If you saw a sign with a picture of a horse that said:


Would you stop and notice? Better yet, what if you saw a talking horse in the middle of the street? Would you stop and look?

Truth is, there really is a talking horse. Mister Ed. He had a starring role on a national TV sitcom in the 1960s. Mister Ed was so popular because he was different. No one expects to hear or see a talking horse. That’s just silly. We all know horses can’t talk. But Mister Ed did.

When something catches our eye that’s different, even peculiar, we swerve, turning our head in the direction of what we saw. Circuses in the early 20th Century exploited this by including sideshows featuring human oddities like the Elephant Man or Bearded Lady. We still swerve every time we see a street performer eating fire, because our brains have a hard time comprehending that.

Swerving is a powerful marketing tool. In this digital age in which everyone is bombarded with marketing messages through the internet, email and social media, the first step in getting more business is getting more people to notice you or your product or service. That means being different than the competition, whether you’re a big gym or an independent personal trainer. Advertising to prospective clients that your gym’s trainers are nationally certified or that your high-intensity interval workouts burn more fat is not unique; every gym has nationally-certified trainers and every personal trainer claims his or her workouts burn fat. You have to be different. You have to get people to swerve. Here are three ways:

1) Greek sculpture. What if you placed a very large version of the Greek sculpture Discobolus, the discus thrower that exemplifies athleticism, power and strength, right in the middle of your gym’s workout area that people can interact with in a way that is tied to their workouts? What if you offered something to prospective clients that no one else in the fitness industry offers, something that clients would not expect to receive from a personal trainer?

2) Social media. Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest are visual platforms. Post crazy pictures and videos that are truly extraordinary, something that people don’t typically see. Force people to stop and look.

3) Education. The lack of educational standard in the fitness industry can work in your favor. Leverage it by becoming educated, by turning yourself into the talking horse that everyone wants to see and listen to. Perhaps you can even become a doctor so you can prescribe exercise. Then you may even be asked to write a column in a fitness industry magazine about education. Now that’s a great idea.