Selling Out for Profits

TAGS: selling out, The Dunning-Kruger Effect, speed and agility, mainstream media, general public, business plan, business, personal trainers, JL Holdworth, The Spot Athletics, core, marketing

I hate 99% of the popular fitness crap I see in main stream media and from most "personal trainers." They cater their messages and programs to popular beliefs and fads rather than sound training principles that have been scientifically proven to get results. These nonsensical methods include fad diets, Bosu ball workouts, speed and agility "running drills", all cardio based workouts where the goal is to make someone tired rather than get results, and any of the "popular" words of the day to which the general public have become attached.

The problem is that the general public only sees mainstream media. They see words like "functional", "core", and "speed and agility". Of course, the general public can’t define any of these terms or tell you what they are, but they will tell you that they need it. On the other side of the equation are the uneducated personal trainers telling these people they will work their "core", it will be "functional" and they do "speed and agility" for athletes. This is the blind leading the blind. This phenomena actually has a studied name: The Dunning-Kruger Effect.

These personal trainers are so uneducated that all they know is what they have seen in popular media. So when they regurgitate it back to the general public, it makes sense to the general public because it is familiar to what they have heard. The problem is that these personal trainers are so uneducated, they don't even realize how inept they are at their job. This actually breeds a sense of confidence that is laughable to people, like us, who are truly educated and experts in the field. But for the general public, they see a confident trainer, so he MUST know what he is talking about.

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You see, in order for poor performers to recognize their own ineptitude, they would be required to possess the very expertise they lack. To know how skilled or unskilled you are at using the rules of grammar, for instance, you must have a good working knowledge of those rules — an impossibility among the incompetent. I, for instance, had several college english courses and did awful at all of them.  I know for a fact I am a horrible writer, grammatically speaking. If I had not had those courses, I would never know how poor my grammar was and may even think I am a wonderfully polished, grammatically correct writer. Without those courses I would be a poor performer—and we are all poor performers at some things—and would fail to see the flaws in my thinking or the answers that I lacked.

Personally, I did not start out as the best business person in the world. I have grown and become much more experienced over the years. When I first started, I was so confident in my plan and what I was doing because I didn't even possess the knowledge to know where I was screwing up. When people who actually knew what they were talking about gave me advice, I would sometimes dismiss their opinion because I was so inept in business that I didn't want to acknowledge how much I didn't know. This is part of human nature, but something that everyone must overcome to become truly educated in a specific field.


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The problem with this whole scenario we are faced with in our industry is that in order to compete with these inept trainers, you must decide if you want to sell out. I don’t mean stoop down to their level and use awful training methods. What I mean is that no one will know how good you are if you don’t get them through the door. So, in order to market to the general public you must use their buzz words. Speed and agility training. CoreFunctional.

When I first started, I refused to bow down to this ridiculousness. The problem with that thinking is that it was hard to get people in the door. Then one of my clients told me about how his company changed their marketing tactics and how well it worked.

This client is the CEO of a large engineering company and a rival firm was marketing themselves as the most “green”engineering firm. Anyone in construction can tell you that “green” is to the construction industry what “core”is to the fitness industry — people don’t really know what it is, but they all want it. What he told me was that he was losing jobs to this firm because companies were hiring them based on the fact that they were saying they were the most “green” firm. My client was upset because, in fact, his company had 10 times the amount of truly “green” project experience and his engineers had more advanced certifications for doing “green” work. The problem was that even though his firm was more qualified and more experienced, they were losing work to someone who was simply marketing themselves as the best at something, even if it was not true.  My client informed me how they were changing their messaging in their marketing and branding to mirror what the clients wanted to hear so they could get the jobs they deserved to be winning.

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This is when I realized that marketing to the general public by using all these buzz words and the images that they want to see is the only way to get people in the door. It doesn’t mean I need to change my program or how we do things; we just need to change what we say to get people in the door. Once they come in, we start the education process on why what they have been taught by popular media and the awful trainers they have worked with is 100% wrong.

Personally, this has been really hard for me to do, but it has proved to be very successful and it has created a large number of clients who have become educated and know good training from bad. If we had never gotten them through our door, we never would have had the opportunity to educate them. The added bonus is these clients have now started to educate their friends and family, which in turn has yielded in a great number of referrals.

Since “selling out” in our marketing and messaging tactics, our business has grown tremendously. Although you won’t convince every parent that running around for an hour straight through speed ladders isn’t building speed or convince every woman that using pink dumbbells and doing nothing but cardio isn’t the best way to improve body composition, you will get a lot more people through the door. This means more opportunities to convert people into educated consumers of fitness. The more people we educate and convert, the better the chance that eventually the popular media messaging will change.

I don't expect this to change overnight, however I urge you as educated fitness professionals to do what you must to get people in the door. Once they are in, it is our responsibility to educate them about proper strength and conditioning protocols and methods. Although a lot of you will see this as “selling out,” I don’t look at it like that anymore. I just see it as smart marketing and an opportunity to make a bigger impact on more people who would have otherwise fallen for a personal trainer with the Dunning-Kruger effect in full force. Don’t let all these inept “trainers” get clients because they aren’t smart enough to use terms like “proprioception”or “rate of force development." Use the key words people understand and then educate them on the right way to do things.This doesn’t mean you are selling out, it just means you are able to make a bigger change in this world. Isn’t that why we got into this profession in the first place?

JL's Coaching Log

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