The following article was written by Nick Mitchell.
We all know a few Personal Trainers who seems to speak with strange tongues. They have a voice, often a very loud one thanks to the dubious delights of Facebook and other social media, but it doesn’t really seem to fit all that comfortably.
Sometimes when I waste my time with a bit of voyeurism on the internet, I’ll see messages from random trainers that sound like hollow versions of people I do know, and sometimes even more alarmingly, slightly off-kilter versions of myself, complete with certain very specific sentences that I know have been lifted from something I have written. I am long past being vexed by a little bit of mild copying, we take it as being a demonstration that we’re doing something right, but this internet game of Stars In Their Eyes that so many trainers seem to play needs to stop for their own long-term benefit.
If you’re reading this in North America and are unsure of what Stars In Their Eyes is, it’s an iconic game show where Alice from accounts and Freddy from the factory floor dress up as Cher or Elton John and belt out one of their tunes.
Sometimes you can be blown away by the similarities and the sound-a-like, but even then you know it’s not the real thing and there’s that hollow spot inside that can only be filled by the original.
You must find your own voice
Separate yourself. I appreciate that we live in the age of massive information overload and that distinguishing yourself can be difficult. I can readily see the temptation to “borrow” a persona / philosophy from someone more successful than you, I’ve been there as the newbie Personal Trainer just starting out with no clients and only an overwhelming desire to succeed.
If I tell you that I’ve never picked up a single client by working a gym floor, and that in the space of 5 years I’ve gone from doing 4 sessions a week to owning a business that does over 750 sessions a week, perhaps then you’ll understand why I emphasize the importance of having an effective “voice” and why it needs to be your own for it to work in the long-term.
One of the key drivers behind the growth of Ultimate Performance (UP) is that everybody who encounters us even peripherally knows exactly what we stand for. Can the same be said for you? Do you even know exactly what you stand for, because if you don’t how the heck can anyone else?!
We all stand on the shoulders of giants
You must resist the urge to copy someone else. Learning from and emulating are to be encouraged, all of us stand on the shoulders of those who have come before us, but you need to communicate who and what you are with your own specific and very personal voice.
If you take the shortcut and decide to appropriate someone else’s message you will be caught out because clients are not stupid. In fact given the luxury, high-end spend status of personal training I’d go as far as saying that most PT clients are smarter and more discerning than average.
You will slip up, there will be inconsistencies, and your message will be flat, diluted, and lack that spark that’s needed these days to help you stand above the crowd.
There’s a personal trainer in London who is rapidly becoming a bit of a joke amongst the few people who know of his existence and it’s a salutary tale that I should share. Clearly a hard working guy, he got an investor and opened a small personal training gym and came to my attention only very recently when it became clear that he would make small digs about what we do at UP, both on the net and to other trainers.
Developing a thick skin is essential to business and has been one of my best lessons learned, so no big deal here, but I did laugh when after seeing this misguided soul criticize my business for emphasizing the physical transformations that we do, most notably a 12 week cover model piece that put an out of shape guy on the cover of Men’s Fitness, one month later and he starts pushing 12 week transformations as a key part of what he does.
So inconsistent and all over the place has been his message that a journalist picked up on it a few weeks ago and lambasted his business with a magazine piece entitled “Cowboy Personal Trainers”! I don’t need to tell you that this isn’t what you want for your own reputation. You can’t buy credibility and once your name has gone, it takes a lot of work to resurrect things.
If we look at the leading lights in the Personal Training industry it is very clear that they have their own unique voices and we know exactly what they stand for. Take two of my biggest influences, Charles Poliquin and Paul Chek. You can read 6 sentences from either one and you know who it is. They polarize opinion, they are their own men, and there is nothing they do that could be accused of being filtered down, diluted fitness fluff. But be warned, it takes years to develop the authority and knowledge to have such a strident voice. Don’t force it and instead speak about what you know and have the courage to admit when you don’t know something – you’d be surprised at how effective a marketing strategy that can be.
In many ways having your own voice comes back to all of the great work that you will read here on the PTDC.
It comes from learning your craft inside and out, so that you have the confidence to stick your own head over the parapet rather than create a two dimensional mannequin to do the job instead.
It comes from experience, and that means getting your hands dirty and experimenting with what works for you and for your clients.
It comes from having the imagination to really ruminate on why you are a Personal Trainer and what you want to represent.
It comes from passion in your subject, and that really can’t be faked.
Look at the people whom you consider to be the best in class, they are all slightly obsessed nerds when it comes to their area of expertise, so you must find that area of Personal Training that gets you excited and jumping out of bed raring to go at 4.45am on a cold and dark winter’s morning.
It will be much better for you to accept that your obsessive need to be the best personal trainer for octogenarian Great-Grandmothers with surnames ending in “ison” is going to get your further, and ultimately make you happier and more content, than being a general “fat loss expert” if Granny Training is genuinely what floats your boat.
Anyone who is excelling at Personal Training has their own voice, so the examples are there for all to see. Sadly, there are many more examples of PTs appropriating someone else’s message and this is one of the reasons why so many struggle and eventually drop out.
If I may give two very different examples of Personal Trainers with their own burgeoning voices who you may not have encountered, but are in my opinion really on top of their game, look at young Josh Hamilton in Toronto who is just starting out but has already found his voice, and the wonderfully named Skinny Bitch Collective in London.
The latter’s voice is so damn strong I don’t need to tell you anything more and you can pretty much be on the money with their voice and what they stand for. These are the people we should never copy, but always emulate and be inspired by.
And when in doubt, remember that only your own tongue will really do the job, or that’s what she said.
Photo credit: TerryGeorge.