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Small Group Training Is Your Key to Competing with Low-Price Clubs

Small Group Training Is Your Key to Competing with Low-Price Clubs

The low-price/high-volume club model is highly successful and here to stay because their value proposition is clear to the consumer. Unfortunately for the other club types (large, multipurpose family fitness models and results-driven programming models), these low-priced clubs have not expanded the market but rather are pulling members and potential members from them.

The average club advertises discounts on membership and enrollment fees. The sales staffs are not usually trained to do a “needs analysis” properly, and the clubs don’t offer specific program options that consistently provide results. They have no compelling value proposition because they are neither low-priced nor do they provide consistent results. They are being hurt by the rise of low-priced clubs, but they have no strategy to deal with them.

For these clubs, small group training can be a lifesaver. Small group training programs can differentiate clubs by providing all the benefits (accountability, guidance, motivation, and accelerated results) of personal training at an affordable price. At the same time, clubs and trainers both can make more money. These clubs are thriving in competitive markets because selling and providing results works. For most consumers, what counts is not how much they pay but the results that they get.

Successful small group training programs require a results-based marketing and sales strategy along with retraining to provide small group programming that is fun and produces results. Small group training is not the same as personal training. Most trainers have not received the instruction necessary to be effective in this role.

Several important steps are required to make small group training work. The first step is clearly defining your target market for the new program. Who is the ideal customer you want to attract (age, gender, profile, member, non-member)? Why will this particular program appeal to this group?

You also need to consider what type of program pricing model you want to adopt.

  • Single program purchase model with fixed duration and number of sessions
  • EFT model based on number of weekly/monthly sessions
  • Correct pricing for this program for members, nonmembers, and staff
  • How the pricing fits with existing personal training and membership pricing

You must market the program internally and externally. Internal marketing could be through email, posters, club TVs, newsletters and word of mouth. External marketing can entice new membership through signs, direct mail and online marketing.

To be successful, you must properly sell the programming by answering the following questions:

  • How will you communicate and “sell” the program to staff so they are excited and actively promote the program?
  • What referral incentives can you provide for staff/members to promote the program?
  • Which staff is actually selling the program?
  • How are you going to train your staff in results-based selling?

Next, be clear about the details of the program (who, what, when and where)? Be clear about who is in charge of the program. Determine how to select and train instructors to deliver the program. Create a list of tasks and a timeline for launching the program.

Lastly, make sure the program will make money. To do so, you must do a proforma profit and loss on the program. It should include all start-up and variable costs, including payroll, equipment, marketing, sales commissions, training, etc. Projected program sales and associated revenue also need to be calculated. And make sure to include a sheet listing all assumptions and the logic used to generate the projected sales.

You should involve the training staff in the creation/selection process for programs. Their support is critical for success. Also, consider outside sourcing for program options rather than creating your own programs for the same reasons many clubs purchase pre-choreographed group training programs.

Greg Maurer is an associate partner with New Paradigm Partners. He can be reached at

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