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Creative Marketing Strategies

Position yourself at the top of the field

by Phil Kaplan

This article was originally published in Personal Fitness Professional Magazine.

Stop sending money! Start putting some away for you, for your family, and for those things you've always wanted!

I know it seems challenging, but if you start plugging up the spending holes, and begin focusing on revenue generation, things tend to turn around very very quickly. Patch up the piggy bank, and stop spending money on that "thing" that trainers think they need, but acts as a vicious financial drain. Advertising!

 

 

I teach trainers to avoid the mistakes I made early on, and one of the lessons is, replace the idea of advertising with the concept of marketing. I encourage personal trainers to jump in the marketing arena with both feet and get themselves in front of people by doing seminars, getting booked as guests on television and radio shows and appearing in front of groups whenever possible. Let me explain precisely why.

Personal trainers arenít often exposed to conventional business training or creative marketing. Weíre taught biomechanics, fitness testing, anatomical function and then we are thrown to the wolves, expected to somehow "just know" how to prosper. This may be the greatest challenge trainers face, and in that challenge, most attempt to emulate other trainers, thereby sacrificing any hope of a unique position and cluttering themselves among others stuck in a sea of personal training mediocrity.

The lesson Iíll convey in this article is a simple one, but donít let its simplicity throw you. My intention is to provide a new marketing mindset. I wonít actually provide marketing techniques as Iíve done that in previous issues. This month, Iíll advise you to get your head out of marketing "training sessions" and "packages" and ask you to market your "position."

While Iím often appalled by the "state of our industry," I am also sometimes confused by how to define our industry. Iíve managed to cross a few borders by writing for bodybuilding magazines and appearing on weight loss segments on television news. Are bodybuilding and weight loss the same industry? Are Ronnie Coleman, the current Mr. Olympia and Richard Simmons even remotely related? (Stop laughing. It was a rhetorical question.) Does the health club industry have anything to do with the industry that drives the sales of protein powders? Can you find even a distant strand of similarity between television fitness product infomercials and exercise physiologists who perform VO2 Max testing behind closed doors helping a select few understand the realities of cardiovascular fitness?

I asked Conrad Swanson, editor of Personal Fitness Professional, to describe the state of the industry in a single sentence. He didnít need a sentence. He used one word: fragmented.

If our industry is so "fragmented," where do we, the professional trainers fit in? How can we claim positions of professionalism if our industry lacks clearly drawn borders?

Itís upsetting that we go through schooling and continuing education to master skills rarely recognized as true areas of professional expertise. Once in awhile, I get disheartened by the absence of a minimum performance standard within our field. Then I grab hold of my senses. Why be disheartened? If the industry fails to define or regulate itself, those who have the greatest potential can set their sights on the absolute pinnacle of success.

If everyone who loosely wore the title, "professional personal trainer" maintained a standard of excellence, the top of the field would be crowded. As it stands now, when you weigh out the challenges and opportunities that we face, opportunities win hands down, provided you understand the vital concept of positioning.

Think of a brand of aspirin. Iíll bet the name Bayer popped into your head. Why? Is Bayer the best? It doesnít matter, itís grabbed the top position. Usually, the first product to penetrate a market with a new position retains that spot until someone markets a superior position. Rather than being "just like everyone else in the field," itís important you creatively grab an edge. What makes you better? What makes your offerings superior? What facets of your business and presentation offer greater benefits to customers than theyíd expect to receive? The answers to these questions will be the foundation of your position marketing.

Bayerís breakout marketing slogan was, "Pain Relief Without a Prescription." Other brands followed but Bayer is still the aspirin that comes to mind. Everyone else was simply emulating Bayerís position. Until, ultimately, someone creative came along and made a substantial dent in the pain relief market. Can you guess who it was? This company didnít position their product as "just another pain reliever." Tylenol grabbed a unique position by hitting the market as, "A Pain RelieverÖThat Doesnít Upset Your Stomach!"

I often use this analogy when I conduct my positioning seminar aimed at Personal Fitness Professionals. In a room that is filled with 400 to 500 trainers, I ask the question, "who gets an upset stomach from aspirin?" No more than five or six hands ever go up. Then I ask how many people use Tylenol for relief when they have a headache, and hands go up all over the room! Tylenolís marketing put it in the hands of people who didnít even suffer the pain it claimed to overcome, however, it was positioned as better than aspirin and so it claimed a top spot.

How To Position Yourself as "Better" Than Your Competition

When you identify your competition, think beyond other trainers. In fact, they can be your allies if they help elevate the public perception of trainersí values. Think of your competition as anybody who will ever collect money from an individual that could have invested that money with you in exchange for value. Bookstores put millions of copies of diet books into the hands of your potential clients. Health food stores, diet centers, sporting good stores as well as medical weight loss centers can all take away business that may have been yours. Itís important, therefore, that your marketing approach separates you from all of them. Donít offer "another option for weight loss," or "an alternative for getting in shape" because then your position would be impotent.

The power you have over many of your real world competitors is quite clear; you can deliver long-term, healthful, life-altering results. If you think thatís enough to send clients flocking to your door, youíre in for a rude awakening. While the ability to deliver true results might be your reality, fitness decisions arenít based on reality. Theyíre based on emotion and emotion is influenced greatly by established position.

Despite the abysmal failure of the weight loss and diet industry in delivering long-term weight loss, itís a thriving industry. When people destroy their metabolisms and experience residual weight gain, the clever positioning of the diet industry leads diet victims to make irrational decisions. They go back to the diets that failed them. The actual advantage you have over the diet centers may be a result of the diet industryís failings, but as long as diet centers promise results, theyíre positioned as the "easier" option.

You must grab a position that goes far beyond taking people through workouts and promising results. You have to position yourself as an expert!

A single appearance by an author on Larry King Live or Oprah can instantly turn that author into a millionaire. Regardless of the virtue of the material those authors disseminate, they are instantly positioned as experts and viewers flock to bookstores to invest in their expert advice.

Iím not suggesting you stalk Oprah. I use her as an example to illustrate the power of perception. Any time you find yourself in a position where you are interviewing or presenting before a group, you are instantly, from a perception standpoint, elevated to the position of expert. Iíve counseled trainers who were floundering with their careers to use local resources to become radio show guests, television "experts" or the subject of articles in local print media. For many, that simple achievement has often led to lucrative fitness livelihoods.

Expert status is a vital ingredient in establishing a position that allows you to prosper despite the state of the industry, but there has to be more. Fitness experts in the media today are commonplace. To further identify a position of power, letís understand why people are failing to get the results they seek.

It isnít lack of willpower. Many who experience weight loss "failures" stick to diet after diet, and although that willpower sooner or later gives way to natureís call to eat, even a week of deprivation is enough to prove that willpower is present. Is it laziness? No way. Many of your clients have attempted numerous exercise programs before, subjecting themselves to hours upon hours of tread-mill sweating and ultimately wind up with expanded waistlines.

Iíve found that when people fail to get the fitness or weight loss results they seek, itís for one reason and one reason only. They are being misled. They are attempting to change their bodies with ineffective technologies. Starvation diets, excessive aerobic exercise, stimulant herbs as well as brain altering drugs may all offer short-term weight loss tricks, but if the goal is a leaner, healthier body and an improved quality of life, every one of those options will fall short. In order to have value far above that promised by other perceived alternatives, you have to use your expert status to empower people. How? By guiding them, coaching them and also becoming a resource for a concept they so desperately need: basic understandable truth.

People are confused, and as a result they clutch straws, seeking out the next miracle. They need to be rescued by experts positioned as deliverers of basic understandable empowering information.

Your marketing efforts should place you in front of people and establish you as an authority. Whether you achieve this through live seminars or by tapping into the power of the media, if you deliver understandable truth regarding fat loss, health, metabolism or muscle development, your position skyrockets and your marketing efforts pay-off in massive personal rewards.

You should be viewed, not as someone who sells personal training but rather as a qualified, educated, passionate individual with a single agenda: results. There are a great many individuals and companies making a fortune at the expense of fitness hopefuls. Your position should separate you instantly from the rest of the pack.

Let others fight for attention by clamoring to sell "quick easy magic." Being a Personal Fitness Professional, you have a huge advantage, but you have to know how to convince the population at large that you are, in fact, unique. Establish a position, get out there as an expert and market fiercely. Recognize the power you can gain by marketing creatively: write an occasional article, stand up and speak before groups and pursue relationships with the media. There are hundreds of thousands of self-described personal trainers vying for attention in health clubs and gyms. Be more. Be better. Grab your position as an expert, a resource for basic understandable truth and despite the state of the industry, shine and prosper!

Phil Kaplan is the author of Personal Training Profits and A Secure Fitness Future and one of the worldís most in-demand fitness professionals. His PEAK Training seminar program helps fitness professionals build and develop their careers. He can be reached at 800.552.1998 or you can visit him on the Web at www.philkaplan.com.

 

 


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