Remember the days when all you had to do to usher in a rush of new clients was run a Facebook campaign or a Groupon® offer? Those days are long gone. The market is becoming saturated, and fitness facilities are popping up on every corner, each wanting a piece of the pie. Also, consumers are becoming more educated about fitness; they’re more cautious about where they spend their hard-earned exercise dollars—and for good reason!
In this environment, it’s important to understand the power of marketing, to be more selective with your marketing budget and your target audience, and to follow up on that extra attention by delivering better services and results. To make this happen, you need to know your ideal client better—much better. If you want to deliver a superior service, you need to go beyond the basics of age, gender and where your ideal clients live. You need to know what makes those clients tick and what their core, hidden problems are. Then, you offer the best solutions.
In a nutshell, you need a client avatar. Think of it as a visual client roadmap that tells you everything you need to know about your “ideal client,” so that you can attract clients like this and help them achieve their dream outcomes. You’ll reference your client avatar when you’re creating ads and programs, designing your studio and services, hiring staff and making any other major decisions. This avatar tells you who the people in your target market are, the problems they have, their wants and needs, the solutions you can offer, and where/when you can communicate with them. It gives you a deep view of the lives of your favorite clients and why they need you in the first place. Let’s take a closer look.
Market, Media and Message
Your client avatar tells you about the life of your “perfect client”: what the people in that group do outside the gym, what they desire, what their frustrations are, where they like to hang out, who their friends are, what they value about health/fitness and why they’ve chosen you over your competitors. It’s “ground zero” for the 3Ms: market, media and message. Your market refers to the people you want to talk to (demographics, psychographics and geographics); media is where and how you engage those people (social media, radio, print, etc.); and the message is the story you tell (attraction, engagement and offer). A well-designed 3M package is good for you and for your specific customers, because trying to market to everyone is useless.
Having a client avatar doesn’t just get clients in the door; it also keeps them there by providing a great experience. It empowers you to have more meaningful conversations rather than taking shots in the dark by targeting simple factors such as location, age and gender. The client avatar approach aligns you with your clients’ pain points, frustrations, fears, desires and needs. When used correctly, it makes your ideal client perk up and say, “Hey, that makes sense . . . it’s as if they’re talking to me!” Once you’ve nailed this down, you’ll be able to sell the right service to the right person at the right time.
How to Build Your Client Avatar
Start with a survey. Ask your top 20 clients and also your training staff specific questions. (The purpose of surveying both groups is to understand both perspectives and to identify whether your clients and staff are on the same page.) You know who your top clients are—they’re your raving fans! They show up, listen to your coaches, are engaged, refer clients and are committed to their goals. You want more of these clients and their success stories so that you can attract more folks like them.
Break your survey into three parts. Under each section, identify the goal and the questions that will provide the information you need.
VIP Client Survey Part 1: Tell Us More About Yourself
The goal is to find out the client’s geographics and demographics.
- How old are you?
- What neighborhood do you live in?
- How far away is your home from our fitness facility?
- Do you visit our facility primarily before/after work, or do you come in on your days off?
- What is your occupation?
- Do you have daycare needs?
- Do you play sports?
- What are your hobbies?
VIP Client Survey Part 2: Tell Us More About Your Time Outside the Gym
The goal is to find out whom a client associates with and what media the client consumes.
- Do you belong to a Rotary Club or other business networking group?
- Do you belong to a local church/mosque/synagogue/etc.?
- Where did you go to school?
- What magazines or newspapers do you read?
- What radio stations do you listen to?
- What social media platforms are you on most often?
- What’s your favorite coffee shop?
- Where do you buy your groceries?
- Do you visit a massage therapist, physio or chiropractor?
- What are your hobbies?
VIP Client Survey Part 3: Tell Us More About What You Value and How You Feel About Fitness
The goal is to find out more about a client’s problems, frustrations and desires—and ultimately why this client has chosen to do business with you.
- What was your #1 fitness goal when you joined our fitness facility?
- Is that goal the same now?
- What were your frustrations before you joined us?
- What did you struggle with the most?
- What things would you change about your health/body if you could wave a magic wand?
- How did you originally hear about us?
- Did you investigate other options before trying us?
- Did your family play a role in your decision to join us?
- What was the biggest motivator for you to join the gym?
- What would you say to someone who’s “on the fence” about joining our fitness facility?
This is a lot of information, but it’s worth having! Give your clients the option to remain anonymous and to skip any questions they’re not comfortable with. Also, make sure you deliver these surveys to your top clients and staff in person and tell them your goal: to better serve your customers. Once you get the surveys back, compile and sort the answers and highlight commonalities among respondents.
The next step is to make just one client avatar “master file” with a short summary for each question (as best you can). Give this ideal client a name, address, work life, social life, goals, fears, etc. You should have one answer to each question, with a short summary answer that you can refer to quickly. Select a range of 10–15 years for the age, and choose a radius for the location.
Examples of a Client Avatar Bio
Next, write a quick biography about your client avatar, and add some emotional background based on the input you received from your clients. An example:
Cindy never really liked going to a fitness facility, and she always found a reason not to go. She would try it for a week or two, be uncomfortable and find an excuse to bail on her commitments. This does not align with who she is outside of the gym, as she manages a local bank and appears to be a confident, independent woman. She would be a perfect client. She is sociable, has demonstrated commitment in other areas of her life and has the financial ability to join. She has a small injury, so a large class setting would not benefit her. Cindy needs guidance, knowledgeable trainers and someone to hold her accountable. She needs to lose 30–50 pounds, and she would like to feel more confident, especially regarding how she feels in her clothes. Her kids have now moved out of the house, so her excuse of having no time is invalid.
Cindy is finally ready to do something to improve her health. She has tried all the gimmicks and is finally, though reluctantly, ready for a real solution. Cindy saw our ad on Facebook, and since a couple of her co-workers are members, she asked them about us before she came in for a consultation. She loves our sense of community and the fact that she saw people just like her when she walked in for her consultation. Cindy is nervous but ready for change. It will take a while for her to break her habits, but the results will be amazing.
Cindy is someone you can market to—you can provide a specific solution. Once you’ve done the biographies and you’ve summarized the client survey, turn that into your Client Avatar Document. Voilà! You now have a visual reference that you (and your staff) can turn to for guidance at any time.
Your Business and Your Clients Succeed
If you’ve crafted your client avatar properly, it won’t just help your business succeed. It will help your clients succeed as well. You’ll understand your clients better; you’ll identify real solutions; and you’ll make your marketing more direct, so your ad dollars will go a lot further! Review your Client Avatar Document any time you craft an offer or create a service (workouts, nutrition programs, coaching programs, etc.). The wealth of information in that document will put you inside the minds of your clients, and it will ensure that your actions align with what your clients need most.