Pat Rigsby is the co-owner of several businesses in the fitness industry, including the Fitness Consulting Group. He also serves as an industry consultant focusing on the development of profitable personal training departments. To learn how you can improve your club’s retention, referrals and profitability, sign up for Rigsby’s free newsletter and get his three free business building reports at www.fitnessmarketingmachine.com. Rigsby can be reached at pat@fitnessconsultingroup.com.

Most independent club owners haven’t given any thought about who they are, what they are and why people should join their club. They haven’t thought about what their message is to the marketplace. They have no clear and concise answer to the consumer’s question, “Why should I join your club instead of anyone else out there offering the same types of equipment and services?”

Let’s do a little exercise together. Go to the Yellow Pages and look at all the ads in the health club category. Look at the message of each of those ads.

Do you see any messages or clubs that stand out from the rest? More than likely, the answer is no. Everybody is saying the same thing. All the ads and promotions look the same and convey the same basic message.

So the question you need to ask yourself is: Why would people call you instead of anyone else in the marketplace offering what appears to be exactly the same features and benefits as yours?

You must give prospective members a reason to call you that is different from that of everybody else out there. You need to develop a marketing message that sets you apart from all other fitness providers and states clearly and concisely to your prospective members why they should choose you.

This message is called a unique selling proposition (USP). Your USP is a marketing message that separates you from your competition. Your USP tells people what makes you different and unique from all the other health clubs and fitness providers and, therefore, why a potential member should choose you over any and all other options. It also announces the main benefits your club has to offer.

Your USP should answer this question: Why should a prospective member choose you versus any and every other health club, fitness provider or weight-loss center?

If you don’t have a USP that sets you apart from your competition (and all other options), you give your prospect little choice but to base their decision to use you on price. Maybe the only other deciding factor for your prospect would be convenience, such as another club is closer to their home.

If you permit yourself, your club, or your services to be perceived as a commodity, your prospects must choose between you and your competition solely based on price.

You do not want to compete based on price. It undermines everything you are trying to accomplish. Besides, what kind of message does, “We’re the cheapest!” broadcast? It’s definitely not the image you want for your club.

Almost all clubs who compete on price alone go out of business in a very short period of time. Here’s why: There is always another club willing to undercut your prices in order to steal your members. If you have nothing unique about you and you’re competing on price alone, why would your members stay with you? They won’t. So you need a strong USP to attract and keep members.

There are five primary ways to differentiate your club other than price:

1. Process
2. Personality
3. Product
4. Service
5. Marketing

Within these five areas, you’ll find the right one (or ones) on which you can create a powerful USP. The basics for developing a compelling USP are:

1. It should offer something truly unique that sets your club apart from everyone else.

2. It should be a clear, concise statement with meaningful specifics, not vague generalities.

3. It should convey specific benefits to your members, and you should be able to communicate it in 60 seconds or less.

4. It should communicate an emotional want in a way that makes an emotional connection with people.

It’s important that you dedicate the time to developing your USP now … one that will differentiate you and make a difference in your marketing and your club. Once you do, marketing and sales becomes much, much easier.