The Private Training Component: Not to be Overlooked

When we first opened in 2004 Coach Glassman urged us to begin our practice like this:

Get a private training client. Train her for a while, then ask her to bring in a friend. Train the 2 of them together, each at a slightly reduced rate compared to the 1on1 price. After time add another person and slowly grow it into a group of folks paying relatively little (compared to 1on1 training) for great quality coaching, with your hourly take home considerably greater.

Instead, being the bright folks that we are, we just decided to bypass the 1on1 and open several group classes. Genius, right? Folks would just instantly recognize the value of our coaching and pay 3-4 times a regular gym membership to train with us!

WRONG! We did get clients, but it was slow going…No one had heard of CrossFit at that point and we didn’t have any connections in Chico as we had both just moved here.

We had booths at the farmer’s market, we had booths at the University fairs, we had booths at running races, we tried offering free weeks of training…we could hardly give it away! We worked other jobs to keep the doors open and were barely making our overhead. Had Robb and I not been thoroughly used to living at the college student level we would have been forced to throw in the towel.

Now, there were a lot of things we were doing wrong, but fundamentally we were new (had no reputation) in a relatively “old boys” type of town and we were trying to convince folks that climbing ropes, doing Olympic lifts and eating fat was good for them. And we ignorantly bypassed the one step that could have helped us build relationships that would have gotten us in the club a bit faster: offering private training.

Fast forward to early 2006 when we first began offering private training. Folks walked in the door and wrote us checks for $500 like it was nothing! People already had an idea of the price point for private training…we didn’t have to convince them of the value of our coaching…it was great! And the beautiful thing is that after they train with you as a private client and get great results they DO recognize the value of your coaching. This makes the price point of group training inconsequential.

Now, it goes without saying that newer affiliates have the growth and name recognition of CF on their side. More and more people know of CF and have followed the main page on their own. These folks will seek you out as an affiliate…you won’t have to beg and plead to get them through your doors. That said, I still think there is a place for private training in a CF box.

Here are the top 3 reasons an affiliate (especially if you are just getting going) should consider offering private training:

Revenue
Everyone knows what private training is and everyone knows relatively how much it costs to hire a trainer. When you are just getting going you typically have more time than money. Use that time with private clients. It will help improve your coaching, build your reputation, and help your bottom line. Also, offering more expensive private training makes your group classes seem comparatively less expensive.

As far as “Entry Points” are concerned, offering private training as an either/or option with the beginner class is a nice way to “bracket the population” with both price point as well as any physical limitation/orthopedic issues.

Bracketing the population
Some folks aren’t group class ready. They may have orthopedic issues that need your undivided attention and the faster pace of even the beginner group classes may not be appropriate. In the beginning this is a good way to spend your hour and build your reputation.

Other folks have no desire to train in a group. They can still benefit from the training you offer! You may also find that some of your private training clients who have no desire to be in a group class are well connected in your community and have numerous contacts who will want to train in your group classes. Each client that you connect with has a sphere of over 200 people that might also enjoy/benefit from what you have to offer. If you never connect with them in the first place you lose out on that individual’s potential referral base.

Trainer development
Private training is a great way to develop your trainers. If you get good at seeing form faults with one individual then it becomes easier to see them in multiple individuals at once. Having your new trainers work 1on1 with folks first will allow you to observe their coaching ability, how they conduct themselves with clients and how they build rapport, as well as give you the opportunity to give them constructive feedback. After they demonstrate good coaching skills in the private setting you can test them in the group class environment. Note: you will have some trainers that are great coaches in the one-on-one situation who won’t thrive teaching in the group environment…just something to keep in mind.

At this point our revenue is about 60% group training and 40% private training. I suspect that as we continue to grow this will tend to skew towards the group training…but then again as our trainers continue to grow successful practices the ratio may not change too much.

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5 Responses to The Private Training Component: Not to be Overlooked

  1. Colm says:

    Thanks for all the work so far Nicki.

    Do you/did you advertise the private training differently from the regular CF group training?

    Did you use CrossFit in the marketing of private training? Or just plain old regular privates?

    Thanks,
    Col

    We have private training all over our website because that is a super common search term. The postcards we hand out have images of folks in our gym (so it’s not a globo image) and typically mention both private and group training. Also, in my networking group and if I’m talking to folks I always say we offer both private and group training. Hope that helps!

  2. Justin - CrossFit SS says:

    Nicki,

    Thanks for the post. Very helpful.

    We opened in December with the “If you build it, they will come” mindset, and my optimism is morphing into pragmatism. We are steadily adding 1-2 members per week (sans any advertising), but we have substantial overhead and, personally, going without an income is getting old.

    For our Fundamentals Series (stolen from Bill at Rogue Fitness), we have a series of open hours throughout the week for our 101, 102 and 103 classes. We cap them to 4 people, and that is where we direct newbies before they enter group classes. 101 is always free. It does a good job “pre-coaching” them in the basics, but not a great job building rapport. It also caters to the relatively fit…and throwing some of the less fit into the fire prematurely.

    Also, we don’t have a feeder program to get clients into Personal Training. It was always just an afterthought (and we treated it like remedial work). In April we are making some adjustments to how we funnel first-timers, and I will post any successes.

    Besides the great points you made above, it also seems like having a healthy portion of revenue coming from PT allows you to attract, develop and retain talented trainers. With the group-only mindset, it makes it a more complicated procedure to pay trainers. Do you give them an hourly rate (not very attractive…smells globo-gym-ish)? Do you pay them by the number of people that are in their classes (scheduling becomes tricky, and $/head is a weird equation)?

    But with PT, it is much more direct. Trainer gets x% of what the client pays. The trainer and the box have mutually aligned interests, and their is no conflict between trainers. It also allows them to work their way up in your box.

  3. omar says:

    Thanks for the info Nikki. We opened our box, our dream, a few months ago. We had some help and went for a full box, with no client. Clientelle is slowly growing.. We are a suburb, rich suburb west fomr Toronto and been havign some hard time finding corssfitters.
    I’ve got some plans of outdoor workout with the crew wearing our shirts. Doing walk in into business offering our service, aswee on law enforcement, flyers, posters, etc. Bad thing is that the weather hasn’t allowed us to motivated alot of them to go outside.

  4. Nikki,

    I’ve always had an issue with convincing new folks of the merits of personal training, when one of the selling points of the CrossFit group classes is that they are getting quality instruction (though with generalized programming and in a group setting).

    There’s been a handful of people, typically with specific interests or of special populations, who have recognized right off that they need personal training. But outside of that, there has been little interest. I’m thinking this could be because most of our members are younger/less affluent, but also because our classes are still small enough to provide a large degree of individual instruction. Simply put, 99% of our members are satisfied with the group classes – how do you convince them that personal training is worth the added cost?

    I’m thinking some of this is due to us not having a “point of entry” as you described in the previous post. Maybe mandatory pt sessions to familiarize members with CF movements would spur more interest in personalized training?

    Jake,
    You will definitely want dedicated points of entry. I would suggest implementing a beginner class/private training requirement prior to folks entering your classes. Both are revenue streams and both will lead to a better client experience.

  5. Zach @ CFLV says:

    After talking with you and Robb at the Nutrition Cert back in January, we added our own version of the “On Ramp.” It made sense to have a course like that complimented with a PT aspect for people who wanted to join after the start date of the “Elements” course.

    HOLY CRAP!

    Not only has our revenue gone up 30% in two months, but the gym is operating MUCH more smoothly.

    It was, without a doubt, one of the best choices we’ve made since purchasing MBO, hahaha.

    Thanks for the help/advice Nicki!

    Awesome Zach!

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