How Transformation Contests Can Change your Business

Transformation Contest Ryan Ketchum

The Transformation Contest Guide (Part 1)

How to create effective transformation contests that will set you up as the go-to fat loss expert in your area.

Transformation contests are big money in the fitness world, but most trainers that run them are doing it ALL WRONG! I know because I have had the chance to see behind hundreds of different fitness businesses over the past several years- the good, the bad and the ugly. Over the past decade I have been obsessed with transformations, probably because of my own personal journey (more on that later) but also because I am constantly searching for ways to get better, faster results that help clients reach their goals. I literally built my previous business to over 400 clients using transformation contests as the main lead generation source. It wasn’t uncommon for us to run 6-8 transformation contests a year!

That means I have made LOTS of a few mistakes! Mistakes that you don’t have to make, because I can help you avoid them. In fact, a few years ago when I really started to figure out how to run these contests and get amazing results from them we had over 125 new clients signed up for an 8-week transformation contest.

transformation contests

The registrations alone brought in over $20,000! Still think that transformation contests can’t change your business?

From that point forward I started experimenting with various contest set ups and more importantly better ways to deliver my training and nutrition info so that I got OUT OF THIS WORLD results with the clients that participated in the contests. BUT, things have changed…

People are starting to join in on to the transformation contest frenzy. So, how do you stand out from the crowd? It’s simple really…

Get in front of more people & deliver better results.

In this article I’m going to reveal the system that I used to run dozens of incredibly successful transformation contests.

This is the same system that I give you in much greater depth in the Transformation Systems. If you run a fitness business focused on fat loss or need to attract new clients, you will definitely want to get that system because you stand to benefit the most. The Transformation System is the past decade of my self-experimentation, practical experience, research and learning from the best in the industry all in one place. I took what I found useful and what worked and put my own twist on it to create an entire system.

My goal for you is to give you all the info you need to take what works and put it to use in your own systems. Or, you can just use mine if you want : )

So, let’s begin…

There is nothing more gratifying than helping someone go through a drastic physical transformation and overcome obstacles, that in many cases, have held them back their entire lives. Often times the transformation is less about the actual weight and the truly rewarding outcome is the new perspective and outlook on life that a client will have once they have completed a transformation. Transformation contests are here to stay! There are fitness pros running 6-week programs, charging upwards of $500, and filling them in just hours. If you face the facts it is easy to see that selling fat loss is, well, easy. Most people want it, a lot of people need it and YOU can be really good at helping them get the results they want.

Here are 6 ways to set up your transformation contests to ensure you are successful:

1. Create Your Plan and Your Hook

One of the biggest reasons that transformation contests work so well is the DEADLINE.

The two BIG deadlines are:

  • A deadline to register
  • A deadline to hit the weight loss goal

To set up your transformation contest take a quick look at the calendar and see if you can find a holiday or event (like the start of summer) that is a several weeks away.   This date needs to likely be 6-8 weeks out for a shorter-term transformation contest or 12-16 weeks out for a longer transformation contest.

When I used to plan out my yearly marketing calendar at Force Fitness I would set up two longer transformation contests each year and then fill in the rest of the year with shorter-term transformation challenges or transformation contests. The two big contests were after the New Year, usually starting around the first week of February, and then in the fall around the start of the school year. These proved to be the best times to get people motivated without interruption of other holidays for extended periods of time, usually between 6 and 8 weeks.

It is also possible to run a longer transformation contests leading up to the beginning of summer. It all depends on how comfortable you are with marketing two longer contests back to back (New Year and Summer). The remainder of the year, once the bigger contests were planned, was filled in around event and holidays with 21 or 28-day challenges. To set up your next transformation contest look for the next closest holiday or event that gives you at least 21 days to run your program and 3-4 weeks to market your program. Once you have the end date (which also helps you figure out your hook) you can work backwards to determine the start date and marketing calendar.

The next step is determining your hook or the theme of your transformation contest.

This is an important step, which I have messed up more than once, so don’t take it lightly.

Your hook is what is going to attract people or let them know this transformation contest is for them. Typically you are going to hit on some type of emotional factor when it comes to your hook, which will dictate your marketing message down to the promotional emails and sales copy.

Think of the hook as a reason for people to sign up for the contests, examples include:

Transformation Contest Hooks

Now that you have your hook and the timeline for your contest you need to determine if you will be offering prizes or if this will be a straightforward challenge, the programming you will offer, what is your accountability structure and how you will take registrations.

Let’s tackle those one by one….

2. Taking Registrations

This can be a tough one for some fitness pros depending on their ability to set up sales pages and how familiar they are with online marketing. Don’t think that if you can’t set up an online sales page that you can’t run a big contest though! I ran my first ever 100+ person contest without a sales page and taking all registrations via phone or email. It’s a lot more work, but it can be done.

The great thing about technology is that if you can’t do it it is easy to find someone else that can! Head to a site live or another outsourcing website to hire someone to set up your sales page. If you want to do it yourself Leadpages or OptimizePress make it easy to build out pages yourself. I can tell you that I would have saved myself hours of frustration and just found someone to build out my pages for me if I could do it all over again. The best and most efficient way to take registrations is to build out a sales page that links to your payment processing system. At Force Fitness we would link our sales page to our Mindbody system to take payments immediately. This is hands down the best way to take registrations, but it isn’t the only way. This is most effective because you are getting people to commit immediately. However, if you can’t collect money online (Paypal makes this easy!) then you can simply ask for a name and email and perform a manual follow up to collect payment from the individual. Don’t make this too complicated, the important part is being able to get the message out to as many people as possible and let those that are interested raise their hand to say they want in to your contest. This is a sample name and email only registration page I created when I was at Force Fitness. Once the customer entered their info it directed them to a purchase page using Mindbody.

Sample Transformation Contest Opt-in Form


Once you start collecting registrations make sure to keep good records of payments collected and the logistics of how you will make sure to provide services to all the people signing up. It is MUCH easier to do this as they register than after when you have dozens of people to coordinate. There was more than a few times where I allowed too many people to register and we couldn’t fit them into the time slots they were available to train in which led to us giving out refunds. It’s a good problem to have but had I been more prepared I could have addressed the issues sooner and found a solution.

3. Program Offerings

Keep this simple! Too many options for joining your transformation contest can lead to poor registration numbers. I know from experience! Start with your new client offerings and ask yourself this question:

What program would I put someone in to get them the best results?

That’s the program you start with!

When setting up transformation contest programs I always liked to have 3 offerings that covered a range of price points. Any more than that and it got a bit confusing and too tough to manage. The first offering was our lowest price, basic members. Usually something like group personal training for 2-3 days per week. The second offering was usually a mid range offer for personal training 2-3 days per week . Finally, a combination offering of personal training and group training was our highest priced offering for 4-5 days per week. Your offers depend on the services you provide, but I suggest placing the one you want most people to do in the middle of the range. There’s also no harm in only offering two options.

Transformation Contest Registration Fees

You can take two approaches when pricing your transformation contests. Low cost/high volume or high cost/lower volume. Mixing them up throughout the year is a great strategy and one that I have had a lot of success with in the past. Keeping the longer 6 or 8-week transformation contests higher priced and the 21 or 28-day challenges lower cost helped me balance things out. As you get more experience in running your contests, better at marketing them and the demand goes up you can increase your price points. Depending on your current rates I found that $149-199 for longer contests and $49-99 for shorter challenges worked well in a group training setting and $199-299 for longer contests and $99-149 for shorter challenges worked well in the Personal Training setting.

4. Determining Prizes

Transformation Contest Prize_ Cash

A great Transformation Prize = CA$H

When you are setting up your contests it is always fun to offer prizes, but how in the world do you know what to offer? First, let’s address the fact that people are getting amazing results, or at least they should be, which is the ultimate prize. Anything else is a bonus. Prizes aren’t required to run a transformation challenge, but it is what makes a transformation contest work.

Examples of prizes include:

  • Cash $$$$$
  • Getaways
  • Trips
  • Joint Venture Offerings
  • Other prizes

The most effective prize that I have ever used is cash. Everyone loves cash and they can use it as they see fit! If you are decent with your numbers you can easily figure out how much cash to offer. It can be a bit of a guessing game with your first few contests but after you get them down you can easily determine how much cash to offer. First start with your registration fees. Take your average registration fee and multiply that by the number of contestants you think you will get. For instance if your average registration fee was $149 and you were aiming to get 35 people signed up that leaves you with….

$149 x 35 = $5215 in registration fees 

I would easily be comfortable giving away $2500 of those registration fees as prize money. Why? That still leaves me with $2500+ to pay for expenses of staff and marketing as well as the bonus of any new client conversions that come out of the contest. If a new client is worth $199/mo to you and they stick around for 12 months that’s $2399/new client to your business. If you convert a meager 30% of those 35 sign ups to new clients you will get 10-11 new clients which are worth at least $23990 to your business in the next year. I would pay $2500 to get $23990 in return everyday of the week!

If you are worried about paying out that much money in your first contests keep it small. $500 is a great starting point and will still motivate people to sign up. Cash isn’t the only prize you can make available (it’s just the most effective from my experience). You can also offer trips by working with a travel agency that provides discounted rates if you buy in bulk, you can pay for a getaway to a local resort, you can work with joint ventures and have them donate prizes or you can buy bigger prizes to give away. Mixing up your prizes is great, but again, my best experiences have come with a cash prize.

Finally, make sure you have an offer for your clients to join your transformation programs. Typically anywhere from $49 to $99 for current client registration is a good price point. It all depends on if you are giving them anything extra for registering such as bonus days of training.

5. Your Marketing Plan

Now that you know when your contest will run, the hook, the price points and the prizes you can start organizing your marketing plan. This is where things can get tricky for some trainers.

First, let me start off by telling you that you should play to your strengths. We don’t have the time to go into sales copy, networking and Facebook ads in this article. If you are good with people and have a strong network leverage it! If you are good with Facebook ads and email marketing leverage it! It is okay to try new things but in my experience attacking this from multiple angles works best and it isn’t tough to learn new tricks or get someone to do set them up for you.

I would start with the following:

  • Your email list of non-clients
  • Your client’s for referrals
  • Your business connections and joint ventures
  • Press Releases and media contacts
  • Facebook Marketing via ads and promoted posts

You only need several weeks of planning if you are working with joint ventures or other off line marketing strategies. If you are working online a week, maybe two, is all you need to get people registered. I have found that short 4 to 7-day promos work well when dealing with email marketing or Facebook ads.  If you are working with joint ventures you need to connect with them well in advance to make sure they have time to promote the contests for you. One of the best marketing tools that you can use is the social proof from previous contests. Leverage your before and after pictures as well as testimonials from previous transformation contestants. If you don’t have any from previous contests or this is your first contest it is okay to use testimonials or pictures proving you can get great results. Even if they don’t come from a contests, but make sure you aren’t pretending that they did!

No matter what marketing plan you choose to go with make sure you are putting your best foot forward and making the most of it. Once you start getting results with your transformation programs it will be much easier to market them with the help of social media, the results tend to go viral. Don’t overlook your current clients as a possible referral sources.  Encourage them to sign up for your transformation contests and bring their friends!

6. Creating Your Accountability Structure

Most trainers running transformation contests promote accountability as a big benefit for signing up for their contests. The problem is they don’t really hold anyone accountable. There is no system or structure for it, they use it as bait to get people to sign up. Unfortunately most people don’t really WANT to be held accountable for their actions, but they NEED it. Your accountability program during a transformation contest can be set up easily. And, let’s face it, there will be some people that don’t respond to anything you do. However it is your job to give them the opportunity to ask for help and to make it easy. There are two main ways that I have structured accountability systems into a transformation contest:

  • Automated Check Ins
  • Accountability Teams

They both work well if monitored and implemented. You can use Google Forms or Survey Monkey to organize automated check-ins for your transformation contestants. Simply set up a quick Google form with a few questions on it and have it set to go out in an autoresponder message each Monday.

All that is required of you and your team is to check for any red flags and follow up as needed.

Here is a sample:

transformation contests


The red flags come from dissatisfaction with results, lack of results or obstacles listed.   You can follow up with a ‘great progress’ email if needed or make a quick call to check on a client that is having trouble. I would set up a form for each week of the contest and track those that fill them out. If someone misses more than 1 week in a row I would be following up with them to check in. This system works well if you are willing to set aside the time to review the answers and follow up. It is incredibly easy to implement. The Accountability Teams set up works well if you have a staff of trainers working for you. Using this system we would assign trainers a team of individuals to check in on weekly via phone calls and emails. If there was an issue they would handle it themselves or come to you with questions. While this system is more personal it takes a lot more time and energy. You also need to ensure that all trainers are actually doing the follow up and are prepared to answer the questions they may get.

Documentation of calls and emails should be turned in by each coach weekly.

You can use either of these systems along with set weigh in periods during a contest to monitor client progress and results. This is especially critical when you are giving clients habits or guidelines rather than meal plans. I will explain why meal plans are a bad idea in a future post.

Want a done-for-you blueprint for transformation contests?

Running one big contest is great, but when you have a system in place to run them over and over with amazing results you can literally transform your business. Follow the steps I laid out above and then make sure to check out the next two articles in the series to set up your contests for success. You can also pick up the Transformation Systems to get the exact blueprint for setting up your contests.

Learn More About Transformation Systems

Let us know what you think

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  • Rich King says:

    I bought your system and I’m running my 5th Transformation. Every one a success. I should get about 25 clients on this one. I do small (6-max) group training, 6-weeks and charge $270 for early sign-up and payed in full, or 2 payments of $159. Use Facebook for advertising, and referrals. This time I have Paypal on my website which is working great. I’m in Carson City, Nv. Thanks, you have great products!

  • Ryan Ketchum says:


    That’s awesome news! So glad that it’s working well for you.

  • Paul Lambert says:

    This is very impressive and a very good plan. I will definitely be using the suggestions and this format for sure. I live in Bermuda and there is quite a lot of fitness ventures here. I do consider myself best, but, people fall for gimmicks. I definitely have to make it captivating

  • Ryan Ketchum says:

    Paul, This system has produced thousands in revenue for the people using it. I know it will work for you too!

  • JR Smith says:

    I bought this system the year before last and it rocks! But somehow, I ended up getting knocked out of the VPS private group. It may have been me that did it by accident. I have requested re-entry into the group. IT was a great source of support.

  • Ryan Ketchum says:

    JR- Thanks for the kind words. I’ve made sure to re-add you to the group.

  • Darius Hollinshed says:

    This is great information, it is much appreciated Ryan! All of your work is much appreciated. However, I run a once a week outdoor bootcamp which may no longer run as well as it has, as the summer is coming to an end, but I also run online training programs and am hoping when you wrote this you might have had online training in mind? I’m considering this, but I wouldn’t be present with my clients. Could this be too difficult to consider engaging in?


  • Ryan Ketchum says:

    It’s my pleasure. This was designed to be run using in person training, but the principles and most of the tools/resources could be adapted easily for online training.