If you’re thinking of starting a fitness studio, you’ve likely heard all of the reasons not to by now. From market saturation to small business challenges, creating a fitness venture isn’t for the faint of heart.
If you’re building just another gym, maybe that’s right. But you’re not — you’re building something that’s really different. You know that, your friends know that, your investors are on board with that. Next, it’s time to convince the public of that as you create your consumer-facing brand. You get one first shot to introduce yourself to the world. With intention — and the strategies below — you can make a splash, whether this is your first or fifth studio.
Create an audience persona
Who does your ideal client look like? What are the challenges in his or her life? What are they doing before and after they work out? What other brands are they interacting with — fitness or otherwise? You’ll want to answer these questions and more — age, gender, location, profession, family size, income, etc. As you begin to define your brand, run your messaging through the filtering of the persona — what would Fiona Fitness like?
Choose unique branding
Everyone expects a boxing gym to have a grittier brand identity. You expect yoga studios to have soft colors and possibly some Sanskrit characters in their logo. But what if you turned the expected branding on its head and did the opposite of what your competitors do? Try, for example, bright neon colors for your yoga studio’s branding.
Think of who is underserved
Often, this will come from your own experience. You might be a runner who feels most yoga classes aren’t for her and decide that you’re part of a larger underserved market. What are the pain points for this population? What do they need? In this hypothetical situation, you might decide to open your studio near a popular running trail, and you might decide to partner with a local running store to offer a free class there as marketing. Your merchandise could include a foam roller in addition to the traditional offerings.
Stand for something
Alexander Hamilton had it right: “Those who stand for nothing, fall for anything.” If you or your team have a strong point of view on a social cause, you can include that as part of your brand ethos, and it will inform your programming and marketing. For example, if empowering women is in your brand’s DNA, then you’ll host career events, your charity events will benefit female empowerment charities and you’ll partner with women-led organizations and vendors.
Have a clear voice
Language matters. The copy in your newsletters, on your social media and on your website all tell the story of your brand. Are you a brand that loves a bit of wordplay? Are you a brand that’s all about the motivational language? Decide on the voice you want your brand to have, and be consistent with it. Create a style guide explaining your brand voice for any employees or vendors who help with marketing. This document, sometimes called a brand book, will include your brand’s history, vision and mission statement. It should also include examples of tone of voice that is ‘on brand’ and tone of voice that is ‘off brand’ and should not be used.
Make sure your space reflects your brand
If you’re a yoga brand promoting mindfulness, you should have a physical space that reflects this. Think of all five senses as you plan for your physical space. Consider, for example, the noises your clients will hear. Do you need a white noise machine to mask street noise?
Your instructors are, quite literally, the voice of your brand. It doesn’t matter if a potential hire is the best person in town to teach powerlifting if his vibe doesn’t fit with your studio’s. When interviewing, ask what their personal fitness values are to see if they align with your brand. Once you’ve hired, give them plenty of freedom but also make sure that they are aware of how you prefer to communicate about your brand.
Train your staff on your branding
Start by educating your staff on your mission statement and values, and then make the rest of the session interactive. Come up with real-world examples and ask how they might describe the brand in these scenarios, and why. You might even want to make it a friendly competition to see which team knows more about the brand.
The good news is that your brand can — and should — evolve. While it’s important to launch with a strong point of view and purpose, your brand will grow along with your studio.