Hurdle the flat line with small-group instruction and specialty clinics.
Growing your personal training program means getting all employees in your organization to understand the need to integrate new members into the culture of your facility. Providing opportunities such as new-member orientation programs, and educational seminars and workshops facilitated by your top-notch team of fitness professionals (topics already covered in the January and March 2006 installments of this column) can help make growth a reality. By integrating and educating your members, you will increase member retention, one-on-one training profits and credibility.
However, one-on-one training revenues will eventually plateau. Although nearly all members can benefit from individual training, for many the cost is not realistic for the long term. Let’s face it, $50–$70 per session is expensive. This creates a three-pronged dilemma. First, revenues will eventually level off; second, trainers may begin struggling to find enough clients to reach their desired compensation levels; and third, members will want to participate in a structured program but may not be willing (or able) to pay long-term, one-on-one rates. What to do?
The solution is quite simple: Offer personal training opportunities that pool clients into small-group instruction and specialty clinics. By implementing this model, you can attract clients unwilling to pay for one-on-one training by charging a lower fee. This can empower you to produce an hourly revenue rate greater than your fees for one-on-one training; it also opens the door to paying your trainers more. In short, it becomes a win-win-win solution to the three-headed dilemma!
“Buddy training,” or semiprivate training, isn’t new, but it often gets a bad rap within the personal training industry. Many “purist” trainers believe that one-on-one training is the only way to go and that working with two or three people simultaneously sacrifices each client’s personal objectives and goals. The trainers don’t believe they will be able to monitor a client’s form and technique with the attention the client deserves.
Kristi Konczak, certified personal trainer at Westerville Athletic Club (WAC) in Columbus, Ohio, has a client load that includes 50% buddy training, and she sees it differently. “My clients who train in pairs want to train together because it keeps them motivated. They have shared goals, come to the club together and are often close friends or spouses. Their shared cost is less, but my hourly rate is 50% more. It’s a win-win situation.” she says. “A few of my buddy clients used to be one-on-one clients. When I sensed they were about to drop because of the ongoing expense, I recommended buddy training and paired them.”
Kristi’s perspective provides the purist with good food for thought. Granted, training a client one-on-one provides a higher level of service, but that’s why a one-on-one client pays more for individualized attention. As for the argument of not being able to give 100% attention to each buddy, here’s a thought: If the pros and cons of one-on-one versus buddy training are discussed before training commences, then the client will clearly understand what he is paying for. The bottom line is that our industry mandate is to try and get as many people active as possible. If a buddy training system makes it affordable and motivates more people to get moving, then perhaps it’s time to explore the idea.
Determining the pricing strategy for buddy training is pretty straightforward. At WAC, the buddy training rate is 1.5 times the cost of one-on-one training. Each client pays just 75% of the individualized rate, but the trainer receives 1.5 times her one-on-one hourly rate.
Although training in groups of three or four isn’t as common, WAC charges 1.75 times and 2 times the one-on-one rate, respectively.
Another way to bring potential clients into the fold while maximizing your trainers’ hourly rate is fitness boot camps. Although not new, the extreme, in-your-face, military-style boot camp can be tweaked to reach people of all fitness levels. The logistics are simple because the fees, scheduling and marketing strategy are identical, no matter how you decide to specialize the programming. Setting up a successful boot camp program involves four basic steps:
1. Determine the boot camp schedule.
2. Set pricing and compensation strategy.
3. Market within and outside your facility.
4. Measure success.
I have found that boot camps in which participants meet three times each week for 6 weeks work best. A 6-week camp allows the participants enough time to see results and develop good habits, and enables the facility to keep the camp rate affordable.
The same economies of scale that worked for buddy training are magnified for boot camp programming. For example, a boot camp with 15 participants paying $149 each generates $2,235 in revenue. If the boot camp is 6 weeks long and meets three times each week, then that breaks down to $124 revenue generated each hour. In this example, WAC makes $62 more than their one-on-one hourly rate.
At WAC, boot camp trainers are compensated at 50% of the revenue generated. In short, the rate for trainers is double or triple their one-on-one revenue per hour, which makes them happy and helps WAC with retention issues. The best part is, the participants are paying just $8.27 per session. You are able to reach members who would never have considered paying the one-on-one rate. Now that’s what leveraging the economies of scale is all about!
Promoting your boot camp within your facility is a snap because you already have a focused pool of potential participants under one roof—your members. Get the word out through fliers, banners and your newsletter. After you get your boot camps up and running, you can use participant testimonials and success stories to further promote the program.
Most important, make sure your camp is conducted where members can see it. Nothing creates interest more than being able to see a vibrant program full of happy people in motion. And don’t forget to measure results! At the boot camps I have conducted at WAC and through my own company, Five Star Fitness, results are guaranteed! On the first day and the last day of each camp we test each participant in a mile run/walk and push-ups. Providing the participant attends 15 of the 18 sessions, I guarantee they will improve their results or their money is refunded in full. After more than 20 camps, I have yet to refund one person!
We all started our personal training programs with one-on-one training as the core, and individual instruction should remain a strong part of our programs. However, as facility managers we are trying to impact the lives of all members, not just the small percent of those who can spend several thousand dollars annually on one-on-one training. By creatively designing personal training programming that leverages semiprivate or larger groups of clients, we will be able to reach more members and pay our trainers more. Best of all we can significantly impact our bottom lines.