Creating a Client Base for Your Fitness Business

by Amy Ashmore, PhD on Apr 26, 2019

Identify your niche and target audience to build a client base for a successful fitness business.

Who do you most want to work with? Since you can concentrate on so many populations or specialty areas as a trainer, it can be challenging to pinpoint what you really want to do. However, if your focus is not clear before you create your fitness business plan, you won’t know who to reach out to, potential clients won’t understand what you do, and your business may be less successful than you want it to be.

That being said, creating a client base is as simple as determining what you enjoy about fitness and concentrating your message around it. Building a successful business in today’s health and wellness market requires you to have a niche, effective branding and the ability to get your message to your target audience. Here’s how to accomplish all three.

What Trainers Can Learn From Studios

To get an idea of what focus looks like in the fitness business, consider boutique studios—for example, F45 Training, CrossFit®, Orangetheory®, SoulCycle, Pure Barre®, TITLE Boxing Club and CorePower Yoga®. These businesses are each built around one type of exercise. The bottom line is that they sell a narrow range of services, and clients know what to expect at each workout.

The success of focused fitness programming can be seen in the numbers. IHRSA’s 2017 Health Club Consumer Report showed a 15% increase in studio memberships from 2015 to 2016; more than 18.2 million people have studio memberships that claim around 40% of the total gym industry memberships (SBG Media 2017). These statistics demonstrate an important trend in fitness, and they deliver an impactful message to trainers. When you provide a focused fitness experience, clients are willing to pay for it (Kane 2016).

While boutique fitness is different from one-on-one or small-group personal training, the message is similar: Successful trainers stand out by showing what makes them unique. They are experts in a small area of a giant industry, and people know them for it. So when you are brainstorming your target market, keep boutique/specialty studios in mind. Use their example as a springboard to convey who you are to other industry professionals and the general public—and to convert them into buyers and clients. To help do that, follow these guidelines.

Guideline #1: Define Yourself

With one quick tagline, show who you are and what you uniquely offer. An example of a successful tagline is “The Glute Guy”—used by Bret Contreras, PhD—which focuses on an expertise. By committing to your niche, you make your focus clear, you narrow your services and products, and you tell your buyers where they can get specific products or services in your area.

To get started, ask yourself these questions (and answer honestly).

  • What do you do best?
  • What are you most knowledgeable about?
  • Where does the bulk of your fitness income come from?
  • When people want your help, what do they want to know? For example, are they asking for help with weight loss, with strength gains, with general health and wellness, or with the mechanics of exercises?
  • What do you enjoy doing? Do you love resistance training? Yoga and mindfulness training? What is your passion?
  • Where do you want to work? In private homes, at athletic training centers, in large chain gyms, in studios or in the outdoors?
  • When you have leisure time, how do you like to spend it? If you can incorporate your business life into your personal life and enjoy it, you are more likely to be successful.
  • What is your ideal tagline? Don’t be afraid to tout yourself as the expert. If you don’t, no one else will! Examples are “Your Strength Programming Expert” (I use this one), “The Core Girl,” “Your Pilates Expert” and “The Power Guy.” The key is to focus on your niche first and then, in three to four words, define yourself as the expert in that area, normally with powerful descriptors like The and Your.

Once you define what you do and who you are as a brand, your confidence will soar.

Guideline #2: Target Your Ideal Client

When you set out to build your business, you need to recognize who your target audience is. To do that, answer these questions:

  • Who is already doing what you envision yourself doing? By identifying what you would like to do, what that looks like on a daily basis and what type of clients you want to work with, you identify a client profile and a unique business model.
  • When you think about training people, who do you see as likely clients? Do they want to lose weight, are they elite fitness enthusiasts looking for the next trend, or are they niche fitness enthusiasts like Tough Mudders® or amateur powerlifters training to compete?

Once you know your brand and your target audience, develop a strategy to sign clients. To do that, you need to create a basic program outline.

For information on creating programming and building a platform, see “How to Create a Client Base” in the online IDEA Library or in the December 2018 issue of IDEA Fit Business Success). If you cannot access the full article and would like to, please contact the IDEA Inspired Service Team at 800-999-4332, ext. 7.

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About the Author

Amy Ashmore, PhD

Amy Ashmore, PhD IDEA Author/Presenter

Amy Ashmore, PhD, is an online learning and program development expert based in Las Vegas, NV. She holds a doctorate in Kinesiology from the University of Texas at Austin and is the former Program Director for Sports and Health Sciences & Sports Management for the American Military University. Currently, Amy is an active health coach with Provant Health Solutions, digital content developer, and consultant. She can be reached at