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Personal Trainer Marketing: The Good, Bad & Ugly

by Jonathan Goodman | Follow on Twitter

Everybody lives by selling something. Personal Trainers seem to be against marketing and selling but it’s a part of the business.

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The following is a guest post by JC Deen. Personal trainers avoid sales and marketing. JC tells us the good bad and ugly of sales and what you can do about it. 

I’ll never forget the first time I laid eyes on a fitness magazine. I was 17, and infatuated with the cover model’s physiques.

They sported a nicely chiseled row of abs, arms my friends and I lusted for and a set of voluptuous vixens on each side.

I was immediately obsessed with what I saw and set out to do everything to achieve a similar look. Reality set in when I didn’t have the dough to purchase all must-haves the magazines were pimping.

But giving up wasn’t an option – I scoured many other publications until I found a supplement stack that I could afford.

Next step: A trip to the supplement shop.

I was flooded with every product claiming to give me ripped abs or a huge barrel chest. According to the gurus and personal trainers, I should be taking “x” supplement 30 minutes before working out, “y” supplement immediately after working out, and “z” supplement every 2 hours throughout the day.

For years, my impression of being fit, healthy and athletic-looking was impossible without fancy supplements, and rigid training programs.

The marketing was doing exactly what they were created to do. Their job was to create a need for things I didn’t have and build a strong desire to spend money and time to acquire the supposed benefits.

I’ve become obsessed with the communication process and how marketing affects us. I also love the fitness world – it’s why I made it my profession.

The Good – Great Marketing for Great Products

For many personal trainers, the idea of marketing and selling yourself is an intimidating process. When most think of approaching someone to sell their services, they associate said actions with a sleazy used car salesman.

The idea of sales turns into a bad experience due to a fear of rejection or some other uncomfortable feeling. This is not uncommon and it’s why the sales profession is hardly an easy job.

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But without great marketing, a product is not going to sell itself. Most are under a false assumption that if they have an amazing product or service, everyone should automatically want it with no questions asked. Just create it and they will come, so to speak.

That’s entirely untrue.

You see, a product (good or bad) is only as strong as its marketing. You might be the best trainer in the world and have the best service, but if you don’t tell people about it, how will anyone ever know?

The same goes for fitness products (books, DVD’s, etc.). You may have the solution to the needs of a huge market, but if you never share it aggressively, you’ll miss out on the serving a ton of people and leave a bunch of money on the table.

There’s a certain aversion to sales and marketing by personal trainers.

Trainers trash the long sales letters, and landing pages that have been used for many years (both off and online) and have proven track records of producing millions and millions of dollars in revenue for those who utilize them.

What’s their argument?

For some, they simply feel lame or they don’t like the hard sell. For others, they merely believe it’s not what their customers want. And even a select few have a burning hate for Internet marketers altogether.

There are a few problems with this line of thinking.

The first one is this: We are not our customers, so we should stop trying to thinks as they do. It’s our job to put great information in front of them, and let them make a decision.

Are the long sales pages absolutely necessary for the audience we continually interact with through our blogs, Facebook and Twitter??

There’s no point in selling them on all the reasons they need our product because they’re most likely going to buy. They already trust us. If you know anything about sales, we’re more likely to buy from the people we know.

It’s like hard selling your mom to buy a candy bar for your school’s fundraiser – there’s just no need to!

The second problem is our limited understanding of the sales process. Outside of our daily requirements (food, toiletries, etc), we put much more thought into where we spend our extra income.

We think long and hard about these types of purchases. If we’re not being sold to, we have to convince ourselves if the purchase is justifiable.

This is where the long sales letters and presentations come into play. Think about this – when was the last time you bought a product or service without knowing anything about it?

Chances are, you’d never do that.

This is my open letter to all the personal trainer afraid of creating some killer ad copy for their amazing products.

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You may have a large audience, but for every person who knows you, there are far more out there who DON’T. The sales letters are not for your current customers. They’re for the folks who have never met you or read your work, but are in the market for what you’re selling.

With a great ad copy and a killer product, you will convert first-time customers into loyal readers (or subscribers) and potential customers for life.

Your product might be exactly what they’re looking for, but if they didn’t have the sales letter or online presentation to reveal its benefits, you’d never have opportunity for such an exchange.

As a result of great Internet marketing and social media, fitness trainers and writers who haven’t hit the mainstream are still able to help a plethora of people reach their fitness goals, and create a positive experience for those individuals.

The Bad – When The Marketing Doesn’t Meet A Real Need

But what about the marketing gimmicks and ploys that push our greedy buttons to a point of action followed by remorse?

There are two clear examples I can think of immediately. The first one is what I call the quick-fix­ conundrum and for illustration purposes, we’ll use the ever-popular weight loss pills.

Many people seeking fat loss will eventually find themselves looking for a shortcut – something that will make their efforts easier. In year’s past when dieting for a photo shoot, I was always keen on so-called fat-burning pills.

It wasn’t until much later that I realized my fat loss was a result of hard work, close attention to diet, and record keeping – not from taking an expensive bottle of pills.

When I finally learned that it wasn’t the diet pill that helped me burn the body fat, I had a sour taste in my mouth. The supplement advertisements continually ate away at my grey matter with physiques I wanted so badly.

In reality, to say that I actually needed the product to succeed in my fat loss efforts would be false.

Another example is the selling of commercial gym memberships. Many people, especially at the beginning of the year, will make a resolution to join a gym and trade their bad habits for healthy ones.

Sales people prey upon such intention on a daily basis. A majority of new gym members will hardly make much use of their new membership and won’t ever return. And so, their bank account is continually drafted each month for the life of their 12-month contract.

At most gyms, there’s a monthly sales quota. For the salesman pushing new memberships, he always has a goal to meet. So for him, everyone that comes through the door needs to be a member of his gym.

Many are talked into something they really don’t need. As a result, they never come back to the gym, and don’t make any positive changes with regards to their health and fitness.

The Ugly – Deception At It’s Best

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While I hate to admit it, an industry I love is chock full of deceptive practices. Now some may argue whether or not they’re intentional, but I’ll leave that for you to ponder.

What I want to do is point out a few instances where deception is in full effect.

The first one is promotion of new products, exercise programs or gadgets with top fitness models or strength athletes as the spokesperson. There’s no real harm in the promotion of the products – it’s simply marketing and part of the rules if you want to win.

As a salesman, I accept this fact.

However, there’s a problem when marketers intent is for to you believe the cover model got their results because they used a certain product or exercise routine.

Have you ever seen the images of Jillian Michaels on the boxes of 3-5lb dumbbells at major retailers?

For the longest time, women have been duped into the idea that lifting anything more than 5-10lb dumbbells will make them big and bulky. It’s not possible for women to become big and bulky due to differences in hormonal environments.

Jillian didn’t attain the body she has from lifting baby weights and doing a ton of cardio. Her body is a product of heavy, progressive strength training and following a diet to support her goals of a hard, lean body.

Have you seen professional athletes promoting a certain training program like Crossfit? For athletes to be strong and powerful, their training has to be specific, rather than randomized.

You must be aware that their athletic training is largely responsible for their physique – not Crossfit, the Shake Weight or whatever else they seem to be promoting.

The women who want to reshape their bodies benefit from proper resistance training. The same goes for those who are beginners and believe that training in a certain fashion is the one-way ticket to their physique goals just because their favorite athlete is endorsing it.

This type of deceptive marketing has kept people from their goals.

Marketing – It Is What It Is. It Ain’t What It Ain’t.

Fitness marketing can be used for both the betterment and detriment of those who succumb to witty headlines and ad copy. It’s important that we understand there are great products out there and just as many bad products.

But we should realize that while effective marketing can make us feel something, we must learn take a step back and make sure the need is really there.

As a fellow trainer and teacher, I encourage you to explore the world of sales even further. If you’re somewhat averse, dig deep and ask “why?”

Once you’ve come to the conclusion – come up with a strategy to become a better communicator and always seek an exchange of value, rather than just going for a sale…

Would/Have you ever use a sales letter? What approaches have you seen that were just wrong?

Also, be sure to “like” thePTDC’s Facebook page and check out what we’re all about.

JC Deen fitness personal trainer marketing

JC Deen owns and operates He works as a fitness writer and online personal trainer. You can also find him on Twitter.




photo credit: djwhelan, stevendepolo, World of Good, mariachily

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About the Author
Jonathan Goodman

Jonathan Goodman is the creator and head coach of the PTDC and has a distaste for third person bios ... Hey, I'm Jon and I'd have to say that this site is pretty awesome. Thanks for being here. If you're interested in my brand new book, it's called Ignite the Fire (revised, updated, and expanded). My team and I have also created the first Academy and certification for online trainers. Click here to check out the Online Trainer Academy.