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Wednesday
Feb132013

Testimonials are more than a pat on the back

Dawn is a mother of two who works two jobs. She recently went through a tough stretch and was looking to get stronger, both physically and mentally.

Eli, who in his 50s wanted to go skydiving. However there is a weight limit and he needed to lose in excess of 75 pounds to get to 220. He is about halfway there, but is determined to make his goal and jump out of that plane.

Kirsten is a mom who works two jobs and was extremely overweight. At 29 years old she lost 110 pounds through plenty of dedication in order to become the woman she wants to be.

Janice, who in her 50s survived Hodgkins lymphoma, the loss of her husband two years later and being laid off from her job. She decided to “take her life back” and did it by going to the gym.

These are all true stories of success from Desoto Athletic Club, which has locations in Tennessee and Mississippi.

At L&T Health and Fitness in Falls Church, Va., members have sent in the following, whether it was e-mail, in the suggestion box or handed directly to a staff member: 

The new fitness center has made a huge impact on my life this past year in terms of overall wellness. As a mom of 3 small children, the youngest being 10 months I needed a way to find that work life balance. With convenient facilities and various classes offered throughout the day I've been able to create a routine that works for me. The trainers provide a very positive and encouraging atmosphere making the classes fun and something I want to do as opposed to something I have to do. Most importantly it's given me the confidence that not only can I continue on the path of healthy living but my family can as well.

And:

I hadn't run at all for approximately 25 years. By joining Couch to 5K program I was able to successfully complete the United Way 5K this year (and I wasn't even last!). I still enjoy going to the gym and doing some jogging weekly. To be able to tell my children that after 25 years of inactivity I was able to complete a 5K was a huge success for me!

In both cases the real-life events, emotions and feelings are ways to better market the club, practically dropped on someone’s desk. The health and fitness industry is filled with so many inspirational and feel-good stories that it makes sense to use them to not only drive up membership numbers but to get others to make, and hopefully, attain health- and fitness-related goals.

Using testimonials is one way many clubs make marketing and advertising more human.

“The business we are in is a very emotional,” said Marya Green, Marketing director at Desoto. “Health clubs are trying to shoehorn our way into your life by saying ‘you need this.’ What I think testimonial marketing does, is it says that we want you to believe in yourself and we see the results in our members every single day. We already know you can do this; we have a picture in our head of what you will look like. And here are the pictures and stories of past success stories.”

Allison Flatley, COO of L&T, uses testimonials both internally and eternally.

Members can see what the person next to them on the treadmill may have said in a newsletter, on the L&T Facebook page or on its website. Internally, testimonials are used in annual performance appraisal reviews.

“Sometimes members read them and they say, wow, that member was able to lose weight or get stronger and I want to do that,” Flatley said. “For the general population it is so unattainable or so hard to get healthy and fit. When they read other success it motivates them as well.”/p>

And when the success stories are passed on to the club employee it provided quite a bit of self-worth, according to Flatley.

“It reinforces as a health and fitness professional that we have big job of changing lives. And, some employees are competitive. So when they see a peer has three testimonials this month, they, too, want to be on that list, or want to see what clients are saying about them. It in turns makes them want to deliver better service.”

Desoto in the past couple years has really started to take advantage of their success stories by using in marketing and advertising.

It has done TV and radio advertising, and will still use the traditional methods for the part of the population that caters to. Desoto is currently in the middle of a huge campaign where they are putting different testimonials on its Facebook – weekly DACspirations, (Desota Athletic Club) - as well Pinterest boards and e-mails. Inside  they are posting them all around the club as further motivation.

“The Pinterest board is a great way for people to share the testimonials and a way to motivate themselves,” Green explained.

“Testimonials are a great way to focus on what brought (members) here, what brings them back and what keeps going.”

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