- Discover the steps required to establish a marketing strategy.
- Identify potential clients who can benefit from the services of a personal trainer.
- Identify successful components of an established brand.
When making a decision to become a full-time fitness professional the first step was to research how to earn a personal trainer certification. The next step was making the decision on where to work: in a health club that could provide a steady stream of potential clients or as an independent trainer contracting space in a gym, traveling to people’s homes or starting a studio. (My previous article series on how to be a successful health club based trainer can be found here: Becoming a Successful Health Club Trainer
This article will address marketing strategies for the independent trainer or studio-based trainer. The most challenging aspect of being an independent trainer is communicating the value of your services to potential clients. Identifying a target demographic for your services and creating a brand-identity for your training business can help you communicate your value and earn the clients who can receive the greatest benefit from your services.
Identifying Your Ideal Client
The initial step for developing a successful marketing strategy is to first identify the type of clients who can receive the greatest benefit from your services, and, most importantly, who you can easily connect with to establish a professional relationship. When first starting as a personal trainer, the desire to generate income is so great that it is tempting to work with any type of client who expresses an interest at any time the client is available. Trying to satisfy every client and offering to work at all hours can be extremely challenging and quickly lead to burnout. Instead, taking the time to identify the clients who you are most capable of helping and interested in working with can help you to develop a marketing campaign to communicate directly to their needs.
Client types include, but are not limited to:
- Business professionals – The upside to these clients is they generally have disposable income to spend on fitness services but with three distinct times of day available to train (before work, lunch break and after work), and the downside is their limited availability. However, this limited availability could be an opportunity to market thirty-minute express sessions or group training programs to fit more clients into an available training time.
- Post-rehabilitation or people in chronic pain – Many individuals experience long-term chronic pain in areas such as the knees, low-back or shoulders; having the knowledge to address this pain with corrective exercise strategies can lead to a steady stream of clientele looking for solutions to their problems.
- Stay-at-home parents or adults who work from home – These clients are more likely to be available during slower times of the day, such as mid-morning or early afternoon; in the case of new mothers they may need exercise programs to help them recover from the pregnancy.
- Retired older adults – The upside is that retirees may have completely flexibly schedules, but the downside can be the lack of disposable revenue due to living on a fixed income.
- Youth athletes – Youth clients can be a fun, dynamic group to work with whose parents are willing to invest in maximizing athletic potential, but the downside is that their availability may be limited to after-school hours.
Take a piece of paper; divide in half lengthwise and at the top label two columns: “My Skills and Interests,” and “Clients Who Can Benefit from Working with Me.”
In the example above, a personal trainer has identified her interests and the clients who can receive the greatest benefit from her services. This trainer has just narrowed down her potential clients into a specific demographic or type of client: a working, urban professional who wants a time efficient workout for goals related to weight loss or muscle building.
The next step this trainer should take is to create a brand identity that can clearly communicate her style or approach to exercise with these potential clients.
The Benefits of Branding
Once you’ve already taken the step to identify your ideal, target client the next step is to establish a brand identity in order to effectively communicate the results potential clients can expect from your training services. Marketing is the process of communicating the value of a good or service to attract customers. For personal trainers who need to do their own marketing in order to earn new clients, it is important to understand that branding and marketing go hand in hand. In order to successfully market a service it is important to tell a story about how your service can improve an individual’s life. Creating a brand tells the story and creates an immediate identity for a product or service. The power of a brand identity is that when a consumer thinks of a general category, such as soft drinks, the first thought is to a specific brand like Coke®. This type of instant recognition is known as “top-of-mind awareness” and is the goal for any type of brand-name product.
As a fitness professional, it is possible to develop a brand around serving specific types of clients. The point is to create a brand identity by communicating how your style of personal training stands out from competitors. Your specific brand identity allows you to communicate with clarity and purpose. Then creating a marketing campaign based on your specific brand helps you to maximize a limited marketing budget and get the greatest return on investment.
Branding for Fitness Professionals
If you want to increase your business and be the one who people think of when they hear “personal trainer,” then it is extremely important that you develop your own approach to training so that you can become a “top-of-mind” fitness brand. One option for creating a brand identity for a fitness service is to use a specific philosophy for exercise program design. Another option is to incorporate a piece of specialized equipment such as a TRX, ViPR, or kettlebell into training programs to differentiate yourself from competitors who might not have access to or know how to properly use such tools. As a personal trainer, the primary benefit of having a brand identity is that you are more likely to become well known for offering a specific type of training service.
CrossFit as a Case Study
Over the past seven years, CrossFit has been extremely successful at establishing a hardcore base of fans who are die-hard consumers. (The point of this discussion is NOT to advocate CrossFit as a training system, but to look at why and how it has become one of the most successful brands in the fitness industry in a short period of time.) The reason for their success is that many former athletes find the typical health club exercises “boring” and they gravitated to CrossFit because it allowed them to train at a high intensity and tap in to their competitive nature. The result was that recently Reebok entered into a promotional relationship with CrossFit in order to tap into this market of die-hard enthusiasts and sell more fitness apparel. Reebok has now created the marketing campaign which establishes the brand of CrossFit as the “sport of fitness.” Again, this is not an endorsement of the CrossFit approach to exercise, but the commercials are brilliant because they show hard-charging workouts that motivate fitness enthusiasts to go out and exercise.
CrossFit tapped into a specific market of extreme exercise participants and became a brand with a die-hard group of consumers. If you want to ensure the success of your fitness business, then it is a good idea to take note of CrossFit’s strategy and create a specific brand for your unique style of fitness that will attract the same exuberant enthusiasm.
How to Create and Market Your Own Fitness Brand
Personal training is a service; therefore it requires a different approach than simply branding and marketing a product like a soft drink. A product is a tangible good which can be replaced if it does not work; however selling a service is nothing more than selling a promise. Building a brand as personal trainer establishes the promise to a prospective client that they can achieve a particular result if they use your service. It is important to create an effective brand that clearly communicates the expected benefits of working with you as a trainer and then, most importantly, delivers the service to produce results. The beauty of creating this brand identity is that it makes it easier for you to market and sell your fitness services.
In San Diego, a husband and wife training team, Sean and Sarah Gogarty, run SGO Fitness
, a successful bootcamp program featuring their unique brand of helping clients achieve results. SGO Fitness provides group workout programs for the purpose of building a community around common fitness goals and focuses on women who want to lose weight. To help create a unique identity for their program (and to stand out with fun and memorable workouts) they use equipment like BOSU Balance Trainers, agility hurdles and TRX Suspension Trainers. In addition to the workouts, SGO hosts seminars for their clients to help them adopt healthier lifestyle behaviors. As a result, they have a positive impact on their clients’ lives and these clients then provide compelling testimonials which are used to attract new clients looking for the same results. Their clients tell them they come back because they “don’t think of it as a workout group but as a fitness family.” A distinctive component of their marketing strategy is their car, which they wrapped with their business name, website and contact information. Their car is parked next to where they are working with clients and provides instant marketing to anyone walking past.
is a small studio owned by renowned fitness educator Anthony Carey, a corrective exercise specialist. Anthony’s brand of service caters specifically to clients who are in pain and have not been able to find relief from traditional medical services. In order to broaden his appeal to individuals who are not in pain and to provide exercise solutions for clients who succeeded in addressing their pain needs, Anthony started offering small group training classes. Function First now offers the X Factor small-group workout nine times a week to individuals who pay a monthly fee to be able to attend classes. The X Factor workouts are designed by another fitness educator, Derrick Price, who uses progressive exercise strategies such as creating games or physical challenges to engage the participants and make exercise fun. The X Factor workouts change every month so participants are continually engaged with new challenges. As a result of a successful brand identity based on corrective exercise and fun small-group workouts, Function First has been recognized as one of the area’s best studios by the Union-Tribune San Diego newspaper.
Putting It All Together
For personal trainers looking to establish their own brand of fitness it is a good idea to see what your competitors are doing and, more importantly, what they are not doing. Staying current with continuing education by reading PT on the Net or attending CEC workshops is the best way to identify a new fitness trend that others in your area might not be providing. Identifying a new trend before it goes mainstream is one way for creating your own brand identity. Think of the early adopters to CrossFit. Once CrossFit competitions started airing on TV these early adopters who were already established businesses benefited from the increased exposure and popularity. However, it is important to base your brand of fitness on an area that interests you and that has a specific need in the market. Anthony Carey knew that he wanted to help people in pain so he focused on providing corrective exercise services. Sean and Sarah wanted to help people change their lives by providing weight loss services in a bootcamp format.
Taking the time to first identify potential clients and then creating a brand identity can be instrumental for constructing a successful marketing campaign. CrossFit is successful because it appeals to a hardcore consumer. SGO found success by providing a non-intimidating environment using non-traditional exercise equipment and created a brand they can easily communicate to potential new customers. Function First established a brand identity based on corrective exercise and evolved into offering a unique small group training service. For each company, success didn’t just happen. It took time and work to identify what each did well, which became their specific brand of fitness. Once the brand identity was established they had to then identify the clients who could most benefit from the service and finally communicate those potential benefits to others.