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Testimonials for Business Development

Last week I conducted an advanced marketing session for a group of personal fitness trainers and while they all understood the basics of marketing at various levels, they were having trouble making their marketing knowledge pay off. This became quite apparent during the discussion of "building your marketing arsenal," your base of testimonials. While everyone in the room could tell stories of clients who experienced dramatic transformations, hardly any had real evidence to prove the value of their services. There is no better tool for marketing a Personal Training business than the evidence of your successes. I'm dedicating this month's article to helping you develop and polish up your "marketing arsenal."

I hope you won't mind as I share some of my personal experiences and help you internalize how powerful using the words of satisfied clients can be in attracting new ones. Let's clearly understand why testimonials have such power. Quite simply, people "like" and "believe" people who are like themselves. You know exactly what I'm referring to. You've met prospective clients who were extremely apprehensive. They believed a Personal Trainer might not be "for them." They were reaching out, hoping you had the solution, but concerned that maybe they were too far gone, too unmotivated, or perhaps too advanced. Once they came to understand that you work with others who are "just like them," their guard went down and they became clients. What better way to convince someone that you are precisely what they need than by sharing the actual words of another person, a person "just like them," who wanted what they want and achieved it! Testimonials give you that power!


I don't pretend to be the inventor of testimonial marketing. Real or otherwise, you've seen them used to advertise everything from the old Cybergenics ads to the newest weight loss centers. There are lots of books, seminars, sales trainers, and "gurus" who will tell you how important it is to use testimonials. They'll tell you to ask your satisfied clients or customers to write you a letter and obtain permission to use it. Have you tried that? Most of the trainers in my marketing session did, and they all shared a common experience. I'm sure you've been there.

A client brings you near the brink of ecstasy telling you how instrumental you were in changing their lives and describing how you are the greatest thing to come about since Disney World. You ask them if they'd be kind enough to write you a letter. In most cases the letter never manifests, but in the cases that it does, you can't believe your eyes! From the "great verbal praiser" you wind up with the following literary work:

"Your training services are really great and I look and feel better.”

You want to scream! "What about all the great sex you told me you're having now?!?! And all the people who are hitting on you? And how those people who used to make fun of you are jealous . . . and that you feel better than you did when you were 20 and . . . the new wardrobe . . . the promotion at work! What about all those really nice things you said to me about me being the greatest thing to show up in your life? WHAT ABOUT ALL OF THAT!?!?!?"

Yeah, you want to scream, but instead, you say, "Thanks," and add the letter to your file of mundane and valueless testimonials knowing it will never help you to market your services or cement even one single training session.

The "thanks for being a good trainer" letters are not what you're looking for. You want to collect and utilize testimonials that are filled with unmitigated passion, that are completely from the heart, and that are extremely compelling to others who long for the results expressed in testimony. Part of the challenge lies in knowing when to obtain testimonials and how to make those testimonials work for you again, and again, and again. When you "just ask" for a testimonial letter, you give up control. You leave it to fate and your clients' literary skills on paper. It's far better to learn to document the expressions of gratitude in the precise moment they occur. At the conclusion of this article I'll offer you plenty of ideas and tips for grabbing documentation, but first let me drive the value of "passion based" testimonials home.


Remember, people are most likely to "believe" others who are "just like them," even if the information they're being fed violates common sense. Want proof? Walk into a Weight Watchers meeting. You'll see fat women! Do you think I'm being rude? I'm not. I'm telling you how, in their minds, these women view themselves. Sure, they can read all of the articles that say, "love yourself," or "beauty is what's on the inside" but you'll see them tear it up when they flip on the episode of Sally Jesse Raphael where husbands are degrading their "fat" wives.

Wouldn't you think "fat women" would want to go to a place where people are thin and fit? Shouldn't they see those "thin and fit" people as role models, and do what these people do? Well, sure, we know they should! It's just that they don't know it. They are fat women, in their own minds, and feel comfortable sharing their experience with others who can "understand." They view those fit and thin people much as you view extraterrestrials.

Amazingly, despite the positive press they've received over the years for being "sensible" and "changing lifestyle," Weight Watchers has, in my opinion, a pathetic success rate for long-term results. Regardless of how you slice it, calorie deprivation, termed sensible or otherwise, is a flawed technology for bringing about long-term fat reduction and metabolic increase.

I find it absurd that most of those women sitting in Weight Watchers centers across America are there for the fourth, seventh, or seventeenth time! They keep failing to achieve the results they desired, and returning to the technology that initiated the failure. Does it make any sense at all? Intellectually, for you, probably not, but these people have been duped, abused, brainwashed, and berated so long, they want to be with "others like them

That is a market that desperately needs your help! Chronic dieting "fat women." How, if you've never been a "fat woman" can you get through to them?

Change One!

Just one! And then document everything along the way! Photos, feelings, words, expressions of gratitude, etc. Use videotape, audiotape, and photographs. Don't ask for a letter. Document words. When your "fat woman" becomes an "ex-fat woman" and tells you, "I never felt this attractive in my life," you have the tool! Just document it! When you are faced with what I've learned to call "An Expressed Moment of Ecstasy," these words have to come out of your mouth as a conditioned reflex response:

"I appreciate that so much. Do you mind if I write down what you just said and ask you to sign it. It will be so helpful in allowing me to get through to others who are now in the position you were in when we first met!”

I mentioned that I'd share a personal experience. Before I do so, I have to make a bold confession. Chronic diet women frustrate me. They seem to have let go of their sanity, or at the very least, their common sense. I accept that. I can even understand it since I know what they've been through. Since, however, I've never had the experience, I can't, at an internal level, understand why someone who learns all of the "science" behind eating for metabolic increase, allows me to teach them about the importance of resistance training in boosting fat burning ability, and asks me question after question about supplementation until they reach the point of "A-ha", will still revert back to the "starvation strategy" that caused the problem in the first place. Again, I accept, but I can't, at a gut level, understand.

Donna Michaels, the author of "Live It or Diet," understands, not at the surface level of my acceptance, the rational level, but at a much deeper level. Donna's become a good friend. I've written about her and had her as a guest on my radio show several times before. She was obese. In her twenties she rode what she has termed "The Roller Coaster Ride From Hell." Starvation, binges, amphetamines, liquid protein diets, and every other "solution" that drove her to balloon up to obesity. In her 30's, Donna found weight training and began to learn. Now, at 51 (and getting younger by the day), Donna looks incredible, and can put on her resume, "ACSM certified instructor, National Bodybuilding champ, fitness competitor," and the list goes on. The crazy part is, Donna looks about 27 years old. I've witnessed Donna speaking to "fat women." They don't listen at first. They don't think she's "like them." They believe she is one of those genetically blessed individuals who was dealt a great hand at birth, probably some 25-30 years ago. Then Donna reveals her age. Jaws drop and folded arms unfold.

"Whaaaaat? She's 51?" At that moment, there's a bit of "maybe she's just a little like me' thinking. Then, when Donna whips out her ":before" picture, she becomes the Pied Piper. The fat women will follow her to the end of the earth. They believe!

I talk about losing weight, about diet scams, weight loss drug dangers, etc. pretty frequently on my radio show. We normally get 14-20 calls immediately following the show from listeners in my immediate area interested in some product or service. It's usually 50%-50% men and women, yet the great majority of women are exercisers frustrated with their results. Last time I had Donna on the show, speaking with me about the exact same issues I've discussed with Corey Everson, Mia Finnegan, Carol Semple, etc., we received 49 immediate calls of which only four were men, and the great majority were women who confessed that they listened regularly but didn't really think this was for them. Each such woman believed that I was talking to everyone in the world but them. She was a "fat woman." Hey, I'm a man. In fact, a man who doesn't carry too much excess fat. What do I know about helping fat women? When Donna speaks the same words, guards go down. They "believe!”

Finding others who are "like" those that you're trying to reach is going to knock down doors for you. I'm thankful that we now have helped hundreds of women step out of their "fat woman" identities and transform. I realize that it started with one.

The aerobic exercise fanatics who become fat-skinny people? They don't want to hear about weight training. Well, that is until they witness the transformation of "someone like them!" Aerobic women wouldn't listen to me, until I got one . . . and documented her change. Now, I don't think a day goes by that our offices aren't graced by a former fat-skinny aerobic woman expressing her gratitude.

Whatever market you're trying to reach, start with one.... and let the world know!

“Fat guys” are different than “fat women”. It’s amazing how willing Wayne, Jim, John and others like them allow me to use their “before photos”. “Fat women” often avoid cameras like the plague. They’ll sometimes only share photos if I swear on my life and the life of my friends and neighbors that I’ll never show them to anyone! That’s why I often document things using an audio tape. They love to “tell” the story. Not only do I often play the taped segments on my radio shows, but we use audio cassettes to “break through” to chronic dieters.

If you don't yet have a marketing arsenal, how do you get started? Well, if you operate a health club, and your walls are filled with autographed photos of bodybuilders, that's nice. Is it going to bring in new members or generate business for your profit centers? Nope. Understand that the bodybuilding market has already "bought in." They read the magazines. They know this stuff. They're easy to sell. If you don't want the "fat people" in your gym, if you are a "hard core" gym, you can still use your wall space better than signed pictures with the standard "Pump Hard" or "Keep It Up" scribbled in black marker. Allow your members and potential members to "witness" others like them achieving the results they want. If you're going to put up a signed picture from a famous bodybuilder, and you know that bodybuilder, ask for a "before" shot. I don't know any bodybuilders that had 23-inch arms at 14 years old. Along with the "before" and "after," document a comment, a single comment that ties the facility and or services that you offer in with his or her ability to go through the "change." If you follow up on people who visited your club but didn't enroll, mail them audiotapes that they can listen to in their car using "real" testimonials from people like them who achieved the results they are looking to achieve.

Listen. It starts with one. Anyone can write a comment from a satisfied member or client on a sheet of paper and ask that person to sign it. Anyone who can operate a camera can take a photo now and a photo "after." Anyone can go to a copy center and create a simple 8 1/2 X 11 sheet of paper with the photos and the testimonial comment. Make a few copies, invest in some picture frames, and begin to decorate the walls of your facility. It starts with one!

Testimonials don't have to be visual. You can get a decent tape deck for $39 if all you want to use it for is to record conversation. Audiotapes are great since they allow people to "hear" the results directly from the person "like them." Tape duplication might run $1.40 - $2.00 per tape and mailing 8 1/2 x 11 sheets of paper with an audiocassette enclosed shouldn't cost you anymore than 55 - 78 cents. Handing the tapes and papers to people is postage free!

One of the most common marketing flaws I see in even the best health clubs is a clutter of hand written or computer generated signs announcing upcoming events.

"Nutrition For Life Seminar, June 25, 6 PM”

"Kidfit Program Every Monday: See Julie”

"Personal Training Packages Available: Summer Special”

Remember, you want to let people know that "others like them" achieved what they want to achieve by taking advantage of the programs and services you offer. Add power to every single one of those by including documentation of testimonials.

Do you have TV's in your facility? You can pick up a video camera for near $300 these days. The next time someone throws a "thanks for all that you've done for me" your way, ask if they'd mind if you get that on videotape. Compile three or four of these into a 2-minute long testimonial tape and sell your personal training services effectively through your in-house TV system.

Don't have a facility? Mail the videos to your prospects. Buddy up to your local video store or TV retailer and get your tape played several times each hour giving your phone number. If you advertise, offer an audiotape for $2 or a video for $9.95. If people aren't willing to invest $2, the odds of them paying you for services are pretty slim. Not only will you better target your true prospects, but you'll also let prospects "see" or "hear" others like them singing your praises!

Do you have "music on hold?" How about compiling "testimonials on hold?”

There isn't any excuse. Anyone can begin to accumulate testimonials immediately. Once you have one, you can immediately boost your marketing response. The question is not, "can you," the question is, "will you?" I believe you will!

I've been conducting some seminars lately for fitness professionals about communicating the simplicity of Body Transformation to Customers and Clients. One of the points I emphasize is, if you truly expect adherence on their part, make it simple. Let me make this simple for you.

Deliver Value Consistently - this probably goes without saying, but if you don't deliver at least what the valued customers expect, the odds of you accumulating testimonials!

Take "Before" Photos as a Part of Your Initial Interaction - you can't go back and take the before picture. Whether it's at the initial "registration" in your health club, or the "consultation" if you're a trainer, get in the habit of taking a "picture for the file.”

Have A Tape Deck Handy At All Times - when someone pours out a verbal emotionally charged "thank you," it's not likely to reproduce itself on the letter you ask them to write. Just break out the tape deck and talk to them. I have, if you're ready for this, over 200 hours of testimonials on tape! I have a studio that I use (remember, all you need is a tape deck) and Frank, the engineer, has 6 questions that he knows to ask. Whenever someone calls us with a great story, we ask if he or she would mind if we get that on tape. Without me present, Frank makes the call, tapes the conversation, and provides me with incredible testimony. You don't need Frank. You just need a tape deck!

Listen for Cues at Moments of Satisfaction - be conscious of the "cues" that say "It's time to document something!" You don't want to be lying in bed at night having the "I wish I had..." experience.

Document Testimonials Immediately - paper and a pen are always handy. Don't wait for them to write something for you. They speak, you write, they sign. If they put something in writing on their personal or business letterhead sometime in the future, you just have more!

Establish "One" For Every Market You Target - Whenever a call comes in on my radio show from a woman saying, "I was on every diet in the world...I was a size ____, and now I'm a size _____," Chronic Diet Women call. If you have my Transform program you'll note the variety of people I use as testimonials in order to reach every market.

Make Your "Testimonial-Givers" Stars and Praise Them Publicly - I remember the first time I really milked this for all it was worth. I coined "The Guinea Pig Promotion" and I trained clients at a discount if they were willing to sign a document saying I could use their photos . . . literally everywhere.... and document their body fat, blood pressure, heart rate, etc. As I posted the photos within the clubs I ran these promotions in, members began to "recognize" my Guinea Pigs. They began to appreciate not only the physical changes, but also the positive notoriety. I experience and I learn. Today I bring my "Testimonial-Givers" on stage in seminars, bring them on TV appearances, and invite them on radio shows that I "guest" on. In fact, it's pretty frequent that some of my "testimonial-givers" are recognized in public places! They love it, and it only fuels the fire further!

In closing, I'd like to note, I have a great caring for all people, and have never been known to insult even a single client or customer. My reference to "fat women" is simply a very real-life representation of how a great many of the women in the “diet conscious” market view themselves. As a matter of fact, one of the most important prerequisites I've learned to use in helping diet conscious women break away from the "fat" mentality is to empower them with the belief that transformation is possible, provided of course they utilize an effective technology of physical change. There has been no better tool in cementing that belief, in changing their self-representations from "fat woman" to "beautiful woman with temporary excess body fat to shed," than the great many testimonials I've collected from "fat-no-more" people. If there is one point to take away from this month's article it is as follows:

Take responsibility for building your marketing arsenal by documenting Expressed Moments of Ecstasy and you command a marketing power no competitor can touch!