BAD NEWS BUT GOOD PRESS – Hard Financial Times For Personal Trainers Covered In PAGE SIX MAGAZINE …

Posted on 18. Oct, 2008 by in Personal Trainer Marketing, Personal Trainer Sales Systems


Personal Training is a LUXURY service – it’s a real good idea for you to view what you do that way, if you don’t already. I always keep than in mind when I deliver it, market it, and talk about it – it gives me the right mindset when approaching the product I’m trying to sell and the feelings I’m trying to give my clients, all the while kicking their asses in the process.

But the luxury services market isn’t doing too good now is it? You could either be living under a rock or in complete denial like me, but you should know that our country and pretty much the entire world is going through an economic crisis. If you believe all the negative press, it won’t be long before garbage bags and straw hats are the highest fashion people can afford!

SO WHAT HAPPENS NOW THAT THE ECONOMY IS IN THE TOILET?

What happens to us as trainers, that sell this luxury service to a high-end market with the goal of crafting an empowering, comfortable, and appealing lifestyle for ourselves?

That’s exactly the subject that was tackled in a recent article of the popular gossip and high-end living mag, PAGE SIX MAGAZINE, that comes in THE NEW YORK POST.

I’ve avoided the subject of the recession until now for two reasons – one because I don’t want to add more fuel to the fire. Most experts agree that most of the damage in an economic downturn is not from the lost money itself, but the panic surrounding it that impacts people’s spending and investing habits. This is what does a lot of the damage.

And secondly because to tell you truth, I don’t completely understand the full series of events that got us into this mess. Although I’ve had CNN on nonstop because of the entertaining and important election and the economic mess, I’m usually very anti-news. I think most people know more about the lives and events of people and things over which they have no control than their own families.

When I do watch and read it’s for fun and relaxation. And although it’s almost entirely a chick’s mag, there’s always good news about what’s hot now in New York in Page Six. I’ve talked about Page Six Magazine before in the Newsletter – they make a reference to Personal Training in almost every issue and paint the profession in a very positive positive light as an essential part of the New York lifestyle.

Well in a recent issue they devoted an entire article to Personal Training and the fitness industry, talking about how the economic fallout’s been bad for everyone involved. It looked at the problem mostly from the client’s perspective, basically saying without money, your body is fu__ed. They also interviewed a few trainers about their recent drop in business.

What’s more scary is the article was written waaaaaay back in the Aug. 3 issue – A LOT has happened since then!

It was called Is the economy making us FAT! – and the sub-head was even more funny:

Gym addicted urbanites are wondering what to do now that they can’t afford personal trainers. The answer isn’t pretty.

It was a funny piece and you can find it here.

This was not a happy article, going into the “hard time” people are having with affording their healthy food, trainers, and not to mention the stress-induced eating that’s a result. In spite of that, this actually turned out to be very good media coverage for the industry. When you read an article like this you get a feeling for what people think of us, and in the general media it’s a feeling of neccesity and admiration.

The only subject matter this mag usually talks about is the millionaire socialite scene, decorating your million dollar condo, and the most exclusive clubs and hottest restaurants in the city. Just like you’d expect in a New York gossip magazine, it’s celebrity, fashion, and sex obsessed.

That’s why I find all the attention they give to TRAINING flattering, especially with this article. They point out how Personal Training is the only way to work-out and that group classes or training on your own are a weak substitute.

A quote from one New Yorker hit by the crunch went like this:

“Spending $1,000 a month on a trainer was no longer a luxury I could afford.” So, in order to maintain her weight she’s forsaken one-on-one attention for crowded gym classes …”.

Makes group training sound worse than an imitation Gucci bag!

This is good news – that training is looked as such an essential and valuable service by our target market. Like we already know you only need about a dozen such clients to run a thriving six-figure (in cash, not just gross sales) training practice. And like me and every other trainer that caters to this market will tell you, they are hugely underserved and there’s plenty of room for more smart trainers.

This flys in the face of all of the people in the fitness industry warning Personal Training is on it’s way out. What this article pointed out is a fact that I didn’t consciously realize until now – that the general public views Personal Training as a more prestigious way to train, and there’s a certain amount of status associated with it. It didn’t hit me until I read the article, but that’s the way that a lot of my clients view their sessions and my services – as a well-deserved luxury and a sign of success. Here’s another choice quote:

In New York – where money is everything, and vainty isn’t far behind – there’s such a shame asssociated with no longer being able to afford one-on-one sessions that clients are willing to lie about the real reasons behind their disappearance.

Haha – call me Polyanna for trying to pull the positive out of bad news like that, but if you read between the lines you’ll see the good in it. While obviously it’s not such good news if our clients can’t afford sessions, it’s assuring to know that one-on-one is still considered the gold standard.

Most of the rest of the article was talking about some real negatives (albeit in a funny way), about how this crisis is affecting our wallets, running through a list of a half dozen trainers talking about how they’re seeing clients cut back on their training and think of excuses to get out of their regimens.

What wasn’t discussed or questioned at all however is why Personal Training costs so much. There’s wasn’t any questioning of why it costs at least $1,000 a month to hire a trainer, and there’s never a hint of price sensitivity over the high prices for Personal Training. It’s considered a justified expense as can be summed up in another quote:

“I know I shouldn’t do this, but I’m considering charging a $2,500 personal trainng package on a credit card. I think being fat is probably worse than being in debt.”

If you’re a trainer that’s ever had a hard time closing a training package sale at a health-club, I bet you wish you could pull out that line!

It’s probably bad for me to laugh at our client’s expense, but articles like this are very healthy for us as trainers. Like I said, there’s a positive reference to training in every issue of Page Six. This is special because if you know the POST, you know they point a very hard, stringent New York eye on everything. It’s very hard for anyone or anything to pass their litmus test.

As a matter of fact, I’d have to say ALL of the coverage I’ve seen in major publications have all painted training in a positive light. This one reminded me of an article in last year’s GQ that talked about the special and sometimes strange relationship between men and their trainers (that one was real good and I’ll try to dig it up).

And we all know Men’s Journal posts their list of the top 100 Personal Trainers in America every year; implied in that is a healthy dose of respect and acknowledgment of how essential a service this is.

That’s how the general public paints the profession. Yeah, there are a lot of negative stories, but funny enough, they all come from within the industry!

Almost every single negative story about Personal Training I’ve read has been from within the industry. They’ve been fueled by a negative press release from a trainer looking to promote some educational program or something they have coming out. Or it might be a trainer looking to paint all trainers as stupid and incompetent in order to play up their own credentials or whatever. This negativity is usually over money frustration.

If they focused on emphasizing the positives of what they have to offer, and learning better ways to get money for their talents and services instead of just putting everyone else down, they might get the result they’re looking for. I rarely get worried about their being unqualified trainers out there – it just makes it much easier for me to stand out and dominate. Some trainers complain that these guys are bringing down the industry as a whole but as I’ve pointed out, it doesn’t seem like our image is suffering in the slightest.

So if you’re a trainer putting out or posting these negative stories, please cut it out!

That’ll just leave more positive stories about the industry, which is what we need. Like any experienced trainer will tell you, there’s no need for competition among trainers. We aren’t marketing international products to millions of people with billions of dollars on the line. We’re selling a personal service to give ourselves a fun and appealing lifestyle, and a sense of control over our futures. This is the reason why anyone goes into any corporate job, but as fitness enthusiasts and trainers, we’re one of the rare groups that can actually achieve it.

Leaving the topic of the industry’s image alone for a little while and getting back to the economy, this article also highlights why it’s so imortant for trainers to target the highest-end of the population with their services. The importance or price of training isn’t questioned by them at all; they’re just looking for a good trainer to give the money to. This allows you to relax, have a strong sense of security, and not have to worry about where your next check is coming from.

But like this article points out that won’t help when a recession hits. It’s the high-end market who’s fitness consumption is suffering and the trainers are getting hit as a result. Maybe they’re trying to start a panic among us?!?

I luckily haven’t lost a single client yet. I do have several clients in the financial sector, and others in fields like hotels and retail that get hit bad during economic downturns. But they’ve all decided to cut back other places while still maintaining their all important training sessions. Doug Murphy’s reported that he has lost a handful of clients though, so no one’s safe.

The only way to recession-proof yourself as a trainer is to get to the head of the pack. When there’s a famine, the big wolf will still get his choice of food, so you’ve just got to make sure you’re in that spot.

I’ll just keep my fingers crossed that I don’t get hit, ’cause God knows I’ve been spending enough to do my part to keep the economy afloat!!!

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6 Comments

Hello Kaiser,
I always look forward to reading your well written posts, but I beg to differ on your opinion. I have seen dramatic changes in internet traffic for Sept 2008 and Oct 2008. I have been tracking customers and conversions since 1999 and keep a statistical database. My company has seen a 75% drop in traffic inspite of increasing our marketing
dollars. We have lost 1 clients due to the recession. I’m sure more wil quit. Phone calls that we now receive, which are rare, are very much bargain hunters and claim they have been getting quotes as low as $40 per session from other trainers here in San Diego. I have not budged on my prices yet.

The client I lost was the Maybach Sales Director for Mercedes Benz here in Carlsbad CA. We have been training together for 4 years now. She typically averages 62 MBZ sales per month. Sept the entire company only sold 5!!!!! They will begin layoffs! YES big ticket items and the wealthy ARE cutting back…..

I believe that trainers who stand still, and do not reorganize their business plan will be come an attrition figure. I expect this number to be HUGE. This recession will weed out the non-entrepeneurial and only the strong pro active ones will survive.

We are developing a new business model and I will let you in on it once I launch it. This can be a game saver for all of us.

In the mean time, i am maxing out my marketing/ advertising dollars, doing corporate and health care seminars for greater exposure.
I am not a nay sayer, but this recession is for real ,and everyone here in San Diego, CA, including the wealthy are battoning down the hatches.

bill moore

20. Oct, 2008

funny, I just read this morning that 3 things havent been affected by the economy, they are chocolate, alcohol, and cigarette sales.
Luckily, we have been solid, only 1 guy (real estate) has cut back to 1x per week.
I use this time for “gut check” talking with my staff about just the things you talk about !!!

Eugene Thong

20. Oct, 2008

Kaiser,
Trainers may be a luxury item, but it all comes back to value – how much value you give to clients with your services. And you’ve targeted clients who can readily afford your services (i.e., have ample disposable income), so unless their ID badge reads “Bear Stearns”, things should be okay.
At least, until Bernanke starts trying to shake things up again.
And let’s play Chicken Little: What if clients began dropping off in droves?
I’d use that free time to explore other revenue streams: Training manuals, DVDs, CDs, seminars, boot camps, membership sites, certification programs; any and all of those things that you might’ve been interested in doing but didn’t have the time to cultivate because you were too busy training or taking care of the business.

BTW, your site looks great!

Harry Kellerman

22. Oct, 2008

I agree with you Kaiser – the media makes a big deal out of everything. They always seem to warning about recession, and now for once they were right. They just end up scaring everyone. I remember reading that the negative stories about the economy are twice as high when the economy is good than when it’s bad. Thanks for making a positive story out of it, and the other guys are right – we just need to step up to the challenge and find ways to get through it. It will make us better trainers and better business people!

Doug Murphy

22. Oct, 2008

Great reality check post and comments. Luckily the clients I lost were all replaced by new clients within 2 weeks, but I agree that it may be necessary to make some adjustments in our business models. In a major sign of the times, I’ve been getting more inquiries than ever about joint or couples training, by people looking to keep up a training program but bring down the cost. I don’t normally do this, but right now there is such a demand that I am considering it. Eugene is so right about using your new found free time wisely-not only looking at developing other revenue streams, but it’s also a great time to do more continuing ed or go after an extra certification to make yourself as marketable as possible.

It’s also important to develop a waiting list during those times when you have an overflow. I always let a potential new client know an estimated date I could start with them, even when I’m fully booked. Having this reserve of possible clients really saved me when I lost a client who worked for Fannie Mae, and others who have been immediately impacted by the current economy. I was able to follow up and schedule several waiting list clients, minimizing the impact of losing the old clients.

Kaiser

23. Oct, 2008

Real funny, a client actually used the words “you’re a luxury item” to me during a convo we had recently about the economy – I’ve talked to all of them about their status during this situation – most are upset over drastic drops in their net worth, although they’re all confident it’ll at the very least rebound – not the best situation, but at least it’s something. A couple of spouses are really sweating, one’s that are in the investment sector – let’s see if I get hit indirectly because of that, but I’m hoping I won’t.
I think once Barack gets elected confidence will be restored, stocks will go up, and people will just feel good and start spending more –
If by some strange chance he doesn’t win, I’m giving my buddy Marc Lebert a call in Canada if he has any training jobs up there!
– Sorry to hear about you guys that have been affected – yeah Doug, you’ve got the right idea –
– Yeah Eugene, even when you’re working less you’ve got to have your eyes open – as trainers we can do whatever we want, but with that comes a certain responsibility – even when I’m having fun, it’s to do something new and challenge myself –

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