The PT's Problem
Personal Trainers. A passionate group of hard-working individuals that seem to have been breeding over the last few years. You can’t move in some gyms before one of them sticks a flyer in your face, a card up your nose, or starts poking away at some part of your anatomy.
But with this ever-growing pool of perspiration promoters all vying for the same clients comes a problem. As a PT, how do you stand out in the ever-expanding sea of sinew and stretch bands?
If you’re doing things properly, you’d first define your vision, values and goals, determine your target audience, align your messaging and tone of voice, write your mission statement, set your positioning, and marry these with a comprehensive set of visuals, photos, social strategy, etc. - but if we’re being honest, most of you aren’t going to do that.
So, here are a few things you can do to strengthen your brand, without burning out.
1. Nail your niche
The huge increase in PTs in the last few years has meant a very saturated market. The vast majority all tend to morph into one another, and you’re not entirely sure what their purpose actually is - a bit like Love Island contestants. So it’s even more crucial now to find something specific that sets you apart from the masses.
Finding a ‘niche’ or a ‘USP’ (hate that phrase) is not easy, but if you expect your clients to overcome hurdles and push themselves, you should be prepared to do the same for your brand. Plus, now you’ve read this, you don’t have an excuse.
And realistically, it can be anything. A client of ours who is a PT was very into Viking philosophy, so that became the theme of his brand, and informed the direction of the messaging, tone of voice, visuals, his training style, etc. (Click here to see the project) You could be a dancer, or an advocate of mental health, but use something that is personal to you, and can form the basis for all aspects of the brand. Once you’ve found it, don’t be shy about it; embrace it.
Which leads me nicely onto …
2. Get your Name right
If you are still calling yourself a “Personal Trainer” you’re doing yourself a big disservice - it’s too generic. Your job title should be something individual and relevant to your niche.
A “Women’s Coach”, a “Physique Transformer”, the “Body Builder”: it doesn’t really matter as long as it’s relevant to what you’re offering and has a specific focus. It’s not about cramming all your qualifications into the one name - people need to know what you’re offering, what it is that sets you apart from the next person, and how you are going to help them.
3. Forget your logo
Ok, not necessarily 'forget', but don’t get caught up thinking your logo is the make-or-break part of your brand. Spending £20 putting your name between some dumbbells, sticking it on some cards and whacking it up on Instagram will not make you the next Joe Wicks.
If a logo costs you £20, likelihood is it won’t be any good, but it also isn’t that important to your brand, initially. Gasps!
How many clients do you recon sign up because your logo looks pretty? Now, how many do think sign up because they can connect with who they’re going to work with? If you’re developing a personal brand, which for most PT’s is what you’re going for, your face is more important. Show you. Show your face, show your personality and get yourself known. When you are able to invest in your visual branding, then you can think about your logo (and drop us a DM).
4. Think Community
Communities build brands. Simple.
Now, you may already have a decent size social following, but don’t be fooled – an audience watches, a community engages. You don’t just want a bunch of people staring at what you’re doing, you’re after individuals regularly using your product/service that you can reach out to, sell to, and collect from.
Focus your energy on your clients, particularly while you’re growing. The more you invest in them, and the more you engage with them, the more they’ll invest and engage with you. They should feel as important and cherished as Ant is to Dec, or Piers Morgan is to Piers Morgan.
As that translates to your wider following, making them feel integral to the growth of your brand, the more they’ll be invested in your vision, your direction, and will be as useful to you as you are to them. They’ll help you make decisions, spread the word about the business, and give you feedback to enable you to continue to grow.
If you want to take it a step further, give the community a name. Krissy Cela is a good example of this, referring to her followers as her ‘familia’ – welcoming, making them feel included, and it's a word relevant to her.
5. Don’t try to be an influencer
If you are in business to get famous, or popular, or to someday have Ian Sterling reading your name out, you aren’t doing it for the right reasons. Yes, we’d all love millions of followers, but if they’re not bringing something tangible to the business, what’s the point?
As Diego Pineda points out, you want to be a "thought leader", an “expert who educates his or her audience to improve their businesses or their industry, and makes a lasting impact”, rather than a someone looking for attention, so you can one day flog an eBook.
Most ‘influencers’ are not leaders; they copy, because they follow trends. Following a trend means you become one of many, rather than an individual, and goes against all the work you’ll have done to set yourself apart from everyone else.
And don’t give me the argument that the influencer route is ‘easier’. I mean, effort-wise, yes it is, but their ‘follow me’ following is built around their lifestyle and/or their physique, and with one strike that can be taken away, because it’s not based on anything tangible or of worth to their audience. Remember, an audience watches.
Grow organically – no buying followers – and be someone who makes a difference, rather than a posterior-posing picture poster. Be someone who leads a community, not influences an audience.
So, to finish up, I do want to say that most PT’s do a cracking job. Having worked with a number, both personally and professionally, there are some great characters out there, making a real difference to people’s lives. I hate the way some see Personal Training as an easy route to fame, fortune, and free Nando’s, and assume they’d be perfect because they’ve once watched a video of Eddie Hall bench pressing.
So hopefully these tips help, not just for PT’s, but more broadly for people developing a personal brand looking to make start in the right direction. If you’ve already ticked all these off and are ready to invest in taking your brand further then get in touch.
And just one little extra piece of advice to any fitness professionals - if you are going to start touching bits of someone’s body, ask first.
Thank you for reading. Now you owe me 20 press-ups.