Brandon Long is a VERY successful personal trainer in Long Beach California where he has gained quite a reputation, so much so that even local newspapers have been writing stories about him. In fact, that's how I first heard about Brandon after reading a Long Beach Post article on him that featured the unique way he educated his clients – in the supermarket! So, I reached out to Brandon Long and asked him if he would share his expertise and help other personal trainers achieve the success that he's developed on the West Coast.
JC. What got you interested in personal training?
BL. I guess it started with my love for exercising and seeing the change that it makes on your body, mind, and confidence. The discipline and determination to make exercise integrate with my life has been a very important aspect to me. It started my freshman year in college, I took weight training classes every single semester. Then I transferred to CSULB for my degree in kinesiology with an option in exercise science.
For the past three years I have been working for a physical therapy clinic to bolster my resume once I applied for graduate school for physical therapy. However, I contemplated and soul searched deeply my last semester, which was spring 2011 about if I really wanted to work as a physical therapist. I actually had a change of heart. I wanted to work with a population that wanted to better their life through exercise and proper nutrition as opposed to a population that had to be there out of necessity for rehab.
I told this to a few individuals and one of my clients said, “So, it sounds like its somewhat spiritual?” I said, “I guess it is.” I really want people to succeed and achieve their goals of either getting in better shape, losing weight, breaking plateaus, that is why I decided to become a personal trainer.
JC. Do you have a website?
BL. Currently I do not have a website, but I will definitely start looking into getting one.
JC. Who are you certified by?
BL. I am certified by ACSM for the CPT certification
JC. Did you go to school for personal training? any degrees?
BL. I went to Cal State University Long Beach for my degree in Kinesiology with an option in Exercise Science.
JC. Are you self employed or work at a gym?
BL. I am currently self employed and train clients in their home.
JC. Have you ever worked at a gym? If yes which one?
BL. I have not worked at a gym, but my practical experience comes from working at a physical therapy clinic for three years.
JC. Since you have never worked in a gym, how do you get your clients? How do you market yourself? Got any “insider” marketing tips for personal trainers?
BL. It started when I worked as an aide at a physical therapy clinic. The owner graciously allowed me to train clients out of the clinic during my time off to make additional money. He didn't charge me anything, but just made sure I didn't take the opportunity for granted (which I for sure didn't, 0 overhead !?) This is how I started. I just started telling people what I was doing with my off time during conversations with patients.
Then I slowly started getting referrals from the clients I was working with. Which somehow lead to one client who I could only train at home. I then had a moment that hit me, I could train clients in their home, charge more, and make much more money than I was currently making.
I have a good friend who owns a printing business and an awesome cousin who is my graphic design artist. They really give me great deals on their service. I feel that you need to either have great relationships with people or create and develop relationships with those who will benefit you. Not to say I don't benefit them, by either paying for their service or giving them business. Sometimes I'll take them out to lunch to chat and thank them personally. People truly appreciate that.
I give shirts, referral cards, and grocery food store fliers to my clients to pass out to others. Referrals seem to work the best because the lead I get are typically qualified leads, great people, and enjoy at home workouts.
My tip would be to 1) create great relationships. This can be with everything in life. 2) Give excellent service. As trainers, our goal is to do one thing, and that's service. Which encompasses the experience of the client's session, how they feel, and the results they achieve.
JC. How many clients do you see in a typical day?
BL. Typically, on a busy day I could see anywhere from 10-12 clients.
JC. Are your sessions 1 hour long or 30 minutes long?
BL. I do 1 hour sessions only.
JC. Do you drive to clients or do they come to you?
BL. I drive to all of my clients.
JC. How many miles do you drive per day on average?
BL. I am not actually sure. I probably should calculate how much I drive!
JC. Any ideas on what cars would be best for trainers who drive a lot?
BL. I have a 2010 Civic sedan. Which is really great on miles, I get 28-36 MPG. I am also a hawk on my mileage. When I fill up, I reset my mileage. I have a 10 gallon tank and if I get 360 miles and I have to fill up, I reached the peak of the MPG! Crazy, I know.
JC. What do you think is the biggest issue facing people who hire personal trainers today?
BL. I believe the biggest issue is the stigma behind personal trainers and the personal training industry. Many people believe that the biggest loser is EXACTLY how ALL personal trainers are. Also, they feel afraid that the trainer will work them out to the point of near exhaustion.
But a smart trainer will craft and design his or her clients program exactly at her level. What I mean by that is proper evaluation of the clients fitness level to design the program, understanding behavior and signs to watch, and proper nutrition. The biggest loser is currently the most popular exercise show today. But the reality of it is that those people are put through extreme workouts, harsh diets, and the reality of any of that “sticking” is low. Did you know that the contestant that lost the most weight put it all back on?
JC. What do you think is the biggest problem that today's personal trainers face?
BL. Now that the economy is tanking, people are becoming more and more conscious of how they spend their money. Trainers need to recognize that we are a luxury service, we must market and sell much different than before. Also, if we do not provide excellent service, great workouts that are properly designed, and not get clients results, clients will not be happy to stay and even refer more business to us. As personal trainers, we are people in the service industry.
Trainers need to think of ways of servicing their clients outside the sessions. Ways of increase perceived value, one may think,
” How can I make it seem as though they are getting twice the amount for what they paid for?”
Once you answer this question, you will have clients who are happy and will easily refer you more business. Some things I do is set up grocery tours with my clients. I set up a time at a local Fresh n Easy, typically weekend mornings are super slow, so it's really intimate with all my clients.
I'll take them through the store and tell them what to buy and why to buy. They actually really appreciate this and brings more value for their money. Some other things I do is make sure I send them birthday cards and add a little joke. For instance, the last birthday card I sent, I put two movie tickets and said,” Just be careful of the butter in popcorn ;).”
JC. What do you think is the biggest mistake personal trainers make?
BL. Not providing the best service they possibly can. As trainers, we must understand that in business there exists only two things; products and services. Our business is servicing out clients. The product is the training.
Since our product is intangible, that means that the entire experience with you is your service. We must think what can I do to improve the experience? What I have done is create a survey of questions to give to my clients and always made lines of communication as open as possible. Some questions I put on the survey were:
- “Are training times convenient?”
- “Do you feel your investment in my services are fair?(if not, ask why?),
- “One a scale of 1 – 10 can you rate my attitude?”
This will give you a better indicator on how you are servicing your clients.
JC. Do you remember your first client?
BL. I made some of the worst mistakes with my first client. Good thing she was such a good sport about it. She was actually the office manager at the physical therapy clinic. I trained her at 5:00am three times a week. At this time in my life, I was still in college and waking up at 8am to go to class at 9am and going to sleep around 12am or 1. This did not go well.
I had to make sure I went to sleep on time otherwise I would not wake up on time. On two occasions I slept through my alarm. The conversations directly after those occasions were not fun. I had her pay per session and I only charged $20. I also ate during her session.
I made all the mistakes in the world a trainer could make. But if I didn't make mistakes, I wouldn't know what not to do in the future. That was an experience I would not trade in this industry. Because it is through failure that we grow, not success.
JC. Do you wish you did anything different with that first client?
BL. No, because the learning experience that I had as a person in the service industry, is far to invaluable. Although, I wished I did not no-show, I would have not learned to now set two alarms.
JC. When you do supermarket tours, did you have to meet with the supermarket? was there any red tape?
BL. Initially I met with the store manager to discuss some ideas about what I wanted to do. I asked if it was possible for me to bring in a small group of people to go through the store discussing the importance of proper nutrition.
He was excited about the idea. He also suggested a time that was one of their low traffic times, which was morning times on the weekend right when they open. I also asked If I could put a flier inside of their store near the cash register, but the manager said that was no possible because of corporate policy. They do not want market for any small businesses besides theres in the stores.
JC. Do you have personal trainer insurance? if yes, who is it by?
BL. I have insurance through Idea fitness and health. It is there general liability insurance program.
What do you think?