Thomas Plummer

A Fresh Perspective on the Fitness Industry


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How Marketing Works

Retro marketing built this industry, but electronic marketing will build its future. Websites, blogs, social media and almost all other forms of electronic marketing change so fast it is almost impossible to keep up. TheImage coupon sites, for example, were a rage for about a year or two and then died. Writing about how to design a coupon would have been an exercise in futility since that form of marketing came and went before the paragraph could be written.

Keeping that in mind, we are going to focus on the theories you need to master that can be applied to any form of social media or electronic marketing that might arise in your future. Understand the rules and any version of the game you play will be easier.

The most important lesson you can possibly learn about electronic marketing can be expressed in another basic rule:

Hits, looks, likes and number of views mean nothing if you can’t monetize it

It is easy to get caught up in the grand game of social media. For example, where you sit in a bar and brag about the number of likes you have on your social media site. There can be great gamesmanship involved here but these numbers mean nothing if you can’t figure out a way to turn those likes into money. The ultimate goal of all marketing is to create interest, which attracts leads, which come to the gym, who become members and who pay you money for the results you will help him get. If this sequence doesn’t end with the getting paid part, then it was inefficient marketing that proved to be a waste of your time.

Here is the entire theory of electronic marketing in one simple chart:

Create content

Develop your own community

Gain influence by having a community

Make $$$$$

Creating Content

People love to learn, be challenged, be entertained and most importantly, people like to hangout with a lot of like-minded folks interested in the same things. All electronic marketing, and especially social media, requires you to supply an endless stream of content. Posting content on almost a daily basis gets people to your sites, and getting people to your sites regularly begins to build the community, or as the powerful writer Seth Godin refers to them, your tribe.

Content doesn’t always have to stem from you. You can repost other’s writings, find a tidbit in a magazine, recommend a book or video and a thousand other things that keep people coming to your sites each and every day. If you post a short informative tip on your blog three times a week, people become trained to go to your site during a break during their day. They will follow you because you are giving them information that somehow challenges their mind or entertains them and if you do this consistently you will eventually end up with a lot of people who care about what you say and now belong to your community. There is a rule of marketing for this thought:

You have to become the source on a specific topic

You can become the weight loss expert, the sports performance for kids expert, the overall fitness expert in your small town, the body weight training guru or just about any other niche you could imagine. You become the source, or the filter, which gathers information for his tribe and then posts the stuff daily that your tribe needs to see based upon you being the master of that niche.

If you own a mainstream gym, your goal is to build a site for your business, but you as the owner should have a site where you become the local expert on everything fitness. This gets you invited to speak at local groups, quoted in the newspaper as needed as a fitness source, and eventually drives people to your business because who knows fitness in this town better than you do, and that is proven by the last 300 post you have made on your sites.

There are rules for content and here are just a few:

You can challenge thought, but you should never insult, be mean or put down someone by name. If you disagree with someone, disagree with class and style and state both sides before making the position for your point.

Never post personal stuff. This includes not posting pictures of your kids, unless it relates to your fitness mission, your dogs, your family vacation, you drunk on a beach in Mexico, you and the buds in a bar or anything that might even vaguely distract the tribe from believing you are the source.

It is hugely important to note that a decade from now everyone who will ever consider hiring you or doing business with you will immediately pop your name into a search engine and go to all the social media sites of the age. What do you want them to see, and remember that anything posted never, ever disappears from the web completely? Many younger people in the industry cry that this is unfair and their sites are their own private business. This is true, except for the fact that any person in any civilized country in the world can see whatever you post, except for anyone in China, and nothing is truly private on the web. Post often, but post with the one thought that you are trying to improve your personal brand, not kill it.

Never repost without giving credit, but always repost with a comment as to why you think this is important for your community.

Post something fresh at least six days a week.

Use pictures and videos several times a week

Remember that every post either enhances your brand, or hurts your brand. There is little in between.

Post and answer the comments as best you can each day. If the community is working, you will start to see interaction and response to what you are writing. Don’t wait a week to answer. If you post something controversial and expect comments, be there to answer and redirect the issue if needed.

Consider hiring someone to manage all of your media. This can be done for as little as a few hundred a month or as much as several thousand or more. The bigger you are, and the bigger you want to be, means you may need help posting daily and gathering the material for the posts.

The Community

The content gathers the tribe. The community gathers around someone that pushes their mental buttons and keeps them challenged. Content and community are both in fact one big circle. You feed content; the community feeds back and around it goes again. The goal is to build a significantly sized group of people that follow what you do and what you write because you are the true source in whatever niche you choose to exploit.

The size of the community will vary from site to site and from niche to niche. One person might be a failure with 30,000 likes on his social media site, while another person might be wildly successful with 500 friends on his social media. Don’t overestimate the need to build the largest community you can in your market. For example, a small training gym in a suburban area that has 500 followers on his site is doing quite well and that is enough to eventually start to turn that number into guests and memberships.

Building Influence

Once you establish your community you now have influence, but what to do with this new power? Think of influence as power to move the herd.

For example, you’re a small country and you declare war on the neighboring country. You summon your army and five drunks show up with a few shovels and a club. This is going to be a short war and it will end badly for you and your army. But let’s say you are a bigger country and you now want your loyal subjects to gather. You notice that you have 30,000 likes on your social media page and you want to sell your first e-book for $1.99 just to test the waters. Your community of 30,000 likes is far more likely to give you back sales versus the army of five. Put another way, when an army of like-minded individuals band together, whoever is leading that army has influence to make change, both monetarily and through driving change in your industry or niche.

Make $$$$$$$

You have content in place that changes daily. You have built your community of followers. Your community represents a large enough segment in your niche where you can alter thought and drive change.

You are now ready to monetize the process.

There are rules to this of course. Here are a few tips when it comes to going after the money:

Do not, and this means DO NOT, try and sell anyone anything until you have at least provided content for six months. Stated differently, build your community slowly without asking anything of them.

Once you starting asking for something, only do it once out of every 7-10 days. Don’t pound your tribe daily. Give, give, give for a week or so and then ask for that e-book sale. Give, give, give and then sell that trial membership. Build slowly and sell even more slowly.

Occasionally give something away free just for being part of the tribe. At least once a month, give everyone who follows you a free something, which is usually some short PDF tip sheet or informational piece. Create one of these a month and recycle each one the following year. You want, you want, but you need to give a little to your followers.

Here is an example of monetizing a social media site. This gym had 1,400 members at the time and had about 900 followers on its social media site. This tribe of 900 was a mix of members in the gym along with other people in the community that followed often due to the health and fitness tips that were posted daily along with the videos that showed workouts you could do at home.

The gym’s manager ran a post after about six months of gathering the tribe that said, “Post a video on this site in the next 30 minutes of you doing a burpee anywhere on the island and if you are a member of the gym you will receive 30 days of training valued at $300 for you and 30 days for your guest. Non-members, if you post you will get 30 days free to the gym, which includes a full training package for you too.”

The gym received 38 posts in 30 minutes. Out of the 38, 21 were members and the gym gave away 21 months of training and 21 guest months to the members to use with a friend. Remember the part from above where you need to reward the tribe with something free now and then. The other 17 posts were guests for a free trial month. In other words, this gym generated 38 guests in 30 minutes at no cost. Also consider that this gym uses primarily group training and another body in the groups doesn’t really cost the gym more money to service.

Another example from this gym was the use of the community, and the influence with this community, at generating revenue for the gym. The manager went to the local sporting goods store and asked the manager there if he would run a special just for the members of the gym, which is only about a half mile from the store.

The manager agreed since he had to do nothing. The sale was set for Friday from noon to three. All members of the gym would get 30 percent off shoes if they presented their membership cards. On Thursday night, the gym’s manager sent out a social media post stating: “special flash sale just for our members. Go to Freddie’s sporting goods from noon to three tomorrow and get 30 percent off any shoe in the store by just presenting your membership card.” The store sold 78 pairs of shoes. The gym’s tribe was rewarded for their loyalty and support. Most importantly, the gym’s manager could now ask $500 to run the sale again since he had proven he has the influence to drive customers to the store. Everyone wins and the community grows since friends refer friends who don’t want to be left out of these great special offers.

This formula as stated above applies to all electronic media since the basic progression is always going to be the same. Marketing electronically isn’t hard if you have a plan and if you realize that everything has to lead to the ability to capitalize on your influence at the end of the day.

 


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The Burnt Out Lie We Tell Ourselves

There comes a point in many careers where you get up, hit the shower and find yourself leaning face against the wall with hot water Imagerunning down your neck for an extra 10 minutes stalling to face the inevitable day at work. Unless you have a shower buddy in there with you, this is the day you need to consider quitting whatever you call work or a career because you are longer going to be any good at what you’re doing for a living. You are also wasting a day of your life, destined to be repeated, for as long as you continue to let yourself shower in misery, which eventually results in the loss of the most important asset you own…your life.

The mistake is that you should have never allowed yourself to get to that point in your life. How and when did you lose your passion for what you do for a living? If you ever had it. How did you ever let the world take it away from you? Worse, if the work you are doing isn’t important to you then why are you still doing it? Lost minutes in the shower often lead to lost years trapped doing work that is meaningless. Your life’s work defines you in so many ways, yet choosing work that forces you to find ways to avoid it drains you of your best years and most creative energy. You are not the work you do, but you often live your life by the quality of the work you choose.

Here are five questions you need to ask yourself if you are the person in the shower:

1.     Are you living your dream or someone else’s? We too often end up doing work that is part of someone else’s dream. You find a spouse, the spouse has a good job in that area and you then take a job that isn’t firing your passion, but it keeps you fed. You spend a few years doing this and your dreams vanish to be replaced with someone else’s, and if you lose that person, you now are often too late to reach back and rekindle that passion that excited you and your dreams earlier in your life.

Your first realization has to be that what you are doing is not what you were meant to do. Of course you have to make money out of whatever you do, but you can’t change lives when you are the person that needs taken care of in life. So the first question really is: whether the job you are avoiding was your choice, or did you commit to something that allows someone else to live his or her dreams while yours are lost?

2.     Are you in a job you should have never taken? You would not be the first person who spends years preparing for a career that turns out to be a bust. And there are still many more people who take what appears to be a dream job and then find that it just isn’t what it seemed to be from the outside. These people refuse to leave due to pride or embarrassment and end up equally trapped doing work that never delivered on its promise.

If you picked badly, run away now. Admit the mistake and move on now. Pack up your bags and move on now, or at least as soon as you can get other work that moves your career ahead. Remember, every job, certification or course should only have one purpose, and that is to move you closer to your dream. If isn’t doesn’t move you forward, then don’t do it.

3.     If not this, what else would you do? This is my favorite and the most common complaint. Owners or senior people rack up years doing what they wanted to do and then mentally just quit. You can almost tell the exact day it happens. The first thing you hear is, “This would be a great job if it wasn’t for those f%^&*ing clients.” Or “I can’t deal with another person in my face bitching about the same old thing.” The second indicator is that their business begins to immediately fade. The place is dirty, the paint is outdated, the staff is undertrained, if trained at all, and finding the owner actually in the business working would take Sherlock Holmes.

The question is now what will you do? If you worked this business for years, what else would you do or could you do to make the same amount of money? Walking away only means you will again become trapped in yet another business, and this time it will happen sooner. You forgot how to work and you forgot the pleasure work is supposed to give you.

This is sort of like the old married guy who is forever in love with a super model in the catalogue. He dreams of her, buys her pictures and has a secret crush on her for years, but he never learned the most important thing; your dream is someone else’s pain in the ass. The point of this is that if you don’t learn to find a way to make yourself happy in the business you own now, then running away to another business will never change that failure; it just perpetuates you being miserable somewhere else doing something else.

4.     Can you find a different way to get it done? This is really part of the question above. The burnout of an owner or senior manager is often the failure of his management style. If you do the same thing everyday for 20 years you will hate it, but who said you have to do the same thing for 20 years. There are too many owners that cling to the images of the past. “You can’t teach me anything new, I was making money doing this way 20 years ago.”

Yes, you were wildly successful 20 years ago, but how is that working for you now? Everything changes in the world. Businesses come, businesses go. Technology changes daily. The consumer changes, grows and becomes more sophisticated. The market you are in changes too with new competition we couldn’t have imagined even a few years ago. Yet there you stand, too cheap to paint the place and too lazy to sit down and reinvent your business.

Your business didn’t fail you, you failed it and it is amazing that people who are making a lot of money seldom ever complain about being burned out.

5.     What have you done to reinvent yourself in the last year? We all used to be somebody and back in the day I am sure you were the master of all you surveyed, but what have you learned today?

Part of burnt out is that our tool kits start to deteriorate. Ten years ago you were a master salesperson, but now those pressure tactics just make potential clients laugh and walk out. Fifteen years ago you used to be a master trainer, but now there are workshops that teach more in three days then you have learned in those last 15 years. You fail because you cling to glory days instead of admitting you don’t have one clue left in how to do things anymore and that the world has past your lazy ass by.

The perfect example of being trapped by former glory is the 40-year-old trainer who learned how to train during the bodybuilding craze. His solution to every training situation is the application of technology that is older than he is and isn’t every coming back, but to let go of this he would have to attend a workshop and admit that he needs to start all over again and reinvent himself.

Sometimes letting go of something is the most powerful move you can make. Remember that life is about going forward, not living back in the day when we were all young, beautiful, smart and rich, at least in our heads.

People fail to change because the perceived risk is too high so they cling to everything that fails and then here comes that perception of burnout. If what you’re doing isn’t working anymore, and you won’t change because what you might do might not work. This circular thought leads to a person freezing in place and while we might call it burnout to be nice, it is really just a nice way of saying you are going to avoid your problems until they take your business down.

If you are in the trapped, burned-out avoidance crew, sit down and spend a few hours with someone who cares and ask why? You will find that there is fine line between being a crispy piece of toast and a productive passionate person totally laser focused into making money and changing lives, and in kicking a few assess a long the way. Come on, get your ass out of the shower, it’s time to go live the dream.


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A Prayer for Those Who Care

ImageThe holidays should be a time of reflection, but we are often too busy with family, friends and work still undone to sit and think about the year and what we accomplished. This is a time to be grateful for who you are and what you do for a living. What you do looks so easy from the outside and yet is so hard from within. You are responsible not only for your own well being, but you have to take care of so many other people who look to you as a guide and coach. What you do matters, and if you do this for a living somewhere you were given some special talents to accomplish the difficult tasks each day.

People who live within the fitness world often gain a sense of spirituality that they don’t always think about or discuss with friends over the occasional glass of wine, but the perfect workout with friends could easily be viewed as a spiritual event that brings you closer to a universal truth. Fitness is motion and motion is life as life was intended to be. It doesn’t matter who or how you worship to most people, but it does matter that you are on a path that constantly leads you to seek a higher power in the universe.

The touch of spiritualty that someone living within fitness often feels comes from the ability to take what you know and do and change someone else’s life. Because of you, other people are better, and by any definition, of any religion, when you leave the world a better place due to your presence you have gained an understanding of the spiritual side of the universe.

What you choose to do for work in your life should matter to other people and what you do should make a difference in the universe. This is a prayer written for all of you that get up every day at the first light of dawn, kiss the family goodbye and then set out to help people who struggle in their lives reach goals and find happiness through simply feeling better about themselves.

 An Open Prayer to the Universe

Allow me the knowledge and the power to change lives and help those who trust me with their lives find the happiness that comes from the simple pleasure of being a healthier person

Guide me to always do the right thing with the people who seek my help and to keep my ego and personal agendas out of my teaching

Help me always remember that small steps are important and any change is valuable in someone’s life if that change is a positive step forward

Please help me remain patient and nurturing for the people who fail on their journey

Grant me the means to keep doing the right things and to be able to support and protect my family through the dedication to my dream

Please help me be a friend and guide to those around me who are also on the same path and are seeking the same goals in life

At the end of each day please grant me the knowledge that what I did made a difference and everyone I touched left a better person because of my efforts

And at the end of my days, please grant me the privilege of looking back and knowing that my life made a difference and I did not waste the talents given to me by the universe.


 Take a few days off; you earned it. Sit quietly and think about the good you did this year, the people you helped and the lives you changed. There is a new year coming and 2014 will bring many more people into your world. Your job is very simple: you exist to change lives and no one does it better than you.

“Happy Everything,” and thank you for the friendship and support over the years. ~ Thomas Plummer

 Originally Posted – 12/19/2013


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Why Crossfit Matters .. And What it has to do to Stay Relevant in the Coming Years

crossfitCrossFit changed the rules of the modern fitness business. Love them or rage against them, the training gym game changed when Greg Glassman and his team of fitness insurgents reinvented the rules.

Greg Glassman created CrossFit in 2000, although it seems it has been around for decades longer. It would be hard to calculate just how many traditional training gurus railed against the concept of CrossFit when his idea was introduced back in the day. The sad part of the story is that Glassman was lost in the debate. His contribution to the industry as a creative genius and marketer, as well as a wild free thinker about training methodology, were often overshadowed by the negativity thrown at him by those challenged by his approach and take no prisoners demeanor.

There aren’t as many impact players in the history of fitness as you might imagine. Joe Gold created not only Gold’s, but World’s Gym as well. His legacy literally reinvented everything we did for 20 years as a business. Jack LaLanne made fitness popular and something everyone could do through his television show. Arthur Jones invented Nautilus and the commercial gym never looked the same again. Neal Spruce was a pioneer in nutrition and created not only the most successful commercial nutrition applications in the industry but NASM as well. Mike Grondahl almost went broke and in an act of desperation, and brilliant marketing, he created Planet Fitness and the low-priced business concept. And even Arnold turned the need to be big into a commercial proposition that drove people to the gyms in big waves.

Some of these people aren’t well known in the industry, but all of them have changed the way we do business, think about training, and relate to the public we serve.  The common denominator in this group is that everyone on this list was viewed as extremely controversial at the time and was debated by his peers as either the answer to everyone’s problem or thought to be the anti-Christ who would bring down humanity due to his idea of what fitness should be.

Greg Glassman belongs on this list. His genius is that he created a marketing company that reinvented modern fitness as we know it. Group training existed prior to CrossFit, but he made it the centerpiece in about 9000 gyms. No one had built a community in fitness prior to his arrival and no one debunked the idea of traditional circuit training like he did. He created a cult-like player in the industry, and as those on the list above, he was admired and hated at the same time for his work.

The hardest issue for a company such as CrossFit, and Glassman, is how do you stay relevant in an industry that eats micro gyms like a CrossFitter throwing down turkey legs at a Paleo buffet?

Most trends in the fitness industry, which we call micro trends, last for about 12-15 years. These trends have a long, slow build, followed by a quick rise to the top, a hot period, and then a fast fade. Aerobics, tanning, Curves and a number of other fitness phenomenons all lived and died by the trend line. Evolution is the constant and you either let your creation evolve or you watch it die because of failure to adapt and change to meet the current needs of the market.

Aerobics had a long slow build in the 1980s, followed by a quick rise and hot period in the late 80s and early 90s, and then it was gone around 1993 only to be reborn in about 1999 as group exercise driven by kickboxing and next generation group fitness. Even now group exercise has faded again and is slowly being replaced by group training in most gyms. The star can shine brightly, but eventually it does have to burnout.

Most evolution in the fitness industry is driven from the bottom up these days. This means that the gym owners, the trainers and the people in direct contact with the buying public modify their products as the market dictates. If your life and everything in it is put into your own training business, then you are forced to adapt and modify the model or the bills simply can’t be paid. Corporate people are often left out of this direct consumer contact making it difficult to feel and react to what the consumer is feeling today and what his needs will be tomorrow.

The exception to this rule is Starbucks. Howard Shultz came back into the company he created, went out into the stores and talked to the customers and returned the company into the profit zone. He didn’t do it by living in the past and trying to recreate or hang on to the glory days; he did it by reinventing the business around the original product, which is a strong cup of good coffee. He allowed the business to move forward in time and Starbucks now even has units that serve beer and wine.

On the other hand, in my opinion, Curves failed to evolve their original circuit product and the consumer simply moved on to newer and shinier toys. Many corporate people stumble because they know their product no longer works, but they have no idea where to go next. This seems to be the case with Gold’s and 24-Hour Fitness these days. How do you let those giant companies evolve and where should they be positioned to take advantage of the future? Evolution is constant and only the strongest and the ones willing to adapt become sustainable over time.

CrossFit had the long slow build. They had the quick rise. And now they are in the middle of the hot stage. The goal of any business owner is to stay there for as long as they can without succumbing to the quick plunge into fitness history. How can CrossFit stay relevant for another 14 years?

There are three things CrossFit could do to maintain their image as a dynamic force in worldwide fitness over the next decade:

1.     Support the training methodology with a business platform. CrossFit is a marketing company that sells licenses. Eventually, many of the people so passionate about CrossFit, and who want to make a living out of their box, will fail without business direction. Why let them fail? Why not embrace the fact that the coach who operates this box has evolved and wants to make a decent living out of owning and operating his own gym? The community may have all the answers to training questions, but most don’t have the answer when it comes to building a financially successful box that is sustainable over time. There are thousands of master trainers in the CrossFit system, and their next generation coaches are often some of the best in the world, but there aren’t many master level business people in the organization yet, but that will come ultimately and the more experienced box owners will figure out how to get the education and support they need to live their dream on their own terms.

There are a small number of CrossFits that make really good money, but most don’t. A typical 6,000 square foot training box can do over a million dollars a year these days, a number that isn’t really part of the CrossFit culture yet, but easily could be. Remember, Glassman was right in the first place. Group training is a good tool, but the coaches need other ways to charge and serve their clientele over time and if corporate doesn’t lead, it will happen anyway. Evolution occurs with or without leadership and do you want to be the person creating it or the person reacting to it?

2.     Help the younger, more inexperienced trainers keep their clients safer over time. There is probably no one more passionate about fitness and training than a coach with three months of fitness experience who just came home from his first CrossFit certification. This person is on fire and wants to share the newly acquired knowledge with everyone. The problem is that new coaches who just learned complex movement patterns might need some more seasoning themselves before he or she can supervise a room full of people doing a complex exercise, such as a power clean, whenever that group is tired and getting a little sloppy.

I would not change the community approach to posting workouts. It is fun and keeps the community banded together. It would be nice to see a recommend list of workouts for newer coaches focused on the skills they have today, not the ones they will have in the future. Injuries hurt everyone in the brand, even minor ones, and it is the perception of injuries that can ruin any good training gym, whether they are true or not. Control the perception. I don’t think CrossFit is any place as dangerous as the press sometimes fixates on, but it would help to control the perception instead of letting someone else control the conversation.

3.     Offer marketing support, such as a stronger national ad campaign, for a fee, to control the national image more. In marketing, you either control your own image, or the marketplace fills in the void and makes up its own stories.  Once you become a national brand, the marketplace can take over your image if you don’t work hard to control it. You can survive being the anti-gym, but in a small marketplace, such as the world of fitness where only 17% of the people in this country belong to gyms, your image, over time, dictates your place in this market. If you don’t play, the consumer makes up his own story about you and often that is bad. Greg Glassman has a compelling story to tell. Some of his first generation writings on the concept of CrossFit are some of the best marketing and most solid ideas of fitness I have ever seen in the industry, but why not let the story evolve and keep leading from the front?

What do all of these things mean taken together? Glassman created one of the most innovative fitness companies in the history of the industry. His distractors fight over the training methodology neglecting the fact that he changed the fitness world more than most of them combined ever will.

But this brilliant idea needs finished. It is important to all of us in the business that CrossFit grows and evolves to its true potential. No matter what success CrossFit corporate has had during their first 14 years, and it has been significant, they could even be more wildly successful if the boxes ever live up to their revenue potential. Owners that make money will stay in the organization longer and pay longer. These owners will spend a lot more money on education and even more on continued certification over time. Owners that make money stay loyal to the brand. Those that struggle look for other solutions and are willing to leave the brand for any solution that keeps them in business and living that dream of doing fitness for a living.

CrossFit matters to us all. Glassman was right and should be given so much more credit for his creation than he has been recognized for in the industry. It will be interesting to see how he lets it evolve into next generation of CrossFit and how the story will end.

 

 


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Breaking the Hourly Addiction

ImageGetting paid by the hour sounds so logical when you are a fitness professional. You show up to work, do your training thing, get paid for the time and go home. If you work for someone, this method of compensation makes sense. If you work for yourself, however, getting paid by the hour is the least effective thing you can do in business to generate revenue for yourself and for your team.

The problem with hourly pay is that there are a whole bunch of negatives that kill this method. Here are just a few to think about in your business:

·      There is always going to be a monetary perceived ceiling per hour you can charge; either in your mind or in the client’s head

·      The client always immediately finds an equivalent rate in his head comparing you to what he pays others in his life that provide anytime of service

·      You can only work so many hours per week; therefore, you can only earn so much before you top out your income over time.

·      Selling yourself by the hour always brings the discussion down to money instead of how you can help the client. Why is help in our world just limited to one hour at a time? Why is fitness sold per hour and not per solution to a problem? For example, a client asks for weight loss over time and we turn around and sell him an hour of our time. He asked for a solution to a long-term problem and we came back to him with an hourly fee.

Let’s say a trainer can charge $100 per hour in her market. In the trainer’s world, this amount is often a lot of money, especially since we all currently believe that the idea is to try and charge as much as you can per hour worked, which proves to be an ineffective way to charge anyone that we will discuss later. The trainer says, “I am going to push my rate up to $100 and go for it; it’s the most I have ever charged anyone.”

Since this is a lot of money to the trainer, his ability to ask for this money is always weak. It takes a mature money person to stand in someone’s face and ask for the most money you have ever earned and most trainers, especially the younger ones in the field, stumble here.

Understand that trainers usually get into the field because they are internally driven people who love helping others. It is a strange comparison, but trainers are often the social workers of the fitness industry. Social workers are often good people who dedicate their lives, often for extremely low pay, to helping others in need. Many trainers love helping and training so much that they too will help others for free if necessary. This intrinsic drive is admirable in a trainer, but it doesn’t feed the kids or pay the rent.

The client on the other hand, who often has either direct or indirect knowledge of what trainers in your area get paid, compares your rate to others in your field in that area. You should be the highest priced trainer in your area, but there are limits to how far you can push this concept. Money people that are our training clients understand better than you often do that the higher the rate someone charges, the higher perception of service and quality goes with it. This thought is a direct contradiction for trainers who often feel they have to continually make deals or charge the least in their market to work which is the hardest lesson to learn by any trainer in the business.

Where we fail, however, and where there is a serious disconnect, is that what we ask for doesn’t usually match the circumstances of the sale. For example, your client wants to hire an attorney. The $50 per hour attorney usually matches the rate he charges. Bad suit, small office, no assistant, poor location and little experience are all the signs of a $50 an hour attorney. On the other hand, the $250 hour attorney completely matches the rate. He or she has the big office, assistants, is often part of a bigger firm, offices that are in the best part of town and all the trappings, experience and poise it takes to charge the highest rate in town.

Our trainer, however, is trying to charge the highest rate he can or the market will bear, but is doing it in the same context that all the other cheap guys live in. Our hero wants the most money, but he is dressed the same, usually badly, works along side the low priced guys, doesn’t understand added value or building value for his client and simply tries to charge a little more, but does nothing else to support the context that he is worth more. Remember, it isn’t always what you know; it is how you deliver that knowledge that makes you money.

In the world of attorneys, the range between the lowest and the highest hourly rate can exist because the differentiation is so apparent. In our world, the gap between high and low that the client will accept is often much smaller because there is often no perceived differences between the players. Your price is based upon you learning that perception of quality is the real separator in the client’s head and in most business transactions.

Another problem with charging by the hour is that the client always immediately compares your rate to other professionals in his life and we often fare badly in that comparison. If you charge a $100 per hour, and the client’s chiropractor only charges $65 per visit, you are now being compared to a medical professional. In the client’s head, you are charging more than a medical professional on his team. We can survive this comparison, but our delivery system, which includes our support materials for the client, how we dress and professionalism, where we train the client, the support services we offer along with our training, such as nutrition, and all the other small details that make up our product along with the actual training, has to be so much more distinctive and offered at a much higher level than any other trainer we are competing against.

The need for having a life works against you charging hourly for your services. Yes, you can work six days a week. Yes, you can work splits so you can be there in the morning and come back in the evening for those later clients. And yes, you can train clients for 40 hours or more per week. The question is how long can you do this, and most importantly, how long can you do this well?

Your ability to maintain this level of training over a long period of time is almost impossible. We find that the average trainer lasts less than eight years before he or she burns and crashes. Trying to maintain this type of schedule is the prime reason trainers fade away young.

There are several issues involved here. First of all, your ability to work past this hour limit will put a max on the money you can make. If you can only work 32 sessions per week, then your money ceiling is now 32 times your hourly rate minus your cost of servicing that client. Trainers who want to make more money simply keep trying to gain more clients and work more hours, but realistically, at some point you will have to take a nap, eat, see your kids, visit your soon to be ex-spouse or simply sit somewhere for a few hours with friends and decompress. Whether you admit it or not, there is always going to be a limit to the hours you can work, and therefore, the money you can make.

The second issue is that the more hours you train clients, the more ineffective you become. There will be those of you who read this who adamantly deny this and swear, probably at me, that every session you ever offer is the best you can do and every client gets your best every time you’re on the floor. The passion is appreciated, but sit quietly and ask yourself if that is indeed true? Are you really giving your best every session, every week, every month, year after year or are you giving it about 80 percent of what little energy and passion you have left after five years of split shifts, 2000 meals out of plastic bowls, clients in foul moods, late nights with friends and the fact that you just haven’t had five consecutive days off since summer vacation in grade school?

Training for a living, despite what your relatives and friends think, is extremely difficult with a full load of clients. You have to remember that every client is there to take a little of your energy home with them that day and no trainer, no matter how good, is capable of sustaining that level of commitment year after year without rest, decent food and a chance to stay fresh and excited.

The answer to all of this is to move from hourly to solution-based client sales and there are several ways to get this done.

First of all, you can switch from one-on-one training as your primary tool and start with small group training with up to four in a group. Your return per hour goes up, the clients get better results over time due to the group dynamic, and most importantly, you can work fewer hours each week and make more money. You gain the advantage of shifting the focus away from you and to the group making your job easier and more sustainable over time.

The key to getting started with this is to switch from per session charges to charging per month with a 12-month commitment (at least three months if you are nervous to try this). For example, instead of charging $60 per session, or 10@ $500, which would be a typical charging system for a trainer in the one-on-one world, you could switch to $259 a month for 12 months for five visits per month or $359 a month for 12 months for unlimited access defined as 12 sessions per month with guided workouts for the off days included (You write the workouts but the clients do them own on their on the off days).

You set times on a schedule and the client books the times best for him. The client does not have to bring a friend or fill the slots; he simply goes to your scheduler and books as needed. Remember that the average client will train about 9.6 times per month so you win by accumulating a large receivable base of client money owed to you and the client wins by being able to train when he wants in a group setting with motivated people along side.

If you don’t want to do it this way, you can simply sell a solution to a problem. For example, a client starts with you and wants to lose some weight and get healthier. It doesn’t make sense for this client to now buy a five pack of sessions, and it is worse if you discount your services to sell him more sessions at a lower rate.

Using the $50 rate from above based upon the session package, you could sell this client a three-month complete rebuilding program for only $549 per month for three months, which includes 8-12 sessions per month done in a group setting, full nutrition support and needed supplements, a workout journal and a tee shirt. This is just a model and what you charge and what you add is up to you, but the key point is you make more money selling the client a solution to his problem rather than trying to just sell hourly sessions and packages.

The goal is to net 40% on everything you do, but the long-term move is to build a system where you get paid for what you know, not just the hours you are willing to work each week. You’re already doing the work, you just aren’t getting paid for it well enough.

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