Most of you will have heard of Pareto's principle, that many things in the world follow an 80/20 distribution, especially that 80% of your income will come from 20% of your clients. This seems to be largely true, even if the numbers aren't quite right. As well, 80% of your headaches at work come from 20% of your clients, and those are never the clients giving you the 80% of your income.
Obviously you have to look at this over time. If you have 10 clients, you will not find that 2 of them are doing 80% of your PT sessions. But over a year or two with clients coming and going you might find that a few who stick around for a long time end up spending a lot of money on you.
I have some stats from my own training so we can look at the income part, see attached giving information from 2010.07.01-2012.06.30.
- "Sessions" are those done from start to finish; this includes sessions the person never showed to but got charged for, but does not include any extra time I gave them but didn't charge for, eg if they came at 0600 and I had no-one at 0630 the session might go till 0645.
- "Months" are the months they worked with me for, though obviously this number goes up for those still with me.
- "Income" is simply the percentage of total sessions.
- "Income cumul" means the cumulative income of those clients.
For FY2010/11 and 2011/12 I did 1,549 paid PT sessions, where a "session" is 30 minutes. Some people did a full hour, and there were some sessions where people were absent without notice and so were charged for even though I didn't train them. I generally gave the training time to someone else like a current or potential client.
I trained 36 different people at least once each, not counting when I covered for some other trainer, gave out entirely free sessions to people who never signed up, etc. Of those, 12 remained clients till the end of the period, these are the ones highlighted in grey.
- Client #1 by himself made up 14% of my PT income.
- 6 of 36 clients (17%) made up 53% of my PT income.
- 12 of 36 (33%) made up 81% income.
- 18/36 (50%) made up 91%.
As for headaches,
- 8/36 (22%) of the clients I would classify as a "headache", in that if they showed up again today offering to buy 100 sessions up front non-refundable I'd turn them down
- These 8 headaches provided 7% of my income.
So it's not quite the 80/20 rule, but it's certainly true that a small number of clients provided most of my PT income, and none of these were those giving me headaches. In pure dollar terms, half (18) of the clients weren't really worth bothering with, since they provided only 1/10th the income of the rest. The time I spent training them I could have spent giving free sessions to my bigger-spending clients, planning their workouts, finding interesting articles for them to read, etc.
The problem is of course that you never know exactly which clients are going to be the ones sticking around the longest. For example, 4 of the bottom 18 clients are still with me, if they're still around in a year or two then they'll look more important. However, generally speaking the clients giving me the most headaches are not among the big spenders. The exception would be #10, who was likeable and worked hard in sessions, but did nothing outside the PT sessions, had a terrible diet, and missed or was late to about 1/4 sessions due to sleeping in, being "sick", etc.
I can make some general observations about what makes a client long-term.
- If they tell you how super-dedicated they are without your asking, they'll never last. Truly dedicated people are quietly dedicated; the others are trying to convince themselves.
- Those who are quick to sign up are quick to quit. The longest-lasting ones have generally been those who took 6 weeks to 6 months to sign up.
- Those given PT sessions by family or as part of a centre promotion never last; they perceive it as "free!" and so don't value it. If they want it, they'll pay for it.
- Physical training can change how you look, feel (health) and perform. Those who only care about looks never last. The health-oriented ones are the most dedicated.
- If they only plan to do PT for X sessions or weeks, they will eventually stop. Client #6 planned to do 6 weeks and did 12 months - but she stopped in the end. Most of the others stopped on schedule.
- If they last past session #30 they'll probably be around for 100 sessions or more. 30 sessions is after all a few months, enough time to get results or not.
- if they miss more than 1 session in 10, they will quit by session #30 in most cases. This is different to a person who often reschedules their session because of work, family, etc.
- if they do no work outside your sessions, they will quit by session #30 in most cases.
- If they annoy you in some way, you probably annoy them in some way, and it won't last. You'll know this within 3 sessions with them, but may choose to deny it to yourself out of optimism and professional pride. If they communicate with you outside sessions, respond to your emails about stuff, they are likely to last.
- those you recruit yourself last longer than those given you by management; I recruited 27 and was given 9, and kept 11/27 and 1/9.
Thus we can paint a picture of an ideal long-term client.
- You signed them up. They took a month or two to sign up for PT, and are paying for it all themselves.
- Quietly dedicated.
- Has good health as a goal, possibly overcoming some injury or illness.
- Has made an open-ended commitment to PT.
- Does workouts (even just walks to work, etc) outside PT sessions.
- Gets along well with you and communicates frequently by different means.
Most other trainers don't keep as detailed records as this, but they agree on the broad conclusions.