Retaining and attracting clients today requires more than superior client training sessions or a state-of-the-art studio. To stand out from your competition, you must utilize advanced online technology so you can successfully support clients outside of training time. There are 168 hours in a week. A client will only spend a tiny amount of those training with you. Supporting your clients the remaining hours is critical to success — for both you and your clients.
 
Bolster Your Website
Your website is one of your best client support tools, but a simple brochure website is no longer enough — it's considered static. To connect with today's typical Internet-savvy client, trainers need their own interactive, dynamic site with newer tools such as streaming video, mobile phone workouts, online team training, audio casts and blogs, which can improve both your sales and retention rates with little financial and time investment.
 
Angela Ramos, owner of Inspiration Fitness, credits an increase in sales and client retention to the online community she created for her client base. "This helps me stand out from the competition due to the fact that I am more accessible than the average trainer," says Ramos. She expands well beyond face-to-face support through online educational videos and audio casts. "Videos have become an integral part of my business. I have created videos for meal preparation, exercises, equipment instruction, motivation and encouragement."
 
The Streaming Video Revolution
Anyone can easily record a video. All you need is a camcorder or digital camera with video recording capabilities. Using YouTube is one option for uploading, but for a more professional approach, find an all-inclusive software solution that includes video capabilities. Create videos for one-time viewing, or add them to a members-only online library. Produce videos on unscheduled occasions, or commit to a weekly, monthly or quarterly schedule. Multi-part video series can be particularly effective in keeping viewers interested.
 
By offering clients access to regularly-posted streaming videos, you further enhance the trainer-client experience. Practical video applications include workout tips, exercise demonstrations, equipment reviews and nutritional suggestions.
 
Videos represent an opportune way to support clients and sell prospects. For a phone prospect, imagine pointing them to your website video to learn more about your training philosophy. You'll display your professionalism before ever meeting in person.
 
Mobile Workout Technology
For a truly robust website, you must offer online workout programs and meal plans with 24/7 accessibility. Include online workout and food logs so your clients can report their progress instantly to you. This feature is very valuable for clients when they work out on their own, and it is practically a necessity for your frequent travelers. In addition, you can expand to training clients exclusively online and open up a brand new revenue stream.
 
Plus, with the introduction of mobile workout technology, a computer isn't even a requirement. Take the best advanced online features and offer them through mobile devices. With more than 250 million Americans subscribing to a cellular service, you can bet your clients don't leave home without their phone. And using it to surf the Web is becoming commonplace, so give them workout access right in the palm of their hand.
 
Think of the client convenience — viewing exercise demonstrations while working out at the gym. No more skipping exercises for failure to remember how to perform them. With immediate phone login access, their on-their-own workouts are a success.
 
Mobile access can also help their diet. Consider this common scenario: Your client is eating at a restaurant and is unsure of the calorie count. They grab their phone, log in to your site and view a calorie look-up database. Then they complete an online food log with complete meal details. Keep in mind that viewing a website effectively through a mobile device requires special mobile webpage creation. It is recommended that you use a turn-key software solution that includes this service.
 
 

Online training — not just for long-distance clients!
Benefits:
Increase your sales close rate
Retain more clients
Increase your referrals
Expand to online distance training
Top Uses:
Educate clients with videos
Coordinate peer support through blogs
Chart client progress with logs
Manage team competitions

 
 
Client Motivation via Virtual Teams
Real-world peer support and friendly competition have repeatedly been proven successful. Use your website to create a more structured venue for this support through virtual team competitions.
 
Virtual teams can be created for intra-competition among members or expanded for team-versus-team. You as the trainer should dictate the goals used to track team progress. Examples include total team weight loss, total calories burned and average inches lost. To avoid hours and hours of 
manually tracking progress, ensure that your virtual team software automatically calculates results. Your client team members should offer online support and tough love to keep each other motivated. A private team webpage with message posting options ensures the members can stay connected.
 
Virtual teams are suitable for nearly all types of clients and training methods. Ramos uses virtual team training successfully with pregnant clients, boot camps and her group trainees. "My pregnant clients like being able to discuss their special challenges with each other privately," says Ramos. "My point system has turned out to be a lot of fun for them, and they have become rather competitive. I also plan to add prizes to those that earn the most points at the end of the challenge dates."
 
Audio Casts: a No-brainer
With little effort, you can use your computer to record personal messages. Simply upload the message files to your site. And with the option to download those audio casts to their personal music device, it's a no-brainer to add these to your arsenal of trainer tools. Imagine your client out for a run while they are listening to you, their personal trainer, sharing motivational words, or picture a client listening to your educational fitness recordings during their morning commute.
 
The Blog Effect
Your written voice is also powerful. Browse the Internet, read a magazine or turn on the television, and you're sure to see a reference to blogging. A blog allows individuals to share a running log of events and personal insights, and there are many ways to incorporate blogs into your business model. Publicly accessible messages posted on your site can help generate website traffic and improve your return visitor rate. Give clients their own private online journal so they can post diary entries to examine what is keeping them from their goals. Create a members-only, password-protected forum so clients can interact both with you and fellow trainees.
 
Ramos incorporates blogging both through her virtual team feature and in a separate member message forum. "Due to the relationships built online through the forums, I am able to retain clients longer," Ramos says. "Several of my clients have been with me for quite some time because they consider the other online members part of their family."
 
Using these tools will distinguish yourself from your competitors by enhancing your clients' experience. You can be a driving force for them when you are not physically present. Plus, offering such a robust website allows you to successfully expand your business to long-distance online training.
 
You can use separate services like YouTube, MySpace or iTunes, but the most professional approach is giving your clients a single login source through your website, where they access all of these resources. When you are the central repository for all of these resources, clients will view you as their exclusive fitness source.
 
Lynn Bode is founder of the Online Personal Training Association (www.onlinept.org) and president of TrainerForce (www.trainerforce.com), a company that provides comprehensive online personal training software to fitness professionals and health clubs.

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