Do you love bragging about your clients? Do you tell your friends about the mom of four who is back to her prebaby weight or the couch potato who rediscovered fitness—and his ambition? Their journeys to success have also been your journey. Now that you have shaped success for clients like these, what are you going to do to shape success for your business?

Recognize your clients by sharing their stories with others. Client recognition matters. It’s the missing link to success for most fitness businesses. It keeps clients and dollars coming in. Clients love results, but most love recognition and praise even more. Recognition turns happy clients into raving fans, and raving fans inspire others.

As fitness professionals, you have success stories in your back pocket. However, what you do with these stories is critical to the growth of your business. It is not enough to share them in casual conversation or in a print brochure. Discover two solutions we have used to spread the word about our wonderful clients.

Packaging Client Stories

Putting together success stories keeps our current fans fired up, attracts new business and builds our brand. Here’s what we do at my facility to package clients’ stories.

Each Monday night on our local CBS evening news, my club sponsors a paid segment called “60-Second Inspirations.” We produce fresh “reality TV” stories weekly. These true-life testimonials inspire and educate. They have far more impact on potential clients than a newspaper coupon would. In each testimonial a client shares how he or she overcame an injury, lost weight or overhauled the family’s eating habits, for example.

10 Steps for Creating 60-Second Inspirations

You can use your own client stories in several ways. To start packaging a 60-second story, first decide on a storyline. Do you want to feature a client who underwent a fitness transformation? Someone who used exercise to cope with disease? A client who beat the odds? Select someone who fits your criterion, and then follow these 10 steps:

Step 1: Light the Fire. Get the client excited about sharing his story.

Step 2: Explain How the Story Will Help. Talk to your client about how her story will motivate and encourage other people. You need her to be actively engaged in the process of sharing her story.

Step 3: Ask Tough Questions. Either in an interview or through a questionnaire, ask open-ended questions to help your client express the emotion behind his transformation.

Step 4: Get to the Heart of the Story. If you could share only one thing about this person, what would it be? Keep the focus on that.

Step 5: Lights, Camera, Action! Keep it simple, but be creative. The footage you take does not have to be fancy. Thanks to the popularity of YouTube, people are accustomed to home movie–quality video. The everyday Flip™ camera works. Film your client during her exercise program, at her workplace, in her home or at the grocery store.

Step 6: Show the Story. Ask your client to dig into his photo albums and memory cards to find pictures that support his story. Suggest that he share “before” and “after” shots, so people can compare images of him before he began training with pictures showing him living his new fit, healthy life.

Step 7: Tell It. Start your script with something that will get attention. Don’t waste time explaining every detail—your audience will get it.

Step 8: Create It. Edit the video to support the audio. Select clips that match up with the story you’ve written. Not savvy about video editing? Consider creating a video with photos and text, like a photo montage set to music. Inexpensive programs like Wondershare™ make this easy to do.

Step 9: Broadcast It. Post the video on your social media sites (YouTube, Twitter™, Facebook “like” pages) and on your website. Learn how to “tag” the video to get the most views. Use keywords that reflect what people search for, such as “lose baby weight” or “get rid of belly fat.” Include some of these words in the
title of your video. Partner with a local TV station to show the videos; display them on monitors at your facility; or use them in community presentations.

Step 10: Share It. Create CDs of the story and distribute them with your business card.

Throwing a Fitness-Inspired Gala

We wear many hats in fitness, but did you know that “party planner” is one of them? Why not host an elegant party to honor your clients’ successes, and invite the community? You will have to step outside your skin as a personal trainer or fitness manager, but it will be worth the challenge. Pack the house and send clients and would-be clients home talking. Remember, the goal is to drive retention and referrals. Be bold in your effort.

10 Steps for Hosting a Gala

Use these suggestions to conduct a winning party for your clients.

Step 1: Collect Several Success Stories. Get stories from as many clients as possible. The gala is more impactful if you feature a variety of stories—don’t center all stories on weight loss, for example. Give clients a chance to tell you how their relationships are better, their families are healthier and their lives in general are improved. Create a detailed questionnaire with open-ended questions such as these:

  • What are the best compliments you’ve received?
  • How is your life different now than it was 6 months ago?
  • What has made the greatest impact on your health?

Step 2: Set a Date for the Gala. Begin planning about 3 months in advance. Set a budget for your venue, catering, decorating, music, supplies and gala prize. Determining the “cost per person” will help you set your ticket price. We priced ours at $30 per person, which covered our costs.

Step 3: Define Your Goal. Decide if you want a big party or a more intimate dinner. We found that 100 people or more creates energy and is not hard to achieve, even in a small community. We arrived at this number by inviting 30-40 honorees, along with their guests and community members.

Step 4: Create a Theme. Choose your theme, and then create and mail formal invitations to your clients. Our themes have been “Fitness Royalty” and “Phoenix Rising.” We used VistaPrint online to create elegant and inexpensive invitations and postcards. Invite the community by promoting the event on Facebook and Twitter, in your e-newsletter and on your website, and internally at your facility.

Step 5: Select a Fun Venue. Consider someplace unique. Try an art gallery or a theater, museum or stately home. Decorate the venue yourself. Simple decorations like votive candles, glass stones, glitter, candelabras, white holiday lights and hurricane jars are inexpensive and create a nice effect. Rent table linens from a local wedding or party supply business.

Step 6: Set the Stage. Hire a musician—perhaps an acoustic guitar player.

Step 7: Finalize Your Catering Menu. Select healthy appetizers and decadent desserts. A full dinner is too expensive and too formal; it prevents guests from mingling. Trade your services with a local photographer, and task him or her with taking fun, black-and-white “after” pictures of your honorees. Enlarge the pictures, mount them on foam core board and display them like artwork at the gala. Give the photos away as gifts at the end.

Step 8: Create a Powerful Presentation. Show your favorite “60-Second Inspiration” videos from the year, or simply share clients’ pictures and tell their stories. Invite your top five clients to share their personal journeys at the podium. Live testimonials will make a lasting impact on the audience.

Step 9: Change Someone’s Life. Surprise your guests by inviting them to vote for their favorite transformation story, in the same way that American Idol audiences vote for their favorite contestant. Award the top honoree with a prize.

Step 10: Wow the Crowd. Make the prize something impressive! We partnered with a local travel agency to send our winner on vacation to Westin® hotels in New Orleans and San Diego. The travel agency sent a request to their hotel contacts and secured the trip. We covered the airfare. The audience was really surprised. The winner was overwhelmed with gratitude, and the buzz has never stopped. Make sure you capture the night with photographs and video to use for future promotion.

To see what a gala looks like, go to See the sidebars for more ideas.

60-Second Inspirations: Sample Script

Here is a sample script we used for our business:

“The day that Todd Kasubowski picked up his 11-year-old son from school and his son was in tears was the day he knew he needed to make some changes. His son was being called fat and chubby. As Todd listened to Blake recap the events, he relived his own childhood. He didn’t want Blake to face the same constant teasing. Todd knew he needed to be a better role model, and he started by changing his eating habits. Todd used to eat chips and fast food, and he’d drink four 20-ounce bottles of pop every day—usually in front of his son.

“After being inspired by a Corporate Fit Challenge through his workplace, Todd and his wife Jen have overhauled their kitchen and stocked up on fruits, vegetables and lean meats. Todd continues to set an example for his son by making exercise a priority in his own life. His hope is that Blake will grow up knowing how to have a happy, healthy lifestyle. And the results are already starting to show—Blake has lost more than 10 pounds, and Todd has lost more than 50.”

Note: You can view this story at

How One Trainer Spotlights Clients

At Fitness Evolution in Laguna Hills, California, Vito La Fata honors clients as “Hot Shots of the Month.” “[Hot shots] are clients who exemplify the qualities of our ideal client,” he says. “They have fun, work hard, strive to improve, refer business and help us make connections. They use our best programs, contribute to our experience and bring a great attitude day in and day out.” Their pictures are posted on the “Hot Shots” board in the gym and highlighted in the facility’s newsletter. Hot shots are also rewarded with a thank-you gift.

How has this recognition system worked for Fitness Evolution? It’s been a big success. “The unique recognition has set off a wave of clients wanting to be ‘hot shots,’” says La Fata.

Trina Gray

"Trina Gray is recognized worldwide as a passionate leader in the fitness industry. She is a successful health club owner, business mentor and IDEA presenter. Trina has owned Bay Athletic Club, a medical-based health club, and Bay Urban Fitness, a large group training studio, for more than a decade. She also founded Team Rockstar Fit, an online coaching team of thousands of fitness professionals who partner with Beachbody®. She is the recipient of the first-ever IDEA Fitness Leader of the Year award, the Top 10 Small Business of the Year award in Michigan, the CEO Award from Beachbody and the Outstanding Community Service Award from IHRSA. She is a savvy entrepreneur who loves sharing business and life lessons with fitness professionals."

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