by Mark Kostner
Imagine if you knew exactly who your prospective clients were, where to go to find them and exactly what it was they wanted. Imagine having a highly responsive list of prospective clients who were ready, willing and able to pay for your services. This scenario, a constant stream of new customers on tap, is every fitness professionals dream, but does it really exist? Welcome to the world of niche marketing.
Niche marketing is about narrowing down your prospective client base and finding the customer group that fits the demographics (characteristics of a population segment), occupation, geographics (location) or psychographics (ideas, thoughts and values) of your target market. In other words it’s about finding the people you would consider to be your ideal clients.
Business owners are often afraid they will miss out on getting prospective clients when they niche market.
It’s a valid concern that’s often driven by fear rather than fact. One of the largest fitness chains in Australia has successfully built its business on a niche market. The truth is that niche marketing opens up a whole new world of possibilities for your business.
Mass marketing problems
Without a niche, everyone is a potential client and this can pose some major problems. These include:
1. How exactly do you reach everyone?
The only way to reach everyone is through mass marketing, which can be a very expensive exercise for a small business. It’s a process which I call Spray and Pray advertising. You spray your marketing message all over the place, in newspapers, saver coupons, mail outs and more in an effort to reach as many people as you possibly can and then you pray that someone will notice your ads and take action. It’s a hit and miss approach that can be very costly.
2. How do you get their attention?
You want your marketing message to capture your audience’s attention, and the way you do that is by putting a message in front of a person that is directly relevant to them. When you mass market you can’t possibly know who will see your marketing message and therefore you don’t know what message is going to be relevant to them. So in a bid to please everyone you use generic messages. The result is a generalised, diluted marketing message that has lost its power and potential to get people to respond.
3. Lack of direction
Mass marketing attracts a broad range of people to your business, all with very different needs and wants. A professional athlete has very different needs and wants from a person wanting to lose weight for their wedding. Trying to be all things to all people puts a huge strain on you and your business – it takes your focus away from what you love doing and forces you to spend your time simply trying to keep up with it all and keep everyone happy.
A world of possibilities
Focusing on a niche opens a world of possibilities for you. Here are just five of the many ways in which choosing a niche can transform your business.
1. You become more desirable
Generating new leads and selling your services can be hard work. Being clear on who it is you want to target gives you the opportunity to develop marketing, services and information directly relevant to your niche.You become more desirable to your niche simply because you are more relevant to them, and by including information products you will also be seen as an ‘expert’ in your field.
2. Your business will demand attention
Specialising helps to give you and your business more focus. You know exactly who you want to target and what you have to offer them. By targeting a specific niche you’re able to create a very powerful marketing message that demands their attention. You can speak directly to your prospect in terms of their values. For example, people with back pain will be much more likely to respond to an advert saying; ‘Suffer from Back Pain? Eliminate back pain for good with our ‘7 steps to a pain free back’ program’ rather than to a generic message such as; ‘Want to get fit?’
3. It is easier to generate leads
Knowing exactly who you are marketing to makes it much easier to reach them. You can identify places they are more likely to visit, magazines they are more likely to read or products they are more likely to use and strategically place your marketing message at these points. If we continue with the example of targeting people suffering from back pain, leads could be generated by creating referral programs with local chiropractors.
4. You have lower lead generation costs
Generating new leads can be a costly exercise. Knowing exactly where and how to reach your target market can dramatically lower your cost of lead generating and increase your conversion rate. You don’t need to rely on costly mass marketing campaigns and because you are targeting a specific group with a message that is highly relevant to them you also increase your conversion rate, lowering your advertising cost per client.
5. Your business becomes easier to manage
By its very definition a niche is a group of people that share things in common; they have common needs and wants. This makes it much easier for you to begin to systemise your business. You can develop standard procedures in many areas of your business, freeing you up to focus on the aspects of your work that you are passionate about.
Choosing a niche
There are a number of important factors in choosing a niche for your business. Firstly, you need to target a group that has a genuine desire for your services. One of the biggest mistakes fitness professionals make is to target a niche that they believe needs their services.Strange though it may seem, many people are motivated by their wants, not their needs. Individuals who want to lose weight, for example, take action on it; those who need to lose weight but don’t want to will do little about it. Make sure your niche wants what you are offering.
As you are trying to run a successful business, it is also essential to ask yourself whether your target market is willing and able to pay for your services. For example, if your chosen niche is high school students who want to improve their athletic performance, the chances are the students themselves could not afford your service. In this case you might do better to market to their parents.
It is also important that your niche is easily and affordably contactable. Imagine, for example, how much work you would have to put in to contact people who may at some time in the future have a sporting injury. The easier option would be to contact people who have already suffered a sporting injury. In this case you could associate yourself with a number of sporting injury specialists such as chiropractors and physiotherapists. This would allow you to readily and easily get your message in front of your target market at a low cost.
If your current marketing is not working for you, or even if it is but you want to increase your client base and decrease your marketing costs, start a niche marketing program in conjunction with your current marketing campaigns.
Remember, niche marketing is about narrowing down your target base and approaching it with an effective marketing message that is actually relevant. You can’t be all things to all people, so be one great thing to a few.
Mark is a marketing consultant specialising in the fitness industry. He has over twelve years experience in running successful businesses, has a passion for health and fitness and is committed to helping fitness professionals emulate this success. For more information or to subscribe to Mark’s fitness marketing newsletter, e-mail email@example.com or visit his website at www.sellingfitnessmadesimple.com/afna.htm
NETWORK • SUMMER 2006 • PP15-17