Trainers – A model for enabling your growth to go viral

Young entrepreneur and Microsoft Apprentice of the Year, Josh Uwadiae, is the founder of WeGym, an online service that is on a mission to make personal training accessible to all. For the majority, personal training is still perceived as a luxury, but by connecting people with common goals who can train together and share the costs of training, WeGym removes these barriers.

Josh’s interest in the market stems from his offline experience using a personal trainer twinned with his background in digital technology, and he believes it should be the goal of every new trainer to build a model that enables their offering to become a permanent lifestyle choice for customers, rather than just a luxury, short term investment. We met with Josh to understand how he believes they can achieve this and some of the marketing tactics trainers can employ to maximise both retention and referral rates.


How do you define viral?

Virality is where for every one member you attract, an additional one or more also joins as a result. This should be the ultimate goal of every trainer.


Why does getting people to train together have this impact?

Almost all PT”s generate the majority of their business through referral, but the problem they have is that their average customer lifetime is so short that they are often just replacing clients rather than adding to them. However, by getting people to train together you add a social layer to the experience that makes it more enjoyable and more competitive, increasing the likelihood people will keep showing up, working hard and ultimately see results. Perhaps more importantly, by allowing them to share the cost you bring it down to a point where it ceases to be viewed as a short term investment and instead becomes part of their ongoing lifestyle.

Furthermore, when these friends are seeing results together they become far more likely to refer additional friends who you would then train as part of a separate group. This increase in retention and referral can represent the change you need to start developing your virality.

“It ceases to be viewed as a short term investment and instead becomes part of their ongoing lifestyle.”


So how should PT’s incentivise their friends to come along?

A lot of trainers will casually suggest that their clients refer their friends, but few build a clear framework. It’s essential, as with any marketing strategy, that you have a clear and repeatable process.

The first step may be to offer new customers cash back in return for a referral. So if their session is £50 you may want to offer that £50 back if they can bring a friend along to the next session. That’s a serious incentive and captures them right at the start when their energy and optimism is at its highest. This is the same principle as companies like the Hut Group use after you buy something on MyProtein.

Over time there is less need to offer a financial incentive. As they begin to trust and value your expertise they are likely to appreciate the offer of a free session just as much, and of course this doesn’t need to be during peak hours. If you have a strong brand you may even give away free t-shirts or other branded merchandise. A great example of this is PMac Fitness.


How would you recommend structuring the costs in these joint training sessions?

Your goal should be to get to a certain target hourly rate that you believe will allow you to make the margin you need – that could be £40 to it could be £70 – whilst keeping it affordable enough for the customer to be an ongoing lifestyle choice.

If, for example, your target hourly rate was £50, it may be that you start by charging the customer the full £50 and then encouraging them to bring a friend along so that they split the cost – £25 each. Alternatively, if the customer was highly price sensitive, you may offer the first few sessions for just £30 but with a view to getting them to bring a friend along so that you can charge them £25. However, if the £30 customer fails to ever bring along a friend then at some point you may have to either put them up to £50 or bring the relationship to an end.

This gives you two routes in but ultimately with the same goal of getting your desired hourly rate whilst creating a highly social atmosphere that maximises retention and minimises attrition.


In your example, is there not a danger you end up losing money if both customers would have been prepared to pay £50?

If you felt that your full hourly rate was affordable enough for a customer for it to be an ongoing lifestyle choice then I would agree, it would make sense to train them alone. It’s also possible that the person has highly specific requirements or injury considerations that mean training as a group wouldn’t work, but these are all exceptions to the rule. The vast majority of people not only benefit from this more social environment, but struggle to pay full hourly rates on a regular and ongoing basis.


What other tips would you give trainer to enhance their retention and referral rates?

90% of being a trainer comes down to interpersonal skills. I’ve seen lots of technically great PT’s really struggle to develop their businesses because they fail to build the necessary relationships.

As in real life, it’s often the small things that count. For example, on Valentine’s Day we gave all our customers a rose and Grenade protein bar. It was a bit of fun but the feedback was brilliant. As a trainer you have to think about these little life events; birthdays, Christmas, exam time, family events, etc – you need to take a real interest in your customer’s lives and show that you care.

“On Valentine’s Day we gave all our customers a rose and Grenade protein bar”


How does social media come into this?

Social media, in particular Instagram, presents trainers with an opportunity to become rockstars. The key is to remember that you are creating content for consumers, not other trainers, and most consumers aren’t going to be interested in the intricate details of how you added another 2% muscle mass to your quads. You have to build your content around the interests and knowledge levels of your target audience.

Another key is to ensure every new lead is added to your social sphere, as many people procrastinate over making a decision so it’s essential that when they finally do you’re at the front of heir minds.


Posted in Interviews, Personal Trainers, The Fitness Network.