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Let Your Clients Do Your Marketing!

by Megan Senger on Oct 25, 2012

Customer testimonials can be fantastic tools for driving new business to your door. But boring, photo-free client comments buried deep inside your website are unlikely to do the trick. To quickly capture the imagination (and training dollars) of the masses, it is critical to breathe life into client success stories.

So what makes some testimonials tedious and others terrific? Follow these four steps to avoid the mistakes of time-wasting customer snooze stories, bring your facility’s testimonials back from the brink—and attract new-member dollars to your door.

Step 1: Find Your Favorite Format(s)

Effective testimonials should encompass different media formats (written, photo and video), says Vito LaFata, owner of Fitness Evolution, a training studio in Laguna Hills, California, and creator of Fitness Profit Systems consulting.

First, choose a few. Using a variety of media formats helps widen your appeal to different types of learners and personalities, LaFata says. “Not everyone will sit through a video; some people like to skim through a written testimonial and others love hearing a success story in someone’s own words,” he says.

Be brief. Choose two to five testimonials for your website, since most visitors view a page for only a few seconds before clicking away, LaFata advises. Video testimonials should range from 15 seconds to no more than 3 minutes, he adds.

Step 2: Get the Details

You know Member Mike’s weight loss journey will easily entice folks like him to sign up for your services. But first, you’ll need permission to use his real name, weight and age to bring credibility to his story (after all, who’ll believe a testimonial attributed only to “Member Mike?”) What’s the best way to get him—or anyone else—to allow private details to be used publicly?

Make respect your record. Never use a client’s image without permission, and always consider how other people in the customer’s life may perceive the testimonial, says Bob Esquerre, MA, a fitness business expert in Boca Raton, Florida, who co-owns the Esquerre Fitness Group consulting firm with his wife, Jolyn.

Get permission automatically. Build future testimonial participation into your new-client paperwork, LaFata says. His new clients are given the option to consent or not, he says, yet almost all agree. Why? “Because we inspire and excite them and demonstrate a belief that our program will get them results,” LaFata says.

Use peer nominations. People have a hard time saying no when they are nominated by a peer instead of a staff member, says Trina Gray, owner of Bay Athletic Club in Alpena, Michigan, and creator of the Corporate Fit Challenge. So at her facility, members are invited to recommend fellow clients to be featured in a success story.

Cultivate expectation. “We have built a culture of celebrating client success at our facility,” says Gray, whose facility posts a new testimonial every week. “We're known for it, and people are excited when they are chosen to be featured,” she says.

Step 3: Craft Great Content

Successful stories evoke emotion, Gray says. “If testimonials are too generic, others cannot relate.” To create powerful content, use the following tips:

Show solutions. “We always tie our testimonials to specific client goals and objectives,” Esquerre says. For example, he asks clients if they feel better psychologically, if they are stronger and/or more confident, or if their posture or wardrobe has changed.

Portray the past. “My favorite go-to strategy is to collect ‘before’ pictures of the client and then capture video footage of them in their life now,” Gray says. “The stillness and usually unflattering ‘before’ pictures are a stark contrast to the liveliness and fun of the video showing the client living a new lifestyle.”

Give perfection a pass. Testimonials should not come from picture-perfect, super-sexy types who could pass for models, Esquerre says. Instead, position testimonials “as being from real people with real successes who live in your community.”

Remember that weight loss isn’t everything. “Make your testimonials about showing the culture of your business,” LaFata says. At his studio, he highlights a story each month from someone who has done amazing things or has been a great member, not necessarily from someone who has lost a lot of weight.

Step 4: Market Creatively

It’s tempting to just slap a few testimonials on a secondary page of your website and think you are done. But success stories can be used far more creatively than that. Make your testimonials work hard for your business by using creative marketing strategies.

For four great marketing strategies, plus ideas on how to elicit fresh, authentic testimonials from clients, please see “The Anatomy of a Successful Client Testimonial” in the online IDEA Library or in the May 2012 issue of IDEA Trainer Success.

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About the Author

Megan Senger

Megan Senger IDEA Author/Presenter

Megan Senger is a writer, sales and marketing consultant, and fitness instructor based in North Carolina. Active in the exercise industry since 1995, she holds a bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology and English. She specializes in writing and editing technical and promotional content for small business owners in the fitness industry for their blogs, brochures, books, websites, articles and more. For help with your fitness-related writing and editing needs, visit