// PT Manual for Success: How to recognise and attract ideal clients

by Robert Gerrish

From as early as childhood, the company we keep (i.e., the people we spend time with) makes a significant contribution to the way we develop as individuals. The truth is, the people we surround ourselves with directly impacts the speed and intensity of our personal development, how we perceive and connect with the world, and how the world sees us.

From this Manual for Success you will gain an understanding of how the same is true in business.

Over time, even if you never actually articulate it aloud, in your mind you will probably develop a category of clients who you would consider as ideal clients. By learning how to identify those ideal clients you can start to actively attract them, and discriminate in their favour where need be. This simple, yet powerful concept should be a crucial part of every personal trainer’s game plan, because it is a direct link to greater prosperity and success. And the best part? It’s never too late to start!

Where so many trainers go wrong

A problem that is widespread throughout the business world (not only in the fitness industry) is that people are totally indiscriminate about who they work with. This applies to personal trainers, many of whom tend to put little or no thought into who they really want to work with, opting only to think of their target market in terms of broad sectors or generalised groups of people.

When asked ‘who is your ideal client?’ too many personal trainers respond with phrases like ‘anyone who wants to get fit’, ‘anyone who needs to lose a few kilos’ or worse, ‘anyone who’ll pay me!’

This way of thinking and talking may raise a few smiles of recognition; indeed, it is a viable strategy for what I’ll refer to as the ‘business lite’ brigade; but for the serious trainer, it’s simply not good enough because such broad descriptors will do little to assist in the development of a sustainable, enjoyable and successful business. In the same way that we’re more likely to find a life partner by getting clear on precisely the kind of person we’re looking for, in business we are more likely to be successful if we know a great deal about who we are pursuing and why.

Here are seven compelling reasons to fully grasp this topic

1. Your marketing suddenly becomes easier

When you have a clear picture of your market it stands to reason that you will be able to sharpen your marketing style. You can more quickly identify the attributes and type of person you should spend time with, which lets you wave goodbye to the time-wasters.

When you encounter people who match the profile of your ideal clients, you will be able to overcome their objections quickly and convincingly, because you are familiar with their profile and, therefore, are able to provide precise and informative answers to their questions. You know what keeps them awake at nights – their ‘hot buttons’ or ‘burning issues’ – and so can cut to the chase when it comes to showing understanding and building rapport; and this equates to closing the sale.

2. Your confidence and networking skills are enhanced

With the right person in front of you, you will tend to talk about your skills and areas of expertise with confidence. In turn, this enhances your networking skills because you are able to succinctly relate to your target audience in a way that is much more educated, thereby providing your client with a more meaningful and memorable experience. The impact of this can be quite profound, as it allows you to be truly heard. The following story clearly demonstrates this point:

Some years ago I attended a self-defence course. The instructor talked to us about what to do if we were set upon in the street by a mugger. He explained that there is no point in simply screaming out for help, because the natural tendency of others is to either avoid becoming involved, or to assume that someone else will provide assistance. Instead, we were told to ‘appoint’ a passer-by to help; it was suggested that rather than making our message ‘general’, we ‘get specific’. His example was to say something like ‘Hey you in the green shirt with the brown briefcase - help me!’

By doing this – by explicitly assigning someone to the task – it is far more likely that help will be given. Think about it. If you were the person in the green shirt would you keep on walking by? Not likely. And this is precisely what can happen in your business when you deliver a message that talks to your ideal clients. You’re shifting from a generalist message that may be ignored by the masses, to a specialist proposition that is truly heard by a more refined audience.

Picture an accountant who goes to a networking function and tells people she does basic tax accounting. The chances are you can think of three of four others who do precisely that. No doubt each does a good job but nothing about the information really stands out. Imagine, instead, an accountant who speaks about her love of small, creative businesses and how, for this audience, she guarantees a reduction in their tax liabilities and an increase in profits. Bingo. Those who fit the profile are suddenly engaged and paying attention. Compelling language, along these lines, stands a much greater chance of being heard by the right people.

3. Your word of mouth opportunities are increased

Once you have something interesting to say in a way that is truly heard by your audience, the incidence of others passing on your message becomes greatly enhanced. 

Think back to the accountant we just met. A couple of days after meeting her you bump into a friend who is struggling with the books for his small architectural practice. Are you going to pass her details on? You are far more likely to do so than if she had simply said she was an accountant.

4. You can position yourself as a specialist

And you know what specialists do? They charge a premium! A while ago in a crisp little surgery with art on the walls and James Taylor playing on the stereo, a very nice man in expensive white sandals spent forty minutes prodding around in my mouth. It cost me $650.

I’m not complaining – I’m merely illustrating a point: if you dedicate yourself to your area of speciality and, over time, truly become a specialist you can charge a premium for your work. Premium = more money for the same (or less) work. Nice, huh? There are many additional benefits of being a specialist – we’ll explore those a little later.

5. You open doors to passive income

How many personal trainers sell their own, unique products or programs? Not enough. The reason? The majority don’t think they have anything original to say or develop. Once you have established who your ideal clients are, you will tend to discover, create or identify new opportunities for yourself.

6. You save time and energy

The saving of time and energy is a delightful inevitability when others are helping you market and promote your business. Re-read points 1, 2 and 3 if you haven’t been paying attention! If you had more time now, what would you do with it? Plenty, I’ll bet.

7. You don’t just make more money, you save it too

This is due to the fact you have a reduced need to undertake a formal marketing campaign, an improved rate of conversion from enquiries, an increased capacity to command higher fees, and the likelihood of developing additional products, programs and services as a supplementary income stream.

How to recognise your ideal clients

In the ‘Recognising ideal clients’ questionnaire below, you will be asked to think about your clients in terms that may be unfamiliar to you. You may feel it’s not ‘normal business practice’ to dissect and inquire to such an extent and you’re quite right – it’s not normal! But I can assure you that if you undertake this exercise with an open mind and a clear head, the results can be nothing short of transformational.

For those who have run a personal training business for a while, it is helpful to have a list of present and past clients to hand while answering the questions. Better still, go through that list in advance, delineating between those you’d love to see return to you, and those you’d prefer to avoid! Keep the good ones at the forefront of your mind as you move through the questions.

For new trainers with a limited client history, I suggest you view this exercise as something that will inevitably need adjustment, tinkering and updating as you move forwards. Getting ‘runs on the board’ (and cash in the bank!) is critical when you’re in start up mode. Adjustments can be undertaken once your business is more established. Fill in the questionnaire below.

‘Ideal’ does not mean ‘only’

I do not want a reputation as the man who caused Australian personal trainers to fire 80 per cent of their clients.

To develop a business that only accepts ideal clients takes time, and can only happen when you know who fits the bill. In the meantime it may well be prudent to hang onto a few ‘non-ideals’. And non-ideal clients will often raise their game once they observe a change in their trainer.

Summarising your responses to the ‘Recognising ideal clients’ questionnaire

Before moving onto the ‘Attracting ideal clients’ phase of this Manual, it’s worth distilling your findings from the above exercise into a succinct ideal client manifesto, as this will enable you to reveal key elements that can be exploited fully in the attraction process.

Below is a fairly snappy (and fictitious) manifesto:

OK, let’s see how we can use this heightened knowledge to attract more business.

Attracting ideal clients

The distinctions between ‘attracting’ and ‘marketing’

Unless you’ve spent the last few years in a cave, you’ll be familiar with the DVD and book The Secret and its many copycats. While The Secret didn’t actually tell the world anything new, it did popularise, rather cleverly, the concept of ‘attraction’. In a nutshell, attraction may be explained like this: when you focus on a particular topic or theme, and orientate your thinking and actions towards that theme, related stuff happens.

Another way of putting this is when the universe sees and hears what you stand for, individuals who think in the same way will be drawn to you along with a swag of opportunities. Perhaps the best example of this today is the phenomenon of blogging. Blogging is (usually) one person typing away about a topic they feel strongly about surrounded by an audience who feel much the same way.

The action of people coming to you is attraction. When you push more outwardly, it is marketing. Together they form a formidable team. In the business of personal training we need marketing to raise awareness of what we’re about, in order for attraction to work its magic.

It may sound a bit confusing, but it’s a lot simpler than it sounds and will make more sense as we move forward and look at some examples.

Getting on a prospect’s radar

To get noticed by a prospective ideal client we have to demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of what’s important to them.
I like to imagine that everyone has an ‘Opinion-o-Meter’ in their head with a needle that swings violently when something personally noteworthy and relevant enters the consciousness. Most of the time little causes it to stir, but now and again we sit up and take note. Our job is to get our ideal clients’ Opinion-o-Meters swinging.

Let’s consider our imaginary personal trainer, Paul Gett, whose manifesto we saw earlier. A key ideal client for him is a young professional needing the energy to get through the gruelling workday. Let’s picture Paul and a personal training colleague, Ben, walking into a room full of young professionals. Paul and Ben are invited to tell the audience what they do for a living;

Ben: ‘Hi, I’m Ben and I’m a personal trainer. I help people become fitter and healthier’

Paul: ‘Hi, I’m Paul, I’m also a personal trainer and I know that 67 per cent* of young professionals suffer from fatigue and burnout; that 82 per cent eat badly and that exercise has to be, convenient and fun in order for it to be effective. You can download my free tips report and read my Energy for Life blog at www.gettwiththeprogram.com.au*’.

*Don’t quote this or look for the blog, they are just fictitious examples!

Paul is firmly registering on the audience’s Opinion-o-Meter by showing that he understands their burning issues and has the tools to address them. Using these tactics causes a busy prospect’s thinking to shift from ‘Why should I give a damn about him?’ to, ‘This person understands my needs, with his help I can improve my lifestyle’.

I think we know which trainer leaves the room with some prospective clients. This is attraction in action, and the needle is certainly swinging.

Being seen (marketing) and fostering engagement (attraction)

The opportunities that exist to get on a prospective client’s radar are boundless. Let’s look at some of the most obvious and effective ones.

1. Writing

Whether it’s a 100 word tip, a 1,000 word article or a 200 page book, writing is a wonderful medium to share your expertise.

You could:

Start a blog

This is a great way to test the waters with your writing and to find your natural style. Blogs are inexpensive to set up and you can keep them offline – or with a small group of friends – until you’re confident that it’s worthwhile and something you enjoy doing. Write it frequently, but don’t become a slave to it; remember that you should rule your blog and not vice versa!

Publish a newsletter

Whether e-mailed or printed, newsletters are another fine means of sharing your expertise and have the benefit of being easily passed onto others.

Simplicity, resisting the desire to overtly promote and staying on-topic are key considerations. Keep frequency fluid until you’ve developed a rhythm that you are comfortable with.

Submit articles

Whether it’s local newspapers, in-house newsletters, trade magazines, consumer magazines, association newsletters or other people’s e-mail newsletters, there are masses of publications looking for good, interesting content.

So long as you concentrate on quality information and avoid droning on about how brilliant you are, getting published in this way is easily achievable and very worthwhile.

Start by researching thoroughly. Read past issues and make sure you really understand the readership and how the publication is positioned. When you first approach the editor you need to show that you’ve done your homework and are truly committed to your area of expertise. Flaky opportunists do not get published.

Develop occasional reports or white papers

Not sure what I mean by this? Well you’re reading one right now!

You are my ideal client and one of the beneficial side-effects of my writing this Manual is that I may attract you as a client.

I try to write a couple of reports or white papers each year and get them out into the marketplace. You learn some new skills, I raise my profile; it’s a win-win situation.

Write a book

An expert is an authority, right? And guess where ‘authority’ comes from? The word, author.

There is nothing quite like being an author when it comes to raising your professional status. When the book that I co-authored, Flying Solo: How to go it alone in business, hit the bookshelves in 2005, everything went up a notch in my business. More enquiries. More speaking engagements. More clients. More media interest. More income. More, more, more.

Writing the book was made easy because I had five years worth of articles and newsletters in my archive. Every single one of them had a place in the book. Some were abbreviated into a paragraph or two, while others were expanded into a chapter. The point is, I started with the bulk of the content and you can do the same.

A general note about generating content

For many, the main challenge when it comes to writing is getting started and finding a style that suits. If this is how you feel, you’re not alone. Happily there are plenty of courses and books around that can help, so get stuck into some research.

Also bear in mind that content can come from:

• interviews with clients
• case histories
• quoting from books and articles that others have written
• reviews of new techniques or new equipment.

The point is, it’s possible to get smart with writing. Staring at a blank sheet of paper isn’t much fun so don’t do it for too long! Alternatively, if you hate writing (and your marketing budget allows it) you could get a freelance writer to interview you and do the writing on your behalf.

2. Presenting and talking

If there’s one activity that is possibly even more powerful than writing for promoting attraction, it’s presenting. Doubtless we’ve all witnessed impassioned presenters and can testify to the magnetism they exude.

In Australia we’re very fortunate to have organisations like Toastmasters (www.toastmasters.org.au) and The National Speakers Association (www.nationalspeakers.asn.au) – both established to help individuals build their speaking skills and confidence. Check out their web sites and go along to their meetings.

The thing with speaking, as with writing, is there are masses of opportunities – in this instance, groups looking for presenters.

Initially there’s no need to approach presenting as a source of direct revenue. It could quite easily develop into this, but at the outset its value is in exposing you to an audience of ideal clients.

I do a fair bit of paid professional speaking at conferences and conventions these days, but I also still talk to a handful of groups each year for free. On one such occasion, when I presented to a networking group of professional businesswomen, I didn’t get a fee for talking, but I did get:

• A couple of hundred dollars worth of book and CD sales
• Two new clients for my coaching practice
• 34 e-mail addresses to add to my weekly newsletter database.

Plus, I’d sown the seed for some word-of-mouth referrals. Not bad for an hour’s work!

Start a podcast or vodcast

Most trainers enjoy talking to people and sharing knowledge and advice. If you fancy yourself as the modern day equivalent of a radio or television presenter, recording some audio or video is worth considering. Indeed you may well prefer this to the notion of writing and presenting.

As with many of these ideas, some time spent researching on the internet is very useful. Sign up to other people’s podcasts or vodcasts to get a taste of how it’s done.

Run in-house groups

Another good way to get in front of ideal clients is to approach organisations who have a good smattering of your target market in their ranks and offer to run a small in-house workshop for them.

Our imaginary trainer, Paul, for example, may well have some success with the ‘older executive’ sector by running some small events at a local golf or sailing club, or running a promotion for corporations with a mature board of directors.

Launch a seminar series

Taking things a step further, the logical extension of a program of presenting is to develop a seminar series and really get moving on a totally new income stream. For many it is the natural pinnacle following a period of related activities, and a great thing to aim for if and when those knees start to creak a bit!

The ‘Sample draft action plan’ will help you to establish exactly what you need to do with regards marketing and attraction.

Once you’ve got them, keep them!

Hopefully this Manual has enticed you to seriously contemplate the topic of recognising and attracting ideal clients. As I said early on, it can take a while to totally fill your business with such wonderful people, but it will happen – if you give the concept due focus and attention.

Finally a word or two on retention of clients. Don’t rest on your laurels once you have attracted your ideal clients; getting them is one thing, keeping them is another. Always stay one step ahead by constantly researching and asking questions of your clients – hot buttons can and do change.

Keep your Opinion-o-Meter on a ‘sensitive’ setting. Think about the future lives of your clients: what’s coming up for them and how you can help and support them with upcoming challenges and events.

Most of all, enjoy your ideal clients. Have fun and they’ll have fun – and stick with you. We all like to spend time with those who are enjoying life.


Robert Gerrish
Robert is a business coach, author and professional speaker whose particular niche is the independent professional and small business owner. In 2000, he started Flying Solo, Australia’s online community for solo business owners. The Flying Solo web site has over thirty thousand visitors a month and the weekly e-mail newsletter goes to 13,500 Australian business owners. Robert has been a business commentator on ABC Four Corners, Channel 9’s A Current Affair, 2UE and ABC radio and writes a regular column for News Ltd. In mid-2005 he released his first book Flying Solo: How to go it alone in business, co-authored with Sam Leader and published by Allen & Unwin. The book is an Australian business bestseller. For more information contact Robert at:

Flying Solo
PO Box W100
Watsons Bay NSW 2030
E-mail: robert@flyingsolo.com.au
Web: www.flyingsolo.com.au

PT MANUAL FOR SUCCESS • Volume 1, Number 1, 2008