Members First Then Brand Advocates

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  • Members First Then Brand Advocates

Get Gym Business Leverage From Digital Media

These days we hear a lot about customer engagement and brand advocates. These are customers who vocally and enthusiastically support your brand. Combined with digital marketing channels and social media they can bring in the new business without an expensive advertising campaign in sight.

Well it’s not that easy of course. But then again it’s not that hard either. The central feature of success in creating brand advocates is the understanding that there is a hierarchy, a series of concentric circles of influence around you, which you can do much to cultivate. I have written about the marketing side of the gym ownership business several times now but I think that I am only just getting started as I think more about the potential for applying the principles of digital media to the industry.

The Four Circles Of Customer Influence

What I am talking about here is specifically using the communities who interact with you by digital media. A small amount of effort every day will help to grow a community around you on social media, email and SMS. This can be a low cost highly effective way to get your marketing campaign going.

As consumers become more reliant on digital and social media those companies that are making an effort to be directly involved will receive the competitive advantage over those that do not. So what are your circles of influence and how can they be put to good use?

  • The outermost circle of your influence is your community
  • Within your community there are those who pay attention to your message, your audience
  • Within that is the circle of your paying membership
  • Within your membership is your core group of advocates

Cultivating Brand AdvocatesWord of Mouth

Why cultivate advocates? Advocates are members who, through their influence, give confidence to others. This is a different thing from the so-called brand evangelists and ambassadors who are hired to attempt the same sort of thing. That is why advocates can have so much power to influence your buyers’ decisions. When your advocates tell friends or use their positions in social media to spread the word about your brand there is an authenticity to it that makes it very effective at a low cost. When advocates speak it is because they genuinely are enthusiastic.

Audiences today are pretty jaded; they’ve heard and seen nearly every trick in the marketing book. Audiences and digital communities surrounding small businesses like gyms are looking to hear from people like themselves. The happy customers who are passionate about your business will always have the most influence in this context because of the perception of authenticity and trust that they give.

Advocacy Is Not The Same As Celebrity Endorsement

Celebrities have long been a vital part of promotion. In gym management you can get a real world buzz by getting endorsements from sports figures and champions. Don’t mistake online advocates for paid endorsements, the difference is that, somehow in digital media, audiences see right through paid endorsements; unless you can afford a really famous brand ambassador, like’s Guy Kawasaki or similar, you probably aren’t going to find the Internet celebrity endorsement that makes much difference.

The key to the success of advocates is that they are seen as independent and objective, if they are authentic then they provide a social proof of value in your offering. This is based on trust; if they trust your advocates then they will trust you too. Most people are pretty good at sensing whether or not an advocate is authentic and genuine. So the value in advocates comes from the authenticity of actually being the people that they present themselves to be.

True celebrity endorsement is very expensive and if you can afford that kind of campaign (congratulations) then you probably own a pretty big gym chain. Authentic advocates who are members of your community and customers have something that online brand ambassadors lack, and that is passion that comes from the heart. Somehow that sense of true passion transmits quite clearly across digital media.


Baer, Jay. “Media Case Study: Why Online Influencer Outreach is Overrated and How to Fix It.” (accessed March 25, 2015).

Fagan, Lawrence. Experience Is Everything. June 5, 2014. (accessed October 23, 2014).

-. “Social Supports Your Gym Business As An Interconnected Community.” Gym Insight Blog. May 15, 2014. (accessed March 25, 2015).