Over the last few years, one-on-one personal training has solidifi ed its spot as a popular service in the middle and upper income groups. During that same time, the profession of personal training has advanced, trainers are more professional, and consumers are receiving a better value for each dollar spent on personal training.
At the same time, one of the hottest new trends utilized by personal trainers has been fitness boot camps with 10 and 20 participants per class. Because of the amount of people being served at once, the price per person has dropped significantly. This is fantastic because the general public can now receive the accountability and motivation that personal training is known for at a much lower cost. This lowers the “barrier of entry” in high-quality fitness programs and allows more people to engage in structured fitness programs. However, due to the size of boot camps, it’s hard to offer personalization.
Semi-private personal training is essentially an option that fits between one-on-one personal training and the large fitness boot camps. Semi-private personal training is typically conducted with two to five clients at a time. This allows for lower costs per person than traditional personal training while at the same time allowing more personal attention than most fitness boot camps.
Achieve More in Less Time
If you’ve built up a full schedule of clients, you know how hard it is to help make a difference for others who don’t have a time slot with you. The typical trainer can handle 10 to 15 total clients; any more than that and they run out of time.
Let’s say that you are conducting six one-hour one-on-one appointments per day. During that day, you connected with six people. But imagine that three of those six appointments were with groups of three. Now instead of helping six people, you’ve just helped 14 people. You’ve more than doubled the number of clients you are impacting.
Semi-private personal training can also be very good for your business. If you set appropriate rates for your group personal training, you will be making considerably more per hour during group training hours.
There is also power in numbers. Because you are helping more people, you have that many more people with impressive success stories, spreading the word about what you do. These factors shouldn’t be overlooked. If clients are your best source of new business and you double your number of clients, you could have double the amount of referrals coming in as well.
Lastly, as you increase the total number of clients you work with, you are not in financial danger every time a client decides to discontinue training. If you have 10 clients and one leaves, you feel that. If you have 40 clients and one leaves, your business will be so solid, you will not be left wondering how to pay your bills.
Expand Your Market Penetration
Personal training businesses that offer only one-on-one training are turning away a very significant portion of the total weight loss/fitness/wellness market. One-on-one personal training carries a relatively high price point and excludes many people who are interested in your services. Semi-private personal training effectively lowers the individual’s cost per session and makes personal training affordable to more people. You may find that the number of people in your geographical area who can afford your services may double or triple once you’ve added semi-private offerings.
How to Implement
The first thing you should do is decide if offering semi-private personal training is right for your own positioning in the market and your long-term business strategy. For example, if you are someone who specialized in post-rehab fitness, group personal training might not be the right fit for you. However, if you are working with the typical client who wants to lose weight, get fit and doesn’t have major health issues, semi-private personal training can be very effective.
If you decide you are interested in implementing semi-private personal training, start thinking about different processes for implementing it with current clients and clients who start with you after the program has been created.
For example, if we are considering putting multiple one-on-one clients into a group, we’ll let them test the waters with a free group session to evaluate the new training style and the chemistry within the group. Or when we bring on a new client who wants to go into group personal training, we generally require that they go through six one-on-one training sessions with their trainer first to allow the trainer and client to bond before adding in an additional trainee. During this six-session period, the trainer can get an adequate understanding of the person’s fitness level and teach many of the basic exercise techniques so they are ready to optimize the semi-private training experience.
Testing
You must think carefully about how you want to promote semi-private personal training with your clients. Specifically, you have to decide whether it makes sense to promote the offering to people who are already happily involved with one-on-one training. If you decide that you want to promote semi-private personal training to current clients, informally mention it to some of your clients, and listen to feedback. You don’t want to turn off your dedicated clients who may really prefer their one-on-one time with you.
When you mention it to clients, explain how group personal training allows them to get the same workout for less cost. Ask them if they know of anyone who would be a good partner for them. Explain how it will be fun and motivating. If they don’t know of anyone who would be the right fit for them to work out with, ensure them that you will only match them up with a partner that you believe would be a good match.
Off ering to Prospects
You must decide where semi-private training fits into your business model. Is it your lead offering? Do you offer semi-private training before you off er one-on-one training? Do you offer them equally? Or is semi-private training your fall-back option for people who can’t afford one-on-one training? Only you can answer these questions. Successful training businesses have been built with each approach.
Marketing and Advertising
If you decide that you want to actively market your semi-private training options, it will likely be best if you separate your marketing campaigns for semi-private versus one-on-one training. Mixing the two offerings in the same advertising campaign may confuse potential buyers. Each off ering has slightly diff erent benefi ts, and you should segment the off erings to promote the specific benefits of each offering separately.
Doug Jackson, M.Ed, CSCS, is the owner of Personal Fitness Advantage training studio (www.personalfitnessadvantage.com). Contact Doug at 954.663.9438 or doug@personalfitnessadvantage.com.

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