By Jay Croft, Special AFS Contributor
Content should be a strong component of any fitness studio’s marketing. Sharing the right articles, photos and videos with the right audiences can boost your brand and grow your business. Content can help your business develop agility and endurance for a long, healthy future.
Sounds like what you tell your prospects and clients about fitness, doesn’t it?
Indeed, if you’re consistent and disciplined about your content over time, it will pay off in rich dividends. But there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. And any “guarantee” of instant results is as unfounded as promises of instant six-pack abs.
With that in mind, here’s a quick history of content and an introduction to how it can help your business.
What is content marketing?
There are many definitions, including this one from author Joe Pulizzi: “Content marketing is the art of communicating with your customers and prospects without selling. Instead of pitching your products or services, you are delivering information that makes your buyers more intelligent or perhaps entertaining them to build an emotional connection.”
So, it’s not advertising. It’s more like storytelling. It’s engaging, thoughtful and helpful.
A form of storytelling
Humans have an innate need to share stories. Today’s Instagram has its roots all the way back to the drawings on the walls of caves.
Content marketing reaches back at least 120 years to John Deere and its magazine, The Furrow, which featured information of note to farmers. Jell-O followed suit with recipe books. Cleaning companies originated daytime dramas on radio, which became what we all know as soap operas.
In recent years, businesses of all sizes and industries have been turning to content marketing out of new necessity and opportunity. Traditional media gave way to the Internet and smartphones. We don’t rely on gatekeepers at, say, daily newspapers to tell our stories for us, like they used to do.
Instead, consumers rely on search engines and social media for recommendations. And that means that businesses have to tell their own stories if they want to be heard in today’s marketplace. Stories cut through the noise like nothing else. They involve emotion and human beings – not hard-sales messages about cost savings and product data.
Remember: Content is not about the hard sell. So, back off a bit. Let the articles, graphics, photos and videos speak for themselves and connect with your audience.
It’s not about you
Prospects and clients are on their own hero’s journey. You’re there to help them. So, the story isn’t about you – it’s about them, whether you tell it on a Facebook post, in an e-book, in a speech, or on your website.
Are you familiar with the steps of the hero’s journey, as devised by Joseph Campbell? It’s the basic plotlines for most stories. The main character:
- Starts in the status quo
- Hears a call to adventure
- Usually rejects the call
- Then meets a mentor who leads him or her into an unknown world.
- Trials and failure follow
- Then, the hero acquires new skills and status.
It’s easy to see how a studio prospect or client fits the hero’s role here, isn’t it? She is in a situation – maybe being overweight. She hears the call to change but resists. She encounters a mentor (you), who guides her into the new world of exercise. She meets a series of challenges and emerges a changed person.
Your customers and clients are the heroes of their own story. You’re just there to help them along – the Obi-Wan Kenobi to their Luke Skywalker.
So don’t talk about yourself too much, as tempting as it might be. Instead, tell their story, and trust that your role in it will become apparent. Obi-Wan didn’t talk all day about how he “leaned out,” did he? Or push Luke into a 21-day trial transformation?
Remember: Content is not about the hard sell. So, back off a bit. Let the articles, graphics, photos and videos speak for themselves and connect with your audience
Sometimes, we need help
Fitness professionals are busy running their own businesses – just like prospects and clients are devoted to their jobs and personal lives. Remember that it’s OK to seek a professional’s help in building your content marketing strategy, just like it’s good for folks to hire trainers or small group coaches.
Here’s where more similarities come to mind. Content and fitness experts should:
- Fill a need
- Be consistent and authentic
- And share a point of view that ultimately serves the customer.
Results will come
Content on your blogs, social media and newsletters lets customers learn about your studio – its values and what makes it different. If you aren’t sharing content for them, your competition probably is. Content in your sales funnel guides prospects through the process without making them feel like they’re having their arms twisted.
Good content gets shared, and can sometimes lead to publication elsewhere. That builds your credibility in your community, whether you define that as your neighborhood or your industry.
By educating your customers instead of always selling to them, you help them become smarter and better consumers of fitness services and products. They’ll appreciate that and remember it over time, building and deepening relationships that will continue to pay off for both of you.
Like fitness, content is an investment that delivers over time for the health, appearance and longevity of your studio.
Jay Croft is a veteran journalist and content creator who leads Prime Fit Content for studios, gyms and trainers trying to engage people over 50.