I’m Back! (Kind of)

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It’s been a little more than three years since I last posted. I’m not going to become maudlin and vow to keep it up forever. I will, however, say that I will be posting more often than once every three years.

Why the three year hiatus? I’ve been trying my best to grow my client list for personal training. I am a good trainer, though far from “the best”. I often get assigned new clients deemed “difficult” for some reason.

Sometimes it’s prehab for “embarrassing” surgery in 3 months. Lots of personal trainers get clients who are preparing for knee surgery, or shoulder surgery, or even ankle and foot surgery. So far I’ve gotten prehab clients for hysterectomies, mastectomies, and lung cancer.

Occasionally it’s post-surgery, post-physical therapy. More and more, though, my niche seems to be coming down to a couple of notable demographics: those who are more than merely nervous about coming to a gym (whether from self consciousness, recent injury, bad previous experiences, etc.) and hidden or fringe sub-cultures (transgender, kink/BDSM, Leather, etc.).

I enjoy working with people in these niches. Coaching and watching a client become confident in the gym or gain at least partial mastery of their own body is a joy. The challenges of creating programs for those with uncommon needs feeds my hunger for continuing education, analytical thinking, and creative application of otherwise common knowledge.

The downside of working with people in these niches is finding them. I’m awful at marketing and sales to begin with. I’ve always respected “no”. Trying to convince someone to purchase sessions with me beyond the initial resistance feels a lot like the sales and marketing version of date rape. It just doesn’t sit well with me. Marketing to these niches who tend to take active steps to remain hidden is even harder. I still don’t have a full schedule.

After three years of trying to build my books, I’ve decided to get back to writing. This blog satisfies my need for unfocused pursuit of random thoughts. Another of my blogs I’m starting up again is more of a repository of a portion of my fantasy writings. I’m also getting back to writing larger pieces. I’ve picked up two books I’d put on hold. One is a sequel to one already written, the other is in a related genre, but tends to read as mainstream unless you read between the lines. I also have a list of short story ideas I’d like to start working my way through. There is also one larger piece that technically falls in the “book” category, but is non-fiction (a very new area for me).

I plan to continue posting on this blog, but it won’t be as frequent as it was while I was in school. I guarantee, however, that the topics will be just as random. I’m back (kind of) and hope to see all of you soon.

Weird Advertising

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Every now and then you see something just enough out of place to twist your mind a little. I’m not talking about something that’s obviously in the wrong place or something that is in bad taste. I’m talking about something that would make perfect sense, if it were in a slightly different place.

I live in Austin, Texas. Lots of good things about it. Also lots of bad things about it. But none of them is the point of this post. One of the grassroots marketing campaign by local businesses is the “Keep Austin Weird” campaign. You see this slogan on T-shirts, bumper stickers, buttons, coffee mugs…the list goes on. It started a few years ago in response to an increase in big box and chain stores. The whole point is that for many years, Austin has enjoyed a reputation for being a little off-kilter…especially when compared to the rest of Texas.

Austin has several bedroom communities which were originally townships in their own right. One of them, Round Rock, seems to have latched on to the “Keep Austin Weird” idea. I’ve seen a number of bumper stickers reading “Keep Round Rock a Little Less Weird Than Austin”. I admit I got a chuckle out of seeing that, and as a marketing idea, it seems to have worked. Another bedroom community, Pflugerville, has almost set itself up in opposition with a “Keep Pflugerville Normal” campaign. A little less effective, especially since it only works in relation to the “Keep Austin Weird” campaign.

With that in mind, I saw something a while back that twisted my mind a little. I was driving through Pflugerville to teach a private lesson when I saw a billboard for 7-11 convenience stores. There’s nothing wrong with that in and of itself; after all, every business needs to advertise. What caught my eye was the billboard’s tag-line. Normally, if you think of a 7-11 tag-line, you’ll probably come up with “Oh, thank Heaven!” Nope. Not even close. This Pflugerville billboard’s tag-line was “Around Every Weird Little Corner”.

It took me a while to realize why the billboard bothered me. The slogan was awkward and didn’t really mean anything. Then I realized it was about five miles too far northeast. It might have been a good idea. After all, they’re acknowledging (or at least trying to acknowledge) the uniqueness of Austin, play upon its citizens’ pride of where they live. (More cynically, they’re trying to piggyback on an already existing and successful marketing campaign.) Either way, putting a billboard touting “weird”ness in a community that takes pride in “Keep[ing] Pflugerville Normal” seems like such a basic error that I just had to roll my eyes. I’m not sure whether to laugh or pity the advertising group.

Yes, it’s maintained TOPA (Top of Mind Awareness), one of the major goals of any marketing campaign. Unfortunately for them, it’s not a “let’s go to 7-11” awareness, it’s now filed in my mind as “marketing campaign that brained itself coming out of the gate.”