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How to Onboard, Nurture, and Community Build as a Personal Training Specialist

This is an excerpt from Foundations of Professional Personal Training-3rd Edition by canfitpro.

By Sara Fennell, CPT, CPN & Joe Arko

After you have solidified a sale and received payment from a new client, you need to onboard them into your business and service. Keep in mind that your client may be feeling buyer’s remorse and regretting that they signed up for training. To start off the client–trainer relationship in a positive way, you must quickly validate their purchasing decision. Making them feel welcome will retain the client for a long time and result in more referrals. As stated in the earlier section Marketing and Lead Generation, keeping a client is easier and more cost effective than finding a new one.

Onboarding and Nurturing a Client

The first 100 days with a new client are when you are most at risk of losing them. During this time, be sure to take good care of the client, listen to them, and help them feel welcome in your environment, be it in person or online. Read Joey Coleman’s book Never Lose a Customer Again (2018) to learn the eight phases of customer experience and ways to move a client through the first 100 days. Let’s cover some common action steps during the onboarding process.

Welcome Email
Before the first session with a client, send an email to welcome them, outline any policies or procedures, introduce any staff or team members they may encounter, and provide details on ways to book sessions, cancellation or no-show regulations, and any other relevant information you want all clients to know. Embedding a link to a welcome video is particularly helpful to provide a visual of the client’s first experience training with you. You can film your welcome message, a tour of your facility, or the best setup for in-home or virtual training sessions. Upload your video to YouTube and add the link to your welcome email, social media accounts, and website.

Welcome Package
Some facilities and trainers welcome every new client with a gift basket or gift bag, merchandise, or a simple welcome card in the mail. A small personal touch goes a long way to deepen the relationship with your new client and enhance their experience with you.

Welcome Shout-Out on Social Media
Publicly showcasing a new client on your social media account can be helpful. This practice excites and motivates the client and validates to your audience that you regularly have clients coming on board. (Please note that you should obtain consent from the client before you do this; you can ask for their consent in the welcome email.)

First Encounter or Training Session Together
Decreasing a new client’s anxiety and making them feel at ease should be your top priority for this first session. Ask them how they are feeling before beginning the session, explain in detail all actions you will be taking with them, and ask them how they are feeling frequently throughout the session. Building a strong, trusting relationship with every client is imperative to their success and the growth of your relationship.

Frequent Check-Ins
The attention given to a client should go beyond the physical meeting and training times. Sending an email to a client the day after their first session to touch base and see how they are doing, along with making frequent contact every few weeks to ask how they are enjoying the process, will ensure client satisfaction and help you course correct to meet any challenges that may arise.

Progress Assessment
Before you reach the 100-day mark with a new client, you should perform a few progress assessments to ensure that the client is on track toward their goals. No matter what outcome the client has hired you for, you should establish how you are going to track and evaluate progress. Lack of progress can create a lack of motivation and interest in a goal. Every client who hires you does so because they cannot reach a goal on their own. If you are not a results-driven trainer who regularly evaluates progress, you will be at risk of losing clients.

Ongoing Nurturing
After the first 100 days with a client, you want to ensure that the nurturing process continues. You can accomplish this by checking in frequently, reestablishing goals, remembering birthdays, and using community-building strategies, covered next.

Community Building

Creating a sense of community among clients or members is an effective retention strategy that can help you maintain supporting relationships with your clients. When someone is improving their health and fitness, they may be doing it alone, with minimal or no support at home. This circumstance can be challenging for a client’s progress and motivation, so having a positive, supportive community is essential. Let’s cover some ways to build community in your business.

Online Group for Clients
Within an online group (e.g., Facebook group), you can create posts that spark conversation and input among clients, offer recipes, and provide value-added information. Consider hosting a monthly live event (livestream video presentation or interview) when you educate on a topic and share client wins to motivate the community.

Pair Two Clients as Accountability Buddies
Create a relationship between clients as an extension of your service. These clients can have weekly text check-ins with one another or schedule a monthly accountability phone call for them to discuss their journey.

Hold Events
Events could include a holiday party, an educational seminar, a guest speaker hosting a workshop, or a fun games night. Events can be held online or in person. The benefits of creating events for clients to participate in outside their regular service with you are endless.

Host Charity or Fundraising Events
Recognize clients for their donations to the local food bank or toy drive campaign. Sign up a group of clients to train for a charity running or obstacle event together. Offer pay-what-you-can group training sessions with money directed to a nonprofit.