Let's start with the textbook definition of positioning: Positioning is the process by which marketers try to create an image or identity in the minds of their targets. Ok, not bad. But why is that important and how do we do it?

    Why Do You Care About Positioning?
    Let's start with the why. We care about how our market perceives us because we want them to pay attention. That's the biggest hurdle to marketing nowadays. There was a time when people would actually look at your ad. If you posted a flyer, people would read it. If you ran a television commercial, people didn't have TiVo to fast-forward through it. If you called them on the phone, they wouldn't cuss you out and hang up or block your call completely. There wasn't a whole folder just for junk and spam in email. Those were the good ol' days, when old-school "advertising" worked.

    Those days are gone. Now, everywhere you turn, you're bombarded with marketing messages. Go online and see a half dozen banners ads on every page. There are television commercials, radio spots, billboards, junk mail and advertising in bus stops. Then the bus pulls up, wrapped in a giant ad for a new movie coming out; when you get into the bus, There are more ads.

    Is it any wonder that people have learned to tune out marketing messages? Any wonder why people are jaded and look at marketers as the enemy to be avoided?

    Still don't completely buy it? Think about Richard Simmons. He's not the best, most highly effective trainer in the world, but he's certainly one of the richest - by 50 or 100 times (reportedly having a net worth measured in the hundreds of millions). So what's the difference between Richard Simmons and the rest of the trainers out there, struggling to make ends meet and giving away free sessions just to get people in the door? It has nothing to do with knowledge or credentials.

    What separates him from all but a small handful of other trainers is positioning - his personal branding, established trust, recognition and visibility in the market. You may not like Richard Simmons, but there's no denying he out-markets you, and when he says something, a lot of people pay attention. And when he puts his name on a product, it sells.

    Nothing Matters Until Somebody Pays Attention
    Ok, so you're sold on the need to get your prospects' attention. So how does positioning fit into it? Well, we use positioning to gain trust with our market so they listen to us voluntarily.

    It's like if you received a telemarketing call from a supplement manufacturer telling you that taking their new goop three times a day would increase your lifespan by 10 years, you'd tell them to take you off their list and chalk them up as charlatans. However, if you went to the doctor and he or she told you that you should be taking the same goop to add 10 years to your life, you'd be thanking them profusely, reaching for your credit card and telling all your friends. Why? Because you trust your doctor.

    You want to position yourself in the market as someone to trust so that when you create an ad, the market reads it. When you send an email, it gets read and not deleted. So when you say "this is limited to 10 clients only," your prospects spill their coffee reaching for the phone instead of thinking it's another marketing tactic, even though it may be exactly that.

    So how do you gain your market's trust so they hang on your every word, tell their friends you're the guru to trust and happily hand over to you their hard-earned money time and time again? There are a lot of techniques to learn and use, the best and most effective coming not from marketers, but psychologists. There are psychologists that study what influences behavior, often on a subconscious level, and we can use that data to help us guide our prospects in taking the action we want.

    Three Methods to Position Yourself
    Here are three of the primary things you can start doing right away to position yourself as a trusted authority in the market:

    1. Decide what your area of expertise or niche will be, and become the dominant player in it. You're not going to be the best choice for everyone - no one will. Even Richard Simmons has a tough time getting power lifters to attend his "Sweatin' to the Oldies" seminars, so don't try. Pick your niche, and own it. Create reports, get interviews, specialize deeply in that niche, and become the expert in your market, even if you have to declare yourself the expert. For example, you could be the foremost authority on endurance training in your city.

    2. Piggyback on someone else's established authority. It sounds like a crummy trick, but it's not. When a local car dealership gets an athlete to do a commercial for them, they're piggybacking. It's not that a quarterback knows so much about used cars, but it's that the notoriety of that person creates a certain level of trust, whether it's earned or not. The car dealership is able to "steal" a little bit of that trust, and people correlate the feelings they have for the athlete to the dealership. Wilford Brimley has no background in oatmeal production that I know of, yet the last brand you bought was probably the one he's a spokesperson for. They've used his celebrity and recognition to gain credibility and become far and away the dominant force in that market. So find someone in your niche or market, and piggyback. You don't even need to get them to flat-out endorse you, although that's beneficial. Interview the mayor, doctor, author, etc. about fitness and health - anyone that has already built that credibility and has themselves positioned as an authority in something. If it's relevant, great; if not, it's still good.

    3. Create your own language. No, not like Pig Latin, but authorities are often those that have their own "codes." Don't just call your workout "Three Day a Week Full Body Plan" - what a forgettable snoozer! Instead, call it something like "Muscle Metamorphous Method," and use the acronym MMM, or "Explosive Cardio Training" (ECT). Think of a trainer you know off the top of your head that has the market's ear. Now tell me their workouts. They have names, right? They're known for something. They create things; they're experts.

    There are many ways to position yourself in the marketplace, and some are almost shockingly powerful. These are just a few simple ones that are quick and easy to do, but you'd be well-served to learn more, if you're serious about being a contender and owning a niche.

    Next month, we'll discuss testing your marketing to determine which of your dollars spent are creating more money and which are being flushed away. I'll even show you how to test your marketing for fewer than five bucks before you even create it. You're going to want to hide that issue from your competitors!

    Rich Butkevic, CFT, a.k.a. "Coach Rich," is a personal trainer and consultant to fitness professionals who are serious about optimizing and growing their business. Prior to becoming a trainer, he was responsible for marketing and Internet projects for companies such as Microsoft, Yahoo!, AT&T and others. He's also the author of the Trainer Traffic System, a step-by-step marketing system for fitness professionals (www.trainertraffic.com).

    Read Part 1 – Building relationships with your customers and prospects using auto-responders>> 
    Read Part 2 – Cut costs while increasing revenue using strategic marketing>>
    Read Part 4 – Testing your marketing>>
    Read Part 5 – Testing your marketing for five bucks at lightning speed using Google AdWords>>
    Read Part 6 – Top seven tools of successful fitness marketers>>