Home Blog 5 Ways to Differentiate Yourself as a Personal Trainer

5 Ways to Differentiate Yourself as a Personal Trainer

Written on April 16, 2015 at 6:42 pm, by Eric Cressey

Earlier today, I posted the following question on my Facebook Page:

I know there are a lot of professionals in the health, fitness, rehab, and S&C communities that follow this page. With that in mind, I'm curious: what do you folks feel are the biggest 1-2 problems you face on a daily basis? They can be training or business-related issues. I think this will generate some good discussion and hopefully even yield some good writing ideas for me, too. Thanks!

In response to this inquiry, one problem that seemed to be brought up over and over again was that many trainers are struggling to differentiate themselves from other trainers who appear less qualified. In response to this, I'd make several points:

1) Recognize that if these other trainers are not only busy, but busy enough that you'd consider them "competitors," then they are clearly doing something CORRECTLY, too.

Maybe their coaching cues are subpar or they have no rhyme or reason to their program - but if they have consistent clients, then pay attention to what they do well. Are they unconditionally positive? Are they great listeners? Do they have a knack for explaining complex topics in an easily understandable manner? Do they go an extra mile to really get to know their clients beyond the hour-long training session?

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It's easy to criticize, but it's challenging to emotionally separate yourself from your love of quality training and scientific principles for a second to appreciate that there are other factors that make trainers successful. Copy the useful traits!

2) Remember that expertise is perceived differently by every client.

Some perceive expertise as telling them what to do so that all the guesswork is taken out of the equation. They might think you are annoying if you try to tell them the “why” behind everything you do.

Others perceive expertise as your ability to justify everything that you do. They might think you’re incompetent if you tell them to “just trust you” because you “know” the program will work, or if you’re simply at a loss for words when they ask you to explain the “why” behind your training approach.

Some want to see you coach athletes to be confident in your abilities, and others just want to sit down with you and ask questions to verify your competence. Others might want to see you present at a seminar. Some want to read your writing or social media posts, and others want to ask current clients about their experiences with you.

You have to be versatile and multi-faceted in the way that you present your expertise. I can rattle off research and tell guys why we’re doing stuff, or I can skip the science mumbo-jumbo and replace it with loud music and attitude. People are welcome to watch me coach, ask me questions, read my writing (online and the stuff that is framed in the office), view seminars I’ve given, check out flyers in the office, and speak to our clients. Make “perceiving expertise” easier for them.

3) Always focus on what you do well, not what you think others do poorly.

Each time your mind wanders to what silly stuff Trainer X is doing with Client Y, refocus your attention on finding ways to leverage your strengths. Nobody likes to be around (or spend money to train with) Johnny Raincloud. Everyone likes to hang around problem solvers, though.

4) Find and develop a niche.

Fitness is getting more and more "specific" than ever before. As an example, 85-90% of our clients are baseball players. When you have a niche, you don't have to worry about what the competition is doing because there isn't competition when you've created the market. It's much easier to differentiate yourself as a specialist than as a generalist. How many world-renowned primary care physicians do you know? Not many, right? Meanwhile, I can name loads of famous orthopedic surgeons who specialize in a single joint.

5) Remember that results always speak for themselves.

Get results with your clients and your business will grow. Be patient and persistent - but also open-minded to better ways of doing things. 

There are surely many more than just five points to be made on this front, so I welcome additional suggestions from fitness professionals in the comments section below!

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