With private training and even group training, it's mind-boggling how much time we spend with our clients -- more time than pretty much any other person in their lives.

Despite time, I think very few trainers actually take the time to truly understand their clients; to understand who they are as people and what they are seeking when looking for fitness services. Even fewer actually create an image for their training practice or business that is built to attract these types of core clients and keep them happy with precisely what they're looking for in the long term.

I think this is a huge mistake, and it's not surprising why you find so many fitness professionals today struggling. Putting in the effort to change your business to reflect your clientele is one of the most important things you can do. Unfortunately, from many fitness facilities I visit or fitness businesses I observe, they end up doing the opposite.

I see too many trainers do it backwards -- they think about what they like, the kind of image they want to convey, the place they want to work, and then push this environment onto their members.

For example, you'll see a training center designed to look like a high-level athletic training center, with natural looking turf, football and mma equipment, large tires, sledgehammers etc.; meanwhile, 70% of their clients are soccer moms. Or you'll see a bootcamp facility with an extreme and "grungy" looking training environment, while again, the same thing, the majority of their members are de-trained men and women looking for an effective way to shed a few pounds and feel good (not compete in the next CROSS-FIT games). Or you'll see a trainer that loves kickboxing creating a kickboxing training program without thinking about whether they'll be able to attract a large enough clientele for this type of training to meet their immediate income goals.

If the trainers in these examples (and these are actual examples of struggling trainers and facilities I've observed) just took the time to structure their business toward who the majority of their clients really are (rather than clients they "wish" they had) I'm sure they would find their core customer group grow and the time they spend marketing and selling decrease dramatically.

When I backtrack and think about what has made my second bootcamp facility the top earning privately owned indoor bootcamp facility in the United States (and my first one is likely sitting there at No. 2), I would point to exactly what I'm talking about here. I took the time to craft the image and experience of my business around my core customer base. When they first come into contact with the business, I want their reaction to be, "This is exactly what I've been looking for."

I've spent so much time studying the marketing side of business that I made a lot of these decisions about crafting my image and specialty without much deliberate thinking; I kind of did it on intuition.

Here is the thought process I followed in creating my fitness business, BETTER BODY BOOTCAMP. If you follow the same line of thinking, I guarantee you will attract more of the people that make up your core clientele. You'll also find you'll get more bang for your buck in whatever you do businesswise.

STEP #1: Focus On a Market That Can Feed You (just because you like it, doesn't mean it's a good business decision)

In my opinion, too many trainers create a business image that is completely wrong for the type of people that are going to make up the majority of their clientele. For example, when I was a solo trainer training private clients, I noticed a trainer in the same facility adopt a mode of training that was just wrong for the type of people he was training. I'd see him having moms that are looking to lose some of their baby weight doing farmer's walks with 50-pound dumbells in each hand -- pretty ridiculous, if you ask me.

I'm a fan of agility training and work it into a lot of my fitness routines, but first I create an image and message that is in line with what my clients are seeking, and then find a way to fit my particular preferences as a trainer into that.

STEP #2: Take the Time to Understand Your Market (don't just assume you know everything)

Building on step #1, this step is about understanding your market at a deep level. For example, if your training practice is designed to help the general population lose weight and get fit (I imagine the overwhelming majority of fitness businesses have this focus), then you need to take the time to understand this type of client. What are their interests? What is their income level? What are their hobbies? Where do they go on vacation? What other types of businesses do they frequent? What are their wants, desires, aspirations and fears? Taking the time to deeply understand your clients will help you create a fitness practice that fits seamlessly into their lives relative to all the other factors. It will also allow you to communicate with your customers in their language, and have your business or practice reflect what they are looking for out of fitness services.

For example, I'm a single guy that likes to ride motorcycles, drives a convertible, and travels in my free time. Meanwhile, most of my clients are reserved, career-driven women and men who have a lifestyle that is the polar opposite of mine. They have jobs, families, and can't pick up and leave whenever they feel like it. These differences might create a disconnect that could hurt my business.

Instead, what I chose to do is talk about aspects of my personality and life that overlap with that of my members. I talk about my family life, upbringing, passion for work, and of course fitness and training related topics that my clients can relate to. No matter how different we are, there are some experiences that we all share as people. Highlighting these commonalities is how you can create the deep bond that's necessary to have a thriving clientele.

STEP #3: Create an appealing image for your business (give your customers what they want)

What's your specialty? What are the graphics, buzzwords, and modes of training you're utilizing? Do any of these appeal to your target market? These are the questions you need to ask yourself when planning the image to your business.

For example, I have signs at my bootcamp that say NO BULKING ZONE. What I find is most women (which make up the majority of my clientele) are afraid of bulking up when starting a strength training program. That's why I make it a point to highlight in as many ways possible (and during every session) how our training won't have that bulking effect on them. I’m sure this puts them at ease and alleviates one of their main fears when it comes to intense training.

STEP #4: Have Integrity and Stay True to Your Values (selling doesn't mean selling out)

Despite having your business reflect your members, what YOU think still matters. Adding your own particular tastes, preferences, and style to your business is what makes it special, makes it stand-out, and makes it more personal. Simon Sinek, author of START WITH WHY, considers personal motives as one of the most important parts of a business (and a critical part of whether it succeeds and lasts). If everything you do is only a strategic marketing choice, then you won't have a unique story to capture your clients' imaginations, and much of your marketing message will ring hollow.

It's also important to stay true to a high level of expertise in training. That's where I feel places like the Curves national franchise went wrong. It's true they got the first part right, and had a service that was directed toward their target market. The problem was they had absolutely no credibility. At the end of the day, people still want to feel like they’re doing business with the best. That's why no matter what, it's important to continuously strive to be the best.

Kaiser Serajuddin is a 10-year veteran in the fitness industry. His latest fitness business, Better Body Bootcamp, has two locations in the Queens and Long Island areas of New York and generates over $40,000 per month each. He is a long-time contributor to PFP, a former consultant to upstart trainers, and has personally helped hundreds of trainers start and grow their fitness careers.


How much of your time would you estimate you spend growing your business?