If you want to work for yourself, you’re going to need at least one niche market to feed your business. You don’t need to be an expert in a particular modality. And it doesn’t have to cost you any money. I’ll explain how I did it, but first let’s talk about niche markets.You don't need to specialize in a modality to have a niche market. Click To Tweet
By niche market I mean a group of potential customers who have specific characteristics and a common need. Anybody who wants a relaxation massage is not a niche market. But moms with kids, ranging from 1 to 12 years old, who want a relaxation massage but can’t find the time to drive to an office is a niche market.
But I’m Not Special
When I was out of massage school 25 years ago, I freaked out. Besides feeling like a fraud, I couldn’t possibly imagine that I could make a living without having a specialty. But the truth was, I could. I just needed to find a niche market.
Here’s how I found my first niche market.
The first couple years of my massage career, I cut my teeth in chiropractors’ offices. One office was in a fitness center. When I worked on clients, I liked focusing on tight spots and problem areas. Personal trainers and yoga instructors noticed this and started sending me clients.
As I worked on their clients, I realized that many of them wanted some TLC (relaxation massage), too. So I started to blend focus work with relaxation massage.
Before I knew it, I had a niche market. It was 50+ males/females who were committed to improving their fitness and worked with a fitness professional.
Soon after, I became certified in neuromuscular therapy (NMT) and started my massage practice. For a while, I thought my practice was primarily made up of clients who had acute injuries, like biceps tendonitis.
Eventually, it became clear to me that the majority of my clients were chronic pain sufferers. Specifically, they were 55+ males/females with chronic pain, who had discretionary income and lived within 10 miles from my office.
In Search of Referral Sources
I discovered my latest niche market by accident. Recently, I wanted to build more referral sources for our new office so I contacted physical therapists, chiropractors, personal trainers and a running store to set up demo massages.
I wasn’t able to set up anything with a PT, but the chiropractor, personal training studio and running store panned out. After I did demo massages at each place, the referrals started coming in. But one referral source really took off—the running store.
A Niche Market Found Me
After the first demo massage at the running store, Mary came to see me. The manager of the running store was here running coach. They both were happy with the massage.
Two weeks later I went back to do another demo massage. This time I worked on a store employee/runner who had a calf issue. After her demo massage, I showed her a self-massage technique.
Since other runners were dealing with calf issues, I decided to shoot a quick video of me doing self-massage on my calf. I posted it on our Facebook page (here it is) and I let the running store manager know. They loved it!
Then, Serena, a runner who I met at my first demo, came to my office for a massage. She had a hammy issue and was training for a marathon. Fortunately, I was able to help her and she posted good things about me on their Runners’ Group Facebook page. And that’s when the appointments really started to come in.
In essence, my niche market defined itself for me. It was male and female runners, 30+ years old, who were training for a running event.
Find Your Niche
When you’re trying to find a niche, don’t over-think it. Here’s what I would suggest doing:
- Identify what type of massage you like doing.
For example, are you good at relaxation, infant, lymphatic, pain-relief, ______ massage?
- Identify at least 3 local businesses that are a good fit with the type of massage you do.
Keep an open mind when you’re making your list. I could have talked myself out of approaching a running store because I’m not a runner. Glad I didn’t!
- Connect with 3 businesses that could refer clients to you.
Nothing builds relationships better than getting someone on the table. That’s why demo massages are my number one way to connect with other businesses. In How to Grow Your Business with Zero $, I explain how to set up demo massages.
At some point, one of your referral sources is going to out pace the others. What are the demographics of the referrals you get from this all-star referral source?
These customers are your niche market.
- Work your niche.
It can feel scary to narrow your focus because it will seem like you may be missing out on a lot of other customers. But all those other customers will be hard to reach unless you do some heavy-duty advertising. Conversely, in a niche market setting you only need to make a few people happy for your name to spread quickly.
Here’s how I’m working my runners niche market in the next 30 days:
- Event: do demo massages at the next local running race.
- Business/group: offer demo massages to a local podiatrist who specializes in runners’ injuries.
- Information: create a page on our website dedicated to runners’ issues.
- Advertise: create more self-massage videos for runners and post them on our Facebook page. Pay for targeted Facebook ads.
Get Your Niche On
A niche market can start and sustain a massage business. You find a niche market by first figuring out what type of massage you like doing. Next, identify and connect with businesses that are a good fit with your massage.
Which of these businesses becomes your number one referral source? The people coming to you from that business is your niche market. Now work that niche market. If you don’t have money for advertising, think about how you can provide information that could help out potential customers in your niche market.