A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.
There was once a time when gym owners, health coaches, and fitness trainers could simply post an ad in ye olde newspaper, put up a bunch of flyers –and whamo– you’ve got prospective client calls by morning…
Ok so it was never exactly THAT easy, but you get the point: those pre-Internet days are certainly far behind us. Yet still, I believe that our current market environment in the age of online information is ripe for some insanely lucrative opportunity. This does leave us wondering, however, how many fitness fans could be considered ‘enough’?
Well, let me rephrase that -how many do we need to, in effect, build a semi-self-propagating, growing tribe on which our fitness businesses can thrive? Believe it or not, this number is very attainable, which can become virally exponential if the growing conditions facilitate it.
The Number Is Fewer Than You Might Think
The web has effectively changed marketing paradigms, causing the largest thought-shift since the introduction of television (and possibly even the moveable-type printing press, but that there’s a horse of a different color).
This is no surprise, but we’ve only recently begun to understand exactly how this appears to have impacted society -and how those impacts have affected how new products and ideas are able to spread from person to person. Because information is no longer difficult to find -since you can simply hold up your smartphone and give it the old, “Ok Google”- businesses no longer need to market to the masses in order to attain wild success.
This is one reason why marketing thought leader, Kevin Kelly, came to the conclusion that in order for a viable movement to reach that viral tipping point …only 1,000 TRUE fans are required. Not so bad. Right.
Tribal Quality vs. Mass Marketing Quantity
But this begs a new question: what constitutes a ‘true’ fan? Kelly’s blog provides the answer. Give this block quote a solid read, and then read it again for good measure…
A True Fan is defined as someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce. They will drive 200 miles to see you sing. They will buy the super deluxe re-issued hi-res box set of your stuff even though they have the low-res version. They have a Google Alert set for your name. They bookmark the eBay page where your out-of-print editions show up. They come to your openings. They have you sign their copies. They buy the t-shirt, and the mug, and the hat. They can’t wait till you issue your next work. They are true fans.
And therein lies the primary task at hand -a task succeeded that will yield a golden goose, or a task not-so-succeeded that will yield just another struggling brand.
Your Ideal Environment Is Already Waiting For You
Social cohesion was built into language long before Facebook and LinkedIn and Twitter – we’re tribal by nature. Tribes today aren’t the same as tribes thousand of years ago: It isn’t just religious tribes or ethnic tribes now: It’s sports fans, it’s communities, it’s geography.
And this is where we arrive at ‘the cool part’, along with the explanation as to why I believe that we are in some amazingly lucrative times of opportunity (for those willing to perceive that fact).
I will also say that the fitness business is situated directly on the epicenter of these fantastic opportunities, because a small startup business’s success no longer depends on sheer advertising volume. It depends, instead, on people connecting with people. Not only does the fitness business directly involve human interaction, but fitness trainers and health coaches have an additional advantage: your business is already engaged in a strong form of personal brand leadership.
In fact, one of my favorite articles on the topic, called “How to do Tribal Marketing in Social Media” by Tribaling.com, says that tribal leaders should possess an ‘enabler’ mindset, rather than one that utilizes exploitation of a market. A spammer exploits, yet a leader not only enables, but also creates a center of gravity -around which a tribe of LIKE MINDS can form.
Because of social media and the web, it has never been easier for like minds to assemble. These days, you don’t have to go out and find them -because if your target niche market is defined enough, your message is clear enough, and your brand identifies well enough with your niche- then people will naturally be attracted to your tribal leadership.
If You Build It (And You Lead It) They Will Come
My fellow fitness leaders, you have two primary tasks ahead of you. On this blog, I’ve done quite a great deal of discussing on why brand continuity is paramount -and that’s because a tribe requires a consistently crafted brand to follow. It’s hard to follow an inconsistent breadcrumb trail, and especially, one that’s easily confused with other trails. But when that trail is a beautifully continuous dotted line of the same kind of bread, then that’s when people can lock on and follow it.
In addition, people are naturally passionate -and they’re also social creatures- meaning that the potential for tribes to form is already present and prevalent in the human condition …and facilitated (amplified) by the web. All that’s necessary for you to do is simple: build a consistent brand, whereby a niche market can find and identify with it, gravitate together, rally around it, and your tribe will start gaining mass.
Tribes are built, first by a brand’s gravity, and then, by its ability to connect various groups of people with similar interests and passions.
Also, because tribes require chiefs that are unafraid to lead, then you simply need to be willing to step up to the plate. It’s at that point, when 1,000 true fans is reached, and your brand’s fuse has effectively been lit.
But take it from a seasoned entrepreneur: when those fireworks go off …enjoy those moments… because the feeling is unforgettably magical when you step back and take it all in.
Watch this TED video from SETH GODIN who wrote TRIBES. One of my favorite authors EVER! – JSE