How to Create and Market Your Own Fitness Brand
The creation of a fitness brand can have an immediate impact on sales because it identifies a specific service that can be marketed to prospective clients. Many times personal training is offered as a series of individual sessions. This is standard practice in the fitness industry as a client can purchase a package of five, ten or sometimes fifty sessions. Generally speaking, the more sessions a client purchases, the lower the price of each individual session. However, as my colleague Chris McGrath often says, “Step out of your world and into the client’s world.” In this context what exactly are the features, advantages or benefits of purchasing a package of sessions? What exactly is being provided to the prospective client or customer when they purchase a package of sessions other than a discounted price point? In order to successfully market the service to the clients, these questions must be answered and communicated in the marketing message.
Successful fitness entrepreneur Phil Kaplan raises an excellent point, specifically why do we as fitness professionals discount our services based on volume? As professionals, we should not sell on price but on the specific benefits of working with an experienced fitness expert. Other than offering a price break for purchasing multiple sessions, what is the advantage of purchasing a session package? The only thing a package communicates to a prospective client is that the more your service is used, the less valuable it is. Consider that for a moment. A mechanic doesn’t lower his or her price if you’re driving a clunker that needs a lot of work and an attorney certainly does not lower his or her price if you require multiply hours of their service. So why do we lower our fees when we sell packages of training sessions? This focus on price per session means that as an industry we are trying to sell an intangible service merely on a tangible number, the price of the session, as opposed to positioning the value of working with a qualified fitness professional to meet a specific exercise goal.
The fact is that packages of individual training sessions do not meet a particular need from the consumer’s point of view. The only benefit to the consumer from buying a package of individual sessions is a lower price per session. Many employers in the fitness industry don’t teach their staff how to properly communicate the value received by purchasing a package of training sessions. Instead, they teach their staff to sell on price and discount. How many times have you approached your clients at the end of the month with heavily discounted “closeout” specials being offered by the club? One of the most difficult tasks for new trainers is making the sales pitch on training sessions to clients and new clients. This causes a great deal of anxiety for many new professionals. Since they haven’t been properly trained, they rely on the deep discounting to help make the sales. The only way to alleviate this fear is to be able to define the value, benefit and advantages of the product.
The beauty of creating a brand identity is that you can break the cycle of discounting your services by offering defined results programming. Defined results programming simply repositions session packages from selling a series of individual sessions based on price to the marketing of a specific training program with an established goal. This repositioning creates an immediate sense of value to the consumer. From the consumer’s point of view defined results programming repositions the purchase of personal training from an intangible, poorly defined service to one that has a clearly identified outcome thus, creating an immediate perceived value.
A defined result program can allow you to market to prospective clients based on the features, advantages and benefits of your service by creating a pre-determined expectation for the personal training experience. For example instead of selling a package of five sessions, market the five sessions as a “Core Training” program and have all five sessions focus on core exercises which can include the glutes, legs, and upper body since all attach to the spine which is an integral part of the core. Another option for a five session package is a “Butt and Thigh” program where all five sessions include exercises for all body parts but with a focus on those particular areas.
If you work in a health club that only offers packages of sessions, then re-define those packages in a way that consumers can understand. The idea is that rather than attempt to market an un-clarified service such as a training session, clearly communicate the intended result of an exercise program. It is much easier for a consumer to invest in the purchase of a particular service if they believe that purchase will result in the achievement of a goal they have in mind. In other words, create training programs that define the training experience and results for the consumer. A package of ten, twelve or twenty sessions could easily be positioned as a sports performance, weight loss or muscular development training program. Look at how consumers think about fitness and communicate with the same language but, use scientifically validated evidence-based program design to create the exercise programs.
Marketing session packages as defined results programs creates a conversation point between members and trainers. As an educated professional, you know that clients can’t exercise to “spot reduce” a particular area. But, the unfortunate reality is this that many fitness enthusiasts, including clients, still believe you can. Members will have a more enthusiastic response to a marketing campaign for an “Exercise for your Hips and Thighs” program rather than a package of individual sessions. As a trainer, you can take this interest in a topic as an opportunity to educate the consumer. Let him know that the program will feature exercises for the hips and thighs, but those will be included as a part of a comprehensive exercise routine which also includes overall strength training exercises, cardiovascular training recommendations and flexibility conditioniong.
Offering “Core Training,” “Chest and Back,” or “Lower Body Sculpting” training programs creates a reason for members to stop and ask about the intended results of the program. It does not mean that other muscles are ignored or overlooked, but that the emphasis is on the particular region where consumers have repeatedly demonstrated they are most interested in improving. When a club advertises ten or twenty sessions for a specific price, the member has no way to establish the value for the sessions except for the price offered. Imagine what happens to their perceived value when that package is then subjected to a deep discounting program at the end of the month. However, if a member joined with the intention of toning her legs or the hope of achieving a flat stomach, being exposed to a training program geared towards those goals will generate an interest. This interest allows a trainer to engage new members in conversations about their goals and how they hope to achieve those goals. As soon as a member asks a trainer a question about a program, they become a prospective client demonstrating an interest in the service. It is then up to the trainer to educate the prospective client on how the program will meet his or her fitness needs. This is otherwise known as, making the sale.
To be successful with defined results programming it is important to develop and market programs that consumers will want to purchase. What do consumers want? Just watch some late night television or pick up any commercially available fitness magazine to get an idea; they want “flat tummies,” “toned muscles” and “a sculpted look.” Here’s a crazy idea: why not leverage the marketing language that already exists and communicate to prospective clients using the same terms?
In order to identify what consumers want do some research. Use online retailers like amazon.com to see the top selling exercise books and videos. Read the consumer comments to find out what was liked or disliked about each particular item. Follow popular fitness magazines geared to the consumer audience. Read, research and try to identify trends in the early stages of adoption. High-intensity classes now have the popularity that yoga, Pilates and other “mind-body” based programming did a few years ago. The first trainers who offered kettlebell training or Crossfit programs were able to brand themselves as experts in these areas thus, becoming the “go to” professionals for these new fitness trends.
Pay attention to fitness conferences and workshops to identify emerging equipment and trends so that you can feature the cutting edge techniques in your programs. When other members in a club see you working with a new piece of equipment, they will stop to ask you about it. This creates an instant conversation and a chance to market your training programs. Plus, think of the buzz as a new product hits the commercial market and consumer magazines and your clients tell their friends “that’s nothing new, my trainer’s been using that with me for years.” Instantly, you become the cutting edge product that gets results.
Putting it All Together
The challenge is that you have to be honest and cannot guarantee specific results. You can only guarantee progress towards a defined outcome, but not the actual outcome in itself. Guarantees are extremely difficult because there are so many variables and working with a client for only two or three hours out of the one hundred-sixty-eight in a week does not create a sterile environment like a laboratory where the prediction of results could be implemented more accurately. Instead, be honest and let clients know that the more work they put in, the better results they will see. This is the simple genius of Todd Durkin’s “10 in—10 out” motto, his clients know exactly what is expected of them if they want to see results. Manage the client’s expectations; the client should understand that if they follow your advice to the best of his or her ability, then he or she should experience tangible results. This is where assessments, an important part of a defined results program, come in to play.
Pre- and post- assessments are critical components of defined results programming. The key is to have an assessment for before and after the program in order to demonstrate the progress to the client. Each program should have both a quantitative and qualitative component. Quantitative assessments measure a specific value such as lean body mass, circumference measurements, number of push-ups or vertical jump. Quantitative measurements can easily show progress because a client can see the results of a lower body fat percentage or the ability to do more push-ups.
Qualitative assessments are questionnaires which measure a client’s perceived level of fitness. The book Motivating People to be Physically Active by Forsyth and Marcus can be used as a resource for a number of questionnaires to determine a client’s perceived level of fitness. Simply administer the same questionnaire (on two different sheets) at the beginning and end of a program to show the client how much they progressed. At the onset of a program, a client might rate themselves as poor or weak and at the end of the program they could rate themselves as good or strong. Assessments that are relevant to the client’s goals will help determine whether or not the training program achieved the desired outcome.
Defined results programs are not the only way to market personal training. However, they are one way to create a brand and market your service in an easy to understand manner for consumers. This type of fitness curriculum allows you to speak to their goals and ambitions through the program. Even if your employer does not allow the flexibility to create defined results programming, create your own! This will help you develop a marketing strategy that will successfully communicate the value of your service helping you become the next “top of mind” trainer at your gym.
Article #3 in this series will introduce you to a useful business tool called a SWOT analysis. This instrument can be used to successfully develop your own particular brand of fitness services.
- Beckwith, Harry (1997). Selling the Invisible. New York, NY: Warner Books.
- Forsyth, Leighann and Marcus, Bess (2003). Motivating People to Be Physically Active. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
- Ries, Al and Ries, Laura (2004). The Origin of Brands. New York, NY: Harper Business.