Average read time: 5 min
a specialized segment of the market for a particular kind of product or service.
denoting or relating to products, services, or interests that appeal to a small, specialized section of the population.
What do Bret Contreras – The Glute Guy; Eric Cressey – Baseball Development; Rich Roll – Plant powered ultra-endurance athlete; Mark Fisher – Serious Fitness Solutions for Ridiculous Humans and Nicole Wilkins – IFBB Figure champ, all have in common?
They all have a niche that helps them in building their personal brand, and are incredibly knowledgeable in their fields.
Do you need a niche?
Congratulations – you’re a Personal Trainer, ready to take on the world and become the best there is!
First things first – you need clients. So, you need to start marketing yourself. Perhaps in the beginning of your career you’ll need to take all of the business that comes your way. But as you progress, you will want to work with people that need YOUR skills, doing the things that you love to do.
Trainers market themselves as experts in fat loss, sports performance, rehab, bodybuilding, helping elite athletes, seniors, and couch potatoes alike. You provide for all of those things, or you should. But isn’t every other personal trainer as well? What makes you special, and why would someone spend their money on you?
Let’s not forget, amidst all of this you’re also going to need to learn to be a therapist, life coach, shoulder to cry on, friend, guide, consultant, accountability partner, and be the general go-to person that will help your client navigate the world of fitness. You’ll also need to do your own marketing, prospecting of clients, time management, accounting, billing, program design, taxes, keep your own training in check… Stressed out yet?
The point is, you are a solopreneur and your time is valuable. You must ensure time spent on your efforts yield the best results. Who you are, what parts of the industry make you tick, how you add the most value –these are critical discoveries to make early on.
You need a niche.
Some examples? You can train women only, men over 40, special populations, ultra-marathoners, pregnant women, general rehab, strength training for downhill mountain bikers, calisthenics, mobility for golf, boot camps, functional training, yoga, kettlebells, pilates, focus on young athletes, speed and agility coaching, suspension training, or you can work with Physiotherapists and design injury – specific programs.
The point is, the options are endless. Many niches overlap, and the internet unlocks the entirety of the market to you. A niche is what will cause a client to choose you, over someone else. In a vast sea of trainers, you need to become the go to person, the rare commodity.
Finding your niche
So how do you go about discovering your niche? Some say start with market research on trends and keywords. Sound advice, but having done this, I would rather recommend using the market research to refine, guide, and justify your own gut feel.
You need to find out what you love and who you are, first.
What do you enjoy most? Internet trends are great, but you need to understand your passions, and trends can’t tell you that. If the fitness trend points to boxing but you enjoy ultra-marathon training, go with what you love and will enjoy getting up at 4:30 am to teach. You will naturally gravitate toward your interests in your reading, research and who you argue with on the internet forum boards. Most importantly, those interests and passions will come through when you’re training.
(For new instructors: Perhaps you’re new to training and don’t know yet what you love. Don’t worry about getting a niche yet. Go taste. Go try new training modalities, take classes, learn from other instructors, study, experiment with different styles and figure it out. You’ll get there.)
Defining your niche market
Now once you’ve got a general idea about what you’d like to specialize in, define the scope. Here are some questions to get you started.
- Who do you want to work with? Who is your target audience?
- How narrow do you want to go – how wide? You don’t want to go to too narrow (being the bench press person), nor do you want to go too wide (“I train men”). But, perhaps you train men over the age of 40 in functional weight training to mitigate the effects of ageing.
- What do you want to sell? Are you offerings time based – perhaps an 18 week BUDS program, or a 3 months to look good naked on the beach program? Or event based training, such as prepping for a marathon or a body building competition? Or would you like to focus on lifestyle based interventions? Perhaps plant based nutrition and lifestyle modifications?
- What is your demographic? Are you focusing on men? Women? The older populations? Young athletes? Are you coaching locally, globally, or both?
- What do your clients need? And more importantly, what value do you bring to the table?
Define the scope.
Differentiate yourself from the competition.
What makes you different, or better? Research the competition. Who is doing it? How are they accomplishing it? Do they have products? What’s working, or not working for them?
Differentiating yourself might even be based on an accomplishment you’ve achieved in your field. Perhaps it’s being the first woman to cycle the globe, or an plant-based IFBB Pro.
Become the expert
Upskill, get new certifications, and level up your knowledge. Then start writing articles about your niche, create programs that focus on it, take classes from other – more experienced – trainers and most importantly – showcase your results. Become the go to person for your niche. This takes work, and time. Have patience.
Get the word out
Once you have found your niche, it’s not all you’ll do; but it does help build your reputation. It helps with your messaging, website content and marketing. You’ll be able to build a community, or become a resource for a certain community and thus a client base.
Work to develop the story surrounding your niche. Perhaps you lost a leg and now run marathons, or were addicted to Ben and Jerry’s and learned the psychology change a habit. Find your story. People want to connect with something real. Give them a part of your personal fitness evolution that is accessible and inspirational.
You’ve identified your niche, defined the scope, upskilled, and you know your story. Now you’re documenting and showing people your results, talking about it, teaching it, running seminars on it.
Become about it.
A final piece of advice
When you start out, don’t stress too much about finding your clients or making the money right away. Worry about getting better at what you do, perfecting your craft and putting your client first. As you add value, all of the rest will come.
Good luck and have fun.