Early in my career as a personal trainer, I was confused as to why my client base was growing at a glacial speed. After all, I had spent years preparing, applying principles, learning program design and getting certified so that I could have a career that would change people’s lives for the better.

I wanted to be busy. I was prepared to sign as many clients as possible. To accomplish my goal, I attended every social and networking event I could. At these events, I was proud to tell people I was a personal trainer. I was vocal and honest about how much I charged for my training packages. I would say excitedly, “Come in as soon as you can! It’s only $50 per hour! It’s going to be awesome!” Most people would stop right there, astonished at the price. Of course—you knew this was coming—they never showed up for a session. Finally, after I’d spent countless hours second-guessing my decision to become a personal trainer, it dawned on me: I was going about this the wrong way.

Can you remember a time when you paid $1,200 for something you knew nothing about? Me neither. I was communicating the price of my service before demonstrating its value. In effect, what I was doing was scaring people away by telling them right off the bat how much I charged for my training. Heck, here I was, a 20-something-year-old, telling people to buy a package of personal training from me that had the same price tag as their mortgage payment.

While I knew that health was a priority—and that the value of my training was worth every penny—I desperately needed a way to communicate this to potential clients.

One day I was attending a social gathering, and answering yet another question about nutrition bars, when I was asked how much I charge for my sessions. This time I did not respond in my usual way, showcasing my hourly rate or the cost of an entire package of personal training. Instead, I replied, “I let everyone try a week of personal training with me for under $100.” And unlike my previous, failed attempts to get people interested, this worked. People’s faces lit up, and my questioner asked, “Really? When can I come in?” In that moment, something clicked for me. I had stumbled upon a principle that was paramount to my success as a personal trainer.

Through an introductory offer I could make the experience of my service not only accessible, but also special; it was something that demanded people’s attention. An introductory offer fixes the problem of communicating price without value. The offer removes the barrier of cost and makes the training service the star of the show—which is what we want.

Read on to learn more about the benefits of creating an offer, the mistakes you’ll want to avoid when promoting your offer and the best ways to implement the offer on your own.

Benefits of a High-Quality Introductory Offer

Here’s how a well-developed introductory offer can help both you and your possible new client.

Time

  • Trainer: Gets 1 week to show the value of the service.
  • Client: Has to commit to only 1 week.

Price

  • Trainer: Having a set price (versus offering free sessions) eliminates customers who make purchasing decisions based solely on price, and it increases the odds of attracting high-quality, long-term clients.
  • Client: Anything under $100 is an impulse purchase, so the price commitment doesn’t call for emotional processing, budget analysis or even a consultation with a spouse or partner.

When discussing price, your first step is to create a safe, nonintimidating channel of communication. This reduces sales pressure and makes the potential future client more comfortable.

When customers want to purchase a service or product, they are evaluating their options deep inside their brain. The evaluation is typically centered on price and commitment. The introductory offer creates a bridge between you and your potential customers, and a well-developed offer will satisfy both pricing needs and commitment fears or desires.

Your offer will provide you with an entire week to show the quality of your service. More importantly, as clients build training into their routine and begin to enjoy the benefits of it, the newly developed habit of exercise will be more difficult to break.

Things to Avoid

You want to make sure you don’t go too far in either direction when creating an introductory offer. One extreme is to give too much, and the other extreme is to give too little. It’s a balancing act.

Too much. In our eagerness to acquire new clients and share all that we have learned, it can be easy to flood people with information they can’t digest. For example, I knew a trainer who used introductory sessions as a lecture opportunity. Hoping to prove himself to potential clients, he would pause in the middle of exercises and talk about the most complex aspects of fitness, such as the science of muscle contraction. While there is a time and place for sharing interesting facts, sharing too much can leave clients overwhelmed and wanting to go and exercise on their own.

I suggest you focus on introducing potential clients to your program. That is, explain up front how your program takes time, commitment and consistency. Think of the program like a pie. You want to give potential clients a piece of the pie that first week—not the whole thing.

Too little. There is nothing worse than feeling that you’re not part of the group because you didn’t pay the full price. It’s like getting to wear only one shoe just because you bought the pair on sale. Make sure you treat your potential clients as well as you treat your regular clients; give newcomers that same level of service and care. In fact, the more you make people feel they are part of the group, the harder it will be for them to leave the group.

You must strike a balance between too much and too little. If you typically give your clients a food journal when they start training with you, give new people a food journal as well. The difference is that you’re not going to try to teach them everything you know about nutrition in a single week.

Setting Up an Offer

To successfully implement an introductory offer in your business or facility, you need to do three specific things.

Decide on price and time. Your first decision will be to determine the price of your offer. As I mentioned earlier, I find that the ideal price is under $100. I also find that the ideal time exchange for that price is 7–10 days, or three sessions. A possible introductory offer could be three personal training sessions, a T-shirt and a food journal—for $99.

The value of your offer should clearly and visibly exceed the cost, and promotions like this one are very effective in conveying high value for the price. The cost meets the impulsive purchase price of being under $100, the T-shirt is a great promotional item, and the food journal gives the clients something tangible that engages them in your service and also functions as a visual reminder that they are working with you as their personal trainer.

Consider point of sale. If you are operating out of a gym, I have found the best time to introduce the offer is at the point of sale (while clients are buying their memberships). At this moment, people are experiencing high levels of motivation. They have built up enough energy to overcome any fears, and they are at a high point in their fitness journey. There’s no time like the present to offer them an opportunity to take advantage of an introductory offer.

The point-of-sale offer can be set up as an exchange: Rather than paying an enrollment fee, the new member can “roll” the enrollment fee toward the purchase of the $99 introductory offer.

Of course, if you have a manager, you will need to get buy-in for the offer. From my experience, people who take advantage of the introductory offer become better members. They are more educated, they stay longer (since they acquire a better understanding of the equipment around them), and they experience better results (there’s no better way to market an offer than to showcase people who have gotten results).

Promote the offer. Promotion will be incredibly valuable. The idea of promotion is simple: You want everyone to know about your $99 offer, so place promotional material on the walls, on the doors to the bathroom stalls and anywhere else you think is a great place.

Note: All marketing material begins to “blend,” or lose its effectiveness, after 6–8 weeks. To avoid this blending, simply swap colors or change the images on your offer, and keep cycling the promotion.

If you are a one-woman or one-man show, place your offer on the back of your business cards. Don’t be shy. Get the word out. Your goal is to make it simple for potential customers to train with you.

A Vehicle for Success

An introductory offer is a simple way to get potential clients to try your service. Once they’ve experienced your training, your chances of retaining those potential clients increase dramatically. I’ve helped trainers who converted over 70% of their introductory offers into long-term clients!

During the introductory period, set both short-term and long-term goals with your potential clients. Make the attainment of these goals extend beyond the time frame of your introductory offer. By forecasting goals into the future, you are helping potential clients see the long-term benefits of training with you. This will increase the the likelihood that they’ll make a long-term commitment.