Every business owner knows how essential marketing is. Marketing is most commonly seen as a way to get your product or service in front of your ideal client. While that’s true, it’s also an opportunity to define your business, your brand, and your value proposition. It’s this latter definition of marketing that has become increasingly important over the last year. As the endurance sports industry searches for an identity beyond just races, and as coaches pivot in an effort to understand what athletes are looking for, you have to market business more effectively than ever before.
Think Outside the Box
Before last year, you probably had a pretty firm grasp on what marketing techniques were most impactful for your business, what language resonated with your audience and where you expected to see the greatest ROI. The COVID pandemic brought with it the need to pivot and think differently about how we connect with our existing audience and reach new clients. Pre-pandemic, you may have led group workouts, traveled to races, met up for group rides, or led in-person sessions to reach new athletes. But all of that went away. So what now?
Now’s a great time to re-think your customer profile. Who are they, what are their interests, what do they care about? Breaking away from competition and race-oriented athletes is a good place to start. Races and mass start events cater to a proportionally small percentage of the athletic population. Who else can benefit from a relationship with a coach? Athletes interested in activities such as hiking, skiing, strength training, adventure sports, etc. are all still motivated and focused on their goals outside of races and events. Think about molding the language you use in your marketing to be less outcome-oriented and more supportive and process-based. There are many athletes who can benefit from coaching services that aren’t focused on podiums and Strava kudos.
Be a Resource
Now more than ever, athletes are looking for guidance and support. Coaches provide so much more than a properly periodized training program. They help athletes navigate the highs and lows of daily life and ensure that their training adds value, not more stress. Use your marketing strategies to position you and your company as this type of resource and support network.
The tools you have at your disposal can serve as the perfect vehicle to get this type of messaging to your ideal client. Write articles for your blog that speak to the challenges that athletes are facing during the pandemic. Post videos on YouTube that facilitate a connection between you and your athletes. Send out newsletters that provide athletes with tools and resources specific to their individual needs and struggles. Transform your social media groups to serve as a meeting place for communities of athletes looking for support and guidance. Wherever you choose to position yourself and your company, now is the time to think about how coaches can provide a positive voice and guide athletes towards their goals in the absence of racing and traditional expressions of athleticism. Carry this mindset forward into your marketing initiatives and advertising language.
Plan and Invest
As the saying goes, “Plan the work, and work the plan.” No matter what challenges last year imposed, you still need a plan for your marketing efforts. Unless you have unlimited resources, it’s critical that you understand how you market and who you market to. Instead of leading from a place of uncertainty, take a step back and take time to outline what you’re working toward. Use this time to define your brand identity in the face of an evolving market. With that in mind, what’s your brand’s voice? How do you speak, and who do you speak to? Get clear on who your unique audience is and what your ideal customer looks like when it comes to their individual needs. An important thing to keep in mind is that you can’t market effectively if you don’t know who you’re marketing to. Also, “athletes” is not specific enough, so really sit with these questions and take the time to define them for your company.
Lastly, despite the challenges of the last year, now is not the time to pull back on your marketing efforts. So often, business owners reduce their investment in marketing when facing uncertainty. I would encourage you to try and avoid this trap. It’s times like these that define businesses and brands. How you connect with your audience in times of turbulence defines how you’ll do business when things return to “normal”. If you view this time period as an opportunity to better define your brand, your company values and your ideal customer, you’ll not only weather the storm, but navigate it more successfully knowing that you’re taking the necessary steps to set yourself up for long-term success.