The personal training industry has exploded in the last decade. With obesity on the rise and more professionals following their passion of helping others through exercise, there has never been quite so much business to be had or as many trainers eager to earn that business. However, this current landscape threatens to commoditize the personal training marketplace and the only way to fight this shift is through strategic differentiation and communication of one’s services. By understanding the difference between features, benefits, and results, as well as how they impact current or potential clients, personal trainers can separate themselves from the rest of the pack and ensure long-term success of their business.
A Quick Lesson In Economics
The United States operates on what is known as a free market economy. In a free market, goods and services are bought and sold without regulation from the government. While at first thought this seems somewhat haphazard, it tends to be quite effective because it allocates power to the people in the marketplace; the buyers and the sellers. If you want to sell your personal training for $200 an hour while everyone else is charging $60 an hour there is nothing to stop you. However, you will still have to answer to the driving principle of a free market economy, supply and demand.
Supply and demand is the great equalizer when it comes to the cost of goods sold. If there is a short supply of a product that the market needs or desires greatly, then the cost goes up until a threshold is reached where buyers determine that the cost exceeds the value. However, when the supply of that product increases, the price is driven down in response to the lower perceived value of it now that it is much more available. If that product remains in abundant supply for an extended period of time it will likely become a commodity.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a commodity as “a good or service whose wide availability typically leads to smaller profit margins and diminishes the importance of factors (such as brand name) other than price.” Therefore, if two people are selling the same goods or service with no discernable difference to a customer, it quickly becomes a race to the bottom with the winner being the seller willing lower their price the most. A good example of this is when someone calls all the local gyms to get their prices and chooses based on the lowest cost. The only way to combat this problem in personal training is to properly use the unique features and benefits of your services to create value that outshines your competitors.
Features, Benefits, and Results
Every time a product or service is sold or marketed you will likely see a list of all the things it can do or what it is made up of; these are its features. In personal training, features could be your credentials, the size of your facility, the equipment you have available, or even the programs you offer. Features are easy to come by, but hard to compete on, because most of them are accessible to everyone. With enough money anyone can buy the same equipment or complete the same certifications. What can’t be purchased, however, is the way you do things or how you utilize the features of your service. Your process is proprietary and can become a key feature that separates you from the pack, but it must be unique and deliver clear, specific benefits to the client. It’s important to remember that customers don’t really care about your features. They care about what your features can do for them, and that’s exactly what benefits are.
A benefit is a positive outcome that a customer receives from one of your features. The most impactful benefits are the ones that solve your clients’ biggest problems. In “How To Win Friends and Influence People”, Dale Carnegie jokes that everyone operates on one specific station, “WII-FM”, which stands for “what’s in it for me?” This is the language of benefits and it is how you connect the features you offer to why they are important to helping your client reach their specific goal(s). For example, one of the features of working with you may be that you are also a certified nutrition coach. The benefit of this feature is that you can get your clients to their goals faster since nutrition plays an integral part and you have a system in place that simplifies the process. By communicating this clearly, you are allowing the client to see how valuable working with you may be as opposed to someone with fewer features.
Crafting Your Message
A large part of being able to communicate your features and benefits clearly is to take the time to create a message that speaks the same language as your clients. Often, trainers and coaches overlook this aspect since it seems to them that the benefits of what they do should be obvious. This could not be further from the truth. Potential clients don’t know about fitness equipment, certifications, the glycemic index, or what EPOC is. They do know, however, what they want and if you can’t explain how you can get them there in their own terms then they will never see the real value of working with you.
The easiest way to get on the same page as your potential clients is to begin crafting a message that lists all the features that you believe makes you or your service unique. Next, write down the reasons that your individual features might be important to your clients in simple terms. Finally, follow up with outcomes someone should expect if they see it through. It should look something like this:
The personal training industry is becoming more competitive each day and it is critical to be able to differentiate yourself from the rest of the pack if you want to thrive in a saturated market. When it comes to communicating what sets you apart from other trainers or coaches, you need to be able to craft your personal message and clearly articulate what makes you more valuable. By laying out your unique features, and explaining how they will elicit the benefits that will ultimately lead to the results that your clients want you are actually creating a tangible road map to success that customers can understand, get excited about, and buy into.
The above article was originally written for and published in the NSCA Personal Training Quarterly: