The Three R’s of Building a Massively Successful Personal Training Business

Building a lucrative personal training or boot camp business is relatively easy these days. personal trainer marketing

Trust me when I say this…

…I operated five personal training facilities averaging $45K in monthly revenue each, and never had a website, google for SEO or pay-per-click, and the word “Facebook” didn’t even exist let alone targeted leads from Facebook and all the cool and crafty viral stuff you can do on “the facebook” these days.

All I had was an email list, lead boxes, direct mail and word of mouth in my personal trainer marketing arsenal. But we did well, really well, even with rent at $16,000/month in a couple of my locations.

Back then, (and by “back then” I’m talking about 1999 – 2003) the core of my marketing rested on the three R’s:

– Retention

– Referral Generation

– Re-activation

I’ll explain it in detail for you in just a moment…

Personal Trainer Marketing
Sometimes I think I had an advantage over you back then because I didn’t have a ton of marketing stuff to pick and choose from. All I had was all I had, and so I had to make the most of it since there was no new shiny marketing object to turn to.

My “external” fitness marketing strategy was brilliant in it’s simplicity…  Get leads from lead boxes and direct mail pieces, then add them to my email list and get them to know, like and trust me – AND THEN MAKE THEM LOW BARRIER OFFERS.

That’s it!

We also had what I affectionately called “call girls” in each facility. Their job was to dial for dollars… well not dollars exactly… more like call folks up who gave us their numbers from the lead boxes and direct mail pieces and make them offers to come in and try a free Body Diagnostic Program (which was basically a fitness eval, a training session, nutrition eval, weigh in, and body fat test using the ol’ Futrex 5000).

Futrex 5000If you’ve been in the industry for any length of time them you remember the Futrex 5000 – unreliable as ever, expensive beyond words, and large as a cinder-block.


Email offers and call girls is all we had to get new prospects into the door and those two external marketing tactics served us well.

But that’s not what accounted for our highly profiting personal training business.

The REAL secret was in the client retention, referral generation systems, and the re-activation process I had in place.

RETENTION: My business model was to treat every client like they were our ONLY client. I do that with my coaching and consulting business today.

We showed appreciation in a ton of different ways… client appreciation parties, prize give-a-ways for keeping food journals and not missing sessions, and each and every trainer that worked for me was trained in giving every client the “experience” – results, motivation, and appreciation.

REFERRAL GENERATION: One of the first things I learned from Jay Abraham about a decade ago was to; “make referrals a condition of doing business with you”. So each time a new client signed up for a training program we’d shake hands, welcome them aboard and say: “Mrs. Jones, as I help you achieve your fitness and fat loss goals… can I count on you to help me reach more local residents by referring your friends, family and co-workers to us?”

Right then and there the expectations were set!

personal training marketing

And as my staff delivered the “experience” to each and every client, that gave us the opportunity to reach out to clients via phone, snail mail and email and ask them for referrals. We did this systematically each and every month using one, two or three mediums to ask for referrals …. really depended upon how bad we needed new clients that month 😉

These days I don’t see enough personal training studio or boot camp owners growing their business through word of mouth referrals. It’s almost like you’re satisfied just to get a new client from your external marketing efforts – which btw costs you a LOT more then if you were to make a rule that you expect to get at least three new clients from every current client over the life of their training program.

Remember This: It will cost you four to seven times more in marketing dollars to get a new external lead then it would cost you to get a referral from an existing client.

AND it’s infinitely easier to close a referred prospect on a training program then it is to close a brand new lead who has no clue who you are from a hole in the wall.

Now, from time to time, no matter how awesome of a trainer you are, you WILL have clients who drop off your training program or boot camp. That’s a given.

Some drop off for financial reasons

Others may drop off because of personal reasons

Yet others may have reached their goals, dropped out with every intention to maintaining their new found body but somehow they fell back out of shape.

Over time and over multiple locations (if you have more than one location) the number of inactive “former clients” really add up.

Again, it’s a lot easier to re-activate a former client and get them back into your training program then it is to prospect a new client.

One thing that worked really well for me was to systematically reach out to former clients and invite them back on a unique promotion that was only offered to them and not anyone else. Exclusivity was stressed in the promotion.

Several months ago I took that process to a whole new level and crafted the “Re-activation Trifecta” sequence which is a snail mail letter, follow up with an email and a phone script.

When I gave my Re-activation Trifecta sequence to my coaching clients they reported an average of 21% re-activation. Not too shabby considering that one letter followed up by an email and phone call could get 21 out of 100 former clients back into your program.

Like I said at the beginning of this post…. sometimes I think I had it easier than you because I only had three or four simple fitness marketing systems and put all my effort in them and they proved really profitable and helped me sustain and later sell my personal training business for a nice chunk of change.

And even though the personal trainer marketing landscape is different today…

…even thought you have more options, solutions, tactics and strategies at your disposal, the best and most effective fitness business growth strategies remain the three R’s… Retention, Referral generation and Re-activation.

fitness marketing
I don’t know if you’ll want this or not… but I’m thinking of giving you my “Re-activation Trifecta” sequence to try out.

If I get enough feedback in the comment section down below telling me that you want the Re-activation Trifecta, I’ll post it up here on my blog for you to download and use.