In life and in business, there are combinations that just seem to go together naturally. There are simply some entities that create magic when they are brought together; something synergistic occurs and raises the value of both when they work in tandem. Physicians and fitness trainers are one such relationship. In today's integrated health system, this pairing not only complements one another in professional focus, but also builds upon the profit margin that each brings to the table. As more and more wellness centers begin to implement the approach of a cooperative referral system, this budding relationship between the physician and the personal trainer is becoming a viable asset in creating business success.

 

Benefiting From One Another

            At first glance, the synergies of this partnership might seem obvious. Doctors assist their patients in getting healthy, while fitness trainers do the same by facilitating and maintaining an optimal physical condition for their clients. Therefore, it is no surprise that these overlapping points of service are beginning to teach profit-generating lessons for both of these professions. However, establishing the proper lines of communication between the two groups can be a challenge.

            The first step in bridging this professional gap is determining how each can enhance the other's business. Mutually beneficial business relationships can be developed between trainers and physicians not only through referrals, but by physically placing the fitness component within the existing offices of physicians. Introducing a joint location for a consumer's potential health needs provides an all-inclusive, one-stop approach, which caters to the fast-paced lifestyle of most prospective clients. By literally placing the fitness training, as well as the fitness professional, in the environment of a medical office, patients/clients are able to make all appointments medicinal, fitness or dietary without having to leave the building. The new popularity of wellness centers and medical spas makes this relationship an extremely lucrative one. The presence of a trainer as part of a medical practice, wellness center or medical spa offers key advantages:

  • The trainer makes more frequent patient/client contact. Most healthy individuals see their doctors sporadically. However, clients, on average, see their trainers one to three times per week. This helps build loyalty to the facility as well as a steady stream of revenue.
  • A trainer with an established clientele can introduce new services to his or her clients. If the practice, center or spa offers massage, acupuncture or chiropractic care, the trainer can make these kinds of referrals to his or her clients. Thus, the trainer can add to the physician's base of patients, just as the physician can for the trainer.
  • The trainer can share in community outreach. Fitness professionals are often asked to give presentations. During such speeches, they can promote the facility and the services that it provides.
  • Having a fitness professional as part of a medical practice or spa helps to extend the service offerings. This leads to a "one-stop-shop" feel. The more services you can offer a client, the more comprehensive care you will have, which will bring your consumer back again and again.
  • The fitness professional also acts as an informational and educational resource to help patients/clients get all of their health and wellness needs met.

 Crossing the Communication Bridge

            There are a few essential keys to establish, nurture and grow a profitable relationship between fitness trainers and physicians. The crucial first step of building this affiliation is finding the right professional with whom to partner. And through what means can this be done? Networking. It is important to utilize the resources that are available to you like your present clients in promoting your services. Most likely, your consumers will know of or visit other health professionals. Thus, they are in a great position to recommend trainers to physicians or vice versa. This eliminates the dreaded and ineffective cold calling. Seth Godin, author of Guerilla Marketing for the Home-based Business, says it's the difference of becoming a welcomed guest instead of an unwelcomed pest. Due to a fostered, close relationship with your clients, this type of referral works best when attempting to partner with a professional with like goals and approaches.

            However, networking is not limited to just your client base. There are other opportunities that exist in networking functions or networking groups. Many physicians and fitness professionals who run an independent business have a greater  tendency to participate in such networking groups or events. Looking to groups, like Kiwanis clubs, Rotary clubs, BNI (Business Networking International) or professional associations  (whether it be fitness or medical) can also be a great launching pad in your search for the right partner. Remember that other prospects can be found through community outreach. Reaching out to your family, friends, professional relationships and acquaintances are all valuable resources in finding the right person with whom to build upon your business.

 

Selling Fitness Services

            Often, the fitness trainer will indeed have to sell themselves to the physician due to pre-conceived ideas that the medical world may have. Utilizing business acumen and savvy by offering the medical professional added value in a joint affiliation will be an essential strategy. For example, a medical newsletter, which can be co-produced by several medical and fitness professionals, is a beneficial avenue by which both parties can participate in community outreach. With minimal financial commitment and work from the physicians, the newsletter can be placed in their practices, which can build the credibility and prestige of the physician's practice as well as propelling referrals to the fitness trainer. Frequently, fitness professionals are also asked to speak at various functions. Inviting a medical counterpart can solidify this relationship as well as with the community, while also giving the trainer's presentation integrity. In addition, there might not be a better way to show physicians what fitness professionals really can offer other than by "auditioning." As trainers begin to network with physicians, offering a complimentary session can be an ideal closing mechanism. The fitness professional may gain the doctor as a new client, but even better, both the trainer and the physician may gain an incredibly lucrative referral source.

            The fitness trainer may need to put the sales hat on. Most likely, they will need to speak to more than one physician before a relationship will actually feed new clients for both professionals. It is critical to make contact, effectuate a meeting, create value and nurture the relationship. The results of such an affiliation for the trainer can result in an average of six new clients a month, which means a qualified potential client at absolutely zero cost. That means there is no money spent on marketing, which directly impacts the bottom line. Therefore, any money that is not spent goes directly back into the business.

 

What Physicians Need to Think About

            In this changing landscape of health care, forward thinking medical professionals want to meet qualified fitness professionals. The medical practice, wellness center or medical spa may find some challenges in obtaining the services of a trainer that meet the standards required to work with its patients. It is important to assess whether fitness trainers have professional conduct and are looking to effectuate value. Contacting certifying boards, like ACE (American Council on Exercise) and NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning Association) to locate qualified trainers can be the first step. Also, it will be critical to ask the following questions when evaluating potential fitness trainers:

 

  • How long have they worked in the industry?

  • Do they have active clientele?

  • Do they have written references from clients?

  • Have they ever worked with special populations? Which ones?

  • What types of certifications have they earned?

  • Do they have professional character, image and demeanor?

  • Can they dedicate set hours to the facility?

  • What other assets can they bring to the table (writing, speaking, marketing ability, etc.)?

     

                The trainer and medical marriage can truly be a harmonious one. The benefits are many, while the drawbacks are few. It is important that both sides do a little homework and define exactly what it is they want in order to get the most from each other. When reasonable expectations are put in place, this relationship can benefit both parties. Get out there and start formulating these relationships. It will be worth it.

     

                Tony Books Avilez, CSCS, is a fitness trainer, speaker and the author of five fitness books. For more information, visit fitnessproductsmadesimple.com.

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