Like all markets, the fitness industry is unique. It comes with its own circles of influence, notable or authoritative names, nuances and language. There’s a sense of lifestyle and aspirational feel to it, and that’s exactly what’s driven the marketing behind this space to date. But no more is that truer than right now, with more and more consumers finding being compelled to buy through highly strategic content marketing that’s refined enough to target fitness-goers. And doing that is a big challenge, with only a handful of brands really getting it right.
In fact, the industry is set to grow by 5% in revenue year on year, and that’s in the U.S. alone. Translate that to Australia and you’ve got a global phenomenon taking place.
However, what worked last year for brands in this field may not necessarily work forever, meaning that if you’re looking to survive this competitive explosion, you’re going to need to market yourself vigorously. And not just vigorously – but downright, to-the-letter strategically. That’s where the real difference will come in and create a make or break between ‘getting by’ brands, and those kicking their goals right out of the park.
So which one are you?
The first step is the most important: build a brand
It doesn’t matter who you are, you can’t expect those around you to follow your recommendations or influence without having making a name for yourself. People aren’t swayed by strangers; they want to connect with those that are sending them recommendations, and trust doesn’t come easily here either.
Whether you’re a solo personal trainer, you’re launching a whole new athleisure label, or a gym owner – getting a name behind who you are and what you do starts with putting the building blocks in place. And that means crafting a strong sense of identity online (a positive one, mind you) and really make that a consistent mark across the channels you frequent.
In content marketing, that often means starting with a solid blog strategy to get your foot in the door and enough content to at least begin turning heads your way. You’ll need to create a huge foundation of trust from scratch, so that will take plenty of time and patience to do. Within this first step, it’s important to remember that results are not instant; especially in content marketing. You’ll need to generate high-quality, helpful material to nurture those that are listening, and then form the rest of your strategy of this first building block.
When you’re tackling this part of the journey, take the time to map out who you are and what kind of image you’ll put across your branding (content wise). For example:
- What is your tone of voice?
- Do you have a personality you want to portray?
- Will you show the people behind your brand?
- What are your values?
- What lessons have you learned that you can put forward to your audience?
- Will you have one person speaking on behalf of your brand, or will you create a mix?
- What topics do you have the most interest in that are relevant and timely?
- What content formats are you happy to dabble with? Are you comfortable getting on camera?
Behind this broader stuff, though, there’s a few more critical steps to take when you’re prepping your strategy…
Use the most popular search terms and keywords
For the SEO-savvy, this is a no-brainer, but it’s also the most important. Whether you’re an expert in your industry or not, you’ll need to understand what your target audience are searching for online. Note that it may not actually be what you expected – sometimes the particular terms you’re used to calling things as a professional, may not always be what the masses are calling it. So it pays to look into these details first.
Why is this so important?
Once you’ve got a nifty list of trending keywords in tow, you’ll be able to craft your entire strategy around them. From what to blog about through to weaving these terms into your onsite content – each and every part of your content strategy should be somehow influenced by these phrases.
How to find powerful keywords and topics
The fitness industry moves fast. Really fast. What was trending yesterday probably isn’t today. Add in influencers like Kylie Jenner and athletes, and there’s a lot of shifting the tides on a continual basis. But as a business in this field, it’s your job to keep up with it all. Luckily, there’s a few good ways to do that.
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Consumers no longer believe everything they see...
For starters, HIIT has been a hugely popular topic in the space for a few years now. Looking back at Google Trends (put this one down on your list of go-to tools), you’ll see it’s interest levels rise over time. This indicates that it’s something worth providing commentary around, as it’s peaking now across the globe.
But if you’re a provider of HIIT, or want to market to those who enjoy participating in it, how exactly do you target this hugely competitive phrase? Well, you generate a solid basis of content that covers off all the content within this umbrella...and then some.
Firstly, a great way to find out what to write about within a certain phrase – in this case, ‘HIIT – is to use a tool like Answer the Public. This will present you with a pretty impressive terms that are searched for, relating to this parent topic. Pro tip, though – utilise the questions. These are your secret weapon.
Yep. That’s an incredible amount of content to create. But the best part about this tool is that you can export it into a CSV file to then pop into your strategy or editorial calendar. Remember that these are questions people are asking all the time, and your end-goal is to answer them, in order to create a brand identity that’s worth trusting.
Take for example a couple of these questions in the above chart:
- Why HIIT training burns fat
- Can HIIT replace running?
- Are HIIT programs good for weight loss?
These three alone will give you a huge amount of content to generate, answering the questions of those around you that are asking them, but may have gone unheard. You can be their shining light. You just have to invest the time and energy into doing so.
Utilise little-known channels that competitors aren’t on
These days, it’s a given that you jump on Instagram and market your product to the moon and back, and hope it all sticks. But for some, this platform doesn’t work. While the fitness industry has reaped the benefits of influencers dominating the space and garnered huge success, this effect is starting to taper off. More and more, consumers are becoming more conscious of endorsed advertisements and the ‘myth’ around influencer content. While it’s still a great way to market your brand, it’s not the only way to do it...and most certainly not the most effective (in some cases).
Take Australian fitness trainer Kayla Itsines for example. She has garnered absolute mammoth growth on this platform, but she did it consistently over time. She didn’t jump straight on and become a sensation overnight. She had actually been generating printed and digital guides and fitness manuals for years before that, before getting her following on social media through Instagram and Facebook marketing.
She took the time to create a solid identify first, which is exactly what you’ll need to do, if you’re looking to go down the same track. And she did it all without utilising influencers, but instead by utilising other methods of content that nurtured her audience into becoming a cult following (in a good way).
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Kayla Itsines didn’t get her success from mimicking everyone else.
While mimicking what Itsines did is a bit of a task, there are ways you can create a more outside-the-box form of thinking, just like she did. For example, instead of spending thousands on an influencer to sport your athletic wear, only for social users to see right through it, it may be more worthwhile to try something a little more niche.
Ever heard of Quora? This platform is the underdog of marketing right now, and mostly because it’s just viewed as a question and answer hub. But think of it this way: you’ve just gained a huge list of topics from Answer The Public – a gigantic database of the most commonly asked questions about your expertise. What better way to answer these questions than by looking them up on Quora, and driving that already-present traffic back to your own channels!
Let’s take a deep breath. How can you even use Quora for fitness marketing?
Quora goes unnoticed a lot of the time and it needs credit where it's due. But it’s because of its ‘nichness’ that it’s actually so successful if you use it right as a marketer. If every brand were on here, you wouldn’t necessarily have that unique touch you’re after, so the fact that it’s not commonly in marketing strategies is actually a good thing. The job of a content marketer is to think differently, though, so platforms like this are welcomed.
Alright, let’s assume you’re looking to answer those questions above. Let’s seek out ‘Are HIIT programs good for weight loss?’ in particular. We’ll jump on Quora and suss out who’s searching for this question in some way or another.
We can already see there’s plenty of relevant questions just waiting here to be answered – by us, the hypothetical fitness expert.
So, let’s assume we’re ready to answer this query. How exactly do you do that effectively?
The first thing you’ll notice on Quora is that every man and his dog will answer questions...but not necessarily answer them well at all. Your job is to be different and go above and beyond to answer their question. The perfect way to do this? Think of it as a blog post. Write the content as if you’re posting it on your website, and not as an answer to someone. Treat it like a highly potential piece of material, and they will too.
Take this Quora user who took the time and energy to respond appropriately. Note that this is only half of the screenshot. He’s got about 700 words going as a response, and that’s exactly how it should be done. Almost.
Image source: Quora
What Alexios is missing is the visual content to guide readers through his answer, but you can at least see the amount of volume he’s put into it. Use this as a basis of how to give back to those that are posting.
However, what’s more important is the call to action Alexios has included at the conclusion of his response.
He’s provided a subtle link back to his guide and website, to reap the benefits of the amount of effort he put into it in the first place. It’s important to note, however, that Quora actually doesn’t like call to actions like this, but they favour content that provides a helpful, educating experience and thorough answer to the original poster, so they sort of turn a blind eye in the end.
Pro tip: Just because you wrote a 700-800 word answer to someone on Quora, doesn’t mean your efforts have to stop there. You can actually utilise this piece of content on your website’s own blog by rewording at least 60% of it (to pass SEO duplicate content guidelines). This will mean you get a 2 for 1 deal: an awesome response to someone seeking answers from a HIIT expert, and a blog post for your website.
This strategy can also be applied to other channels – like Medium and Reddit, for example. However, just like Quora, you’ll need to suss out who is posting and the kind of traction they get from those that respond. These platforms also don’t respect marketing all that much, so you’ll need to be subtle and keep value to the reader in mind, at all times.
After the brand is built
Remember that all of the above will take a fair bit of time to do. You’ll need to sit around and wait a fair bit, but during this time, you should be analysing again and again, all the data that’s coming into your hands. As you publish content, you’ll notice what’s sparking engagement and what’s not. Instead of just heading to tools like Answer The Public repeatedly, work this knowledge into your process.
For example, if the question ‘Can you replace running with HIIT’ has been asked and posed to you by the tool, don’t assume it will give you results. Throw it in Google and see what kind of traction it’s already getting.
This question is pulling some engagement, and is worth commenting on, but notice the various questions asked in relation. Put all of these into your strategy and create content around each. They’re all subtly different, and will garner traffic in different ways. Then, head to Quora (or another favourite platform of yours) and see if these are being asked elsewhere. Sit down, prepare to write your heart out, and craft a response as if your life depends on it.
In a nutshell, brands utilising mass-marketing tactics like influencers are getting decent traction. But it’s a short-term effort that won’t build them a whole lot of authentic trust. As consumers get more savvy about who’s endorsing what, trying new, niche avenues is the key to success – whether you’re in the fitness industry or not.
Not quite a gym-goer or HIIT enthusiast? Maybe you’re an electrician that knows nothing about how to operate a treadmill. It doesn’t matter, the above strategy can actually be utilised for any space or industry.
You just have to put in the hard yards.