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Tricks of the Trade

How do you network with other trainers, health professionals or clients to increase your business?

The best networking I do with trainers is at industry events or certification workshops. The settings are naturally conducive to meeting and discussing ideas with others in the field. With regard to branching out to other health professionals, I am quite lucky to have been a long-term patient of a top-notch local chiropractor. It is quite easy networking with him. In fact, my very first client was his wife! I met another professional in the sports psychology field by taking a couple of her college-level classes. We stay in touch via e-mail and have met in person to brainstorm on strategies to keep people motivated.

My clients are also great sources for getting to know other health professionals. In fact, one client recently bought me a gift certificate for a massage from her massotherapist. This is quite an unusual circumstance, and it will give me the opportunity to meet this individual and discuss cross-promotional ideas. Clients themselves are also great means of finding more business. When I first sit down and consult with a new client, I present her with a binder of information and two of my brochures in case she knows people who need my help.

Joining a local women’s civic club has also given me exposure to the specific demographic group that I train (upper income, women in their 30s to 40s). The club’s monthly newsletter is a fantastic means for group members to gain awareness about my business. Also, just being present at meetings and training other club members are useful ways of gaining new business.

Liz Guscott, AFAA and ISSA

Certified Personal Trainer

Owner, Renaissance Woman Fitness

Lakewood, Ohio

I work primarily in my clients’ homes, so I have little opportunity to network with other trainers. At times I’ve been unable to handle additional clients, so I have actively searched out other trainers at conferences in order to have someone to refer people to. I spoke to many trainers, trying to “feel out” their education, experience, training philosophies and personalities. I found two local trainers I network with through e-mail and have been able to refer clients to them when I have been too busy. (So far the reverse has not happened, but I know the potential is there.)

My clients have been my major source of referrals. I do reward clients with a free session when someone they refer signs up. However, I do not promote this policy beforehand; I want the referrals to come from their hearts, and I believe in giving a free session as a thank-you.

Several years ago I moved to a new town and used some specific strategies to increase my business: I treated myself to several massages to find
a masseur I was comfortable with. I told him my profession and gave him my business card. He became a major source of referrals for my business. (In turn, I have sent many of my clients to him.) Similarly I looked up several local registered dietitians in my phone book and interviewed them over the phone about their weight loss philosophy. Once I found someone I felt I was compatible with, I sent her my business cards. We have also developed a mutual referral relationship.

I have found it good business practice to tell everyone my profession. I have received referrals from my tennis partner and my tennis coach. I also coach girls’ softball and sponsor our team shirts. This is a $200 investment, but it has paid off. I have gotten clients from parents of girls on opposing teams who would not have known about me without my business name on the shirt.

However, I believe my best networking has been in person: Once people get to know me and see that I “walk the talk” (live a healthy lifestyle and believe exercise should be enjoyable and doable for everyone), they are comfortable seeking me out either for themselves or for their friends and relatives.

Janet Weller, RN

IDEA Master Personal Fitness Trainer

Owner, Weller Bodies Personal Training

Closter, New Jersey

My wife, Barbi, and I established our training business 10 years ago, initially offering in-home training. In April 2003 we expanded by opening a personal training studio.

We have many different ways of networking. I used to teach physical education at the local high school (24 years) and my wife was a local group exercise instructor and director (16 years). Because we live in a small town, connections we made in these jobs serve us well.

On a local level, most of the fitness professionals are well acquainted with each other. It is common for us to refer clients to each other based on clients’ gym memberships or specific fitness needs. Additionally, our trainers (independent contractors) also work at various fitness facilities in town.

In the larger arena, we stay in contact
by phone or, more often, by e-mail with trainers and presenters we meet at various events. Clients contact us for referrals when they are moving out of town or when they have a friend or relative who lives out of our area and wants to work with a qualified trainer.

With our medical community, we initially use direct mail and open houses. Once relationships are established, we further develop them by trading services, writing regular reports and sending thank-you notes for referrals. These relationships are strengthened whenever we refer clients back to the referring medical professionals and when we send them new patients. We have also spoken at the local hospital to employees and the public.

I speak at local events and give presentations to various clubs. We donate training packages to local fundraisers and regularly use our local radio and newspaper. We strengthen our relationship with our clients by using and recommending their services as often as possible, and we use their testimonials in our advertising materials and on our website.

We also develop mutually beneficial business relationships. For example, one local shoe store offers all of our clients a 15% discount on athletic shoes and provides a great shoe-fitting service. This same store displays our brochures and business cards. Other cross-referral businesses include real estate agents, an aesthetitian, a graphic designer, a screen printer, an arborist, a sign crafter, a contract attorney, a photographer, an osteopath, chiropractors and physical therapists. We also swap website links with many of our clients and local businesses. Business referral groups are very helpful, as is the local chamber of commerce.

Last, we have rented a small treatment room to a massage therapist, and we trade services with her. We refer clients to her, and she refers clients to us.

Scott Jackson

Co-owner, Scott Jackson’s

Real Life Fitness

Nevada City, California

Personal training is of course a personal relationship, so I network personally as much as I can. I guess I’m what you’d call a “joiner.” Before switching to a career in fitness, I worked in advertising/marketing and was actively involved in one of our local chambers of commerce. I was also a member of a “leads” group, where representatives from different industries would build trusting relationships and share potential leads. The value of those organizations certainly continued when I started my personal training business 12 years ago. Now that I am an employee again, rather than an owner or a director, I find I have more time and focus for marketing and networking.

Just joining a group is never enough to build business. Getting out to mixers and seminars to introduce yourself and your philosophy and, most importantly, to learn about others, is the very best way to put your name in people’s minds when the need arises for a fitness professional. I try to shake a lot of hands and put my business card, that miniature billboard, in as many of those hands as possible. If it turns out that I spend all my time at a mixer getting to know just one or two people, that’s fine. We may make the kind of memorable connection that will lead to a referral that much sooner.

Members of our facility are the number-one best source of referrals, and we have an active incentive program for members to bring in their friends and colleagues. We go a long way toward educating our members, with lessons while they are in the facility and with e-flyers and
e-newsletters when they aren’t. Our location in an upscale shopping plaza allows plenty of interaction with our neighboring business owners, so we frequent their shops and brainstorm ways to direct traffic to one another. I also ask clients which professionals they are working with for medical, chiropractic, nutrition, massage, physical therapy, group fitness and other related services. Usually I call or write an introductory letter (in the event that a medical release is required, it can serve as an introductory letter). I then follow up to arrange a personal meeting, in my facility or theirs, to encourage a referral relationship that can work both ways. When the professionals operate with integrity, I want to help build their businesses as much as I hope they help build mine.

Public speaking is very comfortable for me, so I offer to make presentations to support groups (drug rehab programs, ostomy and gastric bypass surgery groups, for example) and other organizations. Also, the local chapter of the Executive Women’s Golf Association has excellent membership events that I’ve participated in as a speaker and vendor, with a table-top display. The events have been good sources of leads.

Industry workshops and lectures come through our area fairly regularly. They provide an excellent opportunity to swap cards with other facility owners, group program directors, trainers and instructors I could work with (or work for or even hire—I’ve been in a position to do all of those). I think it’s extremely valuable to know what other professionals in the market are doing. Over time I’ve gotten to know a few trainers, now friends, who’ve been kind enough to share referrals and whom I feel very confident recommending to others. In fact, I’m now employed by one of those friends! A few group coordinators in this area have developed a pretty comprehensive e-mail list of trainers and instructors to share updates on job openings, new programs, continuing education courses and so on. There’s plenty of business for all of us, and I certainly can’t be all things to all people, so it’s important to feel confident referring people to other quality programs and instructors that would fit their needs.

Jane Hawksley Ogle

Fitness Professional,

Plaza Fitness at Stuyvesant Plaza

Albany, New York

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