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The Transformation economy Part 1. What the fitness industry is really about [article]

Part 1 – The importance of outcome. This article looks at what personal trainers and gym owners really need to be thinking about when working with clients. It's about more than just writing programmes and training people really really hard.


In their book ‘The Experience Economy’, the authors describe an ‘economic pyramid’.  At the bottom of this pyramid is the lowest value economic offering, the sale of commodities (items of mass production and low individual value).  Of greater value than commodities are goods and of greater value than goods is the delivery of services. Traditionally the fitness industry’s economic offering has relied on the delivery of services (programme writing, reviews, personal training, group fitness classes) and the sale of goods (supplements, equipment).  But do consumers want and need more than this?


The authors point out that there are economic offerings of greater value than goods and services, namely the staging of ‘experiences’ (addressed in part 2), and the ultimate economic offering; the guiding of transformations.  This is relevant to the fitness industry because people join gyms and use trainers to achieve an outcome, to ‘transform’ themselves from their current state to their ideal state. We are very much a part of the ‘transformation’ economy, although in many cases we still operate like simple service providers.


Why is the guiding of transformations the ultimate economic offering?  Think about it, what is more valuable than achieving an aspiration?  Is a plasma TV more valuable to an obese person than losing weight, gaining fitness, improving self-esteem and achieving a lifetime ambition of running a marathon?  The basis of success in the transformation economy relies on how well we understand the individual aspirations of all of our clients and how well we guide all of them to achieving these aspirations.


Many gyms and trainers use client testimonials as a promotional tool, highlighting the great achievements or ‘transformations’ of certain individuals.  This is great but all was underlined for a reason.  To be in the transformation economy and delivering something of high value to our consumers, these great examples of success need to be the norm, rather than the exception. The proof really is in the pudding so to speak!


To guide successful transformations the authors highlight three crucial phases;


1.                  Diagnosing consumer aspirations/goals

2.                  Staging transforming experiences

3.                  Following through


Let’s look at each of these phases in the fitness world;


Diagnosing aspirations/goals:  In order to guide our clients from ‘a to b’ we must establish what their current situation is and what it is they want to achieve. Often clients have trouble articulating what their goals are, why the goals are important to them and what the achievement of the goal will mean to them.  We need to help them with this. We also need to highlight barriers that may interfere and establish strategies to help deal with them.  This requires us to care enough about our clients to allocate the necessary time to this phase.  How much time do you currently spend ‘screening’ clients?


In many gyms the time allocated for this is minimal.  Rather than developing an understanding of clients aspirations, a standard ‘screening’ often consists of clients completing a tick box form so they can be deemed ‘safe’ to start exercise. The client is then rushed through a regime of fitness tests, before being delivered a generic exercise programme. Consequently many instructors or gyms don’t understand why many of their clients are there and what help they need to achieve their aspirations. 


Staging transforming experiences: In fitness this relates to the exercise planning, programming and sessions that we deliver to our clients. It is the detail of what they need to do to get from ‘a to b’. To guide the client we need to design programmes that will achieve each individual client’s aspirations, help them plan exercise into their weekly routine and monitor their progress. And we need to deliver training sessions or ‘experiences’ that clients want to repeat, rather than avoid.


Without screening well and clearly defining ‘a’ where they are now, and ‘b’ what the dream is, for our clients, it is almost impossible to help them get there. We leave the clients transformation largely up to chance.  As the success of your clients will ultimately determine the success of your business, how much do you want left to chance?  


Following through:  Why do so many people not renew their gym membership when it expires, or stop using a trainer after a block of sessions?  More than likely they didn’t achieve their goal(s) or feel that they were on the right path to achieving them.  


Following through (or following up) requires us to regularly measure our clients progress against their goals and their adherence to their exercise plan. Follow up also requires us to make alterations when required to help address obstacles and ensure constant progress. It requires us to notice when our client’s attendance isn’t regular and their progress isn’t as expected and have strategies to address this immediately. Is follow through a standard practise in your business, or does it consist of phone calls a month before the clients membership is due to expire? 


Success in the fitness industry all boils down to understanding that clients come to us for change. We need to accept the responsibility to guide this change by focusing on 3 fundamental areas. 1) Diagnosing aspirations 2) Staging transforming experiences 3) Following through.  Consider the benefits of doing so; happier members who actively promote your business at any opportunity and eliminate the need for costly advertising campaigns. Happier staff sharing the satisfaction of success, and a secure business in the face of increasing competition and consumer expectation. 




Pine, J. & Gilmore, J.H. (1999). The Experience Economy, Work Is Theatre & Every Business A Stage.


To learn how to screen clients effectively, design exercise plans and programmes that work, and support clients to ensure they achieve their goals contact us.