American Council on Exercise by American Council on Exercise

The first step in building a successful business—whether you are a personal trainer, group fitness instructor or health coach—is market research, which involves figuring out where to show up to communicate with potential clients or participants, what to provide and how to price your services to effectively serve your target market.

Keep in mind not all of the questions listed below apply to all potential products and services you might offer, so you’ll have to pick and choose which are most important to you and your business. You will also want to consider if you are going to be a local service focused on your community or desire a broader reach, which would necessitate that you expand your research beyond your immediate area. It is also not an exhaustive list of all the questions you’ll want to ask but should provide a good jumping-off point to get you headed in the right direction. It’s a good idea to revisit this list from time to time to make sure you aren’t missing any opportunities to improve your ability to reach your customer base.

Awareness Opportunities

This step involves determining where your target customers gather and where they get their information—so that you know where to show up and market your services. This can be anything from the local mall to websites or social media that they frequent. The point is to figure out how you can best find and communicate with your target market.

Where does my target market gather in the community?

  • Where do they shop?
  • Where do they hang out?
  • Where do they convene?
  • What professional services do they use?
  • What establishments do they frequent?


Where does my target market get their information (think about “influencers” in your community)?

  • What organizations provide newsletters for my target market?
  • What Facebook or other social media groups exist for my target market in my area?
  • What Instagram accounts do they follow for local news and information?
  • Are there specific groups in your community that your target market may join?
  • Are there specific members of your target market that hold significant influence in your community (e.g., president of the PTA, star high school athlete or leader of a key committee in a retirement community)?


This step involves identifying what’s happening in the world of health and wellness, both locally and more broadly, to identify the products and services that might best serve your target market. It’s important to think beyond the four walls of the traditional fitness facility to uncover opportunities to reach potential clients.

Step 1 of this part of the process to gather ideas about what you want to offer to your potential clients or participants. To do that, you first need to know what’s out there for your target market currently:

  • List all potential employment opportunities for exercise professionals and health coaches in your community that provide offerings for your target market. Use our lists for health coach, group fitness instructor, and personal trainer employment opportunities to get started.
  • List any independent offerings in your area (e.g., outdoor bootcamps and corporate wellness opportunities).
  • List any other services, programs or classes provided outside of these traditional spaces that will be in direct competition to with what you plan to offer.

Now, delve deeper into offers that currently exist. Review corresponding websites or obtain guest passes and visit facilities, if possible. And don’t forget about virtual offerings. Are there websites, mobile apps or digital offerings that your potential clients or participants tend to frequent? Find out if they offer a free trial or attend a session or two to learn more. Answer the following questions:

  • What classes do they offer?
  • What services do they offer?
  • What programs do they offer?
  • How are those classes, services or programs delivered?
  • What are they known for or what is unique about the offering?


You will want to price your offerings competitively. Understanding what is happening in the fitness industry at large, as well as locally, will help you determine the best path forward. Here are a few suggestions to get you started in doing this research:

  • How are services packaged (e.g., a la carte or drop-in, packages or monthly draft)?
  • How are services priced?
  • What are the contract details, if any, related to the packages (e.g., commitment length and expiration dates)?
  • Is there a cancellation or refund policy?
  • Do they run specials or deals frequently?

You may also consider reviewing industry compensation reports available from ACE and other organizations in the fitness and health coaching space, such as IDEA, Association of Fitness Studios, and IHRSA, to gain perspective about what is happening in the industry at large.