Gyms come in all shapes, sizes, and services –  from big box gyms to small-town studios and traveling personal trainers specializing in “at-home” workouts. If you are interested in carving out your own niche to offer unique services to a specific audience, get ready to learn some valuable tips and tricks to lay the groundwork for your business.

First Things First

Two primary questions you need to address are:

“Who is my audience?” and “What is already here?”

Tackling the question of the priority population may be easier than you think. Ponder the following: Where do your experience and expertise lie? What demographic or population to seem drawn to help? Teenagers? Active older adults? Those with chronic diseases? Working women? Lunch hour warriors? Shift workers?

Of course, this may depend on your general geographical location. Demographics will vary by region and state. As you settle into a new place or return to a familiar one, do some investigating as to the characteristics of the area residents and what appeals to them. In other words, know your niche and be prepared to meet the needs of that niche.

The second question of what already exists in your area is part of the research you need to do. It’s one thing to have a desire to do x, but you must ascertain if x already exists in other gyms or studios and if you can reasonably compete by making your services edgy and uncharacteristic of what is already available to residents.

This is less likely to be a challenge if the area you live in is large and geographically spread out. However, if it is a smaller town you wish to start your facility in, spend some more time thinking about how you will draw your audience in and offer something that no one else has thought of.

For example, maybe you wish to start small group personal training services but through your research, you discover that such services already exist in two other locations near you. What can you do differently? One thing that comes to mind, as this is my educator soul speaking, is to offer some sort of educational component that promotes accountability and reinforces social support.

You could use an integrated online platform for your clients that offers modules or phases to address components of a healthy lifestyle (stress management, leisure time activities, healthy recipe remakes, videos, TED talks, etc.). That’s a unique, robust, and sophisticated approach to lifestyle management that targets more than the physical dimension. There are limitless other possibilities that you could design to set your studio or gym apart from others.

Next Steps



The location is so important for access to and visibility of your services. While the “ideal” spot may not be readily available or affordable (initially), plan for the “ideal” in your 5 and 10-year plans. If you can, look for locations that offer quality, lit parking, storage space, and proximity to your target audience.

If you are thinking of working with teens, a location close to schools with operating hours that work with the school schedules/holidays would be helpful. Likewise, if the working business professional is your target, a location close to the hustle and bustle with decent access/parking may be the ticket.

Pursue Partnerships

Partnerships with local businesses, schools, or organizations is an excellent way to build clientele and market your services. It is also a way to offer reciprocity to supporters. If you are working with school-aged kids and teens, think about partnering with the school districts to offer reduced-cost or employee-rate memberships.

If you are working with single parents, perhaps you could partner with a local dietitian to offer “healthy 30-minute meal” classes. What about partnering with a local daycare to offer reduced cost-care and classes for parents on the go? Don’t just think outside the box; remove the box entirely.

Communication and Marketing

Don’t let this slide. Communication, especially in the age of technology, has become a practice in need of resuscitation. Consider how you can best communicate on a consistent and effective basis with your niche audience.

Do they prefer emails/newsletters/FB Live videos/Instagram motivational pictures and quotes? What is it that you can do to sharpen your competitive edge to boost your business and make your niche appealing and profitable?

In addition to quality communication, run regular specials during holidays or to celebrate various community events. Give thought to organizing a small fundraiser to represent a local charity (Habitat for Humanity, animal shelters, non-profits). A portion of the entry fees could be donated to the identified group. This type of event could evolve into an annual tradition.

Once you find your niche, continue to set and revise professional goals and stay abreast of changes competitors and the industry make to keep business booming. If you love what you do, your patrons will love it, too.

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Erin Nitschke

Dr. Erin Nitschke, NFPT-CPT, NSCA-CPT, ACE Health Coach, Fitness Nutrition Specialist, Therapeutic Exercise Specialist, and Pn1 is a health and human performance college professor, fitness blogger, mother, and passionate fitness professional. She has over 15 years of experience in the fitness industry and college instruction. Erin believes in the power of a holistic approach to healthy living. She loves encouraging her clients and students to develop body harmony by teaching focused skill development and lifestyle balance. Erin is also the Director of Educational Partnerships & Programs for the NFPT. Erin is an editorial author for ACE, IDEA, The Sheridan Press, and the Casper Star Tribune. Visit her personal blog at