; staff education, training and motivation; and data tracking for client sessions, revenue and profitability. Systems take time to develop, but they play an essential role in maximizing your operational effectiveness. Focus time and energy on your business systems now. This is just as vital as keeping up on your ongoing education and fitness credentials.

6. Deliver the Best Customer Experience
To keep customers satisfied, I encourage all of the trainers on my staff to imagine that every client is wearing a necklace that says, “Please, make me feel special today!” When we can deliver a truly positive client experience, we set a great tone. Service starts with a warm and genuine greeting at the front desk and goes on to include a clean and well-maintained facility, uplifting music and you as the owner setting the right tone, energy and vibe for your business. As Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Create and lead a culture that makes everyone feel special and welcome in your facility. Your compassion, energy and genuine interest in your clients’ improvement will leave a lasting impression.

7. Improve Your “Follow-Up”
Follow-up is an integral part of great customer service, one that requires particular attention when the economy is troubled. Use e-mail to follow up with clients. This lets you keep their contact information easily at hand and minimizes your costs. On a weekly basis, send out group messages with attached articles that teach clients how to improve their mindset, nutrition, motivation, inspiration, fitness, etc. This slight effort on your part can help clients “hear” your motivating voice in their minds in between training sessions. When your facility becomes your clients’ “second home” or you stay in their consciousness even when you are not present, you will know that you are doing a great job delivering superior customer service.

8. Network, Network, Network
The best thing about networking is that it costs you very little money and the return on investment can be outstanding. Network with local physical therapists, chiropractors, physicians, running clubs, sporting goods stores and other nearby businesses. We recently set up a win-win deal with a local florist in our shopping center. Weekly, we receive fresh flowers that are marked with a small advertisement for the florist. In turn, the florist posts our fliers in her shop to promote our business. Sweeten the deal by offering a reward for referrals, such as a free session for every five referrals, or by sending a simple thank-you note with a $5 value card toward any club purchase or service.

Other networking ideas include hosting a joint educational workshop, wellness day or motivational program at your facility. Expand your reach by inviting the local media. Last, thank a few of your best networking groups or clients by giving them a free gift certificate they can share with one of their own clients or family members. People you share a close relationship with are likely to be your best ambassadors. Trust them to handpick a targeted referral for you with this gift of a free introduction to your facility. For no cost to your client and little cost to you, five free passes can easily turn into two or three (or more) new paying clients. Carefully choose your ambassadors, clearly communicate your marketing intentions, and watch what happens!

9. Keep Yourself Fueled Up and Passionate
If you want to succeed in these times, you need to stay fired up and keep your energy sky high. Put your energy out there, and watch it multiply and come back to you. You can do this by attending workshops and conferences, joining a trainer mastermind group and attending mentorship seminars with industry leaders. Host weekly or monthly meetings with your staff for education, motivation and empowerment purposes; this will keep everyone swept up in your excitement and you in theirs. Feed your brain by reading journals and books on professional and personal development. (A great goal for all of us is to read one book per month.) To­gether, these efforts will allow you to keep your mind sharp, your energy flowing and results happening.

10. Give More!
If you want more in life, you must give more. If you want more out of your business right now, it’s time to give even more. This will require more effort, more service, more marketing and more positive energy on your part, but the additional efforts will translate into more results.

Where can you give more? Every client is valuable, but now’s the time to reward the positive behavior you want to see more often! This month, give a gift certificate to each of your three longest-standing clients. Next month, give a gift certificate to the three clients who have shown the most dedication over the last 6 months. You could also create a monthly award for Most Inspirational Client or give one gift certificate per month in a contest of some kind. Give, give and give with an attitude of gratitude. Make it about others, and you will receive more than you ever give away, so give freely and continue serving your clients in a compassionate, caring and generous way.

The Improved Bottom Line
In times like these, it’s less about what we don’t have and more about what we do have. Worry less about the client who says, “I can’t afford to train anymore,” and focus on offering incredible value for everyone who visits your facility. Expand your offerings with new, affordable options for your clients, and stay focused on restoring their beliefs and faith. Create a welcoming environment they can’t live without, and empower them to “be the change” they wish to see.

This is a great time for all of us to shore up our most important and valued asset: a positive mindset. As trainers, we have the amazing opportunity to affect a client’s daily lifestyle—even when times are tough. Take advantage of this gift, and be the catalyst for change—one life at a time.

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Todd Durkin, MA

IDEA Author/Presenter
Todd Durkin, MA, owns Fitness Quest 10 and Todd Durkin Enterprises. He is a human performance specia... more less
February 2009

© 2009 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.

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