// Special populations a golden business opportunity

By being too generalised in the service you offer, you may be jeopardising your business success. To develop a truly great fitness business you need to find your niche and target specific populations, says Paul Wright.

Having been involved in the health and fitness industry for many years, I continue to be amazed at the number of business opportunities that are not fully explored by personal trainers and other health professionals. One such opportunity is the area of special populations and the impact that targeting these groups can have on the success of your fitness business.

The term ‘special populations’ has been used in the health and fitness industries for many years, and essentially refers to the various groups of people that have some special requirement or condition that requires more complex training, education or care on the part of the fitness professional.
Common examples of special populations in the fitness environment include people with chronic low back pain, diabetes, osteoarthritis, hypertension, cardiac issues and orthopaedic problems, as well as pregnant women. However, we can also look at specific orthopaedic populations, such as post-ACL reconstruction or post-knee replacement, as examples of groups with specific needs and requirements.

General or specific?

I firmly believe that the majority of fitness professionals make the mistake of being too generalised in their businesses and present themselves as a ‘one stop shop’, which ultimately leads them to be branded as a ‘commodity’ – where the only thing that differentiates them from their competition is price. You need to ask yourself the following question if you are to develop a truly great fitness business: are you a commodity?

Do your business cards have a range of target groups on them, such as weight loss, rehabilitation, post-pregnancy, work injuries and sports conditioning? The more generalised you are, the less of an expert you will appear to your potential client or health industry referrer.

I once saw a sign on the back of a personal trainer’s car window that said ‘XYZ Personal Training and Wedding Make-Up’. Now I don’t know about you, but I would not be racing to that trainer for my new fitness program – let alone my wedding make-up (I prefer to do my make-up myself anyway…). This generalisation has immediate implications to your perceived level of professionalism, your marketing and ultimately the rates you can charge for your services.

Finding your niche

A good place to start when considering whether focusing on a special population is right for you and your business, is to ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do I present myself as an expert in a specific area or condition, and if so, is there a market for this service in my area?
  2. Am I already well known for my knowledge and expertise with a specific group or target market?
  3. Do I achieve higher levels of success with a specific type of client?
  4. Is there an area or special population group that I am highly interested in and passionate about?
  5. When I attend conventions and educational events, is there a specific topic area that I gravitate towards?

Based on the answers to these questions, I believe most fitness professionals will begin to identify a specific target market – their own special population – and assuming there are enough of these people around, you may have found your golden niche.

An even better outcome would be if you had already researched this niche and determined that this target market is massively underserviced in your area. The people in this market would be actively looking for a professional like you to provide them with the service they need.

There are many benefits to being highly specific in your marketing to special populations:

  • The more specialised your skill set, the higher fees you can charge. People will pay much more to be seen by the expert than by a general all-rounder (look at the fees specialists charge compared to general practitioners in the medical model).
  • You can develop specific programs for your target market. People will pay more for a specifically defined program or course of action than they will session by session. Their compliance and your success rate will also be higher.
  • Your marketing becomes easier as you can target your special population more easily. As an expert in post-pregnancy, for example, you can target mothers groups and obstetricians, and set up joint ventures with local baby shops where you can provide free initial consultations for every customer that spends a certain amount of money.
  • You can sell a specific line of problem-solving products to your target market. In the case of the post-pregnancy expert, pregnancy belts and even jogging prams are examples of these product lines.

For more information about building and maintaining a successful fitness business, you can download Paul’s free 60-minute MP3 ‘How to Ethically Increase Profits from Your Health Business’ from www.MyHealthBusinessProfits.com where you can also request to have a CD recording posted to you.

In my business, Get Active Physiotherapy, our name says it all. We are located in health and fitness clubs and primarily serve younger, active, sports-involved patients.

Our marketing is directed to sports clubs, gym members, runners and other active exercising individuals who become highly frustrated if they cannot exercise with the frequency and intensity they are used to. Because we specialise in solving their problem, they come to us rather than a more generalised practice. You can do the same for your business.

The area of ‘special populations’ is a potential gold mine for personal trainers and health professionals with specific skills in these areas. Identify your passion and your expertise and get your targeted message out there now.

Paul Wright, BAppSc (Physio), DipEd (PE), AdvDip (Bus Mgmt)
Paul is the owner of Get Active Physiotherapy with two clinics in St Leonards (Sydney) and can be reached on 02 9966 9464 or via his website www.GetActivePhysio.com.au