By Sumit Seth, Special AFS Contributor

What separates you from the other fitness studios in your area? You can probably rattle off three to five distinct advantages you have over other trainers or facilities, and that’s great! Those advantages definitely help you win clients.

But what is it that really makes a client sign up, be successful, and become your biggest advocate? It’s not the new equipment in your gym. It’s probably not pricing, location, or signage. All of those things influence a decision, but what ultimately “sells” a client in the long-term is a great personal experience.

What I’ve discovered from running a business is that your clients want to feel like they are important and that they can and will be successful. That can really only come from a human. Running your studio shouldn’t be about simply fulfilling a contractual obligation to your clients (you paid me, I’ll train you). It should be about being a partner on their fitness journey meeting them where they are and helping them to get better.

Deliberately designing your client experience around personal touches is the best way to stand out in the crowd.

First of all, you can’t begin to offer a personalized experience to your clients until you know them. Keeping track of important things in their lives will help you serve them in a way that is unique, personal, and sincere. A most often overused example is to know your clients' birthdays. However, automation has pretty much dampened that special day feeling for most of us now get an automated birthday message and I don’t know about you but it actually rubs me off the wrong way. I mean come on - if you really considered me part of your extended family, wouldn’t you at least have the courtesy to drop me an authentic message? After all, we’re supposed to be in the people’s business, right?

If you really care about those personal touches, and as a small business in the service industry, you absolutely should...then in addition to just fitness goals, progress, and birthdays - get to know your customers. I mean, not just their birthdays, but their anniversaries, their family members, their pets, outside interests, and likes. That may sound like a lot of work and sometimes it is, but if a person is coming into your business a few times a week you are already getting access to that information (well, at least someone on your team is).

As a policy, if you train your team to document these details as they learn about them (i.e., in a file, directly on a shared calendar, or a full-blown system), it's up to you to use that information to surprise them with authentic, unexpected real messages (card, text or even a call) - my guess is you would make their day and your business stronger.

Here are some examples:

  • If you knew a client was a vegetarian, send them a birthday message with a link to vegetarian birthday cake recipe or maybe that person has been working extra hard all this time, in which case a message telling them it’s okay to cheat a little and splurge on that cheesecake will go a long long way. In short, gather the details and act upon those details!
  • Another example could be if you know they have a vacation coming up, encourage them to work extra hard for the next few weeks, and reward them with a small gift (as simple as a local coffee) before their trip. If they have adult children in town visiting, invite the whole family in for a group session to show off how much your client has progressed.

These little things all add up to make a BIG difference! These all sound like great ideas, but can you really give this level of personal service to all of your clients? How on earth can you grow a business and retain these personal touches?

The way you scale the personal touches is through systems and staff training. There are lots of systems designed to keep your relationships on the front burner without losing your precious time. These solutions can help you with reminders and easy ways to send personal texts or email messages to each of your clients when appropriate. Your staff can also be engaged if they have the training and tools needed to provide a personal touch to your clients. I’ve seen a lot of employees that have big hearts but need the training to get alignment with what you are thinking. Create a culture of staff training and it will result in more personal touches for your clients.

As you implement these measures into your business, you’ll find that your retention will increase, you will receive many more referrals, and your clients will be successful and happy.

Don’t settle for the “big box” client experience. Instead, use your personality to create a “human” experience full of meaningful personal touches. Let us know what you are doing to deliver that “personal touch” to your clients.


Sumit Seth is the co-founder of Naamly - the member experience platform designed for modern training gyms. Sumit is a strong believer in the power of human connections and had successfully built one of the fastest-growing and largest staffing firms by focusing on creating long term relationships. He exited the venture to focus on his health, reconnect with family and found solace in fitness which lead him to start Naamly. Naamly helps fitness studios impact more lives in their communities by building deeper member relationships to drive business success.

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