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Personal Training Marketing - Getting Started

Personal training marketing - what a Personal Trainer must know. In the real world of Personal Training you need to make sure your marketing works.

What a Personal Trainer must know

In this article I’m going to explain how to think about your marketing properly, how to align your marketing for maximum effect early on in your business (when it’s most important), and how to select marketing tactics depending on the stage of your business – from desperate start-up to growing rapidly to jeez give me a break I’m full already.


Specifically I’m going to cover:

  1. What is marketing for personal trainers?
  2. The marketing funnel and why understanding the ‘communication funnel’ is even more important
  3. The four criteria to apply to a marketing tactic BEFORE deciding to invest in it
  4. What every new business needs from its marketing
  5. The numbers that make marketing easier
  6. Why you have to be real with your marketing


Marketing made simple personal%2520training%2520push%2520up%2520baby

Marketing has always had this mystical element to it.  My experience with advertising and marketing agents and companies has on the whole been entirely scary.  They ask you to spend money on marketing but can not commit to any prediction of the results.  That, my friends, is a lottery. 

It’s also why I have read and researched more in the marketing area than virtually any other.  And, after a bit of a journey I’m happy to tell you that marketing is indeed simple.  More than that, marketing can also be quite predictable!


personal%252520training%252520dictionaryDefining marketing for personal trainers


The first step in making personal training marketing simple is to get the correct definition for our industry.  Here is how I define marketing for personal trainers;

“Any series of activities which pre-qualifies and pre-interests a potential client from your target audience and causes them to meet in person with you”




Let’s break this down a little so we really understand the definition:

“Any series of activities”  I always use this term as it helps personal trainers who are starting to market understand that it is a ‘series’ of activities that creates the marketing result.  It’s not putting out the drop box alone.  Instead, it’s identifying the target audience, finding the correct placement, writing the correct copy, choosing the right image, making the most powerful and irresistible offer for that market, ensuring the best risk reversal is in play, clearing the drop box regularly, making contact promptly, using an effective call structure, asking for and closing to the appointment, sending the reminder and so on.  It’s the ‘series’ of activities that produces the result – not any one-off act.


“Pre-qualifies and pre-interests” This segment highlights the fact that all marketing really does is to qualify in or out a particular individual and, at the same time, nurture their interest in a particular area that is relevant to them.  This wording is imperative as it helps personal trainers plug into the fact that unless you are ‘interesting’ the prospect in something they want and need and ‘qualifying’ them into your funnel you are simply wasting time (yours and theirs) and money.  Marketing is about creating interest which qualifies a prospect in our out.


“from your target audience” This segment means that every marketing activity must be designed for your exact target audience.  You can not try to capture everyone with your marketing – you simply can not interest everyone in one thing – people don’t work that way.  So, you must be a ‘specific something’ rather than a ‘general nothing’.  This is one activity we do in depth in our comprehensive business plan tool.  You can also target extremely well by defining your ‘customer of one’ which means you describe the model customer in a niche that you want to work with and then work out exactly what would interest them in a marketing sequence.


“causes them to meet you in person” Hands down this is where most personal trainers struggle.  All marketing in personal training is about getting a prospect into your consultation (conversion) process.  If you don’t know exactly what this is, the consultation process we recommend is covered here.


Final note.  The only thing any personal trainer should ever care about in their marketing is whether the activities they are under-taking are creating a flow of people into the consultation process.  Measure the majority of your marketing success on that outcome alone.


The marketing and communication funnels

You may have seen a funnel a little like this within the realms of personal training marketing:



You can see that at each layer we lose a few people - that is the funnel gets narrower.  This either means they are ‘qualified out’ due to a mis-match of their motives and our offerings.  Or ‘what we are saying is not interesting/compelling enough’ because we’ve got some elements of our marketing wrong.


This model works fine however I like to help personal trainers understand the flow of marketing even more clearly by adding another one in.  This is the ‘communication funnel’ model.  It really should be called the ‘how to get someone to make a decision’ model. Here’s how it works.


A person who is going to ‘do something’ must ‘decide to do it’.  They are most likely to make this decision in a meeting when they can easily get the information, engagement and confidence required to make the decision.  In order to get to the meeting they need to talk to someone first (usually by phone or sometimes by email) to be sure it’s worth their time.  In order to work out who to talk to about it, they usually read/watch/or listen to something that helps them identify the person they should contact.


This model is powerful for the following reasons:

  • The model clearly shows that a series of activities is required to successfully market.  The model shows that a personal trainer must be able to access well written information or well designed questions that will interest a prospect, must be able to talk to a prospect effectively and gain a commitment to a meeting and must be able to complete an effective consultation – in other words personal trainers must be highly effective communicators operating with the strategic aim of moving a prospect from one setting to the next.
  • The model shows that the early focus of any marketing activity must be to help a potential customer learn about their wants and needs.  This helps the customer understand who it is they should then talk to.
  • The model shows that meeting qualified prospects as soon as possible (or even using marketing tactics that involve meeting potential clients immediately) is the quickest way to build a clientele (providing your consultation process is solid)
  • Finally, and most importantly, the model shows that in working a funnel you should never ever (seriously never ever) reverse the flow in this model.  You shouldn’t offer to send some information to someone you are talking to about their problem. You shouldn’t offer to call to follow up on someone who you’ve met about their problem.  You shouldn’t offer to meet again with someone (or heaven forbid give someone a call) who has decided to do the training (ie they said, ‘yes’ this is what I want to happen and I’d like to use personal training to help). 


I didn’t produce this model for personal trainers to be heavy handed or pushy.  I produced it to show them what the natural progressions are and where their focus should be at each stage.  No client wants to go halfway down this funnel and then back out.  The only reason they would ever do that is if you are simply rubbish at one of the steps, for example your phone call is terrible so they say ‘actually, let me think about it because I’m pretty tied up at the moment – if you could send me some details of your fees that would be great’.


Okay, so you now know the simple definition for marketing and both the marketing and communication funnels.  Time to look at marketing tactics and how to assess them before you use them.


Applying criteria to analyse personal training marketing tactics


There are a huge number of marketing tactics available to personal trainers.  The site alone contains over 100 tactics.  But, before you even budge a muscle you must first understand which marketing tactics will work for you and why.  To do this, you need to compare them by using some basic criteria.  The four major criteria to use when comparing personal training marketing tactics are;

  1. Cut-through
  2. Return time
  3. Cost (time / money)
  4. Barriers (personal / execution)


Cut through is whether your target audience will be exposed to the marketing or not.  If you rated cut through on a scale of 1 to 5, a rating of 5 would be nearly every single member of my target audience would be exposed to this.  A rating of 1 would be my target audience is just as likely to win the lottery as be exposed to this.  You want to select very high cut through tactics for your target market.


Return time is how long it would take you to see leads flow into your consultation process with this marketing.  The shorter the better so 5 would be instant but a 1 would be so long that you’d be out of business before anyone got in touch!  You want to select rapid return time activities in most cases.


Cost is an assessment of the full cost of implementing the marketing.  This includes all the time and money invested.  If a marketing activity took you four hours to set up and you budgeted your time at $30 an hour and you also had to spend $500 on the design and production then your total cost would be approximately $620.  You want low cost if you can get it (which you can by the way!).


Barriers are any circumstances or beliefs that will prevent the entire series of marketing activities relating to this tactic from being executed.  There are two categories of barriers; personal and execution.  Personal barriers are barriers created by your skills, abilities or mind set (beliefs).  Any personal attribute that you have that will, given the nature and demands of the marketing activity, prevent the marketing activity from being executed flawlessly.  Execution barriers are barriers created by your circumstances such as financial resources or time availability.  You want to select marketing tactics with very low barriers.


What every new business needs from its marketing

In a new business every day your income doesn’t exceed your expenses by a considerable amount you are ‘cash poor’ and vulnerable.  The longer you are in deficit, the bigger the hole in your finances.  The more you borrow, the more the interest cost adds up, the more your future finances suffer. 


Magnifying glass to sun spot

Starting a new business requires a laser-like approach to your marketing and sales.  It is the only way to protect your future.  Yes, you need a fantastic product but to be perfectly honest, it’s not going to matter a jot if you can’t get enough people to buy it!


The criteria to focus on when you are selecting your marketing tactics early on are cut-through and return time. 

"Hang on" I hear you say - what about the costs!  Yes, cost should be considered but if you take care of cut-through and return time then cost can be very high without too much hurt.  Why? 


Firstly, if you are concentrating on cut-through and your marketing is good you’ll be highly effective at getting prospects engaged and therefore economical with your marketing spend.


Secondly, if you have a fast return time then your cashflow evens out quickly – basically you get results and therefore income very close to when you need to pay for the expenses.


The reverse is true also.  If you have poor cut-through and a long return time you will bury vast amounts of time and money in marketing before you see any result.  In fact, you will usually be out of business well before you work out what’s going on unless you have those deep pockets!


Once your business is profitable you have the breathing space to refine your marketing further looking at costs and maybe employing some tactics that have longer return times. 


As an example, one business I’m involved in spent $120k on marketing in its second year.  We now generate the same number and quality of leads for just on $32k per annum.  This is a miniscule 1.2% of turnover (previously 4.6%).  We concentrated on gaining customers first and getting more and more efficient with our marketing over time.  Our cashflow was never a problem, the business never grew big debt, and what we spent in cash we gained in quickly learning about our customers.


Bottom line; give me quality (targeted) leads now at virtually any price rather than leads later that are low quality. 



Personal training marketing numbers that matter


Now we have some rock solid criteria to compare any marketing tactic against we need to quickly put some numbers in place so we can measure our actual success with the marketing tactics we choose.




These are the numbers that you need to collect to test and measure your marketing. 


  • Actual cost of marketing

  • Number of enquiries/contacts

  • Cost per enquiry/contact

  • Consultation number

  • Cost per consultation


Here’s how it works.  You pick your marketing tactic based on the cut-through, return time, barriers and projected cost.  You put your tactic in play and monitor the results.  The tactic you’ve chosen is going to run for two weeks and then take two weeks to finish up (that is for you to finish all the consultations).  So you have a month in which to monitor the numbers and then finalise the results.


personal%20training%20drop%20boxAs an example, let’s say I decided to put in place four drop boxes throughout the club that promoted ‘weigh in to win a month of personal training’.  The image was a happy woman (my target market age) holding up a set of scales, the irresistible offer was a month of PT, the mechanism was a small form with name, phone number, primary email, and a check box to opt out of receiving my monthly newsletter on weight management for women.  I put four drop boxes out.  Two in the women’s changing rooms in prominent positions, one in the stretching area and one by the scales in the club.  I place them not only where they can be seen but more importantly where my target audience will be lingering with the time to complete the short form.


In the first week I had 22 entries.  I noticed one box had only 1 entry in it whilst the others had around 7 each.  So, I moved the under-performing box from the changing rooms to the stretching area as well (just down the other corner).  The second week I received 20 entries around 5 in each box.


personal%2520trainer%2520phoneAs I was receiving the entries I was completing my structured call and I booked 38 of the 42 entries in for the weigh in.  I also collected some ideal weight information, sent the prospect a report on weight management for women, and asked them a few qualifying questions.  Those who met my criteria I offered a full personal training consultation to as well as the weigh in – but I did this separately in a follow up call after I’d sent the report and had time to consider who best fit my ‘perfect client’ scenario.


Of the 36 (out of 38 booked) that showed for the weigh in, the 14 I’d offered the full consultation to all showed.  At the weigh in for the women who I hadn’t already offered a full consultation to I spoke to them more about their training and goals and I offered 8 more full consultations once they opened up to me a bit.


So here is a summary of the marketing:


Cost assessment

Total cost

4 drop boxes and print material $600. Note, the print design didn’t cost anything as I downloaded the exact design for my niche from as part of my membership.

$600 materials


1 hour to order and then pick up the drop boxes and get colour prints for the drop box inserts

$30 time

$6 prints


1 hour to set up each drop box and tie the pens on

$30 time


1 hour to download the call structure from and practise it to naturalise the wording

$30 time


1 hour a day to clear the drop boxes and add the emails to my newsletter list

14 x $30 = $420


1 hour to download the ‘womens’ weight management report’ (from and familiarise myself with it then load it into my email system for sending.



20 minutes per entry (42) to make contact and complete the structured call and email the weight management report

12 x $30 = $360


10 minutes (x14) to complete the follow up call to hot prospects and offer them the full complimentary consultation

1.5 x $30 = $45


15 minutes (x24 which includes 2 no-shows) for the weigh-ins without the consultations*

6 x $30 = $180





*I don’t include the consultation hours as this is the ‘conversion’ activity not marketing.  Remember, the definition of marketing relates to all the activities prior to the conversion process.


To measure the marketing effectiveness of this tactic let’s take a look at the following numbers:

Actual cost of marketing (incl time)*


Number of enquiries/contacts


Cost per enquiry/contact


Consultation number


Cost per consultation


*note that the ‘hard cost’ – that is the cost in money terms excluding the time cost –  was just $606 and the four drop boxes can be used multiple times across many other marketing campaigns


What this is, in a nutshell, is marketing simplified.  You’ll notice that the case I’ve presented follows the communication flow recommended.  The targeted prospect reads the material, responds, we talk, we meet (note the meeting-up is signalled right at the start by the clever ‘weigh in to win’ message), for selected prospects we make decisions together through the consultation. 


With just a 50% conversion rate (which is abysmal by the way, but I’m saying worst case) using this cost effective, simple and done-for-you tactic a personal trainer could comfortably find 11 new clients in a month.  Imagine if they had a referral team at the club, a birthday gift tactic, their monthly newsletter offer etc – it is very unlikely this personal trainer will be short of clients any time soon.


Why you have to be real with your marketing

If someone asked me what the biggest thing I’ve learned in the last twelve months was I would say one thing:






Congruence means that everything lines up.  It means you promote only what you are really offering without any trickery or ‘cheese’ as we call it.  You then deliver it, and nothing more or less. 

At ptdirect we use this exact approach.  We aim for ‘high congruence’ in all our work.  Thousands of people are signing up to for this exact reason.  We promote very clearly what you want, you sign up, you get exactly what we said we’d deliver, nothing more or less.  To our list subscribers we then send out more great tools and try to over deliver but always with the same tone, the same simple upfront approach.


The reason ‘congruence’ is the best marketing approach for this millennia is because people are;personal%20training%20distrust%20guy

  • Busy
  • Don’t trust you
  • Need a reason to like you
  • Are tired
  • Just want what they were promised


I’m personally sick of marketing that is trickery.  Marketing that gets me to look or click or submit or call and then doesn’t have the exact solution I would naturally expect (given the marketing) to back it up.


Congruence is where you:

  • Market what you sell
  • Sell what you deliver
  • Deliver exactly what you promised with perfection


Incongruence is any instance where your customer or potential customer gets the impression that you do not have the solution you promised or that you are changing the conditions around that solution.


Nowadays we have a 7 second or less attention span (yes, they’ve done the research - we have goldfish attention spans).  That means two things – we’re willing to change focus easily and we make decisions about whether to stay focused very quickly. 




So what does that mean for us as personal trainers?  Simple, we should get back to doing what we promote we can do – get people results and give a damn about them as individuals above all else.  Also, use the communication funnel to our advantage.  Get out from behind the email, computers, texts, print and get in front of people as soon as possible – this is one of our biggest advantages – we are our product!


To get the most from any marketing you do, always focus on moving your prospect toward the next step in the communication funnel. 

It doesn't matter what tactic you are using you must always move the prospect irresistibly forward to the consultation.  This is the only place you should convert the prospect into a long-term, high value client. 


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