Carrie Myers, MS, has been in the health and exercise field for more than 35 years and a freelance health and fitness writer and editor for more than 25 years. She has a bachelor of science degree in exercise science and health education and a master’s degree in health psychology. She is also a certified life and health coach, a certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, a published author, speaker and owner of CarrieMichele Co., a women’s wellness and lifestyle company.
Do You Need a Niche?
When I first graduated from college with a degree in exercise science, I wanted to work in women’s health and fitness. But living in a rural area and being a new grad, it was difficult at that time to find the clientele I felt most suited to serve. So, instead of working solely with women, I ended up working in cardiac rehab (where most of the patients were men).
Today, however, with the internet and social media, it’s much easier to reach your niche market. Of course, that can be a problem if you aren’t yet sure what your niche should be, or if you even need one. Not to worry—the goal of this article is to help you find your answers.
You Say niCH, I Say neSH
Regardless of how you pronounce it, a niche is “a specialized segment of the market for a particular kind of product or service.” As a health and exercise professional, this might mean specializing in an area such as functional training or older adult fitness (check out all of ACE’s specialist certifications here).
But do you need a niche? How could specializing help you?
“Health [and fitness] is a broad market, so it’s important to choose a niche and narrow down what you want to focus on,” advises Elliot Reimers, a certified nutrition coach at Rave Reviews. “A broad market means plenty of competition, so niching down will help eliminate some of them. It also allows you to target a specific audience and solve a particular problem for them.”
Lenore Kantor, former CMO and corporate executive at leading financial and technology companies, agrees. “Having a specific focus can be very helpful for health and wellness professionals since it’s a very saturated and competitive space,” Kantor, who is now a transformational coach and owner of Growth Warrior, explains. “The advantages of specializing are ideally that you get to focus on what you love, and by targeting your message it makes all of your sales and marketing outreach efforts easier.”
“A niche helps you know exactly who to market to, which can help you get customers quicker than if you were simply casting a wide net and hoping they’re interested,” interjects Wesley Exon, CEO of Best Value Schools.
Scott Spivack, marketing director at United Medical Credit says that he’s seen too many entrepreneurs approach their businesses inspired by some truly well-meaning motivations, but ones that are too vague or broad. This ends up with them being dissatisfied with their work. “Simply saying you want to ‘help people live healthier’ isn’t enough,” he advises. “There’s a lot of different jobs that’ll do that. For example, a medical exercise specialist helps folks get healthy under a very different set of circumstances than a private personal trainer, which can even vary from an online personal-training specialist.”
Jordan Bishop, CEO of Yore Oyster, a personal finance resource company, believes that every business should be niche-specific. “A niche market is nothing more than the specific segment of the market to whom you’ll be offering your products or services. Why should you focus on your niche? The reason is simple. Marketing your product or service can be expensive, and it’s definitely time-consuming, so you want it to be as effective as possible. By focusing on your niche, you make sure that only those for whom your product or service is useful will get the message, which is great, because they’re the ones most likely to buy from you or hire your services.”
Kantor adds that another advantage of creating a niche is that as you gain more experience in that area, others will view you as the go-to expert, making it more likely to create referral partnerships. “By having expertise, it also makes it easier for potential partners to refer business to you because they know what you do and how it complements what they might do. This is why massage therapists may work with physical therapists or personal trainers. These areas are complementary and offer an opportunity to support similar clients.”
Want help finding your niche? Do you have a niche idea, but want to see if there’s a market for it? Want to dive deeper into this topic? One of these resources may be able to help you find answers.
How Do I Figure Out What My Niche Should Be?
No one wants to have a business or career they hate. The key to discovering your niche is to find that sweet spot—the one where you’ll enjoy your work, serve the people you’re passionate about serving and make money doing it.
“Look at the work you’ve done in the past and see what you really enjoyed,” recommends Kantor. “What types of clients were you able to help? Which solutions were you able to offer that made a difference for them and had a positive impact? Matching what you enjoy with where you have special expertise is a great way to find your sweet spot. I recommend this, rather than randomly picking some audience that could use your services. Homing in on where you can really excel and finding the areas that you most enjoy will make your work more meaningful.”
Kristen Bolig, founder of Security Nerd, offers this warning: “Don’t try to pick a niche that will make you the most money or give you the most clout. As great as those things may be, being stuck in a job that doesn’t bring you joy is not worth it. Your passion and enthusiasm for the niche field you’re entering is what will keep you driven and motivated.”
According to Zachary Hoffman, CEO at Digital PR, there are three main steps to finding your niche. “Identify an unmet or under-served area of business, define your target audience, and research competitors. These steps will help you make truly informed decisions and help you create your UVP—ultimate value proposal—which serves as the base for your marketing and outreach campaigns and will help you attract clients.”
Exon suggests starting by defining your target audience, what some call your ideal customer or client avatar. What does this client look like? Where do they live? What do they do for work? What level of education do they have? What gender are they? Are they married? Single? Do they have children? What do they do with their free time? Zeroing in on the details and specifics of who your target audience is can then help you answer what is perhaps the most relevant question: What problem(s) can you solve for them or help them solve for themselves?
“One common misconception is that when you niche down too much, you lose too much potential market share since you’re only aiming at a small portion of the market, and that means you won’t be able to grow enough to make a decent profit,” says Bishop. “As it turns out, things work the other way around. Yes, you’ll definitely be reducing the size of the market you’ll be targeting, but at the same time, you’ll increase the probability of taking over that particular segment, because you’ll become an expert at solving that particular niche’s problems.”
Bishop also points out that a niche can create a sort of intimacy within itself. “Highly specific niches tend to be very tightly knit communities. The word tends to spread inside the niche much faster than in the broader sense.”
Social media is one way to develop a more intimate community online. Facebook groups offer an easy way to start.
Timing is Everything
Is it wise, though, for someone new to the health and exercise field to jump right in with a niche? Most of the experts interviewed for this piece said yes, it could be a good thing to start off in a niche. But you must also have more than just an interest and passion in your niche field. It’s important to also have the training and experience before you call yourself a specialist in any one area.
Being a generalist at the beginning of your career can also help you discover what your true passions are and what specific problems you can help your clients solve, so if you’re new to the industry and don’t have a clue what to specialize in, give yourself some time.
“If you’re just starting off, I don’t recommend niching down too much, because it will limit your opportunities,” suggests Reimers. “Try to find the right level of niche where you can build your expertise, reputation and network. When you’ve established yourself, you can niche down further if you want.”
“If you’re unsure of what area to specialize in, then being a generalist can make sense,” agrees Kantor. “As you gain more experience, you can see what types of clients you attract, what they value about working with you, and which aspects of the work you enjoy most, then use that to guide your emphasis going forward.”
Besides acquiring specialized training and experience, Kantor urges health and exercise professionals to “find what you love and try to really uncover your ‘secret sauce’—the special mix of your style, personality, experience, and approach that will make you truly unique. That’s what people will appreciate about you, so learn how to leverage what you’ve got.”