In an era where results are expected (and demanded) instantly, it’s getting tougher than ever to get people to make long-term commitments to their health. As a result, physical fitness levels have been on a steady decline in Canada. Statistics show a decrease of 15-25% over the last 30 years. While activity levels are decreasing, sedentary lifestyles, both in work and play, are on the rise. Not only does this trend wreak havoc on an individual’s physical health, a recent report by the Canadian Mental Health Measures Survey ties physical fitness levels directly to mental health. As an ambassador of all things health-related, the statistics are all in your favour. You want clients to view you as part of their life insurance plan – if only you could get them in the door. Like New Year’s Day and the week that follows, new reports on the scary reality of ignoring your physical and mental health may drive people to make a phone call or search online for a solution. However, without the right strategy, practitioners continue to lose clients early on if they aren’t wholly engaged in their fitness health experience. That’s where a client attraction and retention strategy comes in. Let’s get started with some growth tips to attract and retain clients, and start turning those ‘cants’ into ‘cans’ Be the Worst Kept Secret Word-of-mouth remains one of the most popular ways to increase brand reputation. 92% of consumers trust recommendations from people they know over any other form of advertising. This is especially important for new fitness and health start-ups. Fitness professional Scott Emmerson, owner of Sandbox Fitness in Oakville, Ontario, claims that 60-70% of his business is a result of word of mouth. Trust is essential at the start of a good relationship between you and your clients, which is where FHMatch’s recommendation feature can truly benefit your growth model. According to Emmerson, the other 30-40% of your business comes from a combination of SEO ranking, social media efforts and location. He added that excellent service is no longer enough in the health and fitness world -- there has to be something more that is worth sharing to potential clients, whether it’s sending them email tips, maintaining a blog or video series, or being available for quick text message consults. Use technology to your advantage to keep clients coming back. Be the Flashiest When starting out, it can be tempting to do whatever it takes to entice those first few important clients. The key, says Emmerson, is to be “ethically flashy.” This means offering something that piques people’s interest and creates a culture that encourages new clients to keep coming back to you without compromising your reputation with established clients. One of the best ways to add some pizzazz to your business is to become an expert in your field and flaunt that expertise. This could mean acquiring additional credentials and certifications or sharing your knowledge and skill through various platforms, publications or personal content that validates you to clients. Try to become an indispensable one-stop shop that motivates clients to not only stick with you, but follow your leadership. Be the “Fit” in “Fitness” At the end of a busy day, it seems that every item on the “to do” list takes priority over health and fitness. For this reason, Emmerson said that it’s important to remember you have to fit into the client’s lifestyle rather than have them fit into yours. One way to make your business more accessible to busy clients is moving your services to them. Mobile trainers and message therapists are growing in demand as they save clients travel time. If your specialization does not require in-person contact, consider offering consultation on training online. Bernice Robinson in London, Ontario, uses Powhow to host online workout classes through video-conferencing. Check back tomorrow to read our Q&A with her for tips on moving your business to an online. Another way is to create qualitative goals instead of quantitative goals. For example, instead of encouraging clients to eat 8 vegetables a day or run 10 kilometres a week, try creating a course of action that improves, yet fits, their current lifestyle. Small, achievable adjustments like climbing the stairs instead of the elevator or introducing a “fruit of the day” snack every morning can be less daunting ways to inspire lifestyle changes. Be creative and client-specific when it comes to these goals and support the progress your clients are making by keeping tabs on their progress. By making yourself more approachable and accessible, you can combat your clients’ excuses and push health and wellness up on their never-ending “to do” lists.