When I speak to personal fitness trainers about marketing strategies, I often ask, “What makes you and your business unique?” Sadly, most trainers reply that what sets them apart is the fact that they really care about their clients.

While that sentiment is most admirable, it is not a personal signature that will distinguish them from other professional trainers. Nor is it an effective marketing strategy to use in a sea of competition.

So how can you as a personal trainer stand out in the crowd and create a reputation that draws clients to you? My advice is to immediately develop what is known as your USP, or unique selling proposition. I promise that developing a USP will alter the way that prospective clients view your services and will eventually create a healthy client base.

The USP Process

To start the USP process, you need to understand what makes you and your training services unique among the competition in your area. Once you can articulate that quality to prospective clients, they will see you as the most desirable choice.

Next, you need to learn how to sell your service, which means persuading others to pay money for it.

Finally, you have to develop a proposition, which is akin to putting out an offer for acceptance.

While this process may seem daunting to the uninitiated, I assure you it is quite practical—and profitable—once you get the hang of it. Having a solid grasp on your USP will dramatically strengthen the positioning and marketability of your services. In other words, your USP is the force that will drive potential clients to you.

Branding Yourself

Once you’ve developed your USP, the great thing is that you can also use it as a “branding” tool to lay the foundation for all your future marketing efforts. Having a brand allows you to create consistency and individuality in all your ads, postcards and other marketing collateral, including your website. In other words, once you’ve established a brand, people can instantly identify your service when they are seeking a trainer.

If you don’t have such a personal signature and you simply mimic the ads that your competitors use, your marketing efforts will surely get lost among all the others in our industry. Think about the countless ads you see that tout standard phrases like “Get fit with us!” or “Let us help you lose weight.” Those statements don’t have the unique quality that will drive business to your door. Your business needs its own strong USP so that you position yourself as the best choice in the area.

Anyone who doubts how a strong USP can set a business apart has only to look at the following examples to see how effective a strategy it can be. See if you recognize the companies who created these great USPs:

  • “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.” (Federal Express)
  • “Pizza delivered in 30 minutes or it’s free.” (Dominos Pizza)
  • “The nation’s strongest cellular phone network.” (Verizon)

Step 1: Identify a Missed Opportunity

As you work to identify and develop your USP, start by assessing the current training services in your area and see what opportunities your competitors have overlooked. For example, in my studio, all our rooms are completely private. Owing to the demographics of our community, there are a number of high-profile clients who wish to train in a private setting so as not to be recognized. We identified that this clientele was not being served—in other words, we recognized a missed opportunity on the part of other clubs—and we took full advantage of the situation by promoting the private nature of our club compared with the competition.

To identify missed opportunities in your own area, you need to have your thumb on the pulse of your market and community. Only then will you be able to assess what is lacking and then successfully seize the chance that other businesses have missed. Companies that base their USPs on opportunities ignored by others in the same industry are typically pretty successful, because they are filling a need or niche.

A great example of a company that made the most of a missed opportunity is Curves®. This franchise cornered the market by understanding and then underscoring in their marketing approach the time dilemma that many women face when it comes to exercising. Curves promised prospective customers that they could “get a complete workout in just 30 minutes!” and the rest was herstory. Filling this “gap” in the fitness market served the franchise well and has ultimately led to its unprecedented success in our industry—all because of an effective USP!

Think about some of the most common complaints you hear from your clients. Listen closely to bad experiences and needs that aren’t being met, then seize the opening that’s there and take advantage of it. List 3 common missed opportunities in your area and how you might fill them.

Step 2: Back Up Your Claim

It’s embarrassing when you think about some of the nonsensical claims that “experts” make in our industry; for example, boasting that they will help clients “lose 20 pounds in 20 days” or “develop a six-pack in just 3 minutes a day!” Thanks to the excessive promises made in ads like these that have little if any science to back up their claims, consumers have understandably become very skeptical.

That’s why it’s so important to create a solid foundation for any claim you make in your USP. The promises and guarantees implicit in your USP need to capture your audience’s attention and compel people to respond to you. For example, in my studio, we tout the unique privacy of our training services and then back up that claim by offering completely private training rooms. We also use client testimonials to support the value of the privacy we protect. Remember, the quickest way to lose a client is to promise and then not deliver. It’s okay to be daring when developing your USP, but you’ve got to be able to back up all your claims!

What claims might you make in your business, and how will you support those claims? List 3 specific claims and the information to back them up.

Step 3. Keep It Simple,
Sweetie (or KISS)

Just as your business mission and vision need to be concise, clear and easily understood by a 12-year-old, so should your USP. In fact, the best USPs convey the intended message so clearly that it’s impossible to alter even a single word. An added benefit to writing a concise USP is that it will be significantly easier to piggyback that message into all of your advertising and marketing copy.

When you get ready to formulate your own USP, think in terms of language that is simple yet powerful. Some of the most successful USPs are just that—short and sweet. For example, look at Quizno’s “So fast you’ll freak” USP or Subway’s “Think fresh” message. Each is a great example of a message that is on point, pithy and able to quickly draw in the potential customer who was someone else’s missed opportunity. Look around the area you live in, and jot down the USPs that you think are most effective among the local businesses.

Step 4. Integrate Your USP Into
All Marketing Materials

Again, the beauty of creating a USP is that every piece of advertising and marketing you put together will use your unique message. Getting your message out to the community is what eventually will create the “buzz” and bring people to your door.

Variations of your USP should be included in all your current and future marketing materials, including the following:

  • advertising headlines
  • business cards, brochures, fliers and signage
  • phone messages and sales scripts
  • letterhead, letters and postcards
  • website and Internet marketing

Step 5. Finalize Your USP

Now it’s time to combine the missed opportunities and your unique traits into your actual USP. What benefits will prospective clients receive when they use your unique service? Take a moment to list 5 benefits of using your service. Next, integrate those benefits into what makes you unique, so you can develop and successfully promote your USP.

Here are a few samples to consider when building your own USP:

1. We offer complete privacy—and separate training areas—for those who want a quiet, convenient place to work out each day.

2. We are the only fitness club conveniently located in the ABC Business Park.

3. We guarantee busy moms will get a complete workout in just 30 minutes—plus we provide free daycare services!

The Bottom Line

The fitness industry is growing by leaps and bounds. As in any profession, you will be competing with others who are all trying to set themselves apart with claims that they may or may not be able to back up. Building your own effective and identifiable USP will serve as the driving force with which you can build your success as you develop your client base.