Today is a great time to be involved in the exercise industry! Never before in the history of the world has there been a greater need for educated, top-quality trainers and health care professionals.
In June 1998 Karen Donato of the National Institute of Health said, “According to the most recent national survey data, about 55% of American adults are overweight or obese – up from 43% in 1960” (1). In fact, one study predicted that if obesity continues to increase at its current rate, every single man, woman and child will be obese by the year 2030 (1)!
Many doctors practice traditional western or allopathic medicine cannot be relied upon for their medical or nutritional guidance. This is evidenced by the fact that they are now the third leading cause of death in the US (2). That’s no misprint - doctors in the US kill 250,000 people each year, mostly through mal-prescription of drugs and surgical blunders.
It is well recognized by many holistic health care practitioners that the American Medical Association and pharmaceutical industry have little, if any, interest in preventative health care. Why? Preventing disease is far less lucrative than trying to cure it! Teaching people how to eat well, exercise correctly and live “healthy lives” does not create disease and will therefore not provide a constant stream of income for the medical and drug industries!
Leaders in the field of nutrition are not faring so well either. Just as drug manufacturers heavily influence a medical doctor’s education, the education and research of dietitians, nutritionists and many biochemists appears to be heavily influenced by studies funded by the food manufacturing industry.
People are not only fatter than ever, but advice given to them is so confusing; very few nutritionists, dietitians, chiropractors or medical doctors agree with each other nutritionally. In fact, I have had a number of patients who sought the advice of a “nutrition expert” and received the food pyramid as their guide to proper eating! The food pyramid, which has been referred to as the “feed lot pyramid” by Barry Sears (3), is far more suited to fattening animals than keeping human beings lean and healthy!
There is an endless stream of evidence demonstrating the current state of affairs in today’s heath care fields, but I digress. To accomplish our objectives of improving the health, function, performance and aesthetics of our clients, we must provide effective guidance, and let our results with each client serve as a shining example for all to follow.
To help you accomplish these goals, I would like to share several principles that have assisted me for much of my career. In the early 1990’s, I had the opportunity to assist the famous motivational guru, Tony Robbins, with massage therapy and the development of exercise programs designed to keep his body functioning optimally. During that time, he invited me to many of his seminars, one of which was a business seminar that later became titled “Strategic Influence – The Power of Personal Marketing.” That seminar taught me many things that have tremendously improved my effectiveness at my life’s passion – helping other people feel, perform and look the way they have always wanted!
I have developed this five part article series to help you achieve your career dreams and become one of the top professionals in your field. Included will be many secrets of success I have learned over the years, many times through trial and error. There will not only be information that is crucial to success with your clients, but I will also include many things you can do apply in your life so that you are constantly in a peak state. The five parts of this article series are:
- Create and Develop a “Unique Identity”
- Do Your Homework & Know your customer
- Be in a Peak State
- Discover Your Client’s Wants
- Get Them to Commit!
PART I - CREATE A UNIQUE IDENTIFICATION
Have you ever noticed that orthopedic surgeons, neurologists and cardiologists are much more expensive to see than general practitioners?Specialists cost money and a good specialist can be very expensive. But, don’t think that you will price yourself out of the market if you do the extra work to become a specialist. On the contrary, if you are very good at what you do, people will beat a trail to your door. Those that acquire a “Unique Identity” (UID) are most often seen as an investment by their clients, not an expense!
In fact, one of my clients is a well-known and respected businessman in the field of sports television and music promotions. He recently told me that he charges $50,000 a day for a consultation. He also told me that whenever someone calls to hire him, he always tells them that he is too busy with his own projects, but that if they are willing to pay $100,000 a day, he may be able to free up some time. This technique quickly gets rid of those not willing to be as serious about their work as he is about his. This not only keeps his clients committed, it protects his reputation as well. How? People that make such an investment are very likely to follow his advice!
DEVELOPING YOUR “UNIQUIE IDENTITY” (UID)
There are a number of specialties one can obtain in professional exercise. Among my students and associates, I can tell you that those who have diligently studied and effectively marketed themselves have been fruitful in the following areas:
- Corrective Exercise
- Pre and Post Rehabilitation
- Back Care
- Training Females
- General Sports Conditioning
- Specific Sport Conditioning
- Geriatric Training (a big market!)
- Pre and Post Natal Exercise Specialist
- Endurance Athlete Training
- Training Actors and Models
- Work Hardening (specialty in conditioning manual laborers)
- In Home Training
This list is by no means conclusive. It contains UID’s that have been developed by people I know personally or have entered my C.H.E.K Certification program.
One of the key things to remember is that most of us enter the field of exercise as a generalist – we take on virtually any client and haven’t yet developed a specialty. Many of us decide that we either need to identify a focus that will allow us to develop an expertise (and our income) or we find our passion. Finding your passion is my suggested method for developing your UID. When you find your individual passion, it will never be an effort to study and develop your skills. You will actually have fun! Not only will you get better at a specific, marketable skill, you will become known as an expert and make more and more money for doing what you love most.
Believe it or not, that is exactly how many specialists become wealthy and successful. They are so passionate about what they do, they not only become extremely knowledgeable, but their passion attracts people to them. Think about it, if you needed your rotator cuff surgically repaired and you interviewed several shoulder specialists, would you chose the cheapest one, the most expensive one or the one who was obviously passionate about what he/she does for a living? If you can see that someone’s career means much more to them than “just a job”, you’re far more likely to hire them no matter what the price.
Developing Your UID
Many of you reading this are in the exercise or health care field and, if you are using the information you are learning on this site, you are already among the top in your field. To develop your UID will take time, money and persistence, but once developed will have been well worth your effort! Once you have mastered the basics of being a trainer and have a strong foundation in terms of clients and skills, it’s time to move on to the next level. This will require some investigation.
First, search for articles and books that provide education in the area of your UID.
You will likely come across thousands of articles and books in your pursuit, so you will need to assess the credibility of the author to determine which items your time will be best spent reading. What I tell my students is not to look at how many degrees an author has, but look at what he/she has accomplished in the past and what he/she is doing today. If someone has an alphabet soup sign behind their name (i.e. Ph.D., M.D., D.C.), but have never contributed anything original to their field, have never actually practiced what they are writing about (especially in the past year or two), or can not objectively demonstrate credibility through client results, you may want to look elsewhere and save your reading time for those that do meet the grade!
Next, find applicable seminars, workshops or certification courses.
Look for courses that are run by those who meet the above criteria. You can often learn as much in one week under the guidance of an expert as you can in one year on your own. Just imagine how much you could learn in a year under an expert with 10-20 years experience! For example, consider the famous physical therapist Gary Gray. Just like many other physical therapists in the U.S. he holds a PT degree, an athletic training degree, and gives seminars. So what makes him different? Gary Gray’s seminars are almost always sold out!
Why? Gary Gray meets the criteria I listed above. He is a well-known inventor and innovator. He owns a successful clinic where he treats hundreds of athletes. He is well versed in current literature and has published several articles. In short, he is the kind of guy that will not stand there and regurgitate academia; he will give you an education that you can apply the very next day. How do I know? Years ago I attended his seminars and applied this knowledge, the very next day.
Once you have attended a dozen or more seminars and workshops from respectable leaders, viewed several of their video programs, taken correspondence courses, and evaluated the validity and applicability of the information provided by the various experts in the field you’re pursuing, choose one of them as a mentor.
Once you find a mentor go hell-bent-for-leather to figure out a way to get close enough to work under them, get into a certification program run by them or hire them for one-on-one consulting. This approach will rocket you past all others that are still bouncing around reading articles and taking seminars from the pseudo experts that are regurgitating academic or anecdotal diatribe that does not pan out in the gym or clinic.
While you are developing the skills necessary to achieve mastery of your UID, you will begin to get more referrals from your current clients that you have been successful with. Meanwhile, you don’t have to worry about going hungry financially because if you have the intestinal fortitude to put your nose to the grind stone and learn from the best, you will be far better than the average generalist and will have plenty of work to fill the gaps!
NOW THAT YOU HAVE YOUR UID, LIVE IT!
You've chosen your UID, studied relevant literature, taken several seminars from noted experts, and chosen one as your mentor. Now to get to the next level you must constantly live your unique identity!
Everybody prefers an original over a copy! People don’t just want to be told how to exercise, stretch or eat correctly, they want to be shown by example. There is an old saying that goes, “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.” The point being that if you are going to put in the work to create a UID and seek to improve your income and the quality of your client base, you have three choices: 1) Become a leader and lead by example. 2) Be a follower, but dedicate yourself to become the best follower you can be. This option makes it crucial to locate an exemplary leader/mentor. 3) “Get out of the way!” If you are not committed to being a good leader or follower, you have not chosen the right UID and should invest some time to find one more suited to you.
In the audio tape series The Luck Factor (4), Brian Tracy states that there are three kinds of people in the world, those that make things happen, those that watch things happen, and those that say, “What happened?!” To live your UID as a shining example for others is not only the highest form of credibility and salesmanship, it provides stimulus for those that are visual learners.
“Constantly living it” also includes constant promotions of your service. This can be done much easier than most people realize. Consider the following methods I have personally used to promote myself while “constantly living it”:
Practice What You Preach!
The more you know and the better you get, the more people want to watch you! It’s just a simple fact. An interesting thing happens as you become more well known in any field of endeavor; those that like your approach or find you interesting will watch your every move, those that are jealous of your progress, sense of self security and self identity will watch your every move just hoping to find some dirt to tell others about. That’s just the way it is and always been. Since this is not going to change anytime soon, you may as well get out there and do your best. Promote your self and your services by being an excellent example of what people can accomplish using the philosophy and techniques that you teach!
Another useful tip is to train in different gyms in your area. If there are three or four gyms within the “referral zone” of your office or practice, it would serve you well to make appearances in these gyms. As people become familiar with your presence, they will begin asking you questions. If you are a specialist who exercises in-line with your UID, you will likely be exercising differently than the others in the gym and therefore will attract attention to you. It is not hard to do considering that exercise technology is so far in the dark ages that anyone practicing real exercise will become somewhat of a spectacle.
About two years ago, I was in Melbourne lecturing at the Filex Convention. My buddy and fellow lecturer Lou Barrie and I decided to go to the Underworld gym and compete against each other using all “odd lifts” or the old style strong man lifts. Within minutes, every one had cleared away from us and there were eyes on us from every direction for the next hour. Several men stopped to ask questions about what we were doing or what we were training for. For the upcoming trainer establishing themselves as a specialist with a UID, this would have been an excellent marketing opportunity!
Always carry business cards
Research shows that a color business card with an attractive head shot of you is a far more powerful marketing tool than a typical black and white business card. Additionally, don’t list a dozen things that you specialize in on your card or it will dilute your UID. List one or two specialties starting with your UID and finish with a statement indicating you accept general training clients as well. For example, the card may read:
|Bill Stevenson, CPT
Pre and Post Rehabilitation Exercise Specialist
- Back Pain Specialist
- Health and Fitness Consultant
I am sure you have all seen business cards that list so many specialties the person that gave you the card is either 160 years old, dabbles in everything (and is good at nothing) or simply uses the business card as a fish net, hoping to catch anything that walks by! Be clear as to what your UID is, live it and promote it on your business card and never be caught without one.
Any time you get published, it is good marketing! In 1988, I was the first licensed massage therapist to be hired full time by a physical therapy clinic in San Diego. There were 22 physical therapists and athletic trainers working at that clinic in addition to myself. We also had a staff of orthopedic surgeons in the same facility. Two years prior to working at the clinic, I had made every possible effort to contact the editors of all the local health and fitness magazines, sending them article queries. Several of them responded and were happy to print my articles. Although most of them did not pay, it was great exposure. It was like having a free ad that was often two or three full pages long! Today, many of the same publications charge authors to write in their magazines!
Another benefit from the above mentioned articles was the fact that other magazine editors saw my articles. This led to bigger and better opportunities to publish my work. Ultimately, having written at least one article a month has lead me to numerous speaking engagements and the opportunity to develop a large and successful practice integrating holistic health, massage therapy and exercise conditioning for injured people and athletes. There were many times over the next several years that I was booked 90 days in advance!
Offer to give lectures locally and at conferences
Many people consult me regarding how to become more successful in the professional exercise or rehabilitation arenas. I advise them that lecturing and/or giving workshops is not only great exposure, it is an excellent business building practice.
The typical response is “I’m afraid to do that,” or, “I really don’t think I could do that.” If you are a trainer, therapist or doctor, you are giving lectures and workshops to your clients all day long! In fact, you’ve likely had situations where one of your clients brought a friend or family member along to watch or spend time with them. More often than not the observer will make a comment like, “Wow, I learned so much being here today.” Without even knowing it you’ve given a workshop and it didn’t even hurt!
If you can do it for one person, you can do it for two, you can do it for ten, you can do it for a room full, and you can even do it for a stadium full! Think of all the business you’d get! Not only is lecturing and giving workshops fun, it is the best way I know of to keep sharp. Unless you have rocks in your head or enjoy looking shabby during your presentation, you will be prepared for the lecture or workshop. Preparation requires not only getting ready for the presentation, it requires that you develop the entire program. Both the preparation and the development of a seminar take you closer and closer to being a true expert! You are therefore, living your UID.
Constantly educate yourself
In his audiocassette series titled “The Luck Factor”, Brian Tracy makes an important point in regard to continuing education. He states that, people spend an average of 500-1000 hours in their car each year which is the equivalent of one to two full university semesters. He’s demonstrating that you can get an education by turning your car into a “University on Wheels” rather than waste your time listening to the radio like so many other people do.
Learning in your car is much easier than it used to be because most major conferences now record all their sessions. I know that IHRSA, for example, has recorded several of the lectures I have given over the years. In my library, I have many recordings from annual NSCA conferences, medical conferences, massage therapy conferences and more that I have listened to over the years. Additionally, there are now many books on tape relevant to the professional exercise and rehabilitation fields of study.
In addition, many Universities have classes available on audio or videocassette. Don’t just stick to the traditional state universities either; try those that have medical schools, physical therapy schools or programs in kinesiology and motor learning. UCLA is a good example of a school that has a lot to offer the exercise professional. Additionally, you must not forget all the colleges of Chiropractic, Osteopathy, Dental, and movement studies; you will be amazed how quickly you can acquire the resources to provide yourself an ongoing education that is 100% tailored to your time schedule!
As for myself, I listen to educational audio tapes while I train. This may sound a bit obsessive but it’s completely up to you as to how far you take the concept of living your UID. Personally, I am on a mission to educate myself to the best of my ability so that I may be the most effective educator and therapist possible. To accomplish the goals I have set for myself before I reach 80 years of age, I can’t afford to waste any time watching garbage on TV or dabbling in unproductive social interaction. Think about all the time you have spent in front of the TV and in conversations that were ongoing exchanges of words that did nothing to improve your education or move you toward your goals. If you could replace all that time with time spent reading books, listening to tapes and watching videos, how much closer to your goals would you be now?
There are many people who have developed their UID to the point of being a well-recognized and respected professional. See if you can think of ten people that you know of in your town that have a well developed UID, people that are respected specialists in some area that relates to what you do in some way. For example, who is the most respected orthopedic surgeon, Feldenkrais practitioner, Alexander practitioner, clinical massage therapist, sports psychologist, podiatrist, physical therapist, chiropractor, nutritionist, endocrinologist, strength coach, respiratory therapist or voice coach in your town? If you don’t know, I suggest you start investigating! Once you have a list containing the names of every other specialist or person that has a well developed UID for whom you may need to refer a client to, you should send them a letter offering them a free consultation with you. Include a short biographical summary on yourself and a short letter offering them a free assessment and initial exercise program. Let them know that you are aware of their success, that you respect them for the commitment they have made to developing their UID and would appreciate it if they could send you some of their cards so that you could refer them some business. Let them know that it would be most helpful if you could schedule a short meeting or lunch meeting during which time they could tell you more specifically which types of clients they would like to receive as referrals from you.
Once you do this, you will be using what Brian Tracy refers to as “The Law of Reciprocity.” This law states, “When you do and say things that make other people feel good they will have an unconscious desire to pay you back and make you feel good as well.” Your chances of getting somewhere with an accomplished professional are much better if you are offering them something in return for their time. As you will soon find out, most of them have elaborate screening systems set up to keep the “leaches” away. I know personally that I am much more interested in responding to calls, letters and e-mails that are offering me something back in return for my time, rather than responding to the seemingly endless supply of people that want, want, want…
Another useful program that I have studied is “Guerilla Marketing” by Jay Conrad Levenson. There is a series of “Guerilla Marketing” books available as well as audio tapes to supplement the books. I remember going through his audio tapes while training in my gym. I was so excited at some of his concepts I would virtually stop in the middle of a set and run to write down ideas that were popping into my head!
One of the ideas that I had not yet capitalized on was the concept of “Piggy Back Marketing.” Shortly after studying his course, I offered to write a booklet describing how to use a promising new exercise device called the “NRG Ball”. Feeling confident that this product had longevity and knowing that it was not a gimmick, I offered to write them a book on how and why to use their product. I offered to do this under the condition that it would be available for anyone that wanted to download it from their web page. In fact, if you would like to print out a copy of the book and see and example of one of my “Piggy Back Marketing” efforts, go to www.nrgball.com and print out a copy of “Secrets to NRG BALL Training Guide.”
Whenever possible, DO IT!
There is nothing in the world like doing what you specialize in to earn the respect of people in and around the specialty field of your UID. For example, if you are a trainer that specializes in conditioning down hill skiers, it will serve you well to invest the time to become a proficient skier. If you are a specialist in corrective exercise and have a fire station or police station near by that is a source of referrals for you, go to the station and offer to do a ride along so that you can get some first hand experience about the demands of their job. You will be far more respected and taken much more seriously if you commit the time and interest in them than if you just sit around and wait for referrals! How do I know this, I have done it many times!
In fact, in the past year I began to get an influx of elite motorcross racers as clients. After watching film clips of these racers, it became obvious to me that the race and the bikes had changed tremendously since I raced in the mid- 70’s. Therefore, I took the first available opportunity to go out with one of my clients and I learned very quickly that today’s bikes not only have much better suspension, they are much faster than they used to be!
During that day at the track, I realized I would need to make several modifications to my exercise protocols for professional motorcross racers because of the changes they face in their sport. Gary Semics and several of the other pros that I work with were excited by the fact that I went out and got dirty with them! Although this form of networking can bring you frightenly close to needing corrective exercise of your own, the endorphin release is one you won’t get sitting at home typing on your computer, and it beats the hell out of writing ads and articles!
During the past 17 years I have learned that, in the industry of exercise and rehabilitation, developing your UID may be the most important step you could ever make. If you wish to achieve financial success and/or seek an ongoing educational stimulus, finding and pursuing your UID is the answer for you! Once you have identified your UID, you can use the many principles presented here to become recognized as one of the best in your field! As you begin to polish your skills, you will find yourself surrounded by intellectually stimulating professionals and high-caliber clients. If you find your endeavor even half as stimulating as I have found mine, you will be well on your way to a rewarding career.
In Part II of this series entitled Do Your Homework & Know Your Customer, I will emphasize the importance of specific assessments, what it takes to know your client and some basic foundational health principles that your clients must be following before any significant results take place.
- Rivera R., Deutsch R. Your Hidden Food Allergies Are Making You Fat
- Prima Health, 1998
- Starfield, B. “Is US Health Really the Best in the World?” JAMA Vol 284 July 26, 2000.
- Sears, B. The Zone Diet Made Easy – Part I & II”(Audio Cassette)
- Broda, O. Barnes Research Foundation Inc.
- Tracy, B. The Luck Factor. Nightingale-Conant Corporation, 1998. http://www.nightingale.com
- Levinson, J. Guerrilla Marketing. Houghton Mifflin; Boston. 1994. http://www.gmarketing.com