Maybe you’re looking to become a personal trainer or are an established fitness industry professional. Either way, in a world where everyone in the health and fitness industry is trying to plug their s**t on social media and the internet, in my opinion the power of other local businesses as a marketing tool is being neglected.

The way a local community used to work was your reputation was established and maintained through word of mouth, consistent integrity, and a close knit network of other businesses which had your back. With the advent of social media, a lot of that traditional thinking seems to have gone out the window!

Some of this is a bit old school but I always look to do what my competitors are NOT doing to get the edge on them, and so far these methods have never failed me.

If you’re a new personal trainer or an established fitness business that’s struggling to get new clients through the door then you may find these hacks useful.

The best thing is: most of these ideas cost nothing or very little, unlike Facebook and other ads which can slowly drain your cash.

All of the principles in this post were inspired by my new book, The Trusted Trainer which helps those looking to become a personal trainer and established fitness professionals alike.

Hack 1: ‘The Big Reveal’

When I was starting out, trying to become a personal trainer and make a big impression and generate a lot of publicity in my local community, I didn’t have much money.

With the help of other small local businesses, I designed a big publicity stunt that was featured in the local paper (yes people do still read them) and was all over social media giving my business great free marketing and a good handful (4-5) new fee-paying clients.

Organising a before and after publicity stunt gives your PT business great free marketing.

Here is what I did:

  • I contacted a small local hairdresser, beautician, dentist to offer teeth whitening and female fashion brand and asked whether they would be interested in partnering up and offering a small amount of their time for free;
  • I targeted small businesses (not big companies) as they would be more likely to be seeking additional publicity and invest their time;
  • I used Upwork to have someone create me a cheap logo for the event, we called it ‘Highgate’s Finest’;
  • The scheme was: offer a complete female makeover and transformation to the winner of a raffle prize – my part of the deal was to write the training programme and to spend a few hours each week with the winner – it didn’t take much of my time at all;
  • The ‘makeover’ process lasted six weeks and involved a minimal time commitment on my part;
  • We contacted the local paper who did a piece on this process and included before and after pictures (the actual pictures turned out really well); and
  • The great thing about this is that people love before and after transformations – you only have to look at the popularity of before and after instagram posts or programmes on TV to prove that – so it’s always going to drum up publicity in a local paper or magazine/newsletter.

This produced many new enquiries and eight new solid clients for my business.

A feature in the local paper generates great business, especially in the early days when you are trying to become a personal trainer

Hack 2: Get a small local coffee shop on-side

There is a little boutique coffee shop located next door to my gym. It was really important to my business early on to get them on my side when i was trying to become a personal trainer:

Why?

  • They roll out the red carpet for me and my guest (be it a potential business partner or an important client) which creates a fantastic impressioA local coffee shop can double up as your corporate hospitality area in the early days – get the owner onside quickly!
  • n on my guest – it’s like having my own mini corporate hospitality area;
  • I know and control the environment (I feel like it’s ‘my home ground’ which immediately gives me a psychological boost);
  • If I’m negotiating or agreeing the terms of a business deal or trying to win over an important personal training client, it’s one less thing to worry about – I don’t want to be worrying about whether I can get a table or whether the service will be poor (this was a great help when I was trying to become a personal trainer).
  • I always get the best available table and amazing service from the  because I take time out in my personal life to make the restaurant and the owner feel supremely valued – I get the same in return. I’m not talking Starbucks or Costa here, focus on small local coffee shops with character and individuality.

“If you’re always getting bad service, you’re probably a bad customer” – a philosophy I like to live by!

How did I do this?

  • I took time to get to know the manager and their family and we have open conversations about stuff going on in the local area throughout the year.
  • I always tip very generously (usually around the 25% mark, which is a lot in the UK!) – a cup of coffee costs me 50 pence extra every time but it creates additional goodwill which is key;
  • I pay extra attention to the staff and am never rude. I’ve found through experience that in any organisation, *everything* (good and bad) gets back to the important decision makers, so always be cheerful and interested in what other staff have to say no matter how far they are down the corporate hierarchy, don’t neglect them (especially if you are trying to become a personal trainer).

 

Hack 3: The Menu Makeover

Similar but different to Hack 1 above, it helps to have built up a solid relationship with a local restaurant for a few reasons.

Again, you should take time to build up a good relationship with the owner and his/her staff to solidify the relationship and don’t forget to tip handsomely.

A few simple tweaks to a local menu can stand you in good stead with locally-based customers

Here’s an initiative I ran a few years ago to help generate new clients for my personal training business:

  • I approached the restaurant and asked whether they would let me pay for their menu  to be reprinted (this was at minimal cost, you should be able to get this done for around £30 at a local printers);
  • I said that I would also review the menu and find the healthiest food items (breakfast, lunch and dinner).
  • There was a small section on the menu that explained what the healthy choices were and the number of calories in the healthy option. This was accompanied by a small logo advertising my gym and a written offer for a free consultation.
  • I had control of the menu printing process, which meant I could control the branding and publicity given for my gym. I didn’t overdo it, I just went with something subtle that could be seen by health conscious customers.

Hack 4: Schools – Relationships with local schools and PE Sessions

I have, in the past (especially when I was at the early stages of trying to become a personal trainer) run very good initiatives with local schools in the community offering free PE lessons and mini talks on health, exercise and diet.

It’s great to educate young minds (or at least help their teachers and parents get the information they need to improve kids’ health) on topics such as exercise and healthy eating as this information was never available when I was at school.

More importantly this will generate MASSIVE goodwill for your business. Think about it – a school is a key hub in your community, if you are regularly contributing positive things to the welfare of the pupils, teachers, parents and grandparents will take notice and you’ll develop a good name among an older audience who have cash to beef up your bank balance! 😉

Hack 5: Don’t be afraid of the Dentist

 

A winning smile often means health conscious clients for your business

I have a very good business relationship with the local private dentist in town close by to my business. It has turned into a very lucrative strategic partnership over the years. He refers a lot of clients to me on a regular basis.

Why is it useful to have a dentist on your side if you are trying to become a personal trainer?

  • Tooth and gum health is an indication of overall health and in particular, heart health. If your dentist suspects that lifestyle choices and a lack of exercise is contributing to oral problems he will recommend lifestyle changes to diet and exercise – I have had very many referrals to my business from this dentist;
  • Private dentists are always keen to grow their businesses and establish strategic partnerships. They tend to attract the kind of clientele that are concerned with their appearance and have the money to take your personal training business to the next level.
  • Clients will regularly ask me for referrals to a good teeth whitening professional. My local dentist offers this and I am able to say with confidence to my clients that this is the guy they should use.

 

Hack 6: Get the local hairdresser working for YOU

We’ve all been stuck in a conversation with a hairdresser or barber, some good some bad. They are paid to cut hair but also have expertise in people skills. Above all others, hairdressers are ingrained into the local community like few other businesses are in 2017.

Think about it, a haircut is a rare occasion where people are forced off their phones and into a physical store to interact with a real person. This puts a hairdresser in a unique position of speaking to hundreds of people a week in your local community for an extended period of time.

Get the right type of client into your business

Maybe you haven’t thought about it like this before but a hairdresser is in a position of trust (particularly for women!). If you have determined that women are a key target market for your personal training business, then it’s great to have their hairdresser on side.

If you get the hairdresser on side, he or she is going to sell and market your business.

Here’s how to get your hairdresser onside:

  • Build up a relationship first before mentioning business or trying to sell them something;
  • Refer people to him/her: initially your team members and well known clients, making sure they mention that you sent them (aim for 5 referrals);
  • Listen. People value things they invest in. Get the hairdresser to invest by talking to you for an extended period. Listen. This goes for everyone you interact with in a business setting; it’s way more important (and powerful) to listen than to speak;
  • Offer the hairdresser and its staff a discount (I suggest 25%) on PT sessions and a free consultation for each member of staff – you will know what is appropriate for you;
  • When you’ve got him/her on side, ask if he would mind if you gave him/her a little set of business cards to put on the side. Don’t give him too many, you’ll come off as a cheap takeaway pizza shop. A key principle of marketing is scarcity, give him 10 business cards and top him up next time;
  • Make your business card simple – black background with white text will stand out – simply put the words (obviously insert your own details) – don’t worry about branding and other bullshit at this stage – keep it simple:

PERSONAL TRAINER

HIGHGATE

079123456789

  • Get ready for a steady stream of new clients from your new free sales team 😉 When I was trying to become a personal trainer, this was really valuable to my embryonic business.

 

Hack 7: The Charity Giveaway

 

In the early days I used charity raffles to generate lots of high quality leads and goodwill for my business. Offering your services as part of a raffle or charity auction prize are massively useful to your business because:

(a) you help the local community which creates goodwill and

(b) they promote your business to a large number of people at once.

Free charity give away – my method:

You need to make a bit of an investment here, but not in cash – in time. Here’s what to do:

  • Go on Upwork and get some ‘Personal Training Vouchers’ designed (don’t pay more than $5-$10 for this);
  • Look for events in your local newspaper or yearly recurring events – school fetes and festivals are best.
  • Speak to the organisers (early) – don’t leave it to the last minute.
  • Make the prize something BIG – the key is to ensure that your prize is first prize (you must always think big – second prize won’t carry the same notoriety).
  • I recommend offering around five hours of PT consultations as the prize;

 

Hack 8: The Florist is Your Friend

It may sound weird, but a florist is a very useful ally to have on your team sheet if you are a personal trainer.

There are countless occasions where you’ll need flowers on hand as a personal gesture for a client to keep in their good books and stand out from all the other trainers that don’t bother – birthdays, wedding anniversaries and engagements and other celebrations.

In the past, I have sent clients bouquets of flowers on key dates for them and have decorated the studio with subtle floral arrangements – something the female customers ALWAYS comment on as a selling point.

A florist can really help you create a gym or training environment that works for all of your clients – unless you own a gritty bodybuilding gym!

This is particularly so if you are targeting the family friendly and women’s niche – a highly lucrative market that I focus on. For this demographic adopting little feminine touches is crucially important to your success as a personal trainer.

I talk about the importance of adding ‘the feminine touch’ in my book. One of the mistakes personal trainers make that can be fatal to their business is not catering for their target market.

Use the principles mentioned elsewhere to get a florist on side. Charm them, tip well, refer business to them and offer them free or discount personal training sessions. You’ll find it’s worth the investment and can bring some much needed creative and feminine flair to a  traditionally male-dominated gym floor.

Estate Agents Sometimes Get a Bad Rep But They Can Really Help Your Business if You Do the Right Deal

Hack 9: Move in on the Estate Agents

Without a doubt your local high street will have an estate agent, if it’s anything like mine then there’s probably five or six of them, meaning there’s no excuse for you to not go for this guaranteed hack. It will take a little bit of work on your part initially but if you play it right this could be the single biggest source of referrals for your business… so what do you need to do?

Estate Agents sometimes get a bad rep but they can really help your PT business if you do the right deal

Firstly you need to write a little report titled “The Top 10 ways to de-stress after moving house” include a few generic lines on sleep, watching a movie, going for a walk etc and then go for the money shots – get a massage, find a personal trainer, eat well etc. add your logo and contact details to the report hand over 10 of these reports to the agent asking them to leave them in the welcome pack they give to every new homeowner. Throw in a branded postcard from your business that simply says “Welcome to INSERT AREA” and add a hand-written message wishing them good luck in their new home and offering a free consultation with you once they are settled in their new home.

Now you need to do a deal with the agent, this is the easy bit. Estate agents love cash so don’t waste your time offering them discounts off personal training just simply tell them that you will hand over £50 for every client that signs up with you for a 10 session / 3 month / 6 month programme, you need to determine what’s appropriate. Make that first payment to them as soon as possible and they will quickly come back with more.

Hack 10: As a Personal Trainer, Strive to ‘Have The Solution’

One of the chapters in my book is given over to the importance of having the solution for your clients.

As a personal trainer, you work in a person-centred business. As such, you need to be seen as a trusted advisor to your clients. That means not only will you need to deliver excellent health and fitness advice, you will also be able to advise them when they turn to

you for a whole range of other problems that they may have from time to time.

In most cases, simply knowing where to look is the answer that solves the client’s problem. I advise all new PTs to fill out the below table with their small business contacts in the local area.

Obviously you will have done your due diligence on the list below that all businesses are legit and provide a decent service. It will have a negative effect if you just refer people to businesses not known to you.

The client will be thankful that you know someone that can solve their problem, and the business will be grateful for new custom and will hopefully return the favour to you in due course. Everyone wins!