Retention Strategies for Personal Trainers

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Retention is probably the most loved, feared and debated topic in the fitness industry. Whether you’re a gym owner or self-employed Personal Trainer (PT), everyone’s striving for better retention rates; after all, it’s the lifeblood of your business.

According to the Harvard Business Review, “Acquiring a new customer is anywhere from five to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one” – which immediately highlights why retention is so important. Coupled with this, research conducted by Fred Reichheld of Bain & Company and author of Loyalty Rules! How Today’s Leaders Build Lasting Relationships, shows that a 5% increase in retention rates can increase profits anywhere between 25% to 95% and who doesn’t want a slice of that?

But with another report showing that around 3.9 million users are lost from the UK’s fitness industry each year, with almost half of all gym-goers handing back their memberships after 12 months, it’s certainly an uphill battle.

If you’re constantly out there searching for new members or clients to replace the ones you’ve lost, you’ll be wasting valuable time and money, so, the age-old question remains… once they’ve signed up, how do you get ‘em to stay?

Before you can work out how to boost retention, you must first figure out why your members or clients are leaving. There can be many reasons for this, from not receiving the quality of care or training they were expecting to being unable to afford your fees. Essentially, retention is a puzzle with many pieces, which needs to be constantly measured, but the good news is that there are some strategies and best practices you can quickly apply to start turning the tide.

Learn from Walt!

Probably not something you were expecting me to say, but a great lesson can be learnt from the legendary Mr Walt Disney who said, “Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.”

As a PT, those words really resonated with me. If my PT sessions were a show, what would I place on stage to ensure I received an encore at the end? How would I need to perform to create a theatre of raving fans who would share great reviews with their personal networks, thus attracting new audiences?

To highlight the importance of performing at your best and creating the right impression, studies have shown that satisfied customers share good experiences with 2-3 people, whereas dissatisfied customers will offload their woes to 8-10 people, with some (the ones with an extra-large bee in their bonnet) going all the way up to 20 – cue the rotten tomatoes!

Personalise The Experience

Delivering a personalised experience is a great way of achieving high retention rates. It seems obvious to say it, but, to make sure your clients feel personally cared for and valued as individuals, you need to spend time getting to know them. It’s the only way you’ll be able to create meaningful experiences, encouraging them to stick around!

I can’t stress enough how crucial it is for PTs to understand how to approach different personality types in order to form strong working relationships with their members or clients.

A large part of this is having strong Emotional Intelligence (EI) skills. Defined as, “The capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically,” having high levels of EI enables PTs to support clients to be their very best in more than just health and fitness-related goals. Any good PT can understand human anatomy, grasp the concepts of how to design an effective fitness programme and how to execute it, but truly great PTs know how to inspire clients with a vision of change.

By successfully reading signals from clients, empathising with how they feel and communicating clearly with them (while also understanding their own personal strengths and weaknesses), a PT is able to transcend beyond their role to a mentor and often a friend – ultimately, improving their retention.

Another important factor in being able to deliver a personalised experience is making sure that you’re up to date with the latest trends and training techniques. This will not only help you to stay relevant, but it will also equip you with the knowledge required when confronted with different client needs and demands, which could range from working with a specific physical issue to implementing a particular type of training method that they’d like to focus on. At The Training Room, we believe you should never stop learning and we highly recommend CPD courses as a way to develop new and existing skills that can help to differentiate you within the market, leading to more client enquiries and better retention.

Set SMART Goals

During the sign-up process, make sure you collect as much information as possible from the member or client. Write down their ambitions, motives, fitness experience, fitness levels, lifestyles and record all their current fitness metrics, such as weight, body fat and muscle mass. This can then be used to set SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based).

Also, never miss a beat when it comes to their milestones. Knowing exactly where they’re at, and where they should be, on their fitness journeys will allow you to give them a well-earned pat on the back when the time’s right, or to up the intensity and adapt their plan when you need to try something different. This will enable you to keep them engaged, on track and motivated.   


When we think about retention, we tend to picture those who are most likely to walk away from our service. But what about the ones who are engaged, motivated and have reached their goals? What strategy do you have in place to keep them on board and use them as an ambassador for the business? It’s vital that you consider every type of member or client – knowing exactly what you’ll do at each stage of their journeys.

You may want to think about implementing a loyalty scheme. Perhaps you could offer a complimentary PT session if they refer a member, or on your clients’ birthdays? Maybe you could send them a Christmas present as a way of saying thank you? You might also want to arrange a night out where your entire client base can come together and feel part of a tribe. You may find that this “sense of community” leads to your clients finding support in each other – which only strengthens your business.


To summarise, retention is a complex topic and there’s certainly no one-size-fits-all approach, but, essentially, it all comes down to people. If you always remember to put your members or clients first and really take the time to understand their needs and behaviour patterns, you’ll see the results.



By Darren Doak, National Field Manager at The Training Room

For more information about The Training Room, its Personal Training courses and CPD modules, please visit or phone 0330 122 2020.

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