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A Personal Trainers Guide to Recession Proofing Your Fitness Business


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I must admit, it's beginning to get on my nerves a bit. I mean all this talk of recession. It seems everyday I'm getting emails from personal trainers who're panicking because of impending recession and worried thattheir bootcamps, their studios and their gyms are going to go underor see such a big drop in business that they'll be struggling toget by and pay their bills. The sad thing is, most of them are right! Not because there's not enough business to go around and not because people are spending less but because they're choosing to accept that recession exists. It doesn't. Not for everyone, anyway. Sure, it's easy to think that when something like a recession comes along that we all have to ‘tighten our belts', curb our non-essential spending and ride out the storm until the next upswing but that's because we've been trained to think that way. And we've trained ourselves to think that way too. But the truth is, the only reason that so many people get hit so hard during times of recession is that choose to play the recession game. Especially personal trainers.

They see their client list get smaller and their appointments drop off and so they start to discount their prices to attract more business. But the clients still don't come so they discount them even more. If they're lucky they may see a little rise in business only now, because they're charging less, they're working longer hours, earning less money and in danger of losing even these clients as the recession kicks in. Sad to say but this is what most personal trainers will do. In fact, from the emails I'm receiving, many are already doing it! So that's the bad news, but like I said, it doesn't have to be this way. There's something you can do TODAY to not only avoid the recession but thrive during it. You can stop being a ‘luxury item’ to your clients and start becoming an asset. What do I mean? Well, what's the first thing that goes out the window when people are struggling financially? Luxuries, right? Or in marketing speak ‘non-essential spending', meaning everything that's not essential to that person's ability to get through life. Food, mortgage, utilities etc are all essentials that people MUST have. New cars, personal training, opera tickets on the other hand are, for most people, luxurious, non-essentials that are cut as soon as the R-word begins to be taken seriously.

And here's the problem; the way most personal trainers market themselves is based upon the ‘luxury items’ model. They sell their services to people with disposable incomes that, most of the time, allow for the ‘luxury’ of personal training. These people are ‘treating’ themselves to PT, they enjoy it (mostly!), they want it and they may even need it but it will always be something that they're happy to keep in their lives for as long as it doesn't interfere with their necessities. Trouble is, for most trainers this group makes up the largest proportion (if not all) of their client base meaning that they ALL purchased their sessions with you based on price and will all quit when the price seems too high. Yet consider this; there are groups of people out there who don't consider ANY price (or at least, any price that a personal trainer could ask) as expensive or luxurious. They simply decide what they want and are determined to get it because they see it as an asset or investment that will benefit them. For example, my clients pay me £130 and hour (that's around $250).

The kind of people that can pay that kind of money aren't worried about inflation, depression or recession. They simply know what they want and are willing to pay the price to get it. I've routinely been paid £2500 ($5000) plus for a day's work. I've been paid £30,000 ($60,000) for a single month's PT plus $1000 a day expenses whilst travelling. Right now I'm putting together a PT program that will cost £10-12,000 a week. Yes, you read that right, per person per week. And all of this (and more) is going on during a so-called downturn. How? By removing myself from the luxury market of people who have to scrimp and scrape to work with me and instead focusing my efforts on those with greater affluence. Those who know what they want and are happy to pay for it regardless of the percentage rate the banks are charging. To them, it simply doesn't matter. Not one little bit.

If you're thinking “That's all great for you Dax, but how does this benefit me?" then here's your answer. Put your prices. . . UP! Seriously, put your prices up. Move away from those who consider your services to be a luxury and instead start marketing to the affluent, the wealthy and the downright rich. Sound too mercenary? It's not. Working with the affluent is no easy ride You'll earn every single penny you earn from them. They expect better service, better results and, well, better everything. And they're right, after all, they're paying for it aren't they? They're paying for exclusivity, for that little bit more, that ‘something extra’ that isn't delivered by the $40 and $50 an hour PT's. So you've got to be better and, more importantly, you've got to be seen to be better. And better is more expensive, no if's, no but's. Look, I know this runs contra to everything you've ever been told about recession but nevertheless it's true. Putting your prices up, taking your business ‘upmarket’ and deliberately attracting the affluent is the best way to recession-proof your business. Still not sure?

Try this; add a high end service to your current marketing materials. Call it ‘platinum coaching', call it what you want but make it clear that this is for those looking for that something special rather than simply personal training. Proudly state that you're the most expensive coach around (I do it all the time because I am) and then wait. It may take a little while but sure enough you'll come to know that what I'm telling you is correct; they're out there. Money in hand. Ready, willing and most able to pay you every single penny you're worth. They always have been; you just never asked before. So ask!

Dax Moy is one of the fitness profession's genuine success stories, having gone from a struggling £5 an hour club trainer to super-successful multiple club owner, magazine and TV journalist, author and internationally acclaimed public speaker and educator.

Voted one of the UK's top fitness experts, Dax shares his knowledge skills and abilities with like-minded success seekers at where to date over 15,000 personal trainers worldwide benefit from his weekly insights.


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