Identifying Your Target Market in Health Coaching

What is a target market? In the context of building a health-coaching practice, it is the demographics of the group—both businesses and individuals—you are most drawn to serve. This is distinct from your “niche,” a term that is commonly and erroneously interchanged with “target market” in publications and discussions on the topic, but actually represents the services you specialize in delivering, as opposed to the market to which you will deliver them.  

While many health coaches are employed directly by individuals seeking to improve their health, many doctors’ offices and hospitals have begun hiring health coaches to help their patients implement the lifestyle and behavior changes they recommend. 

Health coaches are also now in demand from insurance companies interested in cutting their costs. These companies recognize that when people make better lifestyle choices, such as improving their eating patterns, becoming more physically active, and reducing or eliminating risky behaviors such as drinking and smoking, they tend to experience fewer health problems and recover more quickly (and at a lower cost) when health issues do arise. 

Workplace wellness programs are also on the rise, and for many of the same reasons. Healthy employees cost less to insure, take fewer sick days and are less likely to require disability leave. 

A common misstep when beginning a health-coaching business is to look at all the opportunities, as described above, and attempt to offer services to all types of businesses and clients. Unfortunately, when we focus on everything, we end up focusing on nothing in particular. Narrowing your focus as you get started will help you hone your skills, develop expertise and know where to show up to market what you have to offer. As your business grows, you can expand your target market or stay within your target market and offer new services. 

Here are four steps to help you understand and define your target market: 

Step 1: Identify your target market

That is, name the specific group or type of people or businesses you will serve. Try to focus on what you feel passionate about, rather than what you think “makes sense” or will be most lucrative. Also, try to narrow down your target market rather than broaden it. This may seem counterintuitive at first, but it’s absolutely necessary for long-term success. Be sure to consider your strengths and weaknesses, markets where you already have clients and markets about which you already have a lot of knowledge or interest.  

Step 2: Understand the needs and desires of your target market

These are the things that will drive potential customers to seek out your services. The difference between needs and desires is that needs are urgent, pressing problems (e.g., to make nutrition changes to prevent their prediabetes from progressing to diabetes), while desires are things they want in the future and would like to move toward (e.g., to improve their golf game by improving flexibility and finding more time to practice).  

Step 3: Determine the number one result you can help your clients achieve

In many cases, this will be a big problem they want to solve or a big goal they want to reach. For example, a company with 100 employees may have a number of reasons for establishing a workplace wellness program, such as increasing camaraderie and morale or helping their employees achieve better health, but the number one, bottom-line reason for hiring a health coach is likely to reduce absenteeism and healthcare costs. And those are measurable results that you can provide. 

Step 4: Demonstrate the benefits of working with you

Potential clients must be able to see your products and services as opportunities for them to achieve success and receive a return on their investment. Otherwise, why would they do it? Those returns may be financial, physical, emotional or even spiritual, but you must be able to demonstrate that you can provide those returns. At the end of the day, you have to know what your clients want—and then deliver it. 

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