Niche marketing doesn’t work for everyone. Case in point? Mike Z. Robinson, 2015 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year and founder/owner of MZR fitness in San Luis Obispo, California, has purposely avoided the trend of super specializing with his client population. From the day he opened his doors, he has welcomed all, instead finding the right team to handle his diverse and dynamic customers.

If you like this slice of our conversation, we invite you to subscribe and download the episode. Tune in as we discuss the challenges—and some bright spots—of the pandemic year, as well as reflecting on the importance of having goals, networking within the fitness world and inside the community where you do business.

Note: The excerpt below has been edited for clarity and brevity

See also: IDEA Marketing Content Collection

Sandy Todd Webster (STW):  Walk us through your business model, your specialty
services and describe your member avatar.

Mike Z. Robinson (MZR): At MZR fitness we basically just see people from all walks of life. We have grandmothers, grandfathers, kids, youth athletes, business people and seniors—so, a little bit of everybody. That was something I really wanted to focus on when I built this place. I didn’t want it just to have one niche of people. I wanted to be able to have one facility and be able to serve all with the best trainers in town.

We do personal training, small group training and fitness boot camps. We actually won the fitness bootcamp of the year in San Louis Obispo County last year. And even just a few months ago, we won Fitness Business of the Year through the Fitness Business Association.

STW: That’s huge. Congratulations. So that’s a little bit unusual to start as a general purpose facility. Business training sort of drills it into fit pros that they’ve got to do niche marketing. You’ve got to find a specific population or two and get expertise in those. What are your thoughts about that? Obviously, you went a different direction, so it’s working for you. And it certainly seems like it would be a lot more interesting to serve across a spectrum of people to really challenge and hone your skills.

MZR: Right. I think when most trainers start off, a lot of us kind of gravitate toward serving athletes because a lot of us tend to have sports backgrounds, you know? We tend to want to work with athletes because we know they’re going to be super consistent and they’re going to go hard. But the fact of the matter, at least for myself when I first got into training, was that there was a small population of athletes—at least here in San Luis Obispo—and not a lot of demand from them for personal training.

Niche marketing

Is niche marketing the right approach for your business? For Mike Z. Robinson, founder/owner of MZR Fitness in San Luis Obispo, that wasn’t the case. Check out this podcast excerpt to find out why.

Based on my demographics, athletes were just a very small percentage of the people requesting my services at the time. It was a lot more of the Boomer crowd when I first started back in 2006-2007. So, I just ended up training with different people. They liked the services enough that they’d sometimes send in their kids or grandkids or a neighbor or coworker. And they were all these different people. So, I just kind of became this Renaissance man of a trainer. And that was okay. I just love having that mixture.

Like you said earlier, that’s a different route. And I did hear, “You have to niche, you have to niche,” but then I ended up having this whole wide spectrum of clients that has basically stayed with me this entire time.

It’s really cool that they stuck with me when I was an independent trainer and they stuck with me through the entire time that I’ve had my own facility. I love that I have that mixture of people and, you know, we get to have different conversations at different sessions on a day-to-day basis.

STW: That’s fantastic retention. Are you a membership model? Drop in? One-to-one? What are the buckets that you’re doing as far as training and how many trainers do you have?

MZR: We do all sessions by appointment. No one can just show up whenever they want to. We know when people are coming, whether that be in a one-on-one, or whether that be in a small group, which is capped at 10 people. We also have our bootcamps, which hold up to 30 people. Not right now, obviously with COVID, but historically, it has been that size over the years.

Over the years the number of trainers goes up and down. We hire a lot of college students who start right after graduating. Some of them move on, but some of them have stayed. I can have anywhere from six to 12, which I think is the most I’ve ever had at one time. Right now we have nine trainers, including myself.

STW: That’s excellent growth. And you just sort of ebb and flow as demand happens?

MZR: I’m just trying to make sure it’s all basically moving in the right direction, but I want to make sure that there’s always a trainer here. No matter what the circumstance is, my motto is to never turn someone away because we’re too busy or shorthanded.

See also: Low Budget Marketing Strategies