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Old School Marketing Methods That Still Work

best marketing tactics for fitness professionals and coaches

Personal Trainer Marketing Basics

The word “marketing” may trigger a wide range of thoughts and feelings, from tremendous excitement to fantasies of instant success to studied disinterest in hand-wringing dismay. Although effective marketing is the cornerstone of a flourishing practice, some personal trainers shy away from any type of self-promotion as they associate it with being “pushy”. But sometimes, this lack of promotion comes from a lack of marketing knowledge or limited resources. 

Old-school Marketing Methods That Still Matter

In every business, the marketing component is the most pivotal aspect of the plan. Start by depicting the image that you wish to convey to prospective clients. Next, describe your target markets and clarify your differential advantage. Follow with competition analysis, including steps you’ll take to meet any challenges. The major section is the strategic action plan. Outline your marketing goals for all areas requiring management: promotion, advertising, publicity, and community relations. Factor or consider timelines, budgets, and rationale for each strategy that you incorporate into your business plan. 

Business cards 

Every personal trainer, whether working for themselves or as an employee, should have their own business cards. The business card should have the company logo (if there is one, and every personal trainer should have a logo!) and not be “too busy” with information or photo overload. Perhaps a slogan, then all the necessary contact information along with the individual’s name and the title is all that is necessary. Much like the flyer/ brochure, the business card reflects the personal trainer whose name appears on it, so be sure the appearance is appropriate and provides the image of a worthy professional. 

Print Flyers or brochures 

Flyers are typically one page with one side only, while brochures typically have print or pictures on both sides and may be folded into parts. Perhaps the most important part of an effective flyer/brochure is a professionally done self-portrait that portrays the personal trainer as a professional, sharp-looking, intelligent individual. This flyer or brochure should also include a short biography along with how the skills of the trainer can provide their “target market” with safe, efficient, and effective personal fitness training. This advertisement should not look as though it has been done cheaply or haphazardly, the potential client must recognize that this is a trainer who is willing to go the extra mile in helping them and has the revenue from previous client success to be able to afford the production of such a professional advertisement (image is a crucial part of first impressions).

Voice mail messages

Yes, people still leave voicemails. Keep them professional. No funny messages. No music. Just get to the point. The name of the trainer’s company or their own name, and a request for a name, phone number and a brief message followed by a statement that the trainer will get back to the caller within 24 hours. All callbacks should occur within a 24-hour period or a potential, current, or future client may be lost.


How often should the personal trainer continue to call an individual who has called them or expressed some interest in training? The trainer should call until the individual has been talked to personally or the trainer gets tired of calling. Whether or not the trainer gets tired of calling should be dependent upon the interest or intent of the individual being called. Only one message should be left upon the first phone call and never again until the trainer has personally talked to the individual. A phone log should be kept with varying calling times until they have been contacted. The contract, once made, should be short and to the point to the effect of “Hello, my name is Steve, Susan’s personal fitness trainer, and I was calling because Susan said you have an interest in personal fitness training…” Now the ball is in their court, so to speak, and the individual will tell the trainer whether they are interested or not, or the extent of their interest. This saves a lot of time, shows professionalism, and gives the impression that the trainer means business and has no intention of wasting the time of the potential client or their own time.

This isn’t to say you ignore digital ads and promotions.  It’s just that sometimes you should zag when others zag.  Do what others don’t when it makes you stand out in a good way. 

Where Should Personal Trainers Market Their Services? 

Networking with local stores or businesses is a great way to get brand name recognition so that your name will become recognized and respected. A local nutritional store or gym may be a good place to start. Other possibilities include coffee shops and cafes. It is wise to stick to areas where the trainer wishes to operate and where potential clients can afford training fees. 

Networking with other professionals helps in establishing legitimacy by recognition from other health professionals such as chiropractors, physical therapists, massage therapists, and nutritionists. Referrals can then come from the varied professionals to the trainer and from the trainer back to the varied professionals so that all parties involved stand to gain new clientele and a solid referral base. This usually requires consistent effort to meet up with local professionals in an in-person situation or by the personal fitness trainer staying involved by at- tending to local trade shows and keeping their eye open for opportunities to meet and get to know other local health professionals. One never knows who a referring individual might be or a potential future client. Learn more about networking through various programs and opportunities at by calling us at 877-348-6692. 

Brochures and flyers can be placed on cars at local sporting events, but this advertising possibility has produced varied results and is illegal in most states. Better placement for flyers and brochures are at local businesses or as advertisements in free publications that are of little to no cost to the trainer. The trainer may choose to invest in a large advertisement in a major magazine or newspaper, but it becomes more important for the advertisement, much like the business card and/or flyer/brochure to be professional, while appealing to the proper “target market”. This process often takes time and re- quires some research on the part of the personal fitness trainer and a lot of “leg work” to get out and meet people. 

The “Rule of Seven” applies greatly. It has been said that a person must hear about a company or business professional seven times (possibly through seven different sources) before a response from potential clients/buyers can be expected. The trainer must remain confident that efforts will be met with eager clients and business opportunities while evaluating monthly and yearly one’s marketing and advertising strategy. 

Launching a website can be a very simple and worthy advertisement for people to obtain more information about a trainer. Godaddy.com can help with the necessary components of exposure to a website, and WordPress templates can get a trainer started on their own website. Paying an outside party to prepare a website is also a viable option. It’s always best to stick to what you do best and let the pros do a good job for you.  You can outsource this work on sites such as Fiverr or Upwork for much less than you may think.

Sales and Professionalism 

Becoming a professional and effective salesperson begins with an image and first impressions. The proper attire and grooming must be taken into consideration. While an inner-city gym will vary from a high-end suburban health club the personal fitness trainer must make the appropriate efforts to be clean-shaven, well-groomed, with clean, appropriate attire that is neither too revealing nor too mysterious. There is nothing wrong with wanting to display a healthy physique, but it is quite another to flaunt one’s attributes. Confidence and cockiness are not the same. The personal fitness trainer must be clear about their environment, and the type of clientele they expect to receive, and must evaluate the situation to be able to separate themselves from an “ordinary” trainer. 

The personal fitness trainer must smile. A “goofy” or “silly” smile is no substitution for an honest, sincere “engaged” smile from a person who simply enjoys what they do and is happy to be where they are. New clients will gravitate to the trainer whom they feel will help them “feel better” and will help them enjoy working out just as the trainer CLEARLY does by the fact that they smile of- ten and much. This cannot be overstated. The “tough guy” approach may work at times, but it is the sincere, likable person that draws the most attention. 

The personal fitness trainer should always look people in the eye and remain in view whenever they are communicating with a potential client or training one. Consistent eye contact and remaining in view of the client or potential client helps keep the client focused upon the concept that the trainer is the solution to their problems by always appearing to “be there”. As well, it is wise to remain at or below eye level, much like communicating with a child, to avoid intimidating another individual. While intimidation may gain some clientele or keep it, it will only go so far until the client may begin to feel that there is a lack of concern over their well-being and progress. 

The ability of the personal fitness trainer to be confident and assertive is crucial. A person will “always miss 100% of the shots they don’t take!” Likewise, the trainer must continuously put themselves in positions to meet people where they can offer their expertise. This means walking around the gym or standing in a place with a purpose. Simply being present or saying hello is not sufficient. Personal fitness trainers must make it clear, in their own unique way, that they are present to help and have the utmost concern for the well-being and safety of the people around them. 

The approach must be consistent. When it comes to approaching potential clients on the gym or workout floor a simple approach often works best. 

Question #1: The First Approach 

“Hello, how are you?” 

The person approached always answers this greeting whether they are pleased to be approached and the response matters less than the fact that they have now acknowledged the presence of the personal fitness trainer (whether this is the exact question that is asked is not important, only that it be a friendly greeting). As well, there must be an open-ended question asked by the personal fitness trainer to keep the individual who is approached involved in the conversation. This sets the stage for the next question. It is not a conversation yet, but it will be. 

Question #2: The First Approach 

“What are you working on?” 

This question provides the answer that the personal fitness trainer must consider before offering any advice or suggestions when observing an individual perform an exercise. Wait until the individual has finished their exercise set before posing any questions or offering any suggestions. What the personal fitness trainer believes the person should be aiming to achieve by the motion they are attempting versus what the individual feels the exercise accomplishes may well be very different. What looks less like a lat pull-down attempt and more like a leaning back row is likely to be perceived as a picture-perfect lat pulldown by the individual performing the exercise and they may look at the trainer as though the trainer should have figured this out. Once again, the response is only information for the trainer so that they are clear on WHAT suggestion to make. 

Question #3: The First Approach 

“Can I make a suggestion?” 

Surprise, surprise, almost no one ever denies a suggestion. This is less intimidating than telling someone that they are wrong or even implying that what they are doing is incorrect. This is merely a suggestion that the individual is free to decide whether to accept. The trainer must then show the individual a “different” way of performing an exercise aimed at the goal the individual has previously stated when asked, “What are you working on?” Then the trainer assists in monitoring the range, path, and technique of the motion performed while giving verbal cues just as they would if the individual were their client. 

Question #4: The First Approach 

“How was that for you?” 

If the answer to the trainer’s question is positive, they have done their job. If the individual is not interested in training (they will bring it up) or not intrigued (they will appear distracted or bored) the trainer has not done their job. If the individual continues to ask questions or is visibly im- pressed, the trainer has succeeded. No further advice should be given at this point. The First Approach is a “teaser” or a way of drawing initial interest. The trainer must then decide, based upon the effectiveness of their performance in the approach if this individual is worth pursuing or leaving the opportunity for another day. Never walk away from anyone without getting their full name and giving them yours. Remembering something significant about the individual will help the next time the personal trainer sees them again and will provide for further conversation. 

The personal trainer shouldn’t have to “sell” – but must ask for it! There are countless ways of approaching the point of asking for the sale or determining if an individual wishes to continue training. Some are effective and some are not. There is NO perfect approach. Also, the approach should not be “canned” and appear that the trainer is reading from a script that was obviously not their own idea. Most individuals are smart enough to see that they are “being sold” and that the trainer does not have their best interests at heart. 

If the potential client is interested in training, THEY WILL ASK about training and the trainer will only have to answer questions. Open-ended questions that lead the client to a deeper response are best. For example, “How satisfied are you with the results you are getting from your program?” “How do you measure your success from your workouts? First, get information then give information.” This information is vital to closing the sale. The selling should come from the performance of the trainer from the beginning of the first appointment or approach to the end of the conversation or meeting. “Inviting” an individual to train with the personal fitness trainer helps move them into action. Their interest may or may not be obvious. Most are fearful to ask questions or are unaware of which questions to ask. 

It is important that the trainer be honest, sincere, and professional in their approach to the sale. Expect to learn from each potential client opportunity, and utilize the lessons learned for future opportunities. People change their minds, and they talk to others, so the trainer must keep this in mind and not hard sell if they want to maintain a professional reputation and receive future referrals and repeat business. Hard selling is rarely successful and often leads to buyer remorse. 

Objections are likely to arise when asking for the sale. Common objections range from not having enough time, to an inability to afford services, or the need to check with their spouse. If the personal fitness trainer has done their job, there should be no objections. Objections that are offered mean that the trainer needs to work on their ability to influence and needs to resell the benefits to the individual. Work on the ability to ask the right questions. Be responsive and respectful to the client’s needs by learning to listen more than speak. 

Prospects may often talk themselves into personal fitness training. Here is an example of a response if someone says, “I can’t afford it”. The personal fitness trainer may respond with, “Yes, it’s not cheap, but what is your health worth to you? If you could buy a bottle which provided lean muscle, an efficient heart, lower cholesterol, more energy, a better sex drive, and more quality sleep, what would you pay for it?” Hard selling is for one-time-only sales and not good business for a service-related position, like personal fitness training. 

Always ask “What are your thoughts about training one-on-one?” or “When would you like to start training with me?” Then wait. The personal trainer should wait for an answer and not speak again until the client has given one and only one of two choices – yes or no. They will hem and haw and talk to themselves at length waiting for the trainer to bail them out with a response. They must choose. A professional only ask once and waits for a final answer. The only other possible words the trainer may choose to use are “The choice is up to you.” Throw it in their court. 

Where Can You Learn More?

Be on the lookout for future articles about more ways to get an endless stream of clients for your training or coaching business. You will also want to search through the archives of our blog because there are many other articles that go into great depth about dozens of other ways to get clients.

There is always something exciting about earning a new training or coaching certification and applying that new knowledge of how you train your clients. This also helps you hit the reset button.

NESTA and Spencer Institute has been helping people like you since 1992. To date, over 65,000 people from around the world have benefited from our various certifications, programs, continuing education courses and business development systems. We are here for you now and in the future. Feel confident in your decision to work with us as you advance your knowledge and career. We are here for you each step of the way.

Click this link to see our complete list of programs (all of which qualify for CEUs for our programs and others).

That’s it for now.

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