The start of any New Year brings with it renewed hope, energy and the ever present myriad of resolutions by which we pledge to do more, do better and live our lives with more determination. As business people, that determination is usually focused on growing our businesses and increasing our revenue. As personal trainers, this generally equates to increasing the number of clients we train. The goal of attracting new clients is great, but what do we do with them once we have them? Specifically, what will we do to retain them in the future?

    I have been a certified personal trainer since 1995. I have had the pleasure of working with some of my clients for the past 11 years, and the majority for at least five years. I believe that great clients, loyal clients, don't just happen - we create them. Here are five methods I have personally used to successfully build, what I believe to be, an excellent retention rate.

    1. Always be genuine, kind, caring and empathetic!
    This will come easily for most of us in this industry as personal trainers because we enjoy helping others and have chosen to share our talents to make a positive and lasting difference in this world. Clients need us to be more than just well educated in the fine points of exercise science. We are personal trainers, and as such, our professional relationships with our clients are more personal than in some other businesses.

    That means we cannot look at them with dollar signs in our eyes, but rather, we must be kind, and regard them with the respect and dignity they deserve. We must care, by being mindful of their struggles to overcome their obstacles and their efforts to achieve their fitness goals. If we are empathetic, we will not make judgments or assumptions about their lives or lifestyles. Instead, we will acknowledge their reality and then offer our professional assistance and advice through the delivery of our best training efforts.

    2. Listen to your clients!
    The value of this skill cannot be overstated. When speaking with a client about their goals, available time, nutritional habits and lifestyle, we must step outside our "gym bubble" and into the lives of our clients.

    Truly listening and hearing what they are really saying is the most important way we gather the critical clues we need in order to help our clients most effectively. We must know if they are really willing and/or able to commit to making permanent positive changes such as: taking time to perform their at-home exercise program, sleeping at least seven hours a day, decreasing their stress level, regularly attending training sessions, making nutritional changes, etc. Careful listening will provide us with the information we need to successfully coach them through the transition from their current life situation to living a healthier life.

    3. Reward your clients for their accomplishments, especially the small ones!
    No matter how determined your client is to reach a goal, everyone needs to be motivated, and who doesn't appreciate having their efforts acknowledged? Begin with the simple step of using well-chosen, well-timed, sincere, meaningful compliments. The use of rewards such as bags, caps, towels, and t-shirts, all with your logo prominently displayed, can also serve to supplement your overall marketing plan in a cost-effective manner.

    4. Give the gift of your time!
    In a world where "time is money" the idea of not charging your client for every moment of your time would be considered foolish by most, right? Not in my world. When I was first starting out and could not afford to get a little something for a client's birthday, wedding, or holiday, etc., I would give them a free session for these special events. I knew it was something they would actually use, so it made a nice gift that only cost me my time. This practice proved so valuable that, in fact, I still offer a free session to all my clients to come in to train on their birthdays. Giving of your time truly makes a client feel appreciated.

    5. Continue to broaden your base of knowledge!
    One of the surest ways to retain clients is to increase your knowledge of exercise science through continuing education. If you are consistently pursuing more certifications, taking additional courses to keep up with the latest research, trends, modalities, and technology you will always have something "more" to offer them. This translates into you being a better trainer and ensuring your clients will continue to make progress.

    Creating loyal and successful clients is your best strategy toward client retention. I believe using the methods described above will prove as successful to you as they have to me.


    Valorie Ness is CEO of Catalyst Fitness Midtown located in Atlanta Ga. She has been in the industry for over 15 years and travels nationally and internationally as an educator and Presenter. Valorie is the 2013 PFP Trainer of the Year. www.catalystfitness.com

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