Industry sector: Consumer services

Personal trainer: Market research

When you plan your business it's very important to give some thought to who your customers will be and how well they are already served. Doing some market research will help you to establish the facts.

Demand for your services

Provision of personal fitness training is still a relatively young and developing industry. General attitudes to health and fitness have changed to the point where expenditure on keeping fit and healthy is seen by some as an essential rather than a luxury purchase. However, while attitudes may have changed, the level of obesity is rising in the UK and the government has launched various initiatives to try to combat this. Key among these for personal trainers are the exercise referral schemes, through which GPs can prescribe a program of exercise to a patient if they deem it appropriate. Patients can be referred to a suitably qualified professional - for example a level 3 or 4 exercise referral instructor registered with the Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs - often referred to as the Exercise Register).

You could try to assess the level of demand in your local area by visiting gyms, leisure centres and other sports facilities to see how busy they are. However, this may not be a good indication as those people that can motivate themselves to exercise may feel they don't need your services. So it may be that your client base will only become apparent when you start to advertise your services.


Your direct competition will come from other personal trainers operating in your area. Have a close look at their businesses and try to establish:

  • the kind of service they offer
  • their level of qualifications
  • where and how effectively they advertise themselves
  • the prices they charge

Gyms and other sports facilities may also be competitors but you can look at them as opportunities rather than threats. Many gyms and health clubs will allow independent exercise professionals to operate in their facilities and if they don't let you do that they may agree to you placing adverts on their premises.

If you run classes - for example a regular exercise-to-music class in your local church hall - then be aware that you may well face competition from leisure centres, which may have excellent facilities and often charge fairly low rates to class participants. However, these classes may sometimes be very large and can feel a bit impersonal - focus on the key points which differentiate your classes from the competition.

How will you attract clients?

To attract a sufficient number of clients to make your business a success you'll need to make sure that your profile is as prominent as possible. You can achieve this by:

  • getting properly qualified and listed on the Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs)
  • joining a trade association such as the National Register of Personal Trainers (NRPT)
  • advertising in gyms, health clubs, spa hotels and other sports facilities
  • advertising in an online directory
  • advertising in your local newspaper and any local directories
  • sending out mailshots to offices and businesses in your area
  • setting up a website that details the kind of service you can provide - you could offer an online 'virtual coaching' service, write a regular motivational blog, and email your clients tips and exercise plans
  • networking and marketing using social media
  • providing an excellent service which will help you to retain clients and lead to word-of-mouth recommendations
  • offering free 'taster' sessions (classes and/or one-to-one) to potential new clients

Use the Record sheet to note down the results of your market research.

You may find that it's worthwhile holding regular exercise classes which people can attend whenever they want to for a fairly low charge (usually just a few pounds). You could hold these in a hired room at a leisure centre, in a church or village hall, or even outside. As well as providing you with an extra source of income, you may find that some of your class participants are interested in signing up to a one-to-one training programme.