Choosing PT software: Spotlight on Booking systems, CRMs, and Programming software for six figure+
The following is intended to help you come to a decision on the best software to use to systemize your business (if you have a revenue of more than $100,000). We'll go through the types of software that you might be interested in having for your sole trader personal training or small group training studio. And the considerations that you may want to take into account when selecting the software and which software is best based on the considerations that you have. I put them together against each other as a way of allowing you to compare them based on the needs that you have and comparing the cost as well as some other factors that you may not think about.
Fun fact: when I selected personal training software I tested literally 10 of each different types of software. And I was so pleased with myself when I finally selected the exact type of software to a mixed emotion when I realized that because the majority of my clientele is over the age of 40 and therefore have age related sight impairment… As in, a lot of them become more long-sighted. Many of them actually found it difficult to use the apps when training without glasses on… that I paid a lot of money for. So I thought I'd share that little tidbit with you because oftentimes, we look at software and we sort of paint this really ideal photo of what it can do for you and what it can do for your business. I don't want to take away from that because it does save you a whole bunch of time if it's exactly right for your business. But if it's not, it can just mean that you have made a very costly mistake, especially if you decided to sign up for the yearly version of software, which often at times is very enticing because it's a year long and has a discount.
Okay, so first things first. You might want to consider if it's about programming or booking. That's not to say that you can't have both, but from what I've found so far, software that does one really well does not seem to do the other really well. So oftentimes you need two distinct pieces of software, if you want to automate those processes in your business with an optional third one (however there is a leader which does bookings, appointments AND automations in one, so you’d just need an exercise programmer app too). That optional 3rd applies if you're looking for a customer relationship manager, sort of a database where you keep all your leads, and you're able to send them newsletters and that sort of thing.
So let's dive in, shall we? Let's first start talking about PT programming software. Because this is what you're going to need regardless of your whether you're solely online, or whether you're in person, or whether you're a little bit of both. So what I mean by that is the type of software that you need when you're setting programs for your clients. Now, I would say the first thing you must do is ask yourself whether you actually need the piece of software because otherwise you are just kind of throwing money at something that might look quite fancy, but it may just not recreate the wheel in your business and that would be a bit of a shame.
So to create an example of that, if you're somebody who's doing a lot of percentages; so you might be a powerlifter or you're a crossfitter or something like that. I would say that the majority of this software that I'm about to talk about is probably not the best for that because it doesn't automatically do the calculations for you. And you can't bulk change the percentages that you're doing without just writing a note to the client and saying this week do this percentage or just having this written somewhere else, which is kind of frustrating when you want to bulk change things for exercises but you're doing micro and macro cycles and meso cycles, etc, etc. So taking into account if you're training with power athletes, or performance athletes where you're working at specific percentages of a strength and it does change across a week. Then these pieces of software may not be for you and they may actually take a whole bunch more time.
Another one is if you're programming for rehabilitation, and you're selecting moves that may not be on a typical database. You're gonna find, especially if you're making a new move for each client, it's going to take you a while to be able to build up the exercises that you require. And even if you do, then you'll have to keep renaming videos in order to attach them so it's another consideration as well. For my rehabilitation clients, I just found that it was not very time conducive or time saving to actually have this piece of software. In the programming I use a different piece of software, which I can share with you later on. So the three finalists that I'll put on this list I'll talk about why I put them on the list.
Some of the things that I was looking for is how quickly it takes you to be able to use the software. And I don't just mean learning how to use it. I mean also your ability to be able to just get going with programming. So for example, in trainercize, when you're getting started out and you want to start programming exercises, they don't automatically have a big database of all the exercises that you need to use in your programming. So for the first few weeks or months, and potentially longer, you're probably going to be spending quite a lot of time putting together the specific exercises that you want to be able to access and that probably could be quite infuriating, time consuming as well, especially if you're not 100% sure that you want to stick with that software. So that's one thing. The one that wins for that would definitely be truecoach. I have to say though, some of the naming conventions on true coach did drive me a little bit crazy. When for some reason I didn't check a specific exercise video for a pullover, which had programmed for one of my more mature clients, to which I found out the client asked me whether I really meant to do it, (which is the exercise was a straight arm, arm straight leg, pull over the bar, kind of like a muscle up with control). Oh my goodness, I was so embarrassed. So even though there are the videos in there, it does pay for every single exercise that you think only has one name to double check but it's actually called and what it actually looks like on the database that has been truecoach.
The next thing I got into is for trainercize from a client perspective. It's cool because yeah, it does have the ability to to get your own branded app. And it does have that internal messaging system as well, which is quite nice (just like Train heroic and True coach). But what I did find a bit weird or annoying, if I was to be your client, is the fact that it starts asking a whole bunch of questions to your clients that you may not necessarily be measuring, per se. And these are like a lot of questions set for all clients. Or at least I found it was anyway. And when you get your client answering questions that they've just got all of these multiple data points that they never come back to. It almost is a little bit less valuable for them because they're like, Oh, I thought we're gonna do something with that information. Like first of all, they've invested the time and filling it in in the first place. Second of all, they're like, why aren't we looking at this? Like, it's something that may not even be relevant to them. But because you've asked about it and I was sitting there wondering, is this crucial? Like is this crucial to what I bring to the table to my life, all of this year sort of thing. So then now are thinking am I getting shortchanged? Like why have we not ever got on in the conversation to the water component or the sleep component? Or maybe you use all of those in your practice? But if you do not consider whether you want an app like trainercise asking those questions.
I did have a nutritionist that I went to see on their app. It asked me how long I was breastfed for by my mom and what type of birth I had as a child. And you know, like whether my mom had any particular sensitivities during pregnancy. And, any complications in pregnancy, stuff like that. It's kind of interesting because that actually never became a factor in any of our conversations. And to me, I kind of thought, is it something that we should be addressing because I've never been asked these questions before with nutrition and remember, I'm qualified in nutrition myself, so sort of thinking, how are we gonna bring this around to what my goals are? I digress.
So that aside, the trainercize app, train heroic and the true coach app, they're quite cool to use as a client. Quite interesting to use as a client as well. What you do find with them is they'll pull forward your spelling mistakes if you've saved a new video inside them. So that can kind of be annoying sometimes. And when you're specifically searching for an exercise that you've already got saved in the database, oftentimes, you have to start typing the first word of what that exercise could be, or else sometimes it doesn't find it. So it's a little bit on the frustrating side.
The other thing to consider with these pieces of software is how much they cost and to bear in mind that they're all charged in American dollars which means the amount you pay could vary each month. But it is a bit of a surprise to be charged 25% more, maybe 33% more when you're not anticipating that, so that's worth bearing in mind. On top of that, the grading of how many clients you have at times may be a juggle, but not because you have specifically too many clients all at once. And furthermore, what I found with using these apps (just so that you know) is that a few clients wanted to always have access to the programs. And so when I stopped training them, to you know, hand them on to someone else they wanted to be able to continue to access the programs. Now I'm not saying that they would use them. I don't even think that they would access them, even if they would access them. But they all seem very disappointed that they would not continue to receive the programming from yesteryear. And just so that you're aware as well, from talking to my clients, a lot of them had the preconceived notion that these apps are free especially because they sort of believe that it's really quite simple up and I guess it is, it's just I'm not a programmer. And maybe you aren't either. It's a lovely way to display it. But you don't necessarily need that level of complexity in terms of like paying a subscription for an app service for these things.
Remember that if clients are over the age of 40, they're probably going to need to train with their glasses on if they're using the software on their phone, which the majority of them you're anticipating will be, also if you are chit chatting that age group for some reason, and there's the broad generalization a lot of them just really would like it on a piece of paper for them. I don't know about you, but I don't have a printer that probably overtime would work out cheaper to do and on top of that you wouldn't need to continue to invest in an app or a membership for them on your app. If, for instance, you stopped trading. Train heroic would win there, as it has a display to a larger screen capability…. GREAT HUH? And very well suited to a group class too, not individual programming (but individuals can record their progress).
Moving on to booking systems there's a very interesting one. I am constantly testing new software and working out ways that they're great and working out. Why is it they're not so great. So I'll give you my top three that I tried and tested and a few reasons to consider why one or another one may be correct for you.
Now the absolute leader for me at the moment is Wellness Living. The reason being, they just have such superb features. I recently had a demo off it and they've got a reward system that you can have for your clients. So they come to more classes to get more points, they write more reviews to get more points, all of the things that you want them to do. You can give them like points to be rewarded for which then you can decide what the points can be used for sort of thing. There's a few different ways you can set it up. But that's sort of a little overview of what it does. I just thought that was fantastic. Because in this day and age, you sort of want Google reviews and people don't really want to write them. But by incentivizing it in in a non kind of like biased way is you really great way of bumping up your Google reviews.
On top of that. It is worth checking the expense of the booking systems as well, because there's a big discrepancy in what they offer versus what they charge. So I have in the past had a few pieces of software that claim to be able to do you know text messaging, emailing and do automatic client nurturing systems and that sort of thing. Then I later found out that I would be charged per email per each automatic process that was occurring. Now that might not sound too bad. But if you have a database of 300 people, then each one a, nurture sequence is going along the course of the year, the software that you thought was all included at the price of 275 American dollars month, and now suddenly, all of this extra stuff that's added on is a further say $1,000 month, that's a pretty expensive piece of software. So it just depends on the scale of your gym as well, when looking at these things. It may be that if your gym has, say over 200 members, you might find that it's actually quite advantageous to you to look into those particular pieces of software.
What I can tell you is the software that I've been using Wellness Living actually has the automations and emails built into it. So it wasn't extra for those things. It didn't charge me for email. It didn't charge me per automatic process that occurred on top of the email. So I thought that was quite advantageous because it was all firing in one software. It wasn't like one just say would be down for the day and the other one wouldn't you just kind of knew where it was all in one place. So that also means you've got that CRM going on inside of Wellness Living as well which is pretty cool.
Now there is the ability to do that in this other piece of software called push press. So push press is very cool. It works very well for small groups. And classes. It does have the ability to do appointments like personal training appointments, but that part is not user led. It's staff led. So that's pretty annoying. It gives you that particular bit. On top of that pushpress press does the automations but it's an extra piece of software and that extra piece of software is something ridiculous like 400 US dollars a month on top of the 250 US dollars a month for the core piece of software. Again, I don't know about you, but gyms don't tend to make that much money unless they are sort of big box gyms. So I'm guessing now that they're shifting away from having the more boutique style fitness places. So because of that, I would say that, my recommendation now would not have the push press component unless you're completely sub six figures and want to use a free booking system for classes and pay for it in commissions of your users. That's low risk, however it doesn't have an good session appointment maker, so the best would definitely be Your Wellness Living component.
I didn't look at mind body and whilst a lot of people know how to use mind body so that makes it worthwhile from a user perspective because they already had the app on their phone. If you are a small unknown studio, it's probably quite good because if you've got a solid intro offer, you'll be sort of advertising and presented in front of people that are just using the app which is a great way to be discovered. But that being a strength is also a weakness. People might be going on to mind body to find you and to get confronted with all your competitors in the area. Not so bad if you're quite certain about what you're doing.
But for me, the way I look at it is if there's a piece of software that is constantly advertising to users, it generally means it's a free piece of software. So in terms of your customer user experience, when they're getting advertised to all the time by another fitness facility. To them, they're thinking about all the apps that you can get a free version off. It's just that they send you adverts all the time. So to me, it's not suggesting to your clientele that you're paying bucks each month to be part of that software. But that's just again my opinion and just something worth thinking about. Because in terms of loyalty and that sort of thing. It's really hard to keep someone loyal when they haven't even been to your fitness center. Now the way around that is of course to pay the extra money and have your own branded app. Again that's very cool. But I would say now you've just circumvented this extra point that you've got to spend more each month on a piece of software like not a physical thing for your gym. And there are cheaper ways to achieve the same thing without any loss of service and potentially with more benefits for you.
So it's worthwhile like chopping around each year and doing a bit of an audit on what you're using, what you're not using and what would do the best for you.
BONUS: CRM for newsletters and nurturing clients
The final piece of software I think you should look at for your gym would be a CRM. This is probably worthwhile if you're training more than 10 clients. And it's definitely the place that you should be storing all of the contact details of people for sending out your monthly newsletter. You can send out any special offers that you have going on, special announcements or maybe you've got some events or special guests coming in. This is the opportunity to be really organized because how you present to your clients in the real world is how they're going to anticipate that training with you is going to be, so even your prospective clients will get a sense of how organized you are. Even what the culture is like from how you write. And it's a really great way of showcasing what's going on. Plus, I don't know about you, but even the most diligent person is not going to keep a database of leads in Excel up to date. They just aren't. So if you've got something that does that automatically from your website, then you're absolutely flying. So those would be my recommendations. Why I wouldn't use MailChimp. Well that's because they do have that free level of account. What happens is, most spam filters will filter out stuff from MailChimp with the idea that it's most likely and typically to be spam. So if you would like better deliverability you will have to invest in a product like Active Campaign, or ConvertKit (if your booking is outside of using wellness living) would probably be my top picks there because because they do have the features, they're easy to use, and the deliverability is much better.
You have any top tips for the software that you use? Do you think that I've missed any software that you think is the best? Let me know. I'd love to hear from you.
P.s. I don't have affiliate links for each of the things I've linked you to, (just one of them), I'm just a satisfied user. If I do get a lot of traction for these free articles I write, Ill ask specifically for that so that I can make more helpful segments like this!