8 steps to create business-boosting partnerships

Carefully chosen, mutually beneficial partnerships can enhance the service you deliver, and boost the success of your fitness business.

Is your fitness business performing as well as you’d like? For many PTs, studio and other fitness business operators, the answer is no. If you are among this group, then it could be time to build some partnerships that truly support your professional, and personal, ambitions.

The partnerships you create can be with other fitness professionals, such as other trainers, nutritionists or chiropractors, or with health and fitness brands that provide the products and services you and your clients use. Partnerships can also be created with non-fitness-related businesses, media companies, and pretty much any type of organisation with whom you can create a mutually beneficial arrangement.

Partnerships help fitness professionals who feel that the growth of their business has got stuck in a rut, and who want to give more value to their clients (and get more back). Many PTs get weighed down by having a cap on either their time or the number of clients they are able to train, and by increasing opportunities and capability, partnerships become an additional income source.

One of the biggest benefits of partnering with other businesses is your combined value (capability). Together, you can offer something above and beyond what you can deliver individually to clients and other organisations.

Have you ever seen a partnership between a fitness professional and a brand or allied health professional and thought, ‘That’s a great idea, how did that happen?’ You aren’t alone. Many people have no idea how to create such partnerships for themselves.

Types of partnership

Before we explore how to create these relationships, let’s take a look at some examples of the types of partnership that may benefit your business.

EXAMPLE 1: Personal trainer + nutritionist

Both: Cross referrals; create a combined offering such as a 12-week program; offer a public seminar/workshop at which both speak; speak at each other’s practise/gym to their network; share cost of attending an expo or placing advertising to your local market; provide testimonials (written, video etc); make introductions to other business connections; in some cases credibility by association; provide content for each other’s newsletters and social media.

EXAMPLE 2: Strength coach + fitness magazine

Strength coach: Provide written and video content and training tips; act as ‘journalist/interviewer’; attend The Fitness Show with magazine (at booth); speak at events; offer in-house training session for staff.

Fitness magazine: Regular column; one feature article per year on one of the coach's ‘success story’ clients; quarter-page advert every edition; monthly social media post featuring strength coach’s ‘Challenge for the month’.

EXAMPLE 3: Nutritionist + photographer + makeup artist

Nutritionist: Offers free ‘Before’ photo shoot and special rate ‘After’ photo shoot for clients as part of ‘Transformation Package’, and offers a discount on additional services provided by photographer and makeup artist, i.e. 25 per cent off makeup tutorial or family portraits within the next three months – if a client has lost a lot of weight, they will probably want to capture it on camera and learn how to maintain the glamour by applying makeup properly!

Photographer: Gives discount or kickback to nutritionist; makes referrals; uses images in their portfolio with reference/branding of nutritionist.

Makeup artist: Gives discount or kickback to nutritionist; makes referrals; uses images in their portfolio with reference/branding of nutritionist.

EXAMPLE 4: Gym operator + fruit and veg delivery company

Gym operator: Encourage clients to eat fruit after workout; display brochures/cards next to fruit; feature on website; social media posts about delivery, cooking, snacking; provide photos, blogs, fitness tips and workouts; use of gym for photo shoots and events; attend public/industry events with the fruit and veg company; connect them with other partners.

Fruit and veg delivery company: Provide fruit and veg to the gym operator; provide fruit/snacks for clients; discount code for clients; social media posts featuring gym/clients (i.e. success stories and recipes); Ambassador role for gym operator and trainers; networking opportunities at expos and events; link to the gym on their website.

These are just examples of the kind of mutual benefits on offer, and whether you opt for one or two simple benefits, or a more deeply integrated offering is at your discretion – and that of the other half of your new partnership. Either way, it is critical to establish the commercial value of the offerings, and to make sure that each side is getting a fair return on their investment.

8 steps to creating valuable partnerships

1. Start developing your network

Walk around your local area and get to know other business owners; connect with peers on LinkedIn and social media platforms; and find an event to attend where you will meet likeminded professionals and potential business partners – perhaps a breakfast club or Round Table.

2. Identify your business goals

What are your goals as a business? Do you want to get more clients through the door, or are you perhaps looking to launch an online program that frees up your time while enabling you to service more clients? Or maybe you want to keep the same number of clients but increase your profits? All of these things are possible when you recruit partners to help you achieve these goals.

3. Identify consumer behaviour

What do your network of clients and colleagues currently spend money on? What do you spend money on for yourself and your business? Make a mind map (a brainstorm on a big piece of paper), writing down all the different products and services you can think of. It will be quite a big list – and it will represent the kinds of partners you could engage with.

4. Identify potential partners

Based on your goals and the consumer behaviour of your clients, your business and yourself – write a list of all the companies and organisations that could provide those things to you. At this stage, don’t edit the list – let it be as big as you like – and get creative! You probably won’t contact every company on the list, but it’s great to see all the possibilities out there! Knowing your business goals will also help you identify other partners, such as media or corporate organisations, so while they don’t specifically service your current clients, they offer further value to your business in terms of increased network and opportunities.

When you know what you’re looking for, who you can get it from, and what you have to offer in return, you will easily be able to create a short list of potential partners – and then have the conversation with them about whether they’d like to partner with you!

5. Identify value you can offer

Create a library of all the different things you can offer your partners: client referrals, use of your gym facilities for photo shoots or product launches, testimonials and product reviews, selling through your network, your attendance at their events as a guest speaker, provision of health tips and even training sessions for their staff (ideal for corporate organisations or media outlets). The most important thing when it comes to looking at what you can offer a partner is to find out everything you can about them by researching them – and by asking them what they need and would use.

Create a library of all the different things you can offer your partners: client referrals, use of your gym facilities for photo shoots or product launches, testimonials and product reviews, selling through your network, your attendance at their events as a guest speaker, provision of health tips and even training sessions for their staff (ideal for corporate organisations or media outlets). The most important thing when it comes to looking at what you can offer a partner is to find out everything you can about them by researching them – and by asking them what they need and would use.

6. Chat with potential partners

Have a conversation with prospective partners, test out the waters, ask them if they think there is potential for a partnership, and find out what they are looking for and working towards in their business. This conversation will likely be a pivotal point in your partnership journey.

7. Identify mutual benefits and create a plan

Once you’ve both put your wants, needs and offerings on the table, it’s time to create a balanced and mutually valuable arrangement where you are both contributing and receiving commensurate value. Be explicit about the types of activities, the frequency and as many details as possible to ensure you are truly on the same page and clear about each other’s requirements and expectations, as well as what you are committing to.

8. Sign a contract or agreement

The contract should list all of the content from Step 7, which you can then use as a checklist to make sure you’re both delivering what you’ve promised, as well as for your planning purposes during the year.


Vickie Saunders is an expert in partnerships and sponsorship, and works with global brands and sporting organisations, as well as grass roots individuals and businesses. She is passionate about teaching people how to connect the dots and connect with the opportunities around them. vickiesaunders.com