The following is a guest article from Kristian Bouw. If you’re interested in submitting content, please refer to our contribution page.
We’ve all experienced it.
Fear creeping in as a result of doubt. Doubt arriving because of a lack of confidence. The lack of confidence stemming from not being grounded in a niche.
Because if you stand for nothing, you fall for everything.
I remember when I was fresh out of school with a 4 year B.S. and CPT certification through ACE. I knew a little about a lot, but didn’t wear the crown of any specific domain.
It was a frustrating time in my life. I believed I could conquer every facet of training with clients, whether it was power lifting, hypertrophy, improving endurance, rehabilitation, etc.
But it was too general and as a result, my training was general. I always finished second behind others who were grounded in their area of expertise.
If you’re reading this article and find yourself looking in a mirror, don’t beat yourself up over it. It’s not entirely your fault.
Most trainers go through this awkward stage of professional puberty before maturing into their vocation. A niche isn’t as simple as pinning the tail on the donkey on a board filled with fitness subcategories.
You need to be passionate about what you do. So you know you can be the very damn best.
The unfortunate reality when you start as a trainer is you can’t afford to be picky. Not every client that comes your way is going to want to be a bodybuilder (if that’s your passion), and you need to pay the bills, so you have to take what comes your way whether they fall into your area of expertise or not.
While this works, you’re limiting your potential.
If you spend time reading about or talking with top tier trainers, you begin to realize a resounding similarity.
They’re all kings (or queens) of a throne, their niche.
What comes to mind when you hear names like Bret Contreras? Todd Durkin? Mark Rippetoe?
You identify Bret Contreras as “The Glute Guy.” You recognize Todd Durkin for his strength and conditioning prowess with elite level athletes. You know Mark Rippetoe as one of the biggest advocates of barbell strength training.
What Do People Know You For?
In a profession where most trainers have a recognized certification, some street cred with a current group of clients and local visibility, you need to differentiate yourself.
This begins with identifying who you are, what you do, and how you’re different.
Step 1: Recognize your strengths
If you have trouble coaching a large group of clients at once and can’t multi-task, you probably won’t fare well being a collegiate strength and conditioning coach or running boot camps.
Each area of training requires a specific skill set to excel. By recognizing your strengths, you put yourself in the best position possible when deciding on your niche.
Step 2: Pick a domain
Once you’ve identified your strengths, it’s time to choose a domain.
Domains are fitness sub-industries such as yoga, bodybuilding, strength & conditioning, rehabilitation, endurance training, and others alike.
The one you choose should be an area you have an affinity with, or one you have prior experience in as an athlete, trainee, or student. You should also consider a domain you want to contribute your work and thoughts to since, as a domain expert, you will be called upon to help move your sub-industry forward.
Step 3: Pick an expertise within your domain (your niche)
Here’s where you put your stake in the ground and begin to build your foundation.
In every domain there exists diverse areas of expertise. Within athletics alone, you have 50+ sports, all with different levels of competition (high school, collegiate, professional).
Be specific in defining your niche. Think again about what comes to mind when we hear names like Eric Cressey and Bret Contreras.
Where do you see yourself? What do you want to be known for?
Choose your niche confidently, because it will become your legacy as a fitness professional.
Step 4: Learn, Teach, and Reproduce
With steps 1 through 3 completed, it’s time to buckle down and get to work.
Get your hands on every piece of literature you can. Understand the clients, common dysfunctions, best programming protocols, and the most effective training modalities.
Encapsulate yourself in your newly defined niche first as a student, second as a practitioner, then third as an educator.
Once you’ve defined your niche, your reputation can then precede you.
You can become the go-to expert for that topic. Your facility can stand out as the one stop shop for clients whose goals align with your domain expertise. Your name can stand synonymously with your niche. This makes marketing a lot easier.
But with your niche chosen, what do you do now to get clients? How do you get people to find out about you? How do you market to the clients you’re trying to serve?
In the world of niche marketing, content is king.
Think about what your niche wants to know and where they look for answers. Then, whether you’re expanding your niche in person or online, you have to actively put yourself in front of the people you’re trying to reach. This begins with generating unique content to provide your audience with takeaways, actionable steps, and blueprints for success.
The more you’re able to educate your audience on both your niche and yourself as an expert, the higher perceived value they will have in what you’re offering.
Here are a couple of marketing strategies broken down into online training and in-person training you can begin implementing as soon as you finish this article.
In Person Training
1. Participate in local events
If you’re aspiring to do strength and conditioning for baseball players, this means getting involved with summer camps in your area and any off-season / in-season training being done.
There’s a good chance you won’t be paid for your time but the goal here isn’t to generate acute revenue, it’s to build your network.
How to find these local events? See 3.
2. Host local events
Pretend your specialty is boot camps and your niche is fat loss for females over 30.
You could host a free boot camp at a nearby residential area park every Saturday. This would give potential clients an opportunity to experience your training, see you in action, and blow them away with the awesomeness of your domain expertise.
From here, you can convert these potential clients from the free class to a paid class you’re running 3 times/week or personal training.
How to advertise these events? See 3.
3. Use local community boards (meetup, reddit, craigslist)
Community boards are great places to find hoards of potential clients relative to your niche and it’s a common place for people to hunt for services. There’s little time investment required to make an informative post about your training services or an upcoming event your hosting but, with that said, your post needs to be quality and reflect your niche.
Search within the localized sections of these sites to connect with event organizers in your area and work with them, or find events happening where you have the opportunity to go in person and grow your network.
People looking for an online solution are comfortable enough with the web to do their own research before contacting you, so make sure you show up in their search.
1. Write for yourself
Writing is a priceless trade skill you will always use to reach your target audience, communicate to them, educate them, and sell them.
One of the first steps you should take is in creating a blog, which will serve as your doorstep within the Internet. Clients will come here to learn about you, your services, and your successes, so make sure you link to your Youtube channels and other created content. WordPress is one popular way to get started.
Use your blog as a means to hone in on your writing style while showing readers a glimpse into your methodology. Write about anything. Relevant topics will show you take your profession seriously, even when you aren’t on the clock.
Non-relevant posts can show your human side (although video and pictures are much better at this). Opinions on recent developments in the industry will show you are up to date. All posts will grow your ability to communicate effectively with words.
Think of it as a timeline of your career potential customers can read. It gives assurance you are the right choice for them.
2. Create a YouTube channel
Creating a YouTube channel isn’t just about pushing educational content; it’s an opportunity to connect with your audience, put a face to your name, and let your personality shine through. Video is simply the best way to demonstrate your passion online.
Make weekly videos filled with niche related how-to’s, workouts, and tips. Just remember the focus here is to give your brand life and personality. When you are doing a video of how you make your post-workout shake, go ahead and do a little dance as you put it together.
The industry is driven by human interaction. If they like you, they’re more willing to buy from you.
3. Write an E-book
Writing a small e-book can go a long way. Start out by offering it for free through an email sign up. This builds your contact list, offers a free resource to your audience (who doesn’t love free stuff?), and you can use this opportunity to set the stage for any paid e-books you write in the future.
Why an e-book versus a blog post or article?
It requires more work and is seen as higher quality material, therefore more authoritative. If your potential clients are looking for a trainer and they like what they’ve read (even if it’s just the book title), then you just won them over.
[Note from Jon: To make it as easy as possible for you, one of the free Ebooks provided by thePTDC goes in-detail exactly how to produce a free Ebook. Get it free today at http://personaltrainerebooks.com/]
4. Write for others
Equipped with a writing style that reflects you and a portfolio of content (from your blog), it’s time to leverage the work you’ve done by taking your talents elsewhere within your domain.
Look for magazines, newsletters, broadcast media, or blogs you can produce content for, exposing you to
Scoring a contribution with any media outlet for your niche is going to bump up your street cred as an expert in your domain.
Now that you have all this digital content, how do you find people to read it? Don’t just wait for the Google bots to point people to you.
Take what you are most proud of and share it!
If sharing through social media, be tasteful. Don’t bombard your friends with so many updates they mark you as spam, but don’t be afraid to share your best work every once in a while. Your friends might reshare, and people who like the shared content might browse the rest of your work for more.
There are also probably online communities built around your niche. Places like various site forums or subreddits may be open to checking your work out. Be warned though, they’re also quick to reject any obvious forms of advertisement.
Take time to understand the community and be a participant, then submit your content if it contributes to the discussion at hand in a manner that matches what the community expects.
All On You
In all that you do, whether online or in person, the key is to be consistent. Continue to make blog posts, keep on uploading YouTube videos, etc.
We know a lack of consistency is one of the major pitfalls new exercisers face in trying to achieve their goals. They begin with good intentions only to fall short a few weeks later. Don’t make this mistake yourself.
Be diligent in your work, consistent in what you produce, but most importantly of all, be authentic.
But enough reading, it’s time for you to get to work.
Live hungry, train passionately, and go forth with purpose.
About the Author
Kristian Bouw, BSc. HFS, CPT (ACE), is the founder of Thryv, a fitness startup providing client progress tracking for trainers. He’s also a fitness expert for AAHF and personal trainer himself, with experience ranging from the general public to the FBI. You can read his blog at kristianbouw.com