Niche training can be rewarding both personally and professionally.
When I first considered specializing in women’s health and fitness, I was worried I would limit my business too much to a certain demographic, ultimately decreasing my cash flow. I live in a rural community, and the client pool was small to begin with. But my passion was to work with women—new and expecting moms, women who needed to focus more on strength and fitness than on thinness, women who had struggled most of their lives with their weight and their self-esteem. Despite a few reservations, I decided to focus on getting and retaining female clients and making my workshops, classes and books female-focused. Has it been worth it? Yes! And I’m not the only one who feels this way.
Mike Z. Robinson, 2012 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year Finalist and owner of MZR Fitness in San Luis Obispo, California, teaches several niche classes. “Creating niche-based groups has become a huge marketing advantage from a psychological standpoint,” he says. “People see the title ‘boot camp’ or something similar, and they automatically think that the program will be too difficult or that they will not be able to do it. However, if they know everyone in the class is just like them, whether that be a new mom or a senior citizen, they are more likely to try it out and fall in love with the program before they judge it.”
Dave Harrell, chief marketing officer for Strong Over 50—a program for people over 50 years of age that uses its own suspension exercise program—points out that creating a niche can bring in new streams of revenue. “We generated new membership sales. Then the classes generated additional revenue from new members and existing members with Strong Over 50’s small-group and individual-training models.”
Robinson agrees with Harrell that niche classes can draw new members who might otherwise never enter your door. “Had I not offered a program specifically for seniors, for example, there’s a strong possibility that I would not have had those people join the gym.”
“My bottom line has increased significantly since I expanded my services to provide specialized training,” says Kristen Horler, CEO and founder of Baby Boot Camp, headquartered in Sarasota, Florida.
Besides adding to your bottom line, finding a niche and specializing in it can provide a shot of motivation to both your clients and yourself.
“Making classes more specific can help keep the mental fatigue from sinking in and keep the incentive and motivation readily available,” says Laurie Towers, CEO of Physical Advantage PC and The Bridal Body Shop in New York City.
Finding That Special Niche
The inspiration to specialize in an area can come from several sources. Horler says she began thinking about specializing when she saw that the fitness industry was trending toward small-group training over traditional private training as the economy began its downhill slide. She also based her specialization on what stage of life she was in at the time and what her needs were. If she had these needs, other women out there must have them too.
“As a personal trainer, I could see the need to provide personalized fitness without the cost associated with one-on-one training. I initially developed Baby Boot Camp to meet my own needs as a new mom. When I expanded to launch Karna Fitness, it was due to my clients’ needs as well as my own, as my children had outgrown Baby Boot Camp.”
Specialization can be based on gender—women or moms, for instance—or age, such as the senior population or children. You can also develop a niche for people training for specific events.
“We also offer a 5K training program, half-marathon training and a nutrition program that is available one to two times each year,” Horler adds.
Robinson offers his “Get Your Spring Break Body” program each year in February and March, just in time for local college students to get in shape for spring break. “This is a very intense workout because all the participants are usually between 18 and 23 years old and willing to do almost anything to be sure they look amazing in their bikinis and spring break photos,” says Robinson. “The energy is always really high in this group, and the participants tend to want high-intensity exercises, as well as a huge assortment of exercises to choose from.”
All or Nothing?
Your entire business does not have to specialize in one area. While Horler’s offerings focus on moms, Robinson’s classes and training programs cover many specialties. Besides his spring break class, he offers “Fountain of Youth Boot Camp” for seniors, “No Boys Allowed Boot Camp” for women and “Mommy Be Fit” for new moms.
Classes and training with an appearance focus, such as Robinson’s spring break class and Towers’s bridal training and classes, can add a sometimes stressful twist. “In dealing with brides and grooms getting ready for the wedding, you basically are dealing with a population with an acute awareness of the calendar,” explains Towers. “They want results fast, but we want them done safely. We don’t compromise our ethics or standards to accommodate a dress size.”
Be straightforward and honest from the beginning. Do not make unrealistic promises or be tempted to sell supplements that make these promises. Instead, encourage clients and students to sign up for your program sooner rather than later, to allow them plenty of time to achieve their goals safely. And as Towers points out, while the initial training or instruction is for a specific event, you’re really looking at a potential long-term client or student.
“Although our business is to get people in shape for the wedding, our philosophy is a bit more long-reaching,” explains Towers. “Our motto is ‘It’s a dress for a day, but it’s your body for a lifetime,’ and we mean that. Our clients stay with us beyond the big day, as well as for other big days, such as getting back in shape after pregnancy. Maybe the incentive is to get in shape for this specific occasion, but we turn most of our clients into ‘lifers.’”