How to Create a Successful Online Fitness Brand

The current pandemic has challenged almost every industry to rethink their business models.

While fitness businesses have been hit hard during the crisis, this can be a chance to change and grow. One way to meet the COVID-19 challenge is to develop a strong online presence.

However, many companies lack a clear strategy when trying to build an online business and end up using resources and energy without getting the results they want.

This post will share the insights of three thought leaders on how to create a successful online fitness brand.

Why should brand building on the top of your list?

Your brand is the most valuable asset of your business. It reflects your vision, your values, and the promise to your customers. It’s not just a logo but the soul of your business.

The term “brand” stems from the custom of burning marks on cattle to differentiate them from animals of other herds. Similarly, your brand should differentiate your company, products, or services from your competitors.

A strong brand is one of the primary reasons why consumers are willing to pay a premium price for a product. When I worked for BMW, we derived almost EVERY ACTIVITY from our brand values: the sound of the car engine, the look-and-feel of our website, the interior of a showroom — just to name a few.

If you fail to deliver the promises consumers associate with your brand, you’re very likely to lose them in the long run.

Online marketing activities and digital products can make it even harder to stick to your brand guidelines: the need for quick adjustments and the general pace of the digital world can tempt business owners to pay less attention to detail.

Many businesses with an extraordinary offline presence fall short when it comes to representing their brand online.

However, a strong brand is especially important in the online world:

  • Your competitors are only a click away.
  • It has never been easier for consumers to compare prices and product features.
  • There’s an abundance of FREE content or products that you might have to compete with.

So, if you want to develop a sustainable business, you need a strong brand that can create an emotional bond with your customers.

What ARE the secrets of developing a strong online fitness brand?

#1 Authenticity and speed

“READY, AIM, FIRE: be authentic, add value, move fast”.
Joe de Sena

Spartan is one of the fastest-growing fitness companies that dominate the Obstacle Course Race (OCR) market. While the current crisis forced the company to call off races, founder and CEO Joe de Sena is using the current challenge to build one of the largest online fitness communities.

Within the first week of its Unbreakable Campaign, Spartan was able to sign up and engage 600.000 OCR enthusiasts around the globe.

When I asked Joe what drives his success, he pointed out that speed is one of the critical factors when it comes to establishing an online presence as a fitness company. However, speed should NEVER compromise your efforts to build an authentic brand that your community trusts.

“Don’t forget it takes TIME to build an audience. You have to find people that LOVE your message and what you stand for…talk to them, listen to them”.
Joe de Sena

One way to increase speed while staying true to your brand is by working closely with your biggest fans. Spartan recently started a brand ambassador program that brings together a network of people that love and live the Spartan values. The ambassadors aid the company to create content while engaging others to follow and love the brand.

Apart from that, Joe de Sena does practice what he preaches: he is not only living the Spartan lifestyle but also shares his insights and learnings with the community every step of the way. Authenticity at its best.

How can you apply this to your own business?

If you’re in the process of developing or improving your online presence, ask yourself the following questions BEFORE you invest in content production, influencer marketing, etc.:

  • What is your company’s mission?
  • What are your company’s values?
  • What is your promise to your customers?
  • What makes your brand promise unique?
  • What are 3 to 5 adjectives that describe your brand promise?
  • What is the first thing that should come to mind when someone mentions your brand?
  • What do you want consumers to say when referring t your products?

Take your time to answer these questions. Once you’re happy with your answers, discuss them with your team and make adjustments if necessary.

After you’ve developed a clear, unique brand story, evaluate all your online marketing activities, digital products, content, influencers, and ambassadors. Are they genuinely representing what you want to be known for?

Don’t be afraid to make hard choices. They will pay off in the end.

As Joe mentioned, building a strong brand takes grit and persistence. You also need to do regular “reality checks” on how your brand is doing by doing customer surveys or online polls.

#2 Value

Most companies are VERY creative when it comes to creating content but have no strategy on how all this great content will help them to drive revenue.

For insights on this topic, I connected with Mike Pierce, founder, and CEO of Regatta Fitness.

The former Navy SEAL and Harvard graduate developed a platform for connecting people virtually for live and on-demand fitness activities. Its mission is to enable group workout experiences that enhance motivation, inspiration, commitment, and lead to improved fitness results and health.

I asked Mike on how to build an online fitness offering that people are willing to pay for:

“Regatta is distinct from many other fitness apps because it brings people together from across the globe in a live fitness experience.

Just like when people come together for a Spartan race, our app’s leaderboard and live classes sync everyone up in real-time, with data and metrics from each individual.

This in-the-moment connection with others is rare among fitness offerings these days, but it’s what people want and value from our experience — in addition to video coaching”.
Mike Pierce

How can you apply this to your own business?

To understand if your efforts will lead to continuous growth, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are people willing to pay for my products or services? Would I be willing to pay for them?
  • Can my target group afford what I offer?
  • What differentiates my services, products, or content from all the FREE stuff that’s out there?
  • Are my products or services easy to copy? Why not?
  • Do my services, products, or content have an up- or cross-selling potential to any of my other digital or tangible products?
  • Is there anything I can add or change to make my products more valuable?

#3 Education and trust

Having a revenue model that creates immediate income is not the ONLY way to monetize your brand.

For example, providing your community with FREE education that builds trust and helps them to be successful is an excellent strategy to generate quality leads.

WebExercises — a company that offers IT solutions and education for healthcare- and fitness professionals, has managed to build a substantial following by offering free webinars about exercise science, injury prevention, or sports-specific rehabilitation. The webinars are held by well-known educators and engage hundreds (sometimes thousands) of participants during their live broadcasts.

I’ve asked Dr. David Cruz, founder and CEO of WebExercises about his strategy behind this content marketing strategy:

“We treat our Webinars not purely as marketing tools. While they’ve helped us to build an extensive email list of qualified leads, we rather treat the webinars as a way to become an authority in the rehab community.

We decided to provide our existing or future customers only with high-quality education because we respect their time.

We also allow our paying members to have free access to all our previous webinars, which adds value to our service. Non-paying members can re-watch the webinars for a small charge, which helps us to monetize our efforts over time”.
Dr. David Cruz

How can you apply this to your own business?

To make the most out of your content marketing efforts, ask yourself:

  • What type of content would allow my company to become an authority? Webinars, eBooks, or blogs are examples of high-end content marketing activities.
  • What content creates REAL value for my existing and future customers?
  • How can the content help my customers to be more successful at what they do?
  • Can the additional FREE content help to differentiate my products or services?
  • Can I potentially sell the created content in the future? (This is not a must but a plus).
  • Do I have partners that can help me to create free content?

Dr. Cruz emphasized that the last point is crucial for long-lasting success:

“Especially in healthcare, you can’t be a specialist for everything. But you can try to learn from the best specialists out there. For our webinars, we exclusively work with instructors that are part of the same tribe as our members. Most of them are active physicians or coaches: they know the pain points of the WebExercises community and can address them during the lectures.

Our mission was to create a platform where healthcare and fitness professionals can exchange knowledge and support each other. It’s like a big ecosystem with us in the center of it. That’s what makes our brand unique”
Dr. David Cruz

While authenticity, value, and trust are the cornerstones of any successful brand, they are lifesavers in the online world. If you embrace that, you’ve taken the first step towards building a successful online business.

“The only constant in life is change”

As I’ve pointed out in one of my previous articles, the Japanese word for crisis is 危機 (Kiki) and can also be translated as a “defining moment.” The Charakter 危 stands for danger, and the character 機 stands for opportunity.

So use this time to start or evolve your online business. The shift towards an online-driven fitness industry had started anyway; the current crisis is just accelerating this trend.

Stay strong,

Rike Aprea

My name is Friederike Aprea. Most people call me Rike. I'm German-born and have lived and worked in Japan and Korea before I moved to the US. I coach individuals and companies using the principles of Kaizen. Whether you want to live a more purpose-driven life, improve your health, or change the business model of your company: Kaizen can get you there. Step by step. Day by day.

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