Thursday, October 16, 2008

Fitness Marketing Language

The Antithesis of a Testimonial

Once, a fitness presenter told me he got an evaluation at a conference that simply read, “I don’t like your personality.” Ouch! And how mean!

When you put yourself “out there” – whether it’s as a bootcamp instructor, presenter, fitness director or studio owner – you’re going to eventually face negative feedback from someone. It’s inevitable, really.

I imagine you don’t like receiving negative comments any more than I do. But what stings the most is when less-than-positive feedback is not constructive because it doesn’t help you improve in some way.

I am writing this post because I need your help!

Below is a note I got from someone who attended one of my sessions at a recent fitness conference. This person doesn’t like the way I represent myself. And since this person took the time to send me a few thoughts (to THREE of my email addresses, no less – thanks for that!), the least I can do is get a blog post out of it. Here's the note:

>>I would like to provide some feedback on your BCRPA conference
presentation, and on your self-marketing strategy.

Without doubt, you are very knowledgeable and experienced. However,
it is unwise to constantly remind everyone that you write for
Chatelaine, Self, Fitness and other trash magazines. If you want
people to respect and view you as a true professional, you should
write for intelligent publications, including peer-reviewed academic
magazines. Associating your business with bottom of the barrel media
does not add to credibility.

In your biography write up, you are using low brow, outdated, and
meaningless marketing gimmicks such as "51 free tips", "free ebook"
etc. These are mostly used by telemarketers, snake oil sellers and in
infomercials. Please respect the intelligence of your potential
readers! It is a real turn off when an educated person resorts to
dumbed down amateur marketing tricks. Thank you. <<

Well, I can’t do anything about the person’s first directive that I should write for “peer-reviewed academic magazines” instead of the so-called “trash” magazines I contribute to. Gee, if I could find a way to feed my daughter, pay for her daycare and keep on top of bills by contributing to all those academic journals that pay ZILCH, I’d jump right on that advice. Oh, except for the fact that I like writing for the magazines I contribute to.

Anyway, what I'd like your help with is this:

Please add your constructive comments here to help other fitness pros determine the most effective language for marketing their own fitness businesses.

And while you're at it, please save me from changing the name of my free e-book (51 Need-to-Know Writing & Marketing Tips for Fitness Pros) to something more intellectual, such as A Series of Grammar Lessons Fitness Professionals Must Study, Posthaste! … a digital document (aka: e-book) available to anyone who wants it (sorry, I don’t know how to make “FREE” sound boring).

Hey, if uttering the word “free” is tantamount to being a “snake oil seller” then the majority of successful businesses I can think of are in real trouble.

Call me defensive, but this has been cathartic!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a yoga book to ghostwrite about cultivating inner peace and an article to complete that will help personal trainers connect in a more meaningful way with their clients. Low-brow stuff, indeed.


DaxMoy said...

Hey Amanda

Several things come to mind for me around this subject.

First, you're never going to have 100% of any audience who are in love with your message... unless you're lucky enough to be running an event for your own raving fans.

Because of that, I think it's important that whenever you speak, write or perform in any way that you are coming from your own philosophy and principles rather than from a place where you're relying on credentials.

I see too many people brandishing their 'boy scout badges', cerifications and press coverage and far too few who are ever authentically themselves when they write or present.

It's like they build a persona on the foundation of these other things. I believe this to be a big mistake... and a common one.

I use my boy scout badges and press coverage strategically as opposed to foundationally to who I am.

I am Dax Moy, fitness philosopher, success coach BEFORE I'm a TV, radio or print celebrity or author.

If people don't like Dax Moy or my message then that's fine, their prerogative but I want to give everyone the chance to know ME before they begin to judge me on my associations to others.

Second, I try to speak far more about the results I help others get rather than the results I get for myself. That said, as a coach, I share in that success : )

People seem loathe to pat you on the back for what you do for yourself and far more inclined to do so when help others to get more from their lives.

Use that knowledge and talk more about others results than your own.

Third, some people love trash others love peer reviewed and some love both... or neither!

You can never truly account for this in any talk or article except by ensuring that you talk about the one thing that a person EVERYONE wants... a result!

They want a solution to their itchiest, scratchiest, burningest (I just made that up!) problems and will listen to ANYONE who offers them a solution that they believe will help them get it.... regardless of whether it was in a journal or a trashy mag.

I'd focus on being Amanda the person and letting the core of who you are come to the fore in all you do, stop writing and presenting for the reader or the audience and start doing it for you.

And if they don't like it or won't offer anything constructive...

...screw 'em : )
(Yep, I know that'sa little coarse but... I mean it!) : )

Dax Moy

Dr. K said...

Hi Amanda,

Emails like the one you received are poisonous.... to say the least. Here's a fact:

Scientists read scientific journals.

Here's another one:

No one else does.

I'm sorry that this weight has been put on your shoulders. Peer reviewed journals are vital to the success and progress of our industry, but life-changing articles are the ones placed in popular magazines.

You should feel honored and proud to be published in these magazines, at least that's my opinion.

Personally, I do publish in peer-reviewed journals, but not nearly as often as I write articles for or pdf reports for my loyal subscribers. This allows me to further our field while also improving lives of everyday people who are looking to burn fat and fix their joints. Without writing to them, in a voice that they can understand, nothing will change.

Please, don't lose your spirit, and don't waste your talent. Relating to people in the way you do is rare, and it is extremely important. I'm proud of your work - you should be too.

Let me introduce you to the criticism that I receive on occasion... people ask me why I "waste my time" teaching people how to lose weight when I am a doctor of physical therapy. In my humble opinion, that's a horrible (yet important) question to ask.

Here's my answer:

If I do not educate the public in ways to engage in physical activity that they love, and to do so in a safe and effective way, I am a businessman, not a physical therapist. The truth is that physical inactivity leads to the majority of joint breakdown, heart disease, and musculoskeletal pains that I treat. By not teaching the public how to avoid this in the first place, I am only promoting more illness and more patients.

What about prevention? What about taking action against these problems before they occur? Where is the emphasis on this?

You are doing the same. You are preventing the need for peer-reviewed journals by helping people take action and become healthy today.

I commend you for this.

Have a great day,


Steve Payne said...

I wish I had time to say more, but I'm very near to leaving for Chicago, so...

1) Bill Cosby once said, "I don't know the secret to happines, but the secret to unhappiness is trying to make everyone else happpy." Not that you have or are, but why try?

2) I'd rather write for a "trash mag" that has an impact on someone's health, fitness, emotional stability or self-image than an "academic" magazine (whatever that means) that appeals to an ego or sense of self-purpose and importance.

3) You're good at what you do and have a receptive, appreciative and respected audience. Like Dax said, "Screw 'em." Those that love you and your work (like me) respond to your "trash mag" work because that's where we are. And there are thousands of us around.

Thanks for what you do and who you do it for.
Steve Payne

Luka Hocevar said...

what do you write after Dax wrote all of that :)
I think you are just going to have some people that will not like you no matter what and trying to change and make them like you is what I would consider being the "fake".

If you can gain positive insight from constructive criticism then that is great because it is making you better, but in many cases when you get feedback like that, I think it is from people that are mad at previous experiences and have this shield where they do not let anyone close and believe everyone is trying to "trick" them.

The one thing you can learn from this is that you do what you do for the people that appreciate your knowledge and the sharing of it.

I appreciate what you do and honestly I need to make more time to read some of your advice on writing for fitness professionals.

Luka Hocevar

Amanda Vogel said...

Thanks to those who have commented so far. I appreciate your advice and support!

I am confident in what I do for a career (which is to help others). That's why I am able to post and comment on that message instead of hiding away and sulking.

I take back what I said, though, about the person's feedback being entirely unconstructive. Actually, it's started a thoughtful discussion about how and why we help people in this industry. I am thankful for that.


Jim Labadie said...

I've spoken at a few industry conferences and I'm going to do my absolute best never to do so again. I cannot imagine a bigger waste of my time.

I'm sure I had some perfectly terrific personal trainers in the audience who are more than happy to spend their lives as an employee having someone else sign their paycheck. But that's not my market. I go after entrepreneurial trainers who know that good old fashioned lead generation tactics still work.

And as for the low-brow magazine comment. Well, I'm guessing this person is a terrific technical trainer. But the fact they don't realize the general population doesn't read peer reviewed journals makes me wonder about their ability to communicate at all with their clients.

Anyway, thank you so much, Amanda, for the reminder about the caliber of trainer that regularly goes to fitness conferences. I see things haven't changed much.

Jim Labadie

Anonymous said...

Hi Amanda,

Way to look at the glass half full re: what you said about the discussion. One could learn so much not only from your reviewers comments, but mostly by the discussion that has resulted from them.

Dax, Steve and Dr K. pretty much summed it up. If you're helping people and feel good about it, that's what's most important. Some feel the need to identify with their titles most likely because they don't know who they really are or are unhappy with themselves.

Keep doing what your doing if it feels right.

Deb Froehlich

Stephen Holt said...

Simply look at the level of trainers who have replied here and the countless others you've helped.

Never change your core values and principles because of what one random person has to say about how you "should" be.

Keep doing what's working for you and what feels right for you. - Stephen

Isaac Wilkins said...


As someone from a scientific background who took a long time to realize that 99% of clients didn't give a darn (or need) about 99% of what I knew, this strikes home. While I have never been so poisonous (as Dr. K said well), I could have thought along the lines of what that poster said... When I was in grad school. After a little bit of time in the really-real world, I discovered that if I wanted to reach, and help, the most people then I needed to communicate at their level.

Now I go out of my way to reach the public (or maybe slightly above), and I've been rewarded for it. I've also found that as you educate you can elevate. This individual didn't get the whole Amanda Vogel story, just like someone who reads one of my basic articles doesn't get the whole Isaac Wilkins story. However, they get good, solid information that teaches them and entices them to come back for more. The more often they come to the well, the more of a learned consumer and potentially an expert they become.

Then, and only then, would they ever be interested in the scholarly journals the phantom emailer mentioned. I assure you, the public, and your audience, as a rule are not.

Keep on keeping on!


Daniel Munday said...

Hi Amanda,
I am sure you haven't lost any sleep over the comment.

If the person has nothing else better to do than whinge about someone who is getting themselves outthere and being heard and read by others than I feel sorry for them.

I am sure you have more important fish to fry.

Daniel Munday

Jeff Patten said...

I think an important thing to remember is most people feel like you need to be like them and if you do something different that it is bad or they see you up there and they get jealous of your success so they want to pull you back down to where they are know.

I wouldn't worry some peoples "trash" is others peoples treasure or something like that!

Jeff Patten

Anonymous said...

Greetings Amanda!

It boggles my mind that the feedback that can consistently be counted on is the feedback that represents a tiny IOTA of the population! There is always the one 'Negative Nelly' in the group!

I cannot fathom why this person took the time to leaving feedback that was more of a personal attack than positive and constructive criticism. Alluding to the fact that you were a 'snake oil salesmen' should have tipped you off that they have no clue about the state of internet marketing. You should have stopped reading right then!

One of the main reasons why we do offer FREE yet valid info is as an entry into the door of establishing our credibility and continuing the contact through newsletter, opt-in forms, etc. There is no 'trickery' involved, which is why anyone has the option of unsubscribing!

I bet you would still be attacked whether you did all of these 'suggestions' offered to you by this reviewer. Obviously, they are a minority, so just feel good knowing that you caused this response in the first place.

My mom always said "Having HATERS means you must be doing something right!"


Leigh Peele said...

Hey Amanda,

Let me say that I am one who does not become associates or friends with just anyone. I am very cautious of who I will associate with professionally and think that knowledge and ethics within your field is important. I WILL turn down a buck if I feel it clashes with what I have been trying to give to myself and to my readers, bank account be damned.

There are a few other in my field who I know feel the same. We will NOT give into poor health claims, a media spin on a current research study, or trying a manipulate their health with the latest gimmicks and trends.

If looking for more information on us, please check out your local magazine racks for articles in Self, Men's Health, and Eating Clean. Myself and others can be found there.

PS-Those that cherry pick, even with the best of intentions, will always miss out on the sweetest crop.

Kerry Olohan said...

Hi Amanda, Nice Blog. Thank you! In response to the quack who sent you the MANY unsolicited emails, I would simply advise you to view him as a mis-directed, unfit, jealous louse, who has never been able to quite find the motivation to get off his couch and make it to the gym. Harsh, I know.
Any person who has devoted any time to fitness and health knows that Academic Journals are not where we go to find inspiration or motivation, and that these two factors contribute more to attaining health than any other 'science' can. Don't get me wrong, I love science, but it alone is not what drags my sorry ass to the gym at 5:30 a.m., or helps me teeter the bar precariously over my head, as I eke out the final rep in my way toooo heavy chest press. Yup, it is people like you who help to get that out of me! Keep up the good work!