Personal Training Market Research: A Step-by-Step Guide

personal training marketing research

If you’re looking to become a small business owner in the fitness industry, you’re probably going to need to begin some personal training market research to ensure that no time or investment is wasted on the wrong audiences.

That's why we have created a step-by-step guide on how to conduct your market research wisely. This is tailored to the fitness industry and, more specifically, small businesses so you can find information that is on your level.

Before we get straight into step 1, if you’re a personal trainer looking to advance to the next level, enquire about our Level 4 Sports Nutrition Course. Combine your health & fitness knowledge to help clients reach their goals at a quicker pace.

Learn more about our range of health and fitness courses here in our downloadable course prospectus. 

Step 1: Get Familiar With Why A Personal Trainer Should Do Market Research

personal training research marketing

First off, you might think that, because you’re a small business, you escape the responsibility of conducting market research, so we are here to remind you that simply isn’t the case. 

You are going to be the sole person who needs to do your own market research, so it’s crucial to know what it is, and why you should invest your time into it.

Market research is essentially a blanket term for many different tools that allow you to find out what your target audience wants in a product or service. 

So, since you’re a personal trainer, you are going to need to find out what your desired clients are looking for in a good trainer and ensure you tick every box.

pt market research

Thus, the only way to find out these needs and wants from potential clients is to conduct market research. 

However, a Google search on market research may present you with overwhelming results like how to conduct surveys including hundreds of people, which simply isn’t plausible for you as a small business owner. 

This doesn’t mean you give up on the idea, there are ways, which we will discuss, to find out what your audience wants without huge investments into technology. 

With this in mind, here are some brief benefits that come from being aware of why you need to do some personal trainer market research.

Benefits of PT Market Research

#1 - Your Audience Demographic Becomes Clear

personal trainer market research

Knowing your audience is one of, if not the, most important aspect of running a business at any capacity. 

As a personal trainer, your clients are at the forefront of everything you do, therefore if a particular population of people feel as though they are not being spoken to directly, you’re probably going to struggle to get them on board. 

By using the tools and methods that we will get into a little more later, knowing your target audience can help you in avoiding complete alienation from potential clients that you would actually be a good fit for. 

For example, if you have a qualification in exercise referral, yet the elderly or those with chronic conditions don’t feel as though you’re directing your attention to them when it comes to marketing, you’re simply not going to be their first port of call. 

This is how conducting personal trainer market research would save you from this.

#2 - You Can Identify Industry Competition

Fitness instructor market research

Identifying your competition and being realistic about it will determine your success or failure of your business, plus, this is a relatively easy way to understand what your future could look like in the industry.

Identifying your competition can help you to understand what works and what doesn’t. For example, if there is a small gym or personal trainer in your area that is succeeding - analyse what they're doing well and what they aren't doing well. 

With this information, you can make your business bigger and better than theirs.


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#3 You Can Identify Opportunities to Grow Your Business

Gym instructor market research

Whether you are a sole trader PT or otherwise, the ultimate goal of any business is to grow and become more successful; personal training market research is going to help you do just that.

Directing your attention to the right people is going to help you succeed and in turn grow. For example, if you offer classes or packages that people enjoy you’re going to become more popular, more reliable and a common name in your area. 

Once you build a reputation, you can look for growth opportunities like partnerships with relevant brands like supplements, active wear or anything that your clients would take advantage of.

Seeking growth opportunities typically comes after you have made a name for yourself, this could mean writing a gym business plan or increasing your prices due to higher demand. 

This comes from analysing other similar businesses and seeing how they grow - there is no reason why you can't do the same when the time is right.

Step 2: Define The Goals of Your Personal Training Market Research

how to do personal training market research

Now you’re well aware of why you should conduct personal training market research, step 2 is all about preparing yourself to carry out said research. Thus, to carry out research you’re going to need some sort of end goal to work towards.

Here are some examples of goals that would be relevant to your career:

Targeting your personal trainer niche: Targeting your niche - this can help you to excel in targeting the customers that are best suited to your style of training, as well as clearly define the services you plan to offer.

Determining potential business growth opportunities: The only way to maximise your income and become a recognisable name in the industry is to grow your business. This doesn’t come naturally, you have to work hard so researching opportunities for this is a staple part of any successful business.

Determining a budget for advertising campaigns: Advertising can really rack up spending, so setting a budget is the best way to put money into useful advertising campaigns. Research also ensures that you’re not going to overpay for any advertising methods. If you take your time, you can search for the best value for money.

best ways to do personal training market research

Securing partnerships: You only want to secure partnerships that are reliable and relevant to your brand. If your goal is to secure a partnership, you should do your research on the desired brand and see how they work with other partners first to determine if that is the right fit for your business.

Assessing competitors: We’ve spoken already about how competitor analysis should be a part of your marketing strategies and research, but this should always be a goal for your business. You should make it a goal that you have your top 3 relevant competitors so you can always keep up to date with what they’re doing and how this could impact your business decisions. 

All of these goals are things you as a personal trainer could benefit from as you research your market. With this in mind, you should be deciding what information you actually need to reach these goals.

For each of these goals, you might have a different method of research and this depends on:

  1. Who you want to ask 
  2. What you’re trying to find out

These two aspects are what is going to help you determine which method you are going to opt to implement from our list below.

For example, if your goal is to target your niche, your method of research is going to be focused upon your audience. This means that the likes of competitor analysis as a marketing research technique isn’t going to be something that would necessarily relate to you finding your niche.  

Instead, you’re going to want to focus more on who you’re going to ask, by implementing the likes of surveys that are open to a wider audience. We will go into a little more detail about that later, so don’t worry if you’re wondering how to implement this.

If you want some more helpful resource and information on how to market your personal training business, read our articles below:

Step 3: Use The Following Methods to Carry Out Your PT Market Research

Step 3 is the most pivotal part of your journey into fitness instructor market research for your small business.

Here, you will find the methods that you can put into practice, these aren’t big scale methods that seem out of reach either - these are very do-able and require dedication though have a confident reward!

#1 - Shareable Surveys

personal training research marketing tips

Surveys are a popular mechanism of personal trainer market research as the facilities to create and share a survey can be completely free of charge yet effective.

So how can this benefit you as a personal trainer? Surveys, created by you, are going to be dedicated to finding out what your target audience wants and needs from your service.

You want to be making the survey as succinct and informative as possible. You want people to actually get through the whole survey without leaving midway through and the only way to guarantee that is to keep it to the point and easy to answer.

Online surveys are the best way to make the survey as shareable as possible and to keep your data all in one place. Though you can still use paper forms when the opportunity arises, it is a better idea to keep it online where you can get real time results.

For example, Google has their own dedicated site to help you collect data from online surveys, Google Forms, which is included in your Google Drive account.

You can see an example below of what this could look like from a starting point.

personal trainer market research

All you need to use this service is a Google account, again completely free to make. This is so that you can access your surveys and/or make any necessary changes when needs be.

The great thing about using this is not just the ease of use, but the fact that it is incredibly easy to share. 

personal trainer marketing research

You can create a short link when you have completed inputting all of your questions and the link can be posted to your social media pages. 

The end user only needs a link to submit their answers, then you can find all of your results in organised pie charts and percentages, under the responses tab.

personal trainer market research for a gym

It is very simple to use, and you can add questions that are either yes or no, or that require a written response. 

This market research tool would be beneficial for goals that intend on finding out the persona behind the people who are genuinely interested in your business / service.

For example, if you wanted to put together a demographic of your most active audience, this would be a great place to do that. 

Whoever is willing to fill out your survey is going to be interested in your business in some capacity, so if you ask demographic based questions like gender, age etc you could begin piecing together a buyer persona.


Expand The Services of Your PT Business!

Combine health & fitness knowledge with our Level 4 Sports Nutrition Course to help clients see muc hquicker results!

#2 - Feedback Forms 

gym marketing for PTS

Feedback forms are a useful way of assessing where your business is already at and in turn, improve it.

Feedback forms can only be done once you have a client base, so if you’re only just starting out your fitness business then you ought to use a different marketing research tool that is more fitting. 

Nonetheless, gym instructor market research, or any business for that matter, doesn’t stop - it is something that you will have to stay consistent with while running a business due to the ever changing modernisation of marketing. 

So, if you are somebody who feels like their fitness business needs a refresh, then market research is going to help you - particularly feedback forms from current customers.

why market research as a personal trainer

This is when you will have to take action in the field. For example, if you’re a personal trainer in the gym or your own gym, having feedback forms is incredibly effective in finding out what clients are enjoying or think could need improvement.

This can be as easy as printing out some leaflets to hand out after your class, and politely asking how constructive feedback could be extremely valuable for you and the improvement of your service. 

You should remind clients of yours that they can write their feedback completely anonymously, so they can be as honest as possible with their review. 

All you need to do is print out some forms and you can even brand them using free templates on Canva - you can see below just a handful of examples of feedback forms that you can use to base yours around. 

personal training marketing tips

What’s good about creating these yourself if you can be specific to your business. For example, you could ask if they would prefer a Les Mills instructor-led class over their regular boxercise class that they come to weekly. 

Plus, you can change the questions over time. 

If you feel like you have made changes according to useful feedback - to further progress, change the questions and have feedback forms consistently present for people to fill out and then you can digitise the results, perhaps into a spreadsheet, and view your progress. 

It is a great way of getting honest feedback from people who are already using your service.

#3 - Competitor Analysis & Research

personal trainer market research

In the fitness industry, you’re always going to have competitors. There is always going to be business doing worse and better than you so use this to your advantage, avoid what's being done badly and take on board what is being done well. 

This is one of the personal training market research methods that is cost free, yet it takes brain power to understand how you can use other businesses' successions to your advantage. 

Competitor analysis and research is essentially you researching the competitors in your industry and taking note of which marketing strategies the successful business are using.

This gives you a reference point to compare your business to theirs and see where your business is lacking.

There is a reason that you see personal trainer marketing strategies recycled across businesses of any kind - fitness industry included of course and that is because they work!

personal trainer market research techniques

This marketing research tool is for new and existing personal trainers alike, it can be a way to kick off your business in the right direction whilst also being a way to progress and improve your fitness business. 

Competitor analysis is a great way to not only spot your strengths and weaknesses as a business, but also to spot any trends in the industry that could help you become more relevant. 

Plus, when it comes to implementation, if you’re busy you can use particular softwares that can help you get to the bottom of your research.

For example, Wappalyzer is a site that can help you with every step of market research, more importantly, they can help you specifically with competitor analysis.

personal trainer market research

This, like other similar services, requires a subscription which can be quite the investment.

Wappalyzer’s most popular subscription is the ‘Team’ option which is $249 a month - so, this is software you’re going to want to get if you’re ready to make investments into your market research and have the financial ability to do so.

Regardless of having investment into personal training market research or not, you can still conduct competitor research and analysis manually - it just takes a little more time and dedication.

You can find out the top performing websites for your area and research all of the marketing tools that are making them the best in your area. For example, if you’re a personal trainer in Liverpool, take a look at the first organic results that come up on Google.

Analyse their marketing techniques and implement the ones that clearly seem to be working, you can at least try them and see how the results reflect on your business.

#4 - Social Media Listening 

personal trainer marketing research

As a smaller business, you have likely taken advantage of the wonders of free marketing on personal trainer social media channels.

If you haven't, now is the time. Nonetheless, for businesses who have established a popular business account, you can start the process of social listening as one of your tactics for PT market research. 


Expand The Services of Your PT Business!

Combine health & fitness knowledge with our Level 4 Sports Nutrition Course to help clients see muc hquicker results!

Social media listening is the tracking of social media platforms for any sort of conversation or mention of your business. With any results, you should act on it by analysing such and looking for opportunities to act and progress your business.

The good thing about social media listening is that no matter your brand size, as long as you have some level of awareness on any platform you can act on it.

market research for pt

The important thing to remember is that there doesn't have to be any major changes made, though it can be if necessary, taking action could be as little as a response to a good review. 

The listening aspect is not to be confused with social media monitoring which is related to metrics. Social media listening is all about the mood behind the post. 

For example, if you’re looking at the metrics behind your post it may look all round positive, with high engagement levels, shares and comments. Yet, the metrics of a post don't show you the energy behind these numbers. 

This is when social media listening comes into play, as you can see what marketing materials are inducing a positive response for your brand and business. Take a look at our insights below for a post. 

personal trainer market research methods

As you can see, there is, in this case, positive listening results in terms of comments and feedback which correlates with the positive engagement. This example shows how social media listening can be valuable when it comes to market research. 

If this is a post that is being received well and improving your overall brand image, you’re going to want to keep this sort of thing up. 

However, there is always room for improvement, so take something from your metrics for example, since this was a positively received post, yet 24% of accounts weren't followers, your next goal could be to reduce that number and have more reached accounts as followers.

#5 - SWOT Analysis

personal trainer market research

SWOT analyses are used throughout many industries as a mechanism of self reflection in order to overcome and improve the business as a whole. 

What is useful about this, is that it doesn’t matter how big or small your business is, you can still use this as useful marketing research.

SWOT stands for:

  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses
  • Opportunities 
  • Threats

So how can this benefit you as a personal trainer and business owner?

Identifying your own strengths and weaknesses is the best way to improve. For example, if you know that one particular marketing technique is doing well, and it is your strength, you ought to keep doing it! 

Similarly, if after your SWOT analysis you come to the conclusion that certain marketing strategies are leaving you at a deficit, it is time to change them up.

Opportunities and threats are just like we spoke about earlier when it comes to competitor analysis. You should always be looking at who is doing better and worse than you so that you can consistently keep on top of changes and advancements in your sector.

Conducting a SWOT analysis can be extremely beneficial for you, so we’ve put together an extensive guide on producing a personal trainer SWOT analysis here.

Before You Go!

Now your PT market research is complete and in place, you can start to work on making necessary changes or improvements to your company.

But before you leave us, one of the best ways to improve your service is with specialisms. With our Level 4 Sports Nutrition Course, you can develop nutrition knowledge and combine this with workout programmes to help clients see quicker results.

For plenty of other courses that will make you among the best in the business, browse through our extensive course prospectus here.

Written by Kimberley Mitchell


Having gained a B.A Hons degree in Media, Culture and Communications, Kimberley has gained experience in areas of web journalism, website production and marketing.

Alongside this, Kim expanded her knowledge and passion for fitness, by becoming a fully qualified fitness instructuor and personal trainer. Kim has also gained specialist qualifications in yoga, nutriton, spin and many more.

After working in the industry as a PT, Kimberley went on to study an MA in Digital Marketing and continues to expand her knowledge in the industry. Her main focus is to keep up with current trends and communications with a focus around health & fitness, writing and being creative.

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