Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Build Your Brand

The fitness industry is unique in that you are everything to your business: marketing, production, research and development and boss. In short, you are your own brand. Very few people will be able to have a significant influence on  your brand. Your results in this business will largely correlate to the effort that you put into it. Guys like Eric Cressey, Mike Boyle and Jim Smith (Smitty) have spent many years and countless hours working to build their brand into what they are today.

This is a niche industry; there's not a ton of available positions. For personal trainers, a commercial gym may only have space for 5-10 personal trainers. If you're in strength and conditioning, there's even fewer. A typical performance facility or collegiate facility may only have 3-5 available positions. As such, the way you sell yourself is very important.

When I say "sell yourself", I mean the way in which you present all of your best attributes and qualities. Employers and clients alike need to understand what really sets you apart from everyone else. I'm not talking about how you've been an athlete your whole life and look forward to sharing your enthusiasm for fitness with your clients, either. Here are some tips that will help you build your brand.

1) If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything: You need to have a philosophy; something tangible that you can explain to someone. Simply saying "squats are better than biceps curls" doesn't cut it. If you believe that barbell movements are better than machines, you need to be able to explain why. If you think that single joint exercises are the best way to injury proof an athlete, you should be able to explain why. Whatever your philosophy regarding training is, be able to explain why.

I personally believe that movement quality is of the utmost importance; if your body is able to move the way it's supposed to (pain free, too) then you will have a much easier time achieving your goals. Beyond that, I believe that strength is the key that will unlock all of the other doors to fitness (speed, body comp, durability, etc). I also believe that everyone should be mimicking athletic movements; there are enough progressions/regressions regarding jumping, sprinting and throwing that anyone is able to do them.

There are a lot of right answers in this industry, and only a few wrong ones. People like to say that "everything works, but only for a while". If you're going to pick a particular philosophy, then stick to it and be consistent. If you believe that rate of force development (RFD) is best achieved for an athlete with a medicine ball, then that is great. But don't be the coach making your athletes throw medicine balls if you only do cleans to improve your own RFD.

2) Expand your network: This is a small industry and everybody knows everybody. It's not entirely necessary, but it's nice to have a good professional network. If you are able to develop professional relationships with known coaches/trainers, it will only benefit you when it comes time to be hired by an employer or client. If you're able to express that you have a strong professional circle that you can lean on for advice, support or references it will benefit everybody involved. Having a fellow professional who can vouch for you is worth its weight in gold.

I've personally been working on this for a while now. My network still has plenty of room to grow, but I've done a pretty good job meeting coaches/trainers from all over: Boston, Boulder, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Having a place to reach a broader audience has allowed me to make connections as far away as England!

NOTE: Don't be a chuckledick and name-drop; people know when you're doing it and nobody likes it. 

3) Continue your education: I always talk about reading blogs and all the free information that's available out there, which is all well and good. However, this time I'm referring to actual courses that will provide you with resume fodder. Don't just go out and try to accrue as many letters after your name as possible, though. Seek out and attain certifications and memberships that will benefit your own industry. If you're going to be a strength coach in a collegiate setting, then maybe things like Graston and Nutrition don't matter as much since you won't be able to utilize them. If you're going to be a personal trainer in a commercial gym, spending the massive amount of money on your RKC also won't be that necessary since nobody there will even know what it is. Too, understand which certifications are nationally recognized and which aren't. If you show up at most gyms with your CrossFit level 1 and your PICP, they won't know what to do with them (despite these being two of only a few certs that require you to spend time in a gym with your hands on a bar.)

I'm not suggesting that having a particular certification makes you a better trainer than someone else; I still don't have my CSCS, but I don't think that everyone who has it is automatically better than I am. However, having more than one certification will show potential clients and employers that you have dedicated both time and money into improving your craft. Just make sure that your certs are worthwhile and in-line with your particular demographic.

4) Practice what you preach: Not every fitness professional needs to be 6% bodyfat and own a 600 pound deadlift; it's just not feasible. However, every fitness professional should try and live the life they are selling. If you are preaching that vegetarianism is the path to fitness Valhalla, but eat an Atkins diet; why would anyone listen to you? If you tell clients that they will get the best results by following a regimented program full of squats and deadlifts, but you yourself follow a random bodybuilder split, then aren't you just lying to people?

Live the life that you are selling to your clients. That way people will be able to tell that you truly believe in what you are telling them. You'll come off less salesy and much more genuine.

5) Don't bullshit anyone: If it looks like shit and smells like shit, it's probably shit. If someone, anyone, asks you a question regarding your profession and you're unsure of the answer do not make one up. If you make up an answer and it's wrong, people will remember that you are a bullshitter. If you can make an educated guess, that's one thing. But it's quite another if you're pulling answers out of your ass. Your name is your reputation, and you don't want to sully it with something as simple as this.

If you don't have the answer, tell the person! Go find the answer and get back to them; they'll appreciate the honesty and your willingness to go the extra mile to get the answer for them. Plus, you'll learn something new in the process.

This is an industry that rewards hard work and dedication. Half-work gets half-results, don't be the trainer/coach standing there wondering why they don't have any clients; go bust your ass and earn them. Thanks for reading; I hope you all enjoyed the post. Have a great day, and go lift some heavy shit!

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