There comes a point in many careers where you get up, hit the shower and find yourself leaning face against the wall with hot water running down your neck for an extra 10 minutes stalling to face the inevitable day at work. Unless you have a shower buddy in there with you, this is the day you need to consider quitting whatever you call work or a career because you are longer going to be any good at what you’re doing for a living. You are also wasting a day of your life, destined to be repeated, for as long as you continue to let yourself shower in misery, which eventually results in the loss of the most important asset you own…your life.
The mistake is that you should have never allowed yourself to get to that point in your life. How and when did you lose your passion for what you do for a living, if you ever had it, and how did you ever let the world take it away from you? Worse, if the work you are doing isn’t important to you then why are you still doing it? Lost minutes in the shower often lead to lost years trapped doing work that is meaningless. Your life’s work defines you in so many ways, yet choosing work that forces you to find ways to avoid it drains you of your best years and most creative energy. You are not the work you do, but you often live your life by the quality of the work you choose.
Here are five questions you need to ask yourself if you are the person in the shower:
1. Are you living your dream or someone else’s? We too often end up doing work that is part of someone else’s dream. You find a spouse, the spouse has a good job in that area and you then take a job that isn’t firing your passion, but it keeps you fed. You spend a few years doing this and your dreams vanish to be replaced with someone else’s, and if you lose that person, you now are often too late to reach back and rekindle that passion that excited you and your dreams earlier in your life.
There are very few people who can’t live their dream almost anywhere, but your first realization has to be that what you are doing is not what you were meant to do. Of course you have to make money out of whatever you do, but you can’t change lives when you are the person that needs taken care of in life. So the first question really asks whether the job you are avoiding was your choice, or did you commit to something that allows someone else to live his or her dreams while yours are lost?
2. Are you in a job you should have never taken? You would not be the first person who spends years preparing for a career that turns out to be a bust. And there are still many more people who take what appears to be a dream job and then find that it just isn’t what it seemed to be from the outside, but these people refuse to leave due to pride or embarrassment and end up equally trapped doing work that never delivered on its promise.
If you picked badly, run away now. Admit the mistake and move on now. Pack up your bags and move on now, or at least as soon as you can get other work that moves your career ahead. Remember, every job, certification or course should only have one purpose, and that is to move you closer to your dream. If isn’t doesn’t move you forward, then don’t do it.
3. If not this, what else would you do? This is my favorite and also the most common complaint. Owners or senior people rack up years doing what they wanted to do and then mentally just quit. You can almost tell the exact day it happens. The first thing you hear is, “This would be a great job if it wasn’t for those f%^&*ing clients.” Or “I can’t deal with another person in my face bitching about the same old thing.” The second indicator is that their business begins to immediately fade. The place is dirty, the paint is outdated, the staff is undertrained, if trained at all, and finding the owner actually in the business working would take Sherlock Holmes.
The question is now what will you do? If you worked this business for years, what else would you do or could you do to make the same amount of money? Walking away only means you will again become trapped in yet another business, and this time it will happen sooner. You forgot how to work and you forgot the pleasure work is supposed to give you.
This is sort of like the old married guy who is forever in love with a super model in the catalogue. He dreams of her, buys her pictures and has a secret crush on her for years, but he never learned the most important thing; your dream is someone else’s pain in the ass. The point of this is that if you don’t learn to find a way to make yourself happy in the business you own now, then running away to another business will never change that failure; it just perpetuates your being miserable somewhere else doing something else.
4. Can you find a different way to get it done? This is really part of the question above. The burnout of an owner or senior manager is often the failure of his management style. If you do the same thing everyday for 20 years you will hate it, but who said you have to do the same thing for 20 years. There are too many owners that cling to the images of the past. “You can’t teach me anything new, I was making money doing this way 20 years ago.”
Yes, you were wildly successful 20 years ago, but how is that working for you now? Everything changes in the world. Businesses come, businesses go. Technology changes daily. The consumer changes, grows and becomes more sophisticated. The market you are in changes too with new competition we couldn’t have imagined even a few years ago. Yet there you stand, too cheap to paint the place and too lazy to sit down and reinvent your business.
Your business didn’t fail you, you failed it and it is amazing that people who are making a lot of money seldom ever complain about being burned out.
5. What have you done to reinvent yourself in the last year? We all used to be somebody and back in the day I am sure you were the master of all you surveyed, but what have you learned today?
Part of burnt out is that our tool kits start to deteriorate. Ten years ago you were a master salesperson, but now those pressure tactics just make potential clients laugh and walk out. Fifteen years ago you used to be a master trainer, but now there are workshops that teach more in three days then you have learned in those last 15 years. You fail because you cling to glory days instead of admitting you don’t have one clue left in how to do things anymore and that the world has past your lazy ass by.
The perfect example of being trapped by former glory is the 40-year-old trainer who learned how to train during the bodybuilding craze. His solution to every training situation is the application of technology that is older than he is and isn’t every coming back, but to let go of this he would have to attend a workshop and admit that he needs to start all over again and reinvent himself.
Sometimes letting go of something is the most powerful move you can make. Remember that life is about going forward, not living back in the day when we were all young, beautiful, smart and rich, at least in our heads.
People fail to change because the perceived risk is too high so they cling to everything that fails and then here comes that perception of burnout. What you’re doing isn’t working anymore, but you won’t change because what you might do might not work. This circular thought leads to a person freezing in place and while we might call it burnout to be nice, it is really just a nice way of saying you are going to avoid your problems until they take your business down.
If you are in the trapped, burned-out avoidance crew, sit down and spend a few hours with someone who cares and ask why? You will find that there is fine line between being a crispy piece of toast and a productive passionate person totally laser focused into making money and changing lives, and in kicking a few assess a long the way. Come on, get your ass out of the shower, it’s time to go live the dream.
Retro marketing built this industry, but electronic marketing will build its future. Websites, blogs, social media and almost all other forms of electronic marketing change faster it would be possible to keep up with in a book. The coupon sites, for example, were a rage for about a year or two and then died. Writing about how to design a coupon would have been an exercise in futility since that form of marketing cam and went before the paragraph could be written.
Keeping that in mind, we are going to focus on the theories you need to master that can be applied to any form of social media or electronic marketing that might arise in your future. Understand the rules and any version of the game you play will be easier.
The most important lesson you can possibly learn about electronic marketing can be expressed in another basic rule:
Hits, looks, likes and number of views mean nothing if you can’t monetize it
It is easy to get caught up in the grand game of social media, for example, where you sit in a bar and brag about the number of likes you have on your social media site. There can be great gamesmanship involved here but these numbers mean nothing if you can’t figure out a way to turn those likes into money. The ultimate goal of all marketing is to create interest, which attracts leads, which come to the gym, who become members and who pay you money for the results you will help him get. If this sequence doesn’t end with the getting paid part, then it was inefficient marketing that proved to be a waste of your time.
Here is the entire theory of electronic marketing in one simple chart:
Create content…develop your own community…gain influence by having a community…$$$$$
People love to learn, be challenged, be entertained and most importantly, people like to hangout with a lot of like-minded folks interested in the same things. All electronic marketing, and especially social media, requires you to supply an endless stream of content. Posting content on almost a daily basis gets people to your sites, and getting people to your sites regularly begins to build the community, or as the powerful writer Seth Godin refers to them, your tribe.
Content doesn’t always have to stem from you. You can repost other’s writings, find a tidbit in a magazine, recommend a book or video and a thousand other things that keep people coming to your sites each and every day. If you post a new post a short informative tip on your blog three times a week, people become trained to go to your site during a break during their day. They will follow you because you are giving them information that somehow challenges their mind or entertains them and if you do this consistently you will eventually end up with a lot of people who care about what you say and now belong to your community. There is also a rule of marketing for this thought:
You have to become the source on a specific topic
You can become the weight loss expert, the sports performance for kids expert, the overall fitness expert in your small town, the body weight training guru or just about any other niche you could imagine. You become the source, or the filter, which gathers information for his tribe and then posts the stuff daily that your tribe needs to see based upon you being the master of that niche.
If you own a mainstream gym, your goal is to build a site for your business, but you as the owner should also have a site where you become the local expert on everything fitness. This gets you invited to speak at local groups, quoted in the newspaper as needed as a fitness source, and eventually drives people to your business because who knows fitness in this town better than you do, and that is proven by the last 300 post you have made on your sites.
There are rules for content and here are just a few:
You can challenge thought, but you should never insult, be mean or put down someone by name. If you disagree with someone, disagree with class and style and state both sides before making the position for your point.
Never post personal stuff. This includes not posting pictures of your kids, unless it relates to your fitness mission, your dogs, your family vacation, you drunk on a beach in Mexico, you and the buds in a bar or anything that might even vaguely distract the tribe from believing you are the source.
It is hugely important to note that a decade from now everyone who will ever consider hiring you or doing business with you will immediately pop your name into a search engine and also go to all the social media sites of the age. What do you want them to see, and remember that anything posted never, ever disappears from the web completely? Many younger people in the industry cry that this is unfair and their sites are their own private business. This is true, except for the fact that any person in any civilized country in the world can see whatever you post, except for anyone in China, and nothing is truly private on the web. Post often, but post with the one thought that you are trying to improve your personal brand, not kill it.
Never repost without giving credit, but always repost with a comment as to why you think this is important for your community.
Post something fresh at least six days a week.
Use pictures and videos several times a week
Remember that every post either enhances your brand, or hurts your brand. There is little in between.
Post and answer the comments as best you can each day. If the community is working, you will start to see interaction and response to what you are writing. Don’t wait a week to answer. If you post something controversial and expect comments, be there to answer and redirect the issue if needed.
Consider hiring someone to manage all of your media. This can be done for as little as a few hundred a month or as much as several thousand or more. The bigger you are, and the bigger you want to be, means you may need help posting daily and gathering the material for the posts.
The content gathers the tribe. The community gathers around someone that pushes their mental buttons and keeps them challenged. Content and community are both in fact one big circle. You feed content; the community feeds back and around it goes again. The goal is to build a significantly sized group of people that follow what you do and what you write because you are the true source in whatever niche you choose to exploit.
The size of the community will vary from site to site and from niche to niche. One person might be a failure with 30,000 likes on his social media site, while another person might be wildly successful with 500 friends on his social media. Don’t overestimate the need to build the largest community you can in your market. For example, a small training gym in a suburban area that has 500 followers on his site is doing quite well and that is enough to eventually start to turn that number into guests and memberships.
Once you establish your community you now have influence, but what to do with this new power? Think of influence as power to move the herd.
For example, you’re a small country and you declare war on the neighboring country. You summon your army and five drunks show up with a few shovels and a club. This is going to be a short war and it will end badly for you and your army. But let’s say you are a bigger country and you now want your loyal subjects to gather. You notice that you have 30,000 likes on your social media page and you want to sell your first e-book for $1.99 just to test the waters. Your community of 30,000 likes is far more likely to give you back sales versus the army of five. Put another way, when an army of like-minded individuals band together, whoever is leading that army has influence to make change, both monetarily and through driving change in your industry or niche.
You have content in place that changes daily. You have built your community of followers. Your community represents a large enough segment in your niche where you can alter thought and drive change.
You are now ready to monetize the process.
There are rules to this of course. Here are a few tips when it comes to going after the money:
Do not, and this means DO NOT, try and sell anyone anything until you have at least provided content for six months. Stated differently, build your community slowly without asking anything of them.
Once you starting asking for something, only do it once out of every 7-10 days. Don’t pound your tribe daily. Give, give, give for a week or so and then ask for that e-book sale. Give, give, give and then sell that trial membership. Build slowly and sell even more slowly.
Occasionally give something away free just for being part of the tribe. At least once a month, give everyone who follows you a free something, which is usually some short PDF tip sheet or informational piece. Create one of these a month and recycle each one the following year. You want, you want, but you also need to give a little to your followers.
Here is an example of monetizing a social media site. This gym had 1,400 members at the time and also had about 900 followers on its social media site. This tribe of 900 was a mix of members in the gym along with other people in the community that followed often due to the health and fitness tips that were posted daily along with the videos that showed workouts you could do at home.
The gym’s manager ran a post after about six months of gathering the tribe that said, “Post a video on this site in the next 30 minutes of you doing a burpee anywhere on the island and if you are a member of the gym you will receive 30 days of training valued at $300 for you and 30 days for your guest. Nonmembers, if you post you will get 30 days free to the gym, which includes a full training package for you too.”
The gym received 38 posts in 30 minutes. Out of the 38, 21 were members and the gym gave away 21 months of training and 21 guest months to the members to use with a friend. Remember the part from above where you need to reward the tribe with something free now and then. The other 17 posts were guests for a free trial month. In other words, this gym generated 38 guests in 30 minutes at no cost. Also consider that this gym uses primarily group training and another body in the groups doesn’t really cost the gym more money to service.
Another example from this gym was the use of the community, and the influence with this community, at generating revenue for the gym. The manager went to the local sporting goods store and asked the manager there if he would run a special just for the members of the gym, which is only about a half mile from the store.
The manager agreed since he had to do nothing. The sale was set for Friday from noon to three. All members of the gym would get 30 percent off shoes if they presented their membership cards. On Thursday night, the gym’s manager sent out a social media post stating: “special flash sale just for our members. Go to Freddie’s sporting goods from noon to three tomorrow and get 30 percent off any shoe in the store by just presenting your membership care.” The store sold 78 pairs of shoes. The gym’s tribe was rewarded for their loyalty and support. Most importantly, the gym’s manager could now ask $500 to run the sale again since he had proven he has the influence to drive customers to the store. Everyone wins and the community grows since friends refer friends who don’t want to be left out of these great special offers.
This formula as stated above applies to all electronic media since the basic progression is always going to be the same. Marketing electronically isn’t hard if you have a plan and if you realize that everything has to lead to the ability to capitalize on your influence at the end of the day.
Living in balance is so last century. If you want to reach the edge of your ability universe, sometimes you just have to let go of your routine life and surge.
I used to teach living a life in balance as part of the fundamental beliefs everyone should have in their life, along with such one-line wisdom as, “never wear a tie,” or “never hang out with idiots.” In fact, it wasn’t too many years ago I was still ending our workshops with a few minutes of final inspiration on seeking complete balance in everything you do illustrated by tossing a chair upside down on a table representing the four pillars of a balanced life: personal development and family, a sense of community, creating wealth in your life and the search for faith.
Living a life in balance means you stay grounded in these principles and honor each one as equal never letting one become more important than another. The belief is that if you move too far out of balance the universe will correct. Play too much golf and you lose your business. Do too much business and the family fades away. Spend your life focusing on nothing but money and you become poor in everything else. This concept is still true and you can achieve a quality life living this way, but the theory is also incomplete and won’t stand alone if you want to rise above being the average human being who lives, eats, dies and leaves nothing of value or no lives changed.
Looking back, I have to say that I was right on the concept of balance as the foundational concept, but I was wrong in believing that simply living a life in balance is all you need to achieve a life worth living. I have come to realize, through my own life and talking to so many I respect who live at a higher level, that if you want to accomplish anything of true substance in your life, and live up to your talent, you have to be in a constant rotation between a life in balance and a life driven by an intense surge and focus chasing something wildly important to you.
All this means is that once in a while, you need to move out of balance and surge spending a few weeks, months or even years laser locked on chasing your passion. Surging means you move out of balance and into a single dimension where all that is important for that dedicated period of time is accomplishing the goal. Once the goal is achieved, you back off and move back into balance taking time to heal your soul, grow your mind and recharge for the next power surge that will again move you ahead.
The idea of a dedicated surge is that your mind can only really handle a relatively few things at a time and if you want to achieve something of importance you need to jettison as many things as you can that will distract you from the energy and brain power you need to get things done. For most people, this means you move out of a broad based balance of floodlight into a narrow laser beam targeted at the eye of the needle with room for only your major goal and two or three other things of importance to pass through.
For example, let’s say you want to create a new business. As of today, you are that well balanced person who goes to work everyday, workouts, coaches his son’s games, is active in the community, golfs with his friends and pretty much lives the perfect life nicely balanced between everything that is important. But if you want that business, something has to go.
Opening a business, or writing a book, starting a new career, or focusing on a major personal challenge, such as training for a race, all require your undivided attention, especially if the business, book, career or race will be done at the highest level of your ability and talent. Remember the old adage, if it is worth giving up a second of your life to do, then it is worth overdoing. In other words, never, ever commit to anything if you aren’t willing to do it at a mind-blowing, full assault, take no prisoners intensity or you are just wasting your life and other people’s time.
If you commit, then surge and put everything you have into the goal, but keep in mind that you now have to move out of balance and into the laser light. In the example above, you may need to back off on the friends for a few months, quit coaching, set aside other projects that could eat up valuable brain wattage, and cut all external energy down to taking care of the family, keeping your job and eating. Sleeping of course, it totally out of the question if the quest is pure and the energy is focused.
Most of us settle into a steady state of balance as our default mode. We get fat and happy doing what we do and the routine becomes our balance. The surge is where your energy for life is derived from and everyone needs to find something in their life that drives them bat shit insane for at least a few weeks each year just to keep the mind sharp and the accomplishments in life at a higher level.
Remember your passion and remember that living in balance for too long leads to a mediocre life. Mediocrity is for unimaginative, the weak, the boring and the soulless, but passion is for the select few willing to get crazy once in awhile and surge. I feel it coming for you now; it’s time to surge my friends.
You will find times you need advice in your life, but I have come to believe you’ll find few people who are older than you are who are willing, or able, to give you the help and guidance you need and seek. As a seeker as most of you are who read my writings, meaning one who spends his life looking for the answers to life’s many riddles, this lack of available guidance will frustrate many of you as it has me through the years, but there is a legitimate reason so many older people in your life will not be able to give you any valid answers concerning the problems you will face.
The primary reason older people may not seem willing to help is that much of their experience is generational and simply won’t apply to what you face. Having someone tell you how a job or relationship works today based upon an experience from 40 years ago usually doesn’t work well. The culture of 40 years ago was different as to how people behaved, acted and thought in society and their experiences were far removed from what you will experience as an adult today.
Yes, there are consistencies that must be maintained in life, such as how you treat others, or the personal ethics you must always maintain. Not hurting others due to your actions, not living up to your personal word, personal responsibility for your everything you do or developing a strong work ethic are examples of ideas that transfer well from generation to generation and should be honored. But there are other ideas that don’t transfer from one generation to another, such as views on marriage, discrimination as to sex or race, or how women should be treated today versus how they have been treated by older generations.
My unique experience, of being older, but working with so many hundreds of younger people through so many years as a personal mentor and coach, gave me an advantage when it came to guiding another generation, one few other people can lay claim to in their life. My thoughts had to constantly evolve so I would always be able to help those who needed it, but it was also personally important to me to always be the one who fought to understand the difference between those things I hold sacred, such as no discrimination in my life, and those ideas that are transient and need to evolve or be eliminated in my life.
Perhaps the strongest representation of the difference between those in this generation and the generations that make up the older people in your life, such as your parents or grandparents, is how you will mature through your chosen work. How your grandparents, or even your parents, approached work and their careers is different than how your generation will seek to live and work.
Back in the day of your grandparents, lives were culturally predetermined in many ways and everyone passed through most of the same layers of life. You went to high school, or if you were one of the lucky few, you went off to college, you left school, and then you started on your chosen career. This career was often your life’s work, whether you wished it to be or not, and you would usually stay with this career until you retired in your mid-50s, and then you spent your alleged golden years waiting to die, which usually happened about six years or so after retirement.
There were exceptions to this rule of course. There were many people from that generation who would drift from job to job always with the thought that the next one would be the big one where the big money or big opportunity came. Most of these people were eventually disappointed by each choice, but few realized there were no perfect jobs that would save them or that the failure they endured in each choice they made was their own fault, and not the fault of their current boss or company.
There were also many people from that era who would survive retirement, but over time the brave individuals who would think deeply about such things realized retiring so young was senseless and living a life where you were active, involved and useful was far more important than how much golf you could play or cards you could play.
The layers of life will be different for this generation and the options you have in life are far greater than those who have gone before you. Having even a simple model to think about might help your journey and help you understand that what worked for past generations may not work for you, leaving you to discover your own path in life.
Remember, no one has to experience these in any set order, and you might be the person who finds your own way in life by skipping a layer, but knowing these layers are out there and part of a typical person’s life experience will hopefully help you make better decisions for yourself.
All finding your passion means is find something that is important to you, something that has the potential to keep you in money during your life, and something that keeps you from being trapped doing work that is meaningless or boring. Passion is finding something you want to willingly give your undivided attention every day and the hours spent involved with what you love seem to be the best hours of your life. I found this in my own life through writing, reading, fitness and photography as hobbies and through my love of business as a way to keep myself fed.
I have been a business consultant and coach for 37 years, and I can truthfully say I never worked a day in my life. Every day I was able to get up and do what I wanted, help someone who needed my guidance and direction, and through these things was able to make enough money to do the things important to me without ever being dependent on anyone else financially. I hope everyone who reads this will find this passion in your own life, and I hope you always find a way to live within yourself.
In the fitness industry, we mostly ignore our history and in many cases actually deny who we have been and where we came from since so many of the accepted "leaders” in our business or nothing more than first generation crooks.
Attend any of the secondary tradeshows and you will always find the old guy in the overdone suit with a posse of young guys in cheaper versions making the rounds. This old guy used to be someone, once had a chain of health clubs but sold them all off to the next big chain, and now has a few left that feeds his ego.
What we forget here is that this legend in his own mind also sold thousands of high-pressure memberships, provided no customer service, treated members badly and lived for the gross sales number. He used to be someone all right, but in the worst possible way you can be remembered in this industry: as a thief and as an unethical person who raped and pillaged his way through a 30 year career.
But we do have legends in this industry who are a noble part of our history and who we do indeed owe a debt of gratitude. Modern fitness just didn’t originate after an infomercial in the 60s. We have roots and people who opened the door for us and who made fitness a viable business in today’s competitive world, especially if you are a person in love with everything training. We exist in the business of training simply because someone else was brave enough to go first.
One of those pioneers that we should remember is Dave Draper, the original "Blond Bomber” whose popularity and early training methods not only made working out and lifting weights cool in the 1960s, but who also opened the door for the first generation of the modern training gym. He arrived in California in the 60s and soon became a fixture at the old Muscle Beach Gym. He won the Mr. New Jersey before leaving the east and then Mr. America, Mr. World and Mr. Universe and later ended up on the Beverly Hillbillies and The Monkeys. He was first and made weightlifting desirable to the public due to his amazing beach boy looks and gentle personality.
His workout partners of that generation, such as Bill Pearl, Joe Gold and Armand Tanny, were the crossover guys; the ones who were schooled in the old ways of heavy lifting and were soon to invent what became the modern bodybuilder. As Dave noted: "The magic didn’t come from the pharmacist; it came from the soul, the era, the history in the making, the presence of un-compromised originality yet to be imitated.”
As bodybuilding became a culture of drug-induced size, Dave left the competitive aspects of the sport and has pretty much done his own thing his own way every since. The most important thing to remember, however, is that Dave was a pioneer as a fitness guru and that he was also a pioneer in the commercial gym business. Dave not only made you want to be like him in his youthful days at the beach, but eventually he opened a gym and then dedicated the rest of his life to becoming the ultimate trainer and mentor.
Dave, and a few of the other guys who took the high road out of a sport that was tracking badly, opened gyms in the late 70s and 80s. These were the first guys who commercially tried to combine their passion for lifetime fitness with a business venture that provided a safe and educated training environment. Bill Pearl, Vic Tanny, Jack LaLanne, and Joe Gold all opened gyms in the purest sense of the word: the concern was how to spread the passion they all shared about fitness and the early healthy lifestyle.
There were already commercial gyms in the country prior to the 70s explosion, but even in the late 50s the lowlifes were already in the business, replacing guys like Johnny Johnson, who had a chain of ethical gyms before anyone could even spell it. Dave and his generation of beach purists literally invented much of what we consider to be modern lifting techniques and then built the equipment to get it done. Visit any gym in that era and every piece of equipment was lovingly handmade by someone who had an early vision of how the body worked and how it should be trained.
We talk a lot today about the fitness lifestyle, but consider how easy it is to live and pursue that way of living in the modern world? Dave and the guys from his era invented modern equipment, modern training techniques, influenced modern nutritional science and brought out the first commercial supplements and also brought forward the heavy lifting techniques from the old strongmen that have once again been found to be the essence of strength even today.
The renaissance we see today in the fitness world where we are returning to the simple belief of seeking what works is the second major paradigm shift in our history following that of making it cool to the general public in Dave’s early days. We started in the 60s with heavy front squats, holistic training methods focusing on total fitness, and eating big and healthy; and now over 50 years later we are returning to those same basic elements that created fitness and achieved results in the first generation.
Dave Draper is still today the role model for the modern trainer. He is ethical and moral, a purist when it comes to fitness, still training and writing at the age of 70 and still willing to learn and practice new methods for getting clients results. He is also still willing to share and spends hours online guiding anyone who is seeking answers to the age-old training questions.
Dave was the first of the big names and maybe the best of his generation, but what makes him a legend worth remembering is that his work and passion is why many of us can make a living doing what we loved. He went first and proved it could be done and we should be forever grateful for that courage.
Few people live centered within themselves. This means this person’s motivation comes from someone else in his life and isn’t internally generated. Living by external motivation is almost always the path to a life wasted and much sadness by a person existing to live someone else’s dream or way of life. The question to ask is are doing the work you love, or are you doing what you feel obligated to do because someone else told you, or perhaps used guilt to force you into believing that this is what you “should” be doing in your life?
There is a young female manage I have worked with over the years. She is talented in business, has a training background and currently manages a small chain of big box gyms that do well financially. Her conflict, however, comes from her support group. Support groups are always a mixed conglomeration of spouses, family, old friends and often just mere acquaintances that feel obligated to also voice an opinion as to how you should live your life.
This manager works hard in her job, raises a couple of kids, and loves the challenge of running a company with a few hundred employees doing millions of dollars in revenue. The battle begins for her with a spouse that thinks she should work less and that money isn’t everything and a sister who is a stay at home mother who constantly berates her into believing that somehow she is neglecting her children and husband by having a career.
There is a basic rule of life here: the more successful you are, the more your old support group will work against you. Few people in your life really ever want you to be successful, because your success forces them to deal with their lack of achievement. In other words, the more you rise, the more people you will find hanging on to the seat of your pants to keep you down where the low and slow live.
Living within yourself merely states that spouses come and go and need to live their life, not yours, friends enter your life and leave and family mostly care little about your success as compared to driving their own personal agendas that often have nothing to do with you and that often reflect their own inadequacies.
Living within yourself is just another way of saying that the only thing you will ever truly own in your life is what is between your ears. Talent and ability is rare, and resented by many, but these are the tools that define your life. Pushing to the end of your own abilities is what creates a life worth living and no one should ever stand in the way of a man or woman chasing their own dreams.
Do what is best for you and live life on your own terms. Avoid the words and phrases “should,” “you have to” and the classic; “no one does that around here.” There is nothing you have to do in your life except live it everyday you can and as you want to live it. Follow your dreams and no one else’s. Do what you want, and never let anyone tell you what you should be doing with your life. Rise to your own talent and realize that those with less talent or ability will always conspire to keep you down at their level of comfort, which is often just a mediocre life lived in quiet desperation.
And most importantly, live within yourself. Eliminate those who fight to keep you down and make your life’s decisions based upon an internal motivation that no one can ever take from you.
Business is a game of efficiency: it is not a game of perfect. Your goal each week is to do as many things as you can effectively and eliminate as much of the wasted, ineffective habits you become trapped in over time.
Perhaps the most important thing that I could ever teach you is that almost every business-threatening mistake an owner makes is due to his inability to change and their failure to move the business ahead rather than trying something new. In other words, most owners fail clinging to the past rather than trying to move the business forward through the introduction of new ideas and systems.
Here are five things and two bonus tips, that might have made the difference between a good week and great week. This list could be much bigger, but these are five problems we tried to correct this week during typical client calls:
-You still don’t know your numbers: The numbers in a business don’t lie. If you can’t tell me how many leads through the door this month, how many conversions (closing percentage), what happened to the rest of those leads, the average EFT per new client, how many new clients are being upsold to training memberships, how much it will cost to run your gym this month and your retention numbers, then you aren’t in control of your business. And if you don’t know your numbers, how do you make decisions? You have to make staffing, marketing and general business decisions everyday, but if you don’t know your numbers then how did you make the ones you did today?
2. -You are still being held hostage by your staff: If you are afraid to change the business because you are afraid to piss off a few staff people, then you are being held hostage without the benefit of a chance for ransom. Always do what is right for the business and never be afraid to grow. Everyone is replaceable and the business will move forward without those roadblocks to progress you call your present staff. It is important to note that if you own a business and can’t do the job currently being held hostage by someone you perceive to have a skill you don’t possess, you shouldn’t be in this business. This is like owning a restaurant and not being able to cook if the chef walks tonight. You have to master every job in the gym and you should always train backups as a routine part of your business planning.
3. -What you’re doing isn’t working, but you are afraid to change; because what if you change and the new ideas don’t work. Besides being a Chinese logic problem, this is a common trap for owners who have business systems based upon the 1990s, yet want to move into a training-centric business model. This is like saying, “I don’t want to send my staff to a workshop because what happens I spend the money and they leave me?” What happens if you don’t spend the money and they stay?
The key concept here is that anything that has been a trend for over three months is no longer a trend, it is your new reality. For example, if your new sales have been tracking down for the last three months, come to the realization that your sales aren’t coming back and your new reality is that you need to deal now, not four months from now, with that problem. Most owners just sit and wait to see what will happen, often blaming the poor sales numbers on staff, the economy, whomever is president or the competition. The belief is that if this owner waits long enough the tough times will be over and everything will go back to like it was back in the day when the business was hot. Those numbers aren’t coming back unless you actively work to bring them back and that short-term trend is not a temporary thing, but now represents the new reality of your business.
4. -Believing poor is good: One conversation this week was with an owner who was telling me that he was reluctant to change his system because he had three trainers who were generating $13k a month in training…combined. Yes, that was the best he had ever done, but it is still horrible. We get trapped into believing that lousy is the new standard. This is like a woman who is married and her husband totally lets himself go. He was young, athletic and handsome and now he is 35 and wearing dad pants with an elastic waistband, big white tennis shoes and carries about 30 pounds over his married weight. She settles for this wreck until her personal trainer, after she lost weight and realized her inner babe, hits on her and she now realizes that she settled for lousy when she can really have a higher standard of hot.
The goal is to understand the potential of your business and instead of getting trapped in the present; you always have to be projecting your business toward a higher standard three months, six months, a year and five years from now. Few owners can point to a huge chart on the wall of their office and tell me this is where their business will be in 12 months, let alone five years from now, but you should think and run your business everyday in those terms. If you don’t know where you are going, then what is your plan to get there? If you are trapped in the present, without a higher goal to move toward, then a lousy present will always be your reality.
5. -Thinking you can eliminate all risk in what you do: The only risk free day you will ever have starts about 10 seconds after you die. While you are here with the rest of us mere mortals, realize that you can never totally eliminate risk in your life, but you can minimize it. Many new gyms fail because the owner was so afraid of risk that he did everything he could to ensure he would fail. This owner takes space too small, in a weak location, and won’t pay for marketing and wonders why no one supports his business. There is always risk, but your goal is to give yourself the best opportunity to succeed while keeping the risk at a minimum. This is done by doing your homework, understanding the numbers, and most importantly, totally committing to what you are doing. There is no Plan B when you start own a small business; there is only success and everything you have, and everything you are, has to be committed to making whatever you are doing work.
6. -Being afraid to ask for help: I call this the big chain syndrome. The chains struggle with an out-of-date business platform, heavy competition, erosion of their core revenue generators through the loss of training clients to the training gyms; yet most of the biggest club operators maintain that obstinate smugness that they are just too good to ask for help and nothing for them changes except the numbers get worse and the competition gets thicker.
This is also common in the new training gyms where the first time owner is deathly loyal to a training concept and isn’t smart enough to realize that a training methodology is not a business platform. A business platform is how we charge the clients, how we collect the money, how we price for the market and most importantly, and the combination of the systems you use to run the business and train the staff. CrossFit, RKC, any type of boot camp, TRX education and any of the three large group exercise providers all provide a method of working out and none provide a business system you can use as the foundation of that business.
What does all of this mean: new ideas won’t kill you and too much inbreeding, meaning every new idea you have comes from current staff or people who don’t understand this industry, might just end your business.
7. -Trapped in 1995: This is a conversation that sadly, I have at least several times a week. This conversation usually progresses through anger, denial, a sense of entitlement, and finally the reality that what made you successful in 1995 is as relevant today as a phone with a cord, a baby blue leisure suit or a five-year-old cell phone.
It is seldom what you know that will make money for you in the future: it is what you WILL know if you ask the right questions and continue to let yourself grow that will make you a rich person.
Success is the ability to hang up that baggy suit with the pleated front old man pants and move on to something from this century. And while you are at it, donate that last arm to a museum, melt down that last incline leg press and make some yard gnomes, and realize that we have moved past the membership at any cost era into the maximum results, for the maximum members, era of fitness.
Remember that Jurassic Park wasn’t just a movie; it is a representation of everything that is bad today in our industry. Don’t ask me about how to sell training at point of sale, ask me how to build training into every membership in the gym. Don’t ask me how to hire young, dumbass trainers and then wonder why they can’t keep clients or can’t sell even though you give them over half the money. They are trainers, and all they should is train someone, under the supervision of a master trainer, because most trainers work with only one motivation and that motivation is helping people, not being part of your sales team. Change you old dinosaurs, or move on to Jurassic Park where all the old dinosaurs go to die.
Business is about growth and the future. Clinging to the past ended a lot of chains and individual efforts in this business, and clinging to the past might just end yours. Ask yourself this, “Am I willing to let go and grow this business, or am I hanging on to my past glory days?” If you ever tell yourself, “I can’t change, I will piss off too many people, but what I am doing isn’t working,” then you already know the answer.
I don’t know who sold the first training 10-pack of sessions, but if I ever found him I would be tempted to beat him to death slowly with a 28K kettle bell. And I mean slowly, with great pain, and maybe even take a 50’ rope and drag him through the turf at the gym, hang him upside down with a TRX and then maybe if I really got mad make him listen to three hours of Zumba music until his head exploded into fragments of Brazilian beef.
We forget that training is a serious profession that exists to change lives and give people the help and support they need to be successful in our businesses, but the chains, and many other working trainers, seem to do everything possible to regulate any form of training to silly nonsense sold by a training illiterate salesperson whose only goal is to sell a 10-pack for $250 as an add-on to the membership at point of sale.
Has anyone ever wondered why that guy sitting across the desk in those chain sales offices, or standing across the counter at the training gyms, is really there? Why in all of the expanses of hell in fitness is this guy trying to join a gym? What does he want from us and what are his basic expectations of this business?
If asked, he is there to get in shape, lose weight, feel better, look kick ass naked in front of his significant, be stronger, be more active and just live better through fitness. If asked, he really doesn’t know a lot about how to do go about accomplishing any of this. If asked, he will admit that he needs help. If we ask we will know all of this, but instead of asking, we just start trying to sell him options that makes no sense to him, and certainly don’t help the business over time.
What everyone has done since 1945, which is the advent of the modern fitness era, is sell the guy a membership to a gym with training as an optional choice. Hey buddy, would you like a shake today, maybe buy a tee shirt or how about some personal training? We in essence have just rented equipment for over 60 years and any help for the client is offered as an expensive add-on for the training elite.
This is why the national average in the mainstream fitness clubs is only about 5% of personal training penetration. This also means that 95% of their membership is practicing do it yourself fitness. Even the mainstream people who have added group training still don’t sell it effectively and still regulate it in the shake/tanning category as an add-on to a membership.
If you really think about it, we should be really selling our confused potential member is an extended training plan of some type with the membership included rather than the other way around. Everyone should have an option to get help and support through a layered pricing system that breaks the offerings up by products and price points with the key being that traditional one-on-one training is not the answer for the large majority of clients that seek a gym for fitness. Training can be offered to everyone by simply allowing groups to share the cost of the trainer.
Perhaps the nastiest illustration of how badly we handle this is the historic approach to selling training. For example, if you want one session with a trainer, it is $75, but if you buy five sessions, it is now $50 (5 @ $250) and if you buy a 10-pack, the price drops to just $40 (10 @ $400).
Here are just a few things wrong with this system:
Here is a basic illustration as to how all gym memberships should be sold including how the mainstream guys should approach this problem. We recommend using a 5-7 tiered price structure based upon 12-month training memberships as the core (this is just a sample/the prices would have to be adjusted for your market and type of gym).
The membership to the gym is included in the price for those mainstream players reading this. It is important to keep in mind that the client gets everything listed below the level they choose. For example, someone taking limited one-on-one can also drop-in at the team trainings as part of his membership:
If you have a mainstream or chain gym add these:
-$49 a month for 12 months for a simple access gym membership including aerobics/group exercise
-$39 a month for 12 months for just simple access to the gym
We make this harder than it has to be. The key of course, at least in our business system, it to get an assessor that does nothing but work with clients and then places them into the level where they belong. This is always a trainer with experience who is not afraid of money and who does nothing but feeds the rest of the trainers. No other trainers should ever sell and traditional salespeople have no business, nor skill set, to sell training.
Flip the model people. Sell training as the core product with the membership included and make getting help the central part of your business system and move away from just selling memberships. Training gyms, add different layers and end the session/package nightmare that harms your reputation and ability to make money over time.
Experience is the most brutal of teachers. In life, you often learn by being humbled in front of others because of stupid comments, losing money in businesses, bad job choices and losing relationships you should have never been in at all, or that relationship was valuable and could have been saved if only you had the experience and maturity to handle it differently.
In my case, there were no mentors in my life until I finally became wise enough to seek them out on my own much later in life. Having someone there in my teens and college days, as well as my early work years, could have eased the pain and stupidity of my learning everything important in life in the most difficult ways possible. It is said that you are the accumulation of all the things you failed at in life, and if that is the case, I now exist as nothing more than a giant ball of wound up ass kicking.
I always wonder if I would have had guidance and a friend who had the experience to offer direction in my life if I would have been smart enough to take that help, or would I have been too arrogant and simply continued on my path of try, get beaten, learn and try again? The arrogance often won and I realize now that there is a fine line between being the rock that sticks to what he believes no matter the pounding or the person who has to do it his way just to prove he can.
Now life is reversed and I am often the mentor trying to save the seekers from the damage a life unexamined can cause. The most often asked question from my mentoring sessions is usually direct: “What would you do if you were me?” I always ask what do they think is right or what do they feel about this issue first? Then I realize this person is seeking the help I never had and that it is up to me to supply answers based upon thousands of clients and a creative life. Here are the things I wish someone had taught me during my lost years: the things that reflect what I know now that I didn’t know then.
Never waste a day caring about what anyone thinks of you…unless you are seeking that opinion: We spend too much wondering if someone is staring at our clothes, if we will be accepted by others or if we work our asses off pleasing someone else rather than doing what we want and need for ourselves. There should be a core of people you love and trust whose advice you respect and will listen to, although there is no law that you ever have to do what anyone suggests or take anyone’s advice once you hear it. Stop worrying about your shirt, pants, car, house, career or choice of spouse. If what you do keeps you happy, then keep on keeping on.
Do a random act of kindness everyday: Last week there was a woman standing in the parking lot while I was getting groceries. She was panicked and crying. She had hitchhiked this across Cape Cod and was trying to get to her kids in the next town. She wasn’t asking for money, just a ride to get to her mother’s house. I was going the opposite direction and had a time commitment. There was a young couple in the parking lot and I gave them $20 to drive her to the kids. I smiled all the way home. It was just $20, but it felt like a million. If you find yourself asking, “What’s in it for me?” you have already failed as a human being. Somewhere each day you have to do something for someone with no thought of payback or personal gain. Do something truly random today for someone and get that million-dollar smile on your face.
Respect everyone; be intimidated by no one: Someone will always have more money than you do, and many more will have less. Arrogant people who accumulate money and treat everyone badly from the guy at the coffee shop to the waitress at the local restaurant are not better than you are, they just have more money…maybe. Money intimidated me early in life and I equated money people with being superior human beings. Then I started to consult with money people and realized that often money was nothing more than an indication of a troubled and wretched human being in nice clothes.
The mistake I made in my early years was that I couldn’t tell the difference between class and money and one is not an indication of the other. Money people can be hurtful, insensitive to others less fortunate and in general world class asses. On the other hand, people without a lot of cash can be truly classy, carry themselves well and contribute beautifully to the universe. The lesson here is to learn how to carry yourself well and remember that anyone can learn how to dress, demonstrate manners and be classy. Classy is a state of mind, not an entry in a checkbook. And you have to unequivocally show respect and courtesy to every human being you meet no matter what color, sex, age, sexual orientation, religion, or political party. There is no room for hatred in my life. If I don’t like you I will ignore you, but I will always show you respect.
Forgive and move on: Carrying anger forward means that the bad person won. If you angry towards anyone in your life, and this anger is over a day or two old, you lost and the bad guy won. Anger is a burden that rots your soul and spills over into every other aspect of your life. Kicking the dog doesn’t mean you hate the dog, but it might mean that you are still mad at your ex-spouse, who ran away with a stripper or pool boy seven years ago. If you really hate someone that much, the best revenge is never thinking about him or her again.
Always the professional: It does not matter what job you hold. It does not matter what you do for a living. It does not matter if you make $8 an hour or millions a year. It does matter that you are always a professional. This means that you bring a full, conscience effort to your work. Work harder than those around you, dress better than those in the same line of work, study harder and master what you do even if you are the clerk at the local 7/11. I find it sad that so many people in the fitness industry demonstrate so little professionalism once they enter the field. Being a professional is an internal thing…a state of mind you enter once you dedicate yourself to whatever job you take on. There are no jobs beneath you: you can elevate every job to a professional status simply by refusing to be anything else but the best you can be.
Always do the right thing: Sooner or later you have to go to sleep, and when you do there should never be any doubt in your mind that every decision you made that day was based upon doing the right thing morally, ethically and professionally. They say everyone has a number, and that anyone will sell out for the right number. It doesn’t matter if you are religious or not, but what price do you put on your soul, defined as the one thing no one in the world should ever be able to take away from you? You might slip, stumble and find yourself somewhere making a decision that wasn’t the right thing, but that was one day, and one day only, so now what are you going to do for the rest of your life.
Knowing the right thing maybe the hardest part for some people, especially those out of practice that have spent so many years trying to do the wrong things to so many people. I do believe there is a point of no return where a life led of constantly harming others becomes your life’s work and that you can’t find your way back again. I have seen this in old gym owners who have made a career of ripping off every client who ever set foot in their business, and I have seen it so many others who can no longer tell the difference between a life of honor and a life of living off the bones of others. Start today; the world needs another good human being.
Money and emotion don’t mix: Money is easy. You can read about it, take lessons on it, learn to earn more of it and ultimately you will come to understand that money only exists for one purpose, and that is it allows you to live life on your own terms held hostage by on single person or by a job or career you hate. But emotion ruins money sense. Emotional responses to money, such as arrogance, greed, keeping up with others and the need to show off, are the things that prevent so many people from gathering any of the world’s common tender. Money isn’t hard, but separating money from emotion might be one of the hardest things in the world.
Save 25% of everything you make: Living within your means is a learned behavior. It starts by mastering the discipline of saving some of what you make. Spending every dollar you make, racking up credit cards and living without savings is just plain stupid and a direct reflection of a stunted emotional human being. If you are just getting started, go with 5% and then raise it by 5% every month until you get to 25%. You expect your clients to live with discipline, yet you can’t even save a chunk of your check? Money in the bank is the freedom to live life on your own terms, work for whom you want, if you want, and live anywhere you want. Being poor is slavery to bad jobs, stupid bosses and a lifestyle of pain. Taking control of your money is taking control of you life.
There is no perfect: There is no perfect job, spouse, house, town, friend, relative, project or life. There is drive for many people to achieve perfect and this is what causes procrastination and self-inflicted stress. Don’t waste your life chasing perfect, but instead dedicate your life to doing the things the best you can do them, and that will often be good enough.
If you wear the suit, you have to be the man: Can you imagine Superman sitting home watching television wearing his cool suit and refusing to go help someone? The phone is ringing, the world is being trashed by yet another alien, and our hero sits in front of the sports channel sipping a cold brew. He has the suit and is the man, why doesn’t he answer the call?
I was traveling with Greg Rose, the cofounder of the Titleist Performance Institute and someone who I have on my most respected list, when we just finished a two-day workshop we had team taught. He had been on a mind numbing, body trashing road trip overseas for three weeks and I was just off a two-week stint in the States. We had just finished a very long two days together doing a speaker’s workshop.
Just as we finished, and I am thinking cold beverage, one of the class asked Greg to do some video for his members. Greg jumped right in like he was the freshest thing on the planet and spent another 15 minutes with the guy demonstrating some exercises. I asked him about it on the way back to the hotel. His response was, “I wouldn’t exist if they didn’t believe in me and ask for help. If you’re the guy, you have to take the time to show respect for those you lead.” I haven’t been the same since and I will stand there until the last one leaves any workshop I am doing. If you wear the suit and claim to be the hero, then you have to be the man behind the suit.
Be grateful: Say thank you to whoever helped you get on the path. Be thankful for every dime, every friend, every opportunity and everything you have. Work your ass off, but realize you are just part something bigger and it is always good to say thank you to those who lend you a helping hand or support your business.
Life in balance is a myth: You can’t live a life in balance and ever achieve anything worth a damn. The key is learning to live in short burst of imbalance where you just lose your mind for a few months to get that new job going, new business open or to finish that book and then you go back to a focus on those you left behind. I don’t believe anyone can handle more than three big things in your life at once. If you want a great career, go for it and take your family along, but don’t expect to be part of the community, a weekend coach and a dozen other things done badly because you believe that doing it all represents a balance in your life. Focus on the 2-3 things that define your life and put your energy there. When those are done or fade, then find 2-3 more, but fewer things done better is a much better way to define your life.
Master one thing: This is advice I did get and took. Learn more about one thing and you will never be out of work. For me it was easy: the one thing was to learn more abut the fitness business than any other human being on the planet. What is your one thing? Can you define it in one sentence? Can you still say after 37 years that the passion is still there to share that one thing? Never waste a single day doing anything that you are not passionate about in your life.
Being unhealthy: There is no reason on this earth to not put your personal health at the top of the list in life’s to do pile. The reality is that we often trade health for short-term gain. We eat stress for breakfast, live on stupid hours, drink too much on the weekends and end up sacrificing our health for a lifestyle we couldn’t enjoy if we lost that health. The struggle may be constant, and there are days that don’t lend themselves to chasing fitness, but it is the rule of life that they can’t bury you if you are still moving. Move a little more, lose those five pounds, turn off the television and take the kids for a walk. Fitness is motion and motion is life.
Explore the nature of faith: Believing in something is worth the effort. Spend time exploring everything about the nature of faith. The values we often respect in others come from man’s attempt to understand a higher power. It doesn’t matter what you believe in as long as you spend a lot of your life looking. Faith in higher powers arrives at different times in your life and too many people make the judgment based upon what others say about faith and not by exploring for them selves. There is no one way, one religion nor one approach to finding out about what makes the universe a place worth living in.
Life is too short to hang out with idiots: Surround yourself with people who inspire you and eliminate the toxic people in your life. This includes old friends, spouses, nasty family and anyone else who spews a path of toxic negativity every time they are around you.
If it is worth doing, it is worth overdoing: Pick fewer friends, but be the best friend ever. Going to a party? Be the last one out and do it right. Going on a trip? Explore every alley of every country in the world. Going to be in the fitness business? Then be the best owner or trainer or whatever that ever lived. Mediocrity is for losers. If it is worth doing, it is worth giving it your undivided effort and passion.
Finally, live for today. The time between being 21 and 60 is about four weeks. There is no tomorrow, there is only today lived well with passion and intensity. You should always plan for your future, and you should spend a great deal of time projecting your life ahead, but for some of us there is no tomorrow and you will only have today. People do die young, get sick or lose their life in some horrible way that reflects the finicky nature of the universe. You might not have tomorrow, but you always have today.
There are only two ways to attract new clients into your business. The first is based upon putting your product on sale, thus lowering the perceived value of the product or service, and the second way is to entice people to try your product first before making a buying decision. The second method is called exposure marketing and means you are willing to let people try your business before they buy so they can gain the experience with you necessary to make that buying decision. Try the gym, meet the staff, meet the members and if we don’t earn your business we don’t deserve to have you as a client.
In the "putting it on sale" method, you discount or reduce the price of your service or product to attract new clients. In other words, you put what you do on sale. Examples of this are discounted membership fees, two-for-one specials, buy one and get one free offers, and close out specials where the price is dropped for a limited time. Many fitness professionals don’t think they do this—and often feel that they are above this type of behavior—but offers such as “three personal training workouts for $99” are just another version of dropping your pants in order to attract new clients.
The exposure method of marketing is usually considered to be a classier way to attract clients, and more importantly, it is also the method that allows you to usually protect your integrity by getting full price for your product once the customer has some experience with what you do.
If you have driven a car for 24 hours, price will seldom be the deciding factor and how did it feel, how did it drive and how did your family like it are now more important factors in the sale. Think of the puppy dog close where the pet shop owner says, “Go ahead and take the puppy home for tonight and if he doesn’t work out just bring him back tomorrow.” Who ever brought back a used puppy? Other examples of this in the real world are extend 24-hour test drives of cars, free samples including everything from cookie chunks to an introductory massage, and extended trial usage periods.
Perhaps the most well known use for us is the paid trial membership where the gym offers 30 days of fitness at a fixed price, such as 30 days for $30. This membership is not a reduction of service, such as three training sessions for $99, but rather an introduction to everything you offer at a trial rate. If you treat them like a member, and include everything in your gym for this price (training gyms might be 30 days for $89), then the potential member has a chance to experience the product, service and other members prior to making a buying decision.
In the fitness business, we usually take the path of least resistance as owners and managers, and in this case the easiest way to market is always to just drop the price and then pound whoever shows up in response on the price. There are a number of problems with this system:
You can make a case that the total population in the U.S. is up; therefore, this number is higher in relation to the total it represented just a few years ago. While this is true, it still points to the fact that we don’t do much of job as an industry when it comes to penetrating the percentage of people who are not yet interested in fitness and who haven’t decided to join a gym. If sales and low price was the answer, we should have been overwhelmed by millions of new members who were patiently waiting for someone to offer a $9 membership. We did offer it, and they didn’t come. So maybe there just isn’t enough prior interest.
The term applied to this occurrence is, “Law of diminishing returns,” which means that an act repeated over and over again will have a lower result each time. For example, if you plant a field of corn and get 50 bushels this year you will most only get 48 next year. The same goes if you walk up to a guy in the bar and hit him 10 consecutive times in the head. The first punch will usually be your best and the 10th will most likely be of lesser force.
Advertising price works the same way. Over time, everyone who wants a membership for $9 in the market has bought one and each time you run the ad you will get a lesser response. Of course the difference between corn and members is that if you live in a marketplace that has huge turnover, such as Orlando, you constantly introduce an influx of new, potential clients who are now seeing your ads for the first time. But most markets are more fixed in nature with a much smaller annual turnover and these markets will show the constantly declining response over time.
Fitness, and especially functional fitness, has just has too many moving parts and does not translate in one workout or one sitting as a sales desk. In fact, the “one workout and close theory” might be one of the dumbest ideas to ever take hold in our industry. Take a guy who hasn’t worked out in years, give him to a young trainer who works him out too long and too hard, make sure he wore his 1980s workout clothes, and then try to close him when he hates you at the end of that first workout. Don’t forget he is also embarrassed by the his conditioning and inability to keep up and feels that there is no way he can do fitness in this gym.
If you can’t talk about fitness and your product from a common position of understanding established through experience and success, then all you will talk about is price, and then it becomes “Let’s make a deal time.” We force the price wars upon ourselves because we just don’t give the potential member any other choice.
Exposure marketing has two strong mechanisms going for it that price driven marketing doesn’t. First of all, this type of marketing, done correctly, creates an interest in a product that wasn’t there in the consumer prior to his experience. For example, a four-page newsletter featuring articles about fitness, how to get started, success stories and testimonies and educational information on fitness will get people interested in eventually trying the fitness for themselves. In other words, you have to create interest in the 83% of the people in this country who have never been in a gym, or who have and failed, before price is relevant.
The second factor about using a trial, such as the 30 days for $30, is that it kills risk. Remember that risk is the biggest barrier to inquiry for most potential clients. Many people would like to try a gym, but they are afraid of getting signed up in something that is too expensive and traps them too long without a chance to really see if they might like it first. We have created this ourselves in the industry by using such practices as first visit pressure, double-teaming the potential client in an office and cold calling. Throw in the potential client’s experience and knowledge of gyms closing in his town and you can see why anyone might be reluctant to commit to fitness during a first visit.
The second risk barrier is that the client doesn’t know if he or she will fit into the culture. It is like being a 21 female and walking into a bar where there are a 100 old guys listening to Sinatra and sipping on whiskey. The bar looked good from the outside, but it is horror movie scary once she is in the door. Sometimes you just don’t belong in a certain business or setting, but in the gym business it may take multiple workouts to discover this for yourself. Experiencing the product and the culture has to be the centerpiece of all marketing if you want to kill the risk that prevents people from even trying your business.
Trial memberships solve these problems. The risk is known and low, in this case no more than the price of the trial membership, and you have a full 30 days prior to making the buying decision giving you plenty of time to see if the culture of this business is right for you.
Trial memberships should have these factors to be successful:
· You must use a reasonable testimonial. Don’t use someone who has lost 100 pounds in your ads. Very few people can identify with that client and he or she is not a role model, it is an entry barrier. Use someone who is normal, who has lost 1-20 pounds and who a potential client can identify with as a role model.
· Use a positioning letter to generate interest in what you do. For example, a letter imbedded in the ad that talks about the five biggest myths of fitness would work nicely signed by you and with a picture of you and your staff at the bottom. This also personalizes your business in the market against those competitors that might be faceless or national chains.
· Include full service in the trial. Give the potential client a strong overview of everything you do and spoil the person during the trial period. Remember again that if you treat the person like a member he will become a member.
· Keep the price at about half of your lowest entry point. For example, if your base membership is $39 a month for one person, your trial should be at 30 days for $19. This also applies to training gyms as well.
The goal is to expose the gym and what you do to the maximum number of potential clients who don’t have current gym experience. Remember the 17% of the population that was mentioned earlier who are gym members. It does you no good to advertise to them. They have found their gym, have probably already been in yours and are more concerned about service, equipment and location than they are by price since they are experienced gym people.
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