// The guinea pig promotion

by Andrew May

I first heard about this process from leading American fitness trainer Phil Kaplan, and it has helped to generate hundreds of thousands of dollars of business for me over the past decade.

We all understand the expression ‘to treat like a guinea pig’, to trial run a scheme or idea on somebody, and this is exactly what you do with one of your clients. Treat them like a ‘guinea pig’ and detail the progress of their health and fitness training experience over a set period of time. Prior to commencing, of course, you need the ‘guinea pig’ to agree to this process, and to explain the concept and your objectives to them.

5 steps of the guinea pig promotion

1. Choose an influential person who has massive potential

If you work in a fitness facility this could be a member who has been attending for a while, but who you believe has been underachieving. You may have noticed that they don’t do the right exercises, train in the correct target zone, eat the right foods or focus clearly on their workout. If you don’t work in a centre, target a client or prospect you think has potential to get fantastic results. Some trainers implement this process very successfully with local celebrities or media personalities. You might even choose someone you know cannot afford your full training rate, but who is a ‘renovator’s dream’.

Explain that you are prepared to train them at a heavily reduced rate (but never for free) in return for the permission to use their success as part of your marketing campaign to attract similar clients in their target market.

2. Structure the entire program in advance

Map out assessment dates, progress checks and communication platforms you are going to use to document the progress and tell the story (e-news, paper based newsletters, information boards, posters). People love a great story and it can generate a lot more interest than the same old marketing materials that you are used to using.

Make the story as personal and as real as possible. A twelve week program gives you enough time to get impressive results and document the journey.

3. Kick off the training program

Take ‘before’ photos and put these with the initial assessment results (as a minimum, measure weight, VO2 score, flexibility, strength and percentage body fat) into a marketing document. An A3 sized poster is a great way to advertise this in a centre, and an A4 PDF can be attached to e-mail communications.

4. Log the progress

Post regular updates in your communication platforms. As a minimum, provide an update after the second, fourth and eighth weeks. You might add a quote from your ‘guinea pig’ after the first two weeks, saying something like ‘Since commencing this program with XYZ fitness I have actually started to spring out of bed in the morning. I am coping with stress better at work and my wife even commented how much better I am to be around.

I am really looking forward to doing my update assessment in another two weeks time’. After four weeks do a comparative fitness assessment. Repeat this after week eight and announce the results via all of your communications platforms, e.g. ‘Kaye has already lost 5 kgs and it’s only week 8!’

5. Finish the story

After week twelve do a final comparison report and take another photo. Then, graph or chart the progress between weeks one and twelve, showing the before and after photos and a client quote. It’s also a good idea to extract a power quote and place this on the side of the poster or marketing material to add extra impact, e.g. ‘The 12 week program has totally changed the way I feel about myself, I have never felt fitter or healthier!’ This document can then be used in large poster format, included in newsletters and web sites or included in marketing packs to give to prospective clients.

Putting the five steps into practice I tested this process when I started my first training business in Hobart more than ten years ago. I knew that an untapped market existed of women over the age of fifty who wanted to lose weight and feel healthier and had enough money to afford personal training, but who didn’t feel comfortable in a gym setting.

I mentioned this idea to a doctor I was working with at the time and he agreed to pass my details on to a few of his clients. I was already training him, and he had lost seven kilos and was a strong advocate of my services. The following week I received a call from a 54 year old woman who told me that she wanted to get her fitness and her confidence back again. I started training her and could see immediately that she was really committed to getting results. She also seemed to know nearly everyone in the city, which was great for word-of-mouth networking!

I told my new client about my idea, checking that she was comfortable with the concept. She was more than comfortable and was eager to show other women her age that they could change the way they felt and that they didn’t have to put up with feeling tired and lethargic all the time. After mapping out the twelve week program, we started training in earnest.

I took the ‘before’ photos and posted the results on the gym notice board, and put progress checks up after four and eight weeks. My ‘guinea pig’ became a mini-celebrity in the health club and even got mentioned in the local social pages. After twelve weeks we took the very impressive ‘after’ photos and created an A3 poster trumpeting the amazing results to the world (see picture left).

The doctor who had referred my ‘guinea pig’ to me was overjoyed by her hugely improved health and referred another eleven clients to me within the first three months. Happy that I was getting great results with his patients, he allowed me to put the A3 poster and a small marketing flyer in his surgery. Over the next few years I had more than sixty direct referrals from his practice.

This promotion with a single client also led to a successful and lucrative corporate contract with another large business in the area, the value of which ran into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The power of the pig

Guinea pig marketing is a truly powerful way to get your business firing. Off the back of training just a handful of well connected individuals I was able to set up a business employing five staff with an annual turnover in excess of $250,000 without spending a cent on advertising. The local newspapers picked up on the corporate fitness story and this just helped the process to grow stronger. The testimonials I received were worth their weight in gold and helped me to launch a nationwide corporate health business in Sydney a few years later. Stop doing the same things that other trainers do and tap into guinea pig marketing to launch your business into the stratosphere.

Andrew May
Andrew is the co-founder of Good Health Solutions, Australia’s largest corporate health and productivity company. He is also the founder of PT Plus, an international fitness consultancy based in Australia and the UK. As the former physical performance manager for the Australian Cricket Team, and consultant to a range of Olympic and Australian representatives, Andrew works with a number of Australia’s highest profile athletes.

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