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Brand You

by Debra Atkinson, MS on Jan 01, 2009

Position yourself in a distinct and effective way to help develop staff and establish brand loyalty among membership.

With the right education and motivation, anyone can copy the same products and services you offer. But they can’t copy you. Every individual in your business contributes a piece to the puzzle. However, your leadership sets the standard for employees. Your personal values and beliefs develop your brand; you then attract like-minded employees and customers.

If you don’t think you currently have a brand, think again. It’s not your logo, slogan or your signage color scheme. Your brand is the way people perceive you when you’re not present. If you are a guest speaker at a meeting, what do people in the audience think beforehand? After a group fitness class, the locker room is buzzing with the instructor’s brand impact. In the end, you don’t have complete control over your brand. You do, however, have tremendous influence.

Is your current brand the one you want to intentionally promote? If the answer is yes, maximize its impact for more successful outcomes. If the answer is no, get ready to make changes. Three brand components must align for you to be successful: presentational, reputational and personal.

Presentational Brand

Just as you build core fitness from the inside out, build your core business with the same mindset. How do you present yourself? Your presentational brand must align with the position you want in the market. Of course, your logo and color scheme do have a purpose, lending themselves to easy identification and recognition. But it goes a step beyond purpose. The main consideration is how specifically you set yourself apart. For example, what does your business card say about you? Is it clear and concise or muddled with extraneous information and hard-to-read fonts?

If you work for a chain or a franchise, you probably have little control over some aspects, but what about your personal appearance? Are you well-groomed or do you look like you forgot to look in the mirror in the morning? And then there are questions about personal interaction, the finer touches. How do you make people feel? Do you motivate and inspire? Do you send handwritten thank-you notes frequently? These are all components of your outward or presentational brand (see the sidebar “Assessing Presentational Brand” for more).

Reputational Brand

Reputational brand is what you’ve earned through customers’ experiences with you, their perceptions of those experiences, and often the hearsay from friends and relatives of individuals who have had contact with you and your facility. These are the intangibles that linger long after you’re gone. Your reputational brand has either a positive or a negative impact on your personal and professional success. For instance, let’s say you have developed a reputation for not returning phone calls promptly or for initiating new business and programming, and you want a commission increase but never seem to get it. Is this simply a coincidence?

On the other hand, perhaps you’ve worked hard to become the source of fitness information in your area. You write columns for the local paper or have a radio talk show or podcast. You have successfully created a reputation that is working for you. Consequently, people come to you requesting advice: a woman is diagnosed with osteoporosis and wants to know if joining your facility can help her manage her disease; a college student seeks advice on his fitness career. With no prior direct contact with you or your facility, each person contacts you based on your reputational brand. More than your business experience or your long list of certifications and degrees, your personality and your brand differentiate you from the rest (see the sidebar “Assessing Your Reputational Brand” for more).

Personal Brand

The personal touch is the single most important aspect of your brand. It’s how you think and feel about yourself. It either allows you to sleep like a baby or it keeps you awake at night. Your personal brand is based on your values, intention and purpose. If you aren’t investing yourself wholly in meetings and member interaction, it is you who misses out—others may not know the difference.

Does your personal brand match your presentational and reputational brands? For example, you believe you are a good listener and have an open-door policy. Your staff also tends to come to you first for ideas and problem solving, knowing that you welcome this and always have the time for them. Your slogan “where everyone knows your name” also clearly communicates your club’s values.

Determine where you want to make a change or if you are already going in the right direction. Branding is more than just a necessary part of advertising; it is the energy surrounding others’ attraction to you. Having identified it, you can make it work for you. Decide how you want everyone to know you and cultivate that image (see the sidebar “Assessing Your Personal Brand” for more).

Team Brand

Collaboration is an important aspect of positioning yourself, and your business may depend on it. Start with your internal collaborators: front-desk personnel, personal trainers and group fitness instructors. Each person projects your brand when he or she comes into contact with members. Make sure all employees are aware of the values and messages you want to communicate. They may be hearing that you are focused on sales, sales, sales. You may think they already know that the reason the bottom line is important is so that the facility can help more people improve their health and quality of life. Spend time with staff members and ask for help with your brand assessments—you will discover whether or not they fully understand and are on board with your brand. You pay a hefty fee for external advertising; make sure the internal marketing of your brand also captivates your audience.

IDEA Fitness Manager, Volume 21, Issue 1

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About the Author

Debra Atkinson, MS

Debra Atkinson, MS IDEA Author/Presenter

Speaker and author Debra Atkinson, MS, CSCS, is a prior Senior Lecturer at Iowa State University, and the current Personal Training director at Ames Racquet & Fitness Center in Ames, Iowa. Her book, T...