If there’s one mission that all new and aspiring health coaches have in common, it’s to help more people achieve greater health and vitality. How do you find those people who need your help while also building a profitable health coaching business in the process?
The answer is to Nail Your Niche.
“Think of a Niche or Target Market as a tool to help you find people that have a problem you can help with and are willing to solve.”
In order to find answers to some of the most pressing questions and objections on this topic, I sat down with health coach and marketing expert Michelle Leotta.
In her signature course, Healthy Profit University, Michelle has helped thousands of health coaches grow their own profitable businesses. Now a guest marketing lecturer at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, and an expert business mentor for our PHCI students and grads, Michelle is the perfect pro to address this all-too-important topic.
Ready? “It’s time to build an audience that’s ready, willing, and able to work with you!”
Q: Speaking to new and aspiring coaches, should they decide on a niche right away?
Michelle: “Your first clients are probably going to come to you because you already know them. You’re just talking to your family and friends, naturally taking them on as your first clients. That’s not marketing, so much. So take the clients that come to you for sure…and you never have to limit yourself.
I want you to work with lots of different people, especially when you’re first starting out…so that you can gain experience and figure out, ‘Do I want to work with this kind of person in the future?’
Once you start pushing out a niche marketing message, that means you are actively going out into the world and finding clients. That’s when you’re going to utilize your target market [AKA your niche audience].
Even if you’re currently working with lots of different people, you can still choose a target market because your target market is a tool that informs your marketing.”
Q: What about branding—website, logo, business cards, etc…—should I decide on my niche before branding?
Michelle: “I think the appropriate amount of branding to do in the beginning is a little bit more personal branding. I would not choose a fancy name or get a wild URL because those things will change. You might think that you want to work with women who have fibromyalgia, and six months later you’re like, ‘Oh no, I don’t wanna do that at all.’
So you don’t want to invest all this time, energy, and money into building that brand, but you are not going to change. If you’re posting things on social media about your food, your diet, the work that you’re doing with your clients, that’s good because none of that’s going to change much, but it may not be the right time to choose your niche social media handles like @fibromyalgia_coach or whatever.
I think it’s important that you not only choose a niche, but you validate it. You work in that niche for a period of time and feel really confident about it before you go dropping thousands of dollars on branding yourself. I always advise getting a URL that matches your name. It’s the easiest thing to do and it’s not going to change—unless you get divorced, which I did recently which screws it all up.”
Q: What if you’re not ready? You feel you need more education before specializing in a niche…
Michelle: “One important part of your niche is the problem you solve; that’s only half of it. For the most part, the things we learn as health coaches are going to help most people solve those problems, like hormonal health or gut health. However, if you do need to continue your education, what you can do now is define the other part of your niche which is the who—what type of person are you going to help with this problem?
You’re not going to help the whole world with gut health. That’s way too broad…
Let’s say you used to be a lawyer. Maybe you know a lot about being a lawyer, the lifestyle, and how that interferes with gut health, etc…. You’d be very well suited to work with lawyers, you don’t need additional certifications for that. Pick a problem that you know you can help them solve and go work with lawyers. If and when you get more certifications, you can help them even more.”
Q: What are the top objections you hear from coaches about choosing a niche?
Michelle: “‘Why would I choose a niche when I would be leaving out all these other people that I could help?’ But, what I really hear between the lines is, ‘I don’t know if I’m confident enough to put a stake in the ground and say anything specific about what I can achieve as a coach.’
I think health coaches are more comfortable keeping it loosey-goosey because, inside, there’s fear…fear that they’re not sure who they can help. They’re not sure what problem they can solve. And so it manifests as ‘I wanna help everyone a little bit about everything.’
Your niche or target market is just a tool to help you find people that have a problem you can reasonably help them with, and have a willingness to solve it.”
Q: What about coaches who prefer coaching different types of clients on a wide range of health topics?
Michelle: “I think you’ll like it more when you see your paycheck reflecting a strong target market.”
Marisa: “Hahaha, you’re absolutely right…that’s exactly what happened to me.”
Michelle: “Isn’t that funny? Then you realize this is where it’s worth putting my time and where it feels the energy exchange is the best.
Q: What comes first, defining who your ideal client is or the problem you help to solve?
Michelle: “Those two things go hand in hand…if you’re just talking about a big problem that’s too general, you won’t know where to find them. If I say that I work in gut health, well, that could be literally anyone on the planet; how am I going to actually target anybody?
But if you say, ‘I work with lawyers who have gut health issues,’ then I know I can find them in law firms, in lawyer association clubs or professional groups, things like that. Now that you have a specific destination, your “google map” is actually pointing you somewhere you can find this person.
So those two things really go hand in hand and need to be considered together—like does this person consider this problem a big problem that they want to pay to solve? Or does this person have this problem but they don’t really care? Put those pieces together and find out if it’s valid and viable as a business model.”
Q: What’s the best way to validate your niche idea?
Michelle: “The best way to know if you have a viable target market is to see if the people you just defined are spending money to solve that problem you just defined. If they’ve never spent money on it before then it’s like, they don’t care that much about it. It may be a huge problem from the health coach’s perspective, but if they’re not spending money to solve that problem, then they’re probably not going to spend money with you, either.
The best thing to do is actually find people within your target market and talk to them about their big problem—it might not be what you think. Ask them if and how they’ve spent money on that problem before…it’s just market research, and that’s something that I teach inside my course, Healthy Profit University—the exact questions that you would ask when you find these people in your target market, and how to go about it.
A great place to get started, if you’re not quite there yet, is a free resource Michelle created called Define Your Target Market in 5 Steps. The downloadable workbook walks you through defining the person and the problem, and then combining that into something she calls ‘My Best Work Statement‘…Michelle said, “I always advise that you do that first because every decision you make later is going to flow out of that statement.”
…stay tuned to go deeper next week in Part 2 of this interview, where Michelle shares the biggest mistakes coaches make when choosing a niche.