Do you remember the days before GPS and smartphones? When taking a road trip meant pulling over to look at a map, making U‐turns and stopping at gas stations to ask for directions? We had a destination, but not the exact route. What if you ran your fitness business that way? Taking action with no clear path? It would be frustrating, wasteful and inefficient. The reality is that many personal trainers do approach their businesses in that fashion.
Don't wander aimlessly! Learn best practices for identifying your ideal clients and devising the most direct route to serve them successfully.
Why Get Specific?
The fitness industry is moving toward more boutique, specialized fitness and wellness programs and away from generic, jack‐of‐all‐trades fitness for everyone. People want to take control of their health and are looking to personal trainers to help them meet their unique challenges—from improving sports performance to training for a race; from losing weight to getting off meds to fighting the daily aches and pains of aging.
If you know which people you want to help and what they need, you can cater your continuing education, your training expertise, your team, your equipment, your space, your branding, your marketing and your delivery of services to that exact market. It makes good business sense, and it just feels better to be aligned with who you are and what you do.
Narrowing your focus to those you are most equipped to help can be a scary step. Most trainers feel better serving everyone because the pool of potential clients looks bigger, deeper and more full of possibility. The truth is that when you try to speak to everyone, you speak to no one. A generic sales pitch like "One month unlimited group training for $99" gets lost as white noise. Compare that with "Run your first 10K with ease. Group training for just $99."
That is not to say you can never train other groups; just make sure you know and grow your core market. What audience fits you the best and is paying your bills? Start there. Add on training programs for other demographics as your resources allow.
How I Created My Avatar
How do you get specific? Create a customer avatar—a detailed profile of your ideal client. I created client avatars for my fitness businesses out of need. I did things wrong before I did them right. I wasted energy on activities (like hosting Strongman competitions) that did not fit my mission of creating healthier households. But then I sought coaching and adjusted quickly. In 11 years of owning a health club and a group training facility, and 8 years of coaching clients online with Beachbody®, I have learned how to create profitable, smooth operations that transform lives.
I was first challenged to create a custom client avatar when I attended a weekend business retreat, hosted by business expert Darren Hardy, author of The Compound Effect. (Note: Hardy will be the keynote speaker at the 2017 IDEA® World Convention, July 19–23, in Las Vegas, where he will also present a session on July 20 at the IDEA World Club & Studio Summit. See www.ideafit.com/fitness‐conferences/idea‐world‐fitness‐convention for more information.) Hardy asked us to write down the names of our two favorite clients. He encouraged us to reflect on our clients and consider who had the best results, who referred the most people, who was the most loyal, who used the greatest array of our services and whom we enjoyed working with most. He shared this lesson with professionals from several industries. I felt that it gave me the edge. I want you to have it, too.
That day I wrote about Todd and Rose. The more I wrote, the clearer my mission became. I found my client avatar in busy, working parents who wanted help staying in the game of life. They wanted to lose weight and gain energy in a supportive environment. They wanted nutrition coaching and accountability. They enjoyed group classes and boot camps that were fun, safe and unintimidating. They wanted fitness to be a highlight of their day, not something they dreaded. They wanted to be surrounded by other fit, happy people. They wanted to get into a routine that worked in their busy lives all year round, to have options to exercise early in the morning or late at night, as the seasons changed and their careers and kids put different demands on them. They wanted to exercise indoors and outdoors, to enjoy the great scenery and beauty of the region. They also wanted adventures: standup paddleboarding, runs, and workouts at the beach or the park.
Sample Programs for My Avatar
After identifying my ideal client avatar, I devised and conducted programs for this type of client. In doing so, I continued to attract hundreds of other clients who had the same goals and dreams. Then, I took it a step further. I realized there were different subsections within my avatar. This became my secret sauce. For example, if I were to cater my services mainly to busy working parents, I needed to offer different programs for different people on that spectrum. I'll share four examples to give you ideas.
Working moms. "Body Beauty" attracts working moms who want to feel stronger inside and out. It includes three strength training workouts per week, conducted in a safe, supportive environment with positive messaging and music weaved in. After the workout, we send participants out with a healthy Shakeology® shake made to order, so they can exercise at lunch and not worry about going out for food. Sure, these moms invite their college daughters and retired mothers and friends to the program. We help them all. But we aim our marketing and messaging at the working moms. The program speaks to them first, and they refer others.
Working parent runners. "Train to Run" is geared to working‐parents who want to set a goal of running their first race or improving their time. They often coach their kids' sports or cheer them on. They now want something of their own to train for. Over 3 weeks, we offer them running technique clinics, food plans for fueling their runs, group runs along the river, TRX® training and foam rolling, to improve their performance and recovery. Do they recruit their kids, parents, friends and neighbors? Definitely, but our message is aimed at busy, working parents.
Stressed working parents. "Yoga90" attracts working parents who want to release stress and be rejuvenated during a mini‐retreat on a Saturday morning. The workshop includes 90 minutes of restorative yoga with hands‐on instruction and essential oils, followed by hot tea and fellowship.
Working parents at work. "The Corporate Fit Challenge" is for working parents who want to create new habits and be able to work in a healthier environment. We place them on teams, provide food journals, write custom programs for participants, offer two group workouts per week plus two individual coaching sessions, and host a company celebration at the end. This program singlehandedly took my business to a whole new level by going right to where I could best find my ideal clients.
How to Create an Avatar
How do you begin to figure out your client avatar? Exactly the way I did. Write down the names of your two or three favorite clients from any job in fitness. What did you most enjoy about working with them? What problems did you solve? How did you help them? Why did they need you? What words would they use to describe you? Trust the process. Create programs that serve them. Be able to share your expertise in a way that fits their lives. Once you have fine‐tuned your business plan, start offering value to that audience. Share tips on your social media or blogs to engage them. Become the go‐to for that audience. Target your marketing to that demographic. Most importantly, get these clients results.
Here's an example. Travis Barnes owns and operates five locations of Journey Fitness in upstate New York. He is profitable and successful for many reasons, including his discipline in serving a client avatar.
"Our main demographic is the 40‐ to 70‐year‐old client who wants to lose weight and improve functional fitness," he says. "Our clients come to us for a safe and fun environment where they can get results. We serve these clients with group personal training and nutrition counseling. We call it group personal training because even though these clients work in a group, we know every client's name, goals and limitations, which makes it possible to customize the workout to [each person's] needs," he adds.
This client avatar works for him. Each month his company's newsletter is full of miraculous stories. It regularly celebrates clients who get off medications, get out of pain and are tackling life like never before.
Boosting Your Business
International author and speaker Robin Sharma says, "Clarity breeds mastery." That statement rings true in my business, and soon it will in yours.
Finding your avatar client is not about doing less. It is about doing more for those who you serve best. The goal of this article is to make you think, reflect and act. Look for more ways to serve your ideal clients—from fitness trainings to nutritional solutions to community events. The more you target your services to specific clients and what they need, the more masterful you become at your craft. Go deeper rather than wider in your fitness business, and you will have a great chance of longevity and career satisfaction.
After you have determined your client avatar, evaluate your current offerings to decide what stays, what goes and what gets added. I call this my business litmus test. I use it to decide on every new piece of equipment, continuing education seminar or certification, new program and new product I add to my business. Quite simply, I ask myself, "Would Todd or Rose benefit from this?" If I sent a trainer to earn a Schwinn® cycling certification, a Precision Nutrition certification or an ACE Health Coach certification, would my ideal clients benefit? If I introduced Beachbody's Performance™ supplement line or invested in battle ropes, more kettlebells or a new treadmill, would they help my ideal clients get better results? If I bought more Under Armour® apparel or yoga mats, printed with our logo, would my ideal clients want them? If I partnered with a local race director, would my idea clients participate&q