Choosing Your Niche as a Personal Trainer
By far the biggest mistake personal trainers make in their marketing is not having a clearly defined target market.
Trainers typically think that their logo, their business cards, or where they post their leaflets and flyers will have the biggest impact on their success. The truth is, none of that matters a great deal if you have your target market (your “avatar”) nailed down.
In fact, I’d go as far to say that a personal trainer who had no business cards, no logo, and nothing but a very basic website, but an absolutely stellar grasp of their avatar would do better and build their business quicker than one who dropped a couple of grand on the world’s fanciest website, had polo shirts and water bottles made up and spent a fortune on ads in the local papers.
Establishing your avatar is the start to become an expert.
Daniel Priestley talks about this in “Becoming a Key person of Influence.”
You want to become “the guy” or “the girl” for a small group of people, not a generic coach who blends in with the other thousands out there.
Let’s use the current fitness industry crop as an example of this –
If you want to learn about glutes, where do you go?
Probably Bret Contreras.
If I said to you “hypertrophy research” your brain might go straight to Brad Schoenfeld, and were I to say “reverse dieting” then Layne Norton would spring to mind.
All these guys have their target market perfected, and know exactly who they want to help. Hence, all their marketing and their advice is directed towards these people.
If you can become the go-to person for a particular niche in your gym, you’ll never struggle for clients ever again. And that’s where avatar analysis comes in.
Finding Your Market
As someone who used to be a typical jack-of-all-trades trainer, I now geek out over deep, in-depth avatar analysis.
To find your avatar, you need to look at one of two things –
- What types of people you enjoy training most
- Your current clientele
(Omit this second one and go with the first for now if you’re just starting out in the industry.)
You can go with either of these, and both have their pros and cons.
If you pick your ideal client as your avatar, then this is the one that will probably have the greatest degree of job satisfaction, and you’ll be motivated to go away and learn how best you can help these folks outside of your sessions. On the flipside however, if your ideal client is males, aged between 18 and 22, who play high-level rugby, then it’s unlikely you’re going to get enough clients to pay the bills unless you live in a rugby-obsessed town, or you get a job in a specialist facility.
You need to get specific with your avatar … but not too specific.
Going with your current clientele has the big advantage that you can simply ask people you train why they chose you.
What was it about your training or your personality that drew them to you?
Use their feedback to craft your marketing strategies.
Make a Map
The first step to clearly defining your avatar is to make a map.
On this map you’ll have different sections –
- Where they hang out
- What they love doing
- What they hate
- Words that resonate with them
- What methods of training or dieting they’ve tried at and failed with in the past.
- What values do they have in the world?
- What are their fears?
- Who and what do they identify with in popular culture?
- Do you share any common enemies?
- What drives them to succeed?
Go as deep as you can with this.
It may seem overly analytical, but there’s a reason for it.
Let’s say you’re putting together a marketing campaign (posters and a website sign-up page) for a 12-week women’s fat loss bootcamp.
The market is flooded with generic material for ads showing stock photos of women lifting pink dumbbells, giving their trainer a high-five, and captions such as “want to lose weight and tone up?”
There’s so much, yours will get lost in the crowd. Plus, if you randomly distribute them, then people who aren’t your target market at all (which is 80-90% of the local population) will also see them, even though they’ll never sign up, which is a huge waste of printing cost and your time.
Instead, if you know your market is 30 to 35-year old women with kids aged between 5 and 10, who like drinking coffee, have high levels of disposable income, and have probably tried all manner of shake-based diets in the past, then you can get much more specific.
You’d make up a flyer perhaps with a huge anti-Herbalife picture, fill it with punchy bullet points using words they resonate with (“afraid you’ll look frumpy?” “want to make your friends jealous?” “get slim and sexy NOW” etc.) price it at the higher end of the going rate, schedule the bootcamp for during the day when kids are at school, and drop these off in all the local coffee shops.
Not only does this increase the percentage of sign-ups, it massively cuts down your advertising cost, and the time spent on distribution.
The Fatal Error
One huge mistake most trainers in gyms make is putting seven or eight different things in the “specialities” section of their profile on the wall or on the gym’s website.
If you’ve done your avatar analysis correctly however, this shouldn’t be an issue.
Instead of having “weight loss, muscle gain, rehabilitation, marathon training, pre- and post-natal, core exercises, and doctor referral” on your bio, you’d just have –
“Stubborn female fat loss” or “Helping guys aged 20-30 get jacked while staying lean.”
All of a sudden, anyone who fits your avatar will come straight to you.
Finally – You Don’t Have 2 Avatars
Have two avatars, get twice as many clients, right?
This is a shortcut to making yourself seem generic and having no one see you as an expert. If you happen to have people come to you who don’t fit your target market, that’s fine – take them on if you think you can help them, or pass them along to another trainer if you’re not suitable.
But to really establish yourself as a knowledgeable, successful trainer (and so you work only with clients you’ll have fun training) you need to know your avatar, and you need to stick with it. Keep it at the forefront of everything you do and your perfect clients will come straight to you.
Mike Samuels is an online coach at HLHL, writer and personal trainer from Southampton, UK. Alongside his coaching work, he loves helping other young coaches build their businesses (both in-person and online.) He has a love of lifting heavy weights, drinking coffee and eating ice cream.
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