How to Create a Knockout Onboarding Strategy

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How do you treat a prospect once you make the sale and officially bring them on as a paying client? Do you do what most trainers do: just settle on a time you can meet regularly? If there’s one lesson that in-person trainers can take from what online trainers do well, it’s getting serious about onboarding new clients after they purchase a training package.

Just because a client has signed on the dotted line doesn’t guarantee they’ll enjoy training or stick with you for the long term. Onboarding new clients lets you prepare them for training with you. This is a unique customer experience that helps ensure your customer not only sticks around, they rave about you to others.

Your success as a trainer is ultimately is tied with your client’s success—and a successful client will take greater enjoyment out of training with you, stay with you longer and be much more likely to refer others to you. The key to getting your new client off to a great start and, in turn, increasing their chances of success, is to maximise the onboarding phase.

What does it mean and why does it matter?

The onboarding phase is the first four weeks of a client’s training program with you. The onboarding strategy is what you deliver during the onboarding phase. Here are four reasons why you need to develop an onboarding strategy for new clients:

  1. It helps get your new client up to speed on the training they’ll be doing, terminology they may need to become aware of and introduces them to areas that can influence their results, such as nutrition, stress, sleep, etc.

  2. You can boost your new client’s confidence in achieving their goals under your guidance by sharing what previous clients have successfully achieved in their own programs.

  3. It answers a client’s questions in advance. By directing important information to your new client during the early stages of your relationship, you can answer common questions in advance, helping ensure that when you’re supposed to be training, you’re actually training.

  4. It mitigates the likelihood your client will feel the dreaded buyer’s remorse—which can derail what you thought was a successful sale.

Include these strategies in your onboarding phase for best results:

Create a personalised video

Immediately after you sell your new client a training package, record a one- or two-minute welcome video for your client. I like to keep this quite simple and informal. Think of it as a personal follow-up to your client showing that you’re excited about working with them.

Put together a welcome packet

The welcome packet is a pre-designed PDF document that you can send your new client via email. While this requires some significant initial time investment, once designed, the document pays dividends because it’s suitable for use with every subsequent client. Welcome packets introduce your new client to many important areas of interest, such as:

  • Your background, how long you’ve been in the industry and what differentiates you from competitors.

  • Your specific training methodology, and what style of training your new client should expect to be doing with you.

  • Terminology the client should become familiar with (e.g., sets, reps, circuit & interval training).

  • Information that’s relevant to your client’s goals, such as nutrition and lifestyle factors that can influence their results.

  • Terms and conditions, expectations (which work both ways) and important housekeeping points your new client should be made aware of.

  • Testimonials that highlight the results that other clients of yours have achieved.
Refer them to a trusted professional

How many times has a new client told you about an old injury, a sore muscle or particular area of concern? Through experience, I’ve found that referring a new client to a trusted professional such as a chiropractor or physiotherapist early in the relationship not only helps your new client rehabilitate whatever pre-existing issues they have, it can help forge a strong sense of trust, as you’re no longer just a personal trainer, but a trusted adviser.

Celebrate the small wins

It’s essential that your new client feels a sense of achievement, especially in the opening weeks of training. Call attention to the small wins within your sessions together—no matter how insignificant they might be. What may seem like a minor improvement to you can really boost a new client’s confidence, especially if they’re a beginner when it comes to training.

For example, if you’ve noticed your new client’s push-up form improve over the first few sessions, call it out. If they’ve woken up early every day for a week to go for a morning walk to help with their weight-loss, give them a fist bump or high-five. These little winswill help boost your client’s confidence and further re-affirm their decision to hire you.

Become a curator of information

This is another low effort, high return strategy. Every time you read a fitness article you think a client could benefit from reading, save the link for later. If you do this regularly, you’ll quickly bank a load of useful articles and resources that you can call upon when needed.

As you’re working with your client through the onboarding phase, periodically send them an article or video that’s relevant to their goals. Pleasantly surprising your client with nuggets of value every now and again is a beautiful way to strengthen your relationship and exceed their expectations.

The post-training check-in

This is a must-do. The day after your client’s first few training sessions, send them a quick text message asking how they’re feeling. Not only does this give your new client the impression that you care, it also gives you an opportunity to advise them if they’re particularly sore or if a troublesome injury is playing up post-training. Keep it simple—something like, ‘Hey, how’s your body feeling after our session yesterday?’ works well.

Final Thoughts

The way you onboard new clients and the strategies you implement in doing so can have a profound impact on how your client perceives you as a service provider. In a crowded industry like ours, it’s not only important to guide your client toward their fitness goals, but also to create a customer experience that turns ordinary clients into raving fans.

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James McDonald

James is the founder of PT Blogger. He helps personal trainers grow their client-bases, earn more money and thrive in the industry.
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