The 5 Elements of Effective Branding

How do you rise above a crowded marketplace?

By John Heringer
Jan 18, 2018

If you’re going to compete and win in today’s crowded fitness marketplace, then you must be crystal-clear on your branding and why your business is unique. Specifically, you must define 5 crucial elements:

  1. who you are
  2. what you’re promising
  3. what you do
  4. how you do it
  5. who you do it with

Spelling out these elements will provide the framework you need to take your brand to the next level, differentiate yourself and position your company to attract new clients, and make the maximum impact on your clients’ lives and your bottom line.

What Is Branding?

You see the term branding everywhere, but what does it mean? In a nutshell, branding is what distinguishes your company from others and creates a lasting impression.

While I’m not an expert in branding and I don’t have a marketing degree, I am in a unique position to share my experience: I spent the last year and a half rebranding my own fitness business, from the former Fast Action Training to the new Method3 Fitness.

It’s been a challenging journey and a lot of work, but the company is now poised for growth because we have greater clarity about who we are and what we stand for. Our services are aligned with our brand, and our messaging is consistent.

Element #1: Who You Are

The first of the 5 elements is crucial. To get clarity on who you are, you must define your purpose and who you want to serve. Why do you exist? Why should people care? What would your city lose if your company were gone tomorrow morning?

It’s easy to get caught up in day-to-day activities. Don’t! Set aside time—without distractions—to define your purpose. Your purpose is the foundation of your business, so dig deep to find what works for you.

Once you’ve defined your purpose, you’ll be able to flush out who you want to serve. What audience do you specifically want to help? One of the best ways to hone in on this is to survey a few of your current clients.

Identify client details like age, gender, marital status, number of children, tipping point for engaging in your services, where your clients live, their goals, their biggest frustrations with their health and fitness, and so on. This information will help you identify who you want to target as clients and who you don’t. For example, when we did a deep-dive survey, we found that a large majority of our clients are married women aged 35–55 who have 1–3 kids and live within 3 miles of our studio. We also learned that the primary reasons they came to us were to seek help with weight loss and because they wanted to feel better. What they love most about us are our accommodating class schedule; our awesome coaches who care about them; and our nonjudgmental, supportive community. We used this information in our marketing to make sure we were speaking to the right audience.

Element #2: What You’re Promising

A brand promise is the statement you make to customers that identifies what they should expect from all interactions with your people, products, services and company.

A strong brand promise connects your purpose, your positioning, your strategy, your people and your customer experience. It lets you deliver your brand in a way that connects emotionally with your customers and differentiates your brand. It can also help to frame how you make business decisions.

One of our brand promises at Method3 Fitness is this: Results aren’t optional.
We tell clients, “Your time, your life, your investment in this, and your goals are too important not to have the results you desire. Whether it’s fitting back into that dress you love, having the energy to run in the backyard with your grandkids or finishing your first 5K, we will do everything in our power to set you up for success. That’s our promise to you.”

Another example comes from Avenu Fitness in Houston. This is their three-part promise: “Your health is unique. Your goals are attainable. Healthy is convenient.”

To create to your own brand promise, brainstorm these two points:

  • What’s something you need to commit to within your brand?
  • What’s a promise you can make that reflects what you believe?

The cool thing is that your brand promise is probably something that you already do and that currently lives in your brand! You just need to flush it out. This process may sound a bit scary. It should! In today’s marketplace, you must have the courage to boldly say who you are and who you are not.

Element #3: What You Do

Do your services align with who you are, who you’re serving and the promises you’ve made as a brand?

Write down your services and outline how you provide them. Make sure they reflect what you believe. Resist the urge to be a jack-of-all-trades and master of none. When you’re starting out, it can be difficult to turn away business, but lack of focus dilutes your brand—and may hamper clients’ results or affect your ability to retain your clientele.

For example, at Method3 Fitness, to connect our brand promise—that results aren’t optional—we changed the commitment we require from our members from a monthly one to an annual one that includes four nutrition coaching appointments. The commitment is nonnegotiable, because we believe that nutrition is integral to producing results and that clients need to commit to the process. We also back up our clients’ yearlong commitment with a 30-day money-back guarantee. This keeps us accountable for ensuring we are helping clients to make progress on their goals.

Element #4: How You Do It

What’s the unique experience at your business? What will people talk about? It doesn’t have to break the bank. It just has to be unique and help you stand out.

For example, it could be that you use only kettlebells in your workouts or that you offer a unique circuit routine or timely 30-minute sessions; it could be your use of technology or even your location. For more about diving into your unique experience, check out Patrick Hanlon’s book, Primal Branding (Free Press 2011).

Once you identify the experience, ask yourself this: How can we deliver this experience consistently? Are you training your team, and do you have the appropriate checks and balances in place to ensure that the experience is consistent? Think about how Les Mills International creates consistency in classes worldwide. The company trains its instructors rigorously, and they must submit a video demonstrating that they can teach a class effectively and follow the class format.

Coach your team members until they perform to your expectations and deliver the experience you want. Revisit coaching on a quarterly basis.

Element #5: Who You Do It With

Your team and your company culture will ultimately determine if you will win in the marketplace. Building a company is not a one-person job. You need to have the right people on board and in the right seats, because one bad egg can derail your efforts. Remember, however, that it all starts with you. The company culture starts at the top. You are the leader who started the movement, and you must be a living embodiment of your brand.

Your job is to train your team, show them the way and then get out of their way.
Of course, you’ll provide corrections where necessary. How do you get your team to make good decisions? You keep training and educating them. You invest in them and show them you care. You demonstrate how good decisions reflect your purpose, brand promises and core values.

Above all, you recognize your team members in the ways they like to be appreciated. (For more insights on showing appreciation best suited to individual staff members, see The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace by Gary Chapman and Paul White (Northfield Publishing 2012) or visit www.MBAInventory.com. This information is pure gold!)

If you can add great people to your team and retain them, you will build brand consistency and improve client retention.

Bringing It Together

Begin your mission by committing to a day to start working on your brand. Then go deep into each of the elements discussed above. Once you’ve done this, you’ll have built the framework for excellent positioning and messaging to truly differentiate yourself in the marketplace. You’ll also have the recipe for a successful, purpose-driven and genuinely fulfilling company that’s destined to make an epic impact for a long time. Good luck!

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John Heringer

John Heringer is the founder and chief motivator for Method3 Fitness, a thriving fitness studio in San Jose, California. Prior to owning his own business, John worked as a trainer and fitness manager in the trenches, helping trainers increase their clientele and build prosperous careers with his specific sales and marketing techniques.

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