The Need to Niche: Why Rob Connors Turns Some Prospective Clients Away

Picture of Rob Connors with title text reading : "The Need to Niche: Why Rob Connors Turns Some Prospective Clients Away."

Andrew (00:02):

Welcome to Two-Brain Radio with your host, Chris Cooper. Rob Connors of Signum Fitness and Nutrition automatically refers prospect clients to other businesses. That might blow the minds of desperate gym owners, but Rob has his market dialed in and he knows exactly who he wants to serve. In this conversation joined in progress, Chris is talking to Rob about building a niche audience. Rob explains who he turns away and why, who he actually wants to train and exactly how he’s working to dominate a niche. Here’s Two-Brain Business founder Chris Cooper with Rob Connors.

Chris (00:33):

A lot of gym owners think that they’re a good coach if they can hold the attention of a group, but what really makes a great coach is providing one-on-one attention to each person in the group as an individual instead. And so when we extrapolate that into marketing or getting new clients, is it better to go broad and kind of, you know, try to appeal to everyone? Or is it better to go narrow, you know, clearly identify a niche and then try and dominate that niche?

Rob (01:02):

Yeah. So, I was a finance major, not a marketing. I only learned marketing in the last three years cause I was forced to, but I forget who said it, Zig Ziglar or one of these other gurus is that when you, you know, market to everyone, you market to no one. Right. And we learned that firsthand in our just personal training model. We do not market to CrossFitters. I am like a traitor to my own race, I guess you’d say. It’s to a point where when a CrossFitter inquires about my gym, I automatically refer them to other gyms around me because I know it’s just not what they’re—yes, we do constantly varied functional movements and eat real whole foods in proper proportions. But number one, the price point is just so much different.

Rob (01:55):

Number two, we don’t offer the group environment and they’re not our target audience that we’re looking for. Right? Our target audience feels uncomfortable in a group environment. OK. They want to feel stronger. They want to feel more comfortable in their skin. They want to have some personal accountability. They don’t want to be in the top 10% of the open this year. They don’t want to learn how to butterfly their pull-ups. They don’t want the new latest Rogue GHD machine. They don’t want open gym. So that’s what, if you go to our website, it looks nothing like and speaks nothing like a CrossFit gym. So getting back to that, that’s where I sort of learned it. And that’s where we focus on. And even when you look at that, like if we were get even deeper into that, we tend to have an older clientele as well.

Rob (02:59):

So we talk to a lot of those problems that they face, right? Women, when they get a little bit older in life metabolism sort of slows down, need to stay stronger for your grandkids. And the importance of protein consumption for that. So, whereas, you know, we’re not talking about, I don’t know, macro cycles within a competition phase, if you want to call it that. So sometimes you gotta go with where your market is taking you and listening. Right? So we went to the PT route and then we realized our seed clients, this is where they fall in the demographics and income ranges. And then that’s where our message sorta went to. Whereas four years ago, I probably would’ve told you, we’d be talking to CrossFit competitors, you know, or something like that. And so getting back to that is, that’s how I learned that lesson and with some of our new stuff, right? Our online personal training and some of our digital products, we are even niching down to exactly, you know, the avatar and the person that we want to help out there and somewhat turning away the others.

Chris (04:17):

So, I mean, we could go deep in that, Rob, I mean, twice in this conversation, you’ve mentioned major business pivots you’ve made after you consulted with your seed clients, your best clients, and decided to follow their lead. But let’s go into this niching down even further. So golf is, you know, the niche that we’re really talking about here. Right? Tell us about that.

Rob (04:41):

Yeah, sure. So it was, I wanna say back in, well, even before then, some of my seed clients, in fact, three of them were very avid golfers. Go to Bandon Dunes, go to Myrtle beach. They went to the Ryder Cup a couple years ago. And I was a golfer back in the day, just got back into it two years ago to give me something to do outside of gym stuff. Absolutely loved it. In fact, I found CrossFit as a training program for golf and when I got back into it, I noticed I was hitting the ball so much further on my old equipment. It was like, OK, there’s something to something here to it. You know, and what had happened is my buddy Josh Musken, and he runs an Ironman training plan program. And Josh is actually in the digital marketing world and talking to Josh, he sorta told me, quote, unquote, how to do it.

Rob (05:50):

And he applies a little bit of CrossFit to the Ironman training world. And so I was looking out there and there’s not really too many, at least when you do Google searches, too many great training guides for golfers, there’s a lot of free stuff, but with free you get, you know, lower value. So I decided, Hey, I can do what Josh is doing. And with what he’s taught me, it’s taken a lot of work, but some of my golf stuff has started to rank. And when you look at that, I know this is a long explanation, Chris, but again, sort of getting back to that PT versus group conversation. I don’t talk to the golf community like I do my personal training clients or I would CrossFitters. I take what I believe are the most effective movements within the gym. I leave out maybe some complex things like ring muscle-ups or, you know, squat snatches, but I talk to them in their language.

Rob (06:50):

I say, you know, we’re going to increase your ball, speed, your swing speed. This is going to up your smash factor. You’re going to be hitting the mid irons, not the long irons into the par threes. You’re going to hit more, you know, par fives in two. You got to get in their head and in their language. One of the best ways to do that, actually, Chris, is I read a lot of Amazon reviews on golf strength and conditioning books.

Chris (07:18):

Really smart, really smart. There’s a good takeaway right there.

Rob (07:21):

Yeah. So, and that’s where you’ll get some of the language that your potential clients are using. And just using that in your, I guess, quote unquote ad copy.

Chris (07:31):

So you say there’s a lot of upfront work, but obviously it scales better in the long run. So give us an idea of like what you mean by that.

Rob (07:41):

All right. So, I would basically, and I still do. I get up at 430 in the morning. I usually hit up Chris in a message what’s up, man, you up?

Chris (07:53):

It’s you and I on the Eastern seaboard buddy.

Rob (07:59):

And so I just start writing and until my kids get up or at about six and that’s been my dedicated time since last October. So we’re talking about five months now and only this past February have I started to see some monetary recognition of it. So it was just constant getting up, producing some quality content that’s better than what I see out there in the Google world and just continuing to get after it. And it’s not just the blog posts, now I’m getting into some YouTube stuff, but I also write guest posts for a lot of other gyms’ websites too. Cause in the SEO world, those back links help. So it’s a lot of work. I’ve done some of these calls, people ask, Oh, how’d you do this? I’m thinking about this. And I’m like, we’ll be prepared to put in this much work. Cause that’s what it takes.

Chris (08:59):

Yeah. You’re smarter than me and more efficient. I mean, I had three and a half years of blogging every single day before I had a business client, you know? So give us an example of how the golf program works, just so that people can like visualize it.

Rob (09:15):

OK, sure. So let’s just think about if you go to—everyone to open up like Google right now. And if you were to, you want to get in shape for golf, right? So what are you going to type in there? You’re going to type something like golf fitness, golf, workout plan, golf workout program. And those terms get a lot of searches a month, which also means they’re very competitive to be on page one of Google. OK. And why are we only talking about Google? Because they’re about 95% of the search market. They are a monopoly. And the second largest search engine is YouTube and guess who owns it? And so it’s very, very hard to rank for that sort of term, right? So what you have to do is you have to start on a less competitive term. So, how I started is I did sort of what the say keyword research and less competitive term is something like core strengthening exercises for golfers and in the SEO world, they’ll call that a long tail keyword, right?

Rob (10:29):

So if you actually Google that right now, core strengthening exercises for golfers, you’ll find that my post ranks number one. And if you look at it’s very, very expansive. And on top of that, I also give some free value there where you have the option to download the entire thing for free. So, through a lot of like just hard work and also guest posting on other people’s sites, linking back to that, I’ve gotten that post to rank number one, and I did the same for a thing on hip stretches. I’ve done the same thing for back exercises. And so what does that mean is that after those less competitive ones start to rank, then my more competitive one of golf workout program will start to rank. And I think it’s at around, depending on what day of the week you look at it, it’s anywhere from ranks three to five there. So it’s a lot of work of you’re building the foundation in those less competitive, gotta lay a lot of bricks there before the top of the pyramid, but from the outside world, most people see only the top of the pyramid or the top of the iceberg.

Chris (11:42):

So I mean, we’re talking about like Google search and SEO and stuff, but this is actually a lesson that applies to every single audience for every single business. Right. It’s talk to the people about what they want. And that starts by knowing exactly what niche you’re trying to attract. So back to your gym here, Rob, to bring this full circle, when you’re talking about your gym and you’re building an audience for your gym, what are you talking about? What are you saying?

Rob (12:08):

So when it actually comes to as far as our gym, what are we saying is we talk a lot about nutrition. OK. And as when it comes to nutrition, it’s less so as the competitive or athletic benefits from it, and it’s more about how it’s going to help—and my wife heads up the nutrition team, it’s more about, you know, how is your nutrition just going to make you feel better and help you boost your metabolism? Especially if you’re like later in life or, you know, muscle loss and loss of bone density is common as you age. So here’s why adding some protein to your diet is beneficial to that. And so that’s where a lot of our content tends to go. At our gym, we tend to have more of a female demographic. So we talk about how proper nutrition also helps more with hormone imbalances. Right. So that’s where a lot of our content tends to go. And we also show an older demographic in a lot of our social media content as well.

Chris (13:30):

That’s interesting. So do you think like one of the big problems that the gyms have is they’re just not a hundred percent sure who their audience is, so they don’t know what to talk about or are they talking about the wrong audience?

Rob (13:44):

No. I think most gym owners know their clients and who they are pretty darn well, I don’t think, at least the ones I’ve met, are completely oblivious to who their clients are. I think it’s just time and sitting down with their clients and really having a thoughtful conversation with them outside of the gym. Right. Really listening to their problems. We all say, Oh, I got to do my seed client interviews. I got to do my pumpkin planning, but we just get caught up and maybe want to go run a Facebook ad or something like that. But I think most people or most business owners know pretty darn well, like what their problems are. They just need to create a little bit more time to get more in depth with them.

Chris (14:32):

I mean, certainly when my entire job was running my gym, I made the mistake of thinking that people like me were my best audience and that was completely backward. I thought powerlifters, people who had found CrossFit and they were passionate about it were going to be my best clients. And, you know, a couple of years later, I wound up trying to clean those people out of the gym because they were not my best clients. In fact, they were my worst clients. And so the last thing I want to ask you about Rob, just cause you made me super curious about this is like you said that you’re starting to turn away people who aren’t necessarily, you know, fitting in that niche. What do you mean by that?

Rob (15:11):

I mean, it’s literally what I say. I mean, I’m not rude about it. But I’ll get an inbound email or a phone call or sometimes even a no sweat. Rarely anymore gets to a no sweat, but an inbound email, Hey, I didn’t see your class schedule on your website. Just wondering what are your rates? What classes do you have available? And do you have open gym? I mean, that’s common and I just say, Oh yeah, you didn’t see a class schedule because we only provide personal training. So we’re by appointment only. We no longer have open gym. If you are looking to that, I know of two great gyms in the area, gym A, gym B, would you like me to make an introduction for you?

Chris (16:01):


Rob (16:01):

Yeah. I mean, that’s pretty much it because I used to do before in our early days, I’ll just do no sweats or free intros for just anyone I could just trying to get business, but I have not signed up any CrossFitters with maybe over two months experience.

Chris (16:23):

I love it. Yeah. And your costs are under control. You have time to golf obviously, and you have a plan to scale. That’s amazing, man. Congratulations. I don’t know anybody who deserves to be more successful than you, and I’m glad it’s working for you.

Rob (16:39):

Thanks Chris. All because you made me do it, my man.

Andrew (16:45):

This has been Two-Brain Radio. You don’t have to figure it out on your own. For a huge collection of free guides by Chris Cooper, visit and click free tools at the top. And please remember to subscribe for more great episodes. Chris Cooper will be back next week.

Thanks for listening!

Thanks for listening! Run a Profitable Gym airs twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays. Be sure to subscribe for tips, tactics and insight from Chris Coooper, as well as interviews with the world’s top gym owners.

To share your thoughts:

To help out the show:

  • Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help, and we read each one.
  • Subscribe on iTunes.

One more thing!

Did you know gym owners can earn $100,000 a year with no more than 150 clients? We wrote a guide showing you exactly how.