I kicked off this coaching business series by discussing the 3 biggest reasons fitness pros struggle to build a business (and what to do about them). In case you missed that, you can read about those here.
This time, I’m going to hone in on why most coaches are targeting the wrong clients—and who they should be targeting instead if they want to scale their business.
What do I mean by the “wrong” clients? Aren’t all clients good for business?
That’s what I used to think…
The kind of clients that hurt your business
Three years after opening my gym, I was still training 70 hours per week with very little money to show for it.
About half the people I was training were professional athletes – mostly a mixture of NFL players and combat sport athletes. The other half were the typical gen pop clients: people looking to lose weight and look better for the few months in Seattle where we get sun.
There were three big problems with this:
- There aren’t many guys in the NFL (not to mention a lot of them think that you should train them for free).
- Back then, pro fighters barely made enough money to live, let alone pay me much to train them.
- My general population clients had extremely busy lives, would cancel almost once a week and rarely stayed longer than a few months.
This is why it felt like I was killing myself, yet was barely able to pay the bills and keep the gym open. To be honest, after three years of this, the daily grind was getting to me. There were times when I thought about closing the gym and trying to figure out a plan B.
These clients were actually hurting my business by sapping my time and energy without providing any sort of stability or growth.
This was my low point, but it also led to one of my most crucial business revelations…
Why the money isn’t in the masses
Anyone that’s been a gym owner, coach or trainer trying to build a business has been led to believe that the big money is in the biggest fitness market: general population clients. After all, it’s easy to see that these are the people spending billions a year on fat loss programs, muscle-building supplements, and gym memberships.
While it sounds great, here’s the real problem: most general population clients want the results, but they don’t really want to put in the work. Even though they have good intentions, they often don’t have the habits or the lifestyle in place to consistently pursue their fitness.
This group of people spends billions of dollars on fat loss programs they only follow for a few weeks, on supplements they think are a magic shortcut, and on gym memberships they barely use.
The gyms making the big money from this market are mostly large box gyms because their business model relies on people not showing up to use their facilities. And that is what happens far more often than not.
LA Fitness, Planet Fitness, 24 Hour Fitness, etc., are making billions of dollars each year from people that never step foot in the gym. These aren’t exactly the type of clients you want to build your coaching business around.
There’s another reason why targeting the general population is a brutal road to success: every other trainer in your area is competing for the same people.
A big market always equals a lot of competition and this leads to a very difficult path to success.
This is why so many coaches struggle to ever turn the corner in their fitness business and finally make the money that their long hours deserve. They are a small fish in a huge pond fighting over a bunch of clients that don’t really want the product (training) they are trying to sell in the first place.
Rather than trying to appeal to everyone, you’re better off growing expertise in a specific area to set yourself apart. Which brings me to my next point.
Go small to win big
After three years of training (and losing) general population clients over and over again, I thought it would be a good idea to put together a one-day workshop for high school and club volleyball players on how to increase vertical jump and prevent lower body injuries.
As it turned out, it wasn’t just a good idea, it was the turning point in my entire career.
Within 2 days, I brought in over $10,400, which was more than I made in most months at the time.
After seeing the success of my single little volleyball clinic, I started focusing almost entirely on building a volleyball program. Within 6 months, I had more than doubled my total revenue.
By the time the following summer rolled around, we were bringing in more money in our 8-week summer volleyball program than I used to make in an entire year!
Here’s why it worked:
We had literally no competition in our area. Athletes were driving up to an hour each way just to come train with us. I barely had to spend any money on marketing because we had become so well known in the volleyball community that the major club teams were sending all their players to us.
I was able to build a highly profitable coaching business doing multiple six figures a year where 70% of the revenue came from a single sport. I didn’t need the masses, I found a better market.
This is the power of going small to win big, i.e. finding a niche and dominating it.
So what does this mean for you?
How to find a niche and dominate it
I was able to turn my business around by solving a very specific problem for a specific group of people. You can start doing the exact same thing by sitting down and answering a few questions.
First, you have to define the specific group of people you want to work with. Ask yourself: Who have my best clients been?
Have they been 14-18-year old soccer players? Postpartum mothers? First-time gym-goers who feel out of place in a commercial facility.
The key is to be as specific as possible.
Once you’ve hammered down who your target clients are, you need to pinpoint the specific problem(s) they experience.
Do they often complain about poor posture and low back pain from sitting at a desk all day? Do they want to shed a few pounds so they feel confident wearing a swimsuit while playing with their kids?
For my volleyball workshop, I focused on two things I knew every volleyball athlete cared about: jumping higher and staying injury-free.
What specific problem can you solve for your specific group of people?
If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas, simply ask your best clients! Why did they sign up? What were the biggest problems they needed you to solve?
You can create a quick questionnaire in no time and the feedback you’ll get will be pure gold.
Your marketing should tell your ideal client how you’re going to solve their specific problem. When I used this approach to build my volleyball program, most of the time the athlete asked me when she could start before I could even get to the pricing. It didn’t matter.
Tip: Pay attention to the words your ideal clients use to describe their own problems. You can use these to make your marketing efforts far more effective.
I can’t overstate the importance of finding a niche. I built my gym around training volleyball athletes and professional fighters. Then I built an online coaching business around the niche of conditioning.
Focusing on a niche forces you to become an expert and at the end of the day, real expertise in a niche is what will separate you from everyone else. That’s exactly why volleyball girls were driving for hours to attend my workshops—I was the only one who could solve their problem.
It’s also the reason you’re reading this now and why so many people come to my site to learn more about conditioning and now recovery. I didn’t try to compete with every other coach online.
I chose to develop real expertise and set myself apart. This is what it means to find a niche and dominate it.
What to do next
If you’ve found yourself struggling to build your fitness business, the first place to start is by looking at the clients you’ve been attracting. Are they the type that is excited for a few weeks or a couple of months and then quit?
Are they always looking for the next flashy program and ready to jump ship as soon as one of their friends starts working out a different gym?
Have they been gaining and losing the same 10-lbs for the last 10+ years?
If so, trying to build a business around these clients will always be an uphill battle. The old adage “The riches are in the niches” is absolutely true. This means you need to first figure out what your niche is and then start working to dominate it.
If you need help with this, I’ve put together a live training course starting on July 24th that’ll teach you exactly how I built my own coaching business. I’ll dive into the details of how to find the right niche and give you my proven strategies on how to dominate it.
During the course, I’ll also help you learn:
- How to attract highly-motivated clients who value your expertise
- How to develop training programs that clients really want
- How to build a complete (and affordable) marketing funnel
- How to scale your business to grow using long-term strategies that will snowball into massive success
If you’re ready to attract a steady stream of new, highly-motivated clients who are willing to pay you what you deserve, then click here to learn more about the course now.