I was at dinner the other night with an old friend who is not involved in the fitness trade.  

 

Nonetheless, we ended up talking about fitness because he was asking my advice about personal trainers. 

 

He needs one.

 

In the midst of the conversation he blurted out,

… a personal trainer is a personal trainer is a personal trainer!”

 

Of course, I immediately corrected this statement and went on to explain the multitude of differences between trainers.

 

Highly Qualified & Highly Creative

 

But, this conversation reminded me of Kevin Johnson, a highly qualified trainer (ACSM / B.S. Exercise Science) as well as one of the most creative and marketing-savvy personal trainers I’ve ever met.

 

More than 25 years ago, in Northern California, Kevin ran a complete advertising campaign with a headline that read:  

 

DoNotHireMe

 

And, the wonderful tagline underneath, “… or anyone else until you answer these questions.”

 

You could call or visit Kevin and he would provide you with a sheet of questions to ask.  Or, he would e-mail them to you. 

 

But, here’s the “kicker!”   He also would send you a one-sheet where ALL THE QUESTIONS were already answered with his credentials. 

 

Brilliant..!

 

Pre-Internet Marketing

 

Now remember, this was around 1992 when there really wasn’t much internet connectivity or nearly as much email as today.  So, Kevin launched his campaign via:

  • direct mail (money mailers)
  • flyers on cars in parking lots
  • flyers stapled to telephone poles
  • advertisements in Penny Saver (community newspaper)
  • lead boxes
  • community bulletin boards
  • word of mouth
  • even on his business card!

 

And, of course, if he couldn’t close the sale, he handed out both the questions and his answers (credentials) to the potential new client who “couldn’t make the decision” after he presented.

 

Brilliant and Successful

 

Kevin’s campaign was wildly successful and here’s why.   He created a “straw man” campaign. 

 

A “straw man” is a “hypothetical argument” that plants “seeds of doubt” in the opposing view.

 

So… just think of what Kevin was doing.    He was accomplishing two things at once.

 

First, he was, attracting attention with his “Do NOT Hire Me” headline.

 

Secondly, he was asking potential clients to compare his credentials against the competition.   And, it worked big time.

 

But, it was doing more than that.  Think about the people who already had a trainer.  His ad was creating seeds of doubt — especially among those who might be feeling unsatisfied with their club membership or current trainer.

 

Seems Appropriate for Today’s Fitness Market

 

I’m not really a huge fan of the “straw man” strategy. But, in today’s fitness market with all kinds of non-certified trainers, internet marketers and online health coaches, I think it’s perfectly appropriate for consumers to start asking questions. 

 

And, if it takes us to plant the seed… well, so be it.

 

Success Breeds Success

 

Needless to say, Kevin went on to be quite successful and eventually sold his chain of private studios and retired a multi-millionaire.  But, I still remember his successes.  

 

I can only imagine what he would do with today’s social media, internet, email and auto-responders…!

 

Here’s a modified version of what his questions might be today….  Feel free to download and use it or edit to make your own version!  Enjoy!

 

 

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