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Never Lose a Client Again: The 5 Pillars of Retention

A picture of a smiling gym patron and the title "Client Retention Mastery: The 5 Pillars of Retention."

Mike Warkentin (00:02):
Hey Coop, if I wanted to improve just about every metric in my business, from average revenue per member to length of engagement, what would I focus on today?

Chris Cooper (00:11):
Retention.

Mike Warkentin (00:12):
Just that?

Chris Cooper (00:13):
That’s what I’d focus on first.

Mike Warkentin (00:15):
Alright guys, you heard it here first from Chris. We are going to focus on retention today and tell you what it means, how you can improve it, what actually matters. We’re going to give you some actual steps you can take today to improve retention in your business measurably, along with a host of other metrics. This is “Run a Profitable Gym,” I am Mike Warkentin, and please hit subscribe before you go further. With me today, as always, is Chris Cooper, Two-Brain founder and CEO. We’re going to get right into retention. So, Chris, start by telling me what is retention here? What’s churn, LEG—like, what are we actually measuring, and why does it matter?

Chris Cooper (00:45):
Yeah, well let’s start with why it matters. You know, every gym owner that I talk to says, “I want more clients,” and they think that they have a marketing problem, but they actually have a retention problem. And that’s the problem that we want to solve. Like, you can get people in your door, but if they’re quickly leaving again, then you get in this never-ending marketing flywheel. And a lot of experts are out there, and they’re telling you, “You need to do this. You need to have a mapped client journey,” and blah, blah, blah. But the reality is there’s a lot of advice out there to do things that don’t actually matter to people. And to get to what really matters to people, you have to understand psychology, you have to understand how the brain actually works, you have to understand connection and community, but more than anything, you have to understand the data. And so, there are great ideas out there; we’re going to give these clients badges and great initiatives—they do take time, they take money and maybe they matter, but maybe they don’t. And so today, we’re going to talk about things that are proven to matter and backed by data to actually improve the length of time that a client is with you.

Mike Warkentin (01:49):
Look, I can confirm exactly what you’re saying. I just last week talked to one of our top gym owners: 512 clients at a CrossFit Gym in Denmark. And I asked him, “How did you do this?” He said, “Retention.” How was it? It was retention, and he’s got a marketing plan, but he said retention first laid out his exact plan. So, what you’re saying is backed by data and real-world stuff that we’re getting from ground zero at gyms.

Chris Cooper (02:09):
Yeah, and I mean, I’ve had my gym for 20 years, and if I count all the number of clients who’ve been through my doors, it’s close to 3,000. So, why don’t I have 300 or 200 clients even right now? Well, it’s not a marketing problem, it’s if I had kept this person just a little bit longer. Now you’re never going to keep everybody forever. And that’s why we want to look at how long you keep people instead of your churn rate. So maybe we can just talk about those terms first, Mike.

Mike Warkentin (02:39):
Yeah, like what is churn, and why are we kind of not prioritizing that and looking at length of engagement instead?

Chris Cooper (02:45):
Yeah, I mean churn is the percentage of your clientele who leave every month. OK so, that’s like if you have 100 clients and three leave, then you have a churn rate of 3%. And the people who popularize churn rates are really software companies. And if you’re a software company, churn rate is a valid metric because all your clients are faceless. Like you don’t know them, right? And so, you want to know how many people are quitting every month so that you know how many people you have to add every month. In a remote way, that’s kind of valid for a gym, but that’s not the primary metric that you want to track. What you actually want to track is how long people are staying. And the main reason is you want to know that they’re staying long enough that you can change their lives.

Chris Cooper (03:25):
If somebody’s with you for seven months, you’re not changing their life. We know that it takes at least two years to build a sustainable habit. And if you’re listening to this and you’re a gym owner, I just want you to think for a minute. Like the people who were with your gym for two years and then left, did they quit your gym, or did they quit fitness altogether? I think in my gym—maybe in yours too, Mike, you can tell me if I’m wrong here, by all means—but if they’ve been with me for two years and then they quit, it’s probably because they’re going to go do something else. Like in my gym, a lot of people go ride bikes, maybe they start running, maybe they do triathlons, maybe they move to—they want to do weightlifting, right? But they don’t quit fitness. And that’s my goal. Like the mission is to get people fit. If they want to go do that at another gym, it’s still mission accomplished. But the people who come to my gym and they leave after like three months, they quit fitness. It’s like they haven’t built that fitness habit. So, the first reason that we’re tracking LEG is we want to know that we’re actually changing people’s lives here.

Mike Warkentin (04:22):
Yeah. One of the things that I don’t really like about churn is it doesn’t really give you a sense of who’s leaving. It’s like people are leaving, but who are they? Right? So like if five—if I have like 5% churn and I’ve got 10 people left, I got 200 members or something like that, and those 10 people were all 18-month members, that’s really different than if they were all three-month members or one-month members. You know, that’s a whole different story because if you’ve got people leaving at that later stage, after two years, yeah, they might be moving, life changes, they got married, moved to another city, whatever, or even moving on to like doing triathlons. But if it’s those people that are leaving in the first three months, you probably have a client journey problem. They might quit fitness altogether, and they’re probably unhappy, and you probably could have solved those problems.

Mike Warkentin (05:01):
So, I think length of engagement gives you a whole lot more insight into who’s leaving, when and why, and allows you to put a client journey in place that says, “OK, we know the first 30 days, first 90 days are critical. If we get them to this point, they’re probably going to get to this point. If they get to this point, they’re going to get to this point,” and so on. And you can build an entire business on that and reduce marketing problems by having that client journey. Whereas churn is just like, “People are leaving. I need more people.”

Chris Cooper (05:22):
Yeah, I think that you just led us into the second point, Mike, which is you need different retention strategies depending on where the client is in that journey with your gym. Like the thing that’s going to help you retain the member at the two-year mark is not necessarily the thing that’s going to help you retain that member at the two-week mark. You need different strategies almost at each phase. And so, in Two-Brain, we map out the client journey step by step with, “Here is exactly what you need to do on day two. Here’s exactly what you need to do on day 270.” And we’re going to share some of those with you, I know, today.

Mike Warkentin (5:56):
Yeah. What actually matters?

Chris Cooper (5:57):
Yeah, exactly. Like, what is proven to matter? Does having the “100 Workout Club,” the “1,000 Workout Club,” does that matter? Maybe, but we don’t know. And so, it’s not going to be the first thing that we’re going to tell you to do. Instead, we’re going to say like, “We know this works; let’s do that first.”

Mike Warkentin (06:13):
Alright, let’s get into it, and let’s talk about what actually matters and what the data says. And again, I’ll give you an example. Like, I started putting in an automation in my system: You made 100 workouts or whatever it was. And inevitably what happened is it started going out to the wrong people for whatever reason because the tracking system didn’t work. And people were like, “Haha, that’s super funny, but I’ve been here for five years,” and I’m like, “This is embarrassing for everyone.” And it probably made more retention work, right? So, it’s these things that, like, they kind of mean something, but they kind of don’t. But if we look at the data, we know that those things—we can do some of those things, but we’re better to start off with these five or eight, whatever, things that we know actually get results. So, let’s dig in.

Chris Cooper (06:49):
Yeah, man. So, these are the five things that we can prove get results. And again, we’re drawing from data from over 15,000 gyms. And if you say like, “Ah, there’s an average of 100 people at each one of those gyms,” which is a low count, we’re really looking at data from about 150,000 clients worldwide.

Mike Warkentin (07:05):
Yeah. And that’s low for sure.

Chris Cooper (07:06):
Yeah, exactly. Like it, it’s probably 150ish. So, you’re looking at closer to a quarter of a million clients worldwide in our dataset. These are the things that people give as reasons and how we overcome them. OK? So, there’s five things that we can do to actually improve the length of time that people spend with us. The first is results: seems obvious, but we’re going to dig into that a little bit more. It’s not enough to just get them some results. You have to get them the results that they want. Second is fame: They have to actually feel like they’re important, that they’re seeing that they’re a part of what you’re doing and not just a face in the crowd. The third is compatibility: You’ve got to have good product market fit. We’re going to talk more about that in a moment.

Chris Cooper (07:50):
The fourth is consistency: Let’s face it, they have to show up, and we measure a secondary metric called adherence. And it’s not just “How often are they there?” that matters; it’s “What package did they buy, and how much, how well are they using that package?” And then fifth is referrals: Surprisingly, people who stay longer are also the most likely to refer. And that’s not just correlation, that’s causation. Like if I bring you to the gym, I’m going to stick around long enough to make sure that you’re getting the results that I told you would happen. OK, so results, fame, compatibility, consistency and referrals.

Mike Warkentin (08:25):
So results seems obvious to me, but I can tell you in practice it wasn’t because I thought people just showed up and wanted to do Fran just like I did. I didn’t actually ask them what they wanted to accomplish. And some of them wanted to lose weight, didn’t care how they did it, and I didn’t know that. So, talk to me about results and what we can actually do to make things better for people here.

Chris Cooper (08:41):
Well, the key, Mike, is like—and I copied your gym a lot. Like Mike’s got a pirate flag, I’m getting a pirate flag.

Mike Warkentin (8:49):
I still have it.

Chris Cooper (8:50):
Mine’s folded up somewhere, I’m sure. Because I thought that I was my own best customer. And so, what that means in my brain is like, “Everybody wants the results that I want.” So, a woman especially would come in, and she’d be very nervous about this kind of gym. And I remember one of my first clients when I opened my gym—her name’s Tiffany—she comes in: “I just want to tone up. What the eff is that?” And she’s looking at a power cage that has chains hanging from it because I was doing like the west-side accommodating resistance thing. And I’m like, “Don’t worry, you’ll use those next time.” She’s like, “The hell I will.” Gone.

Chris Cooper (09:26):
So what’s really important is that you ask the client what results they want to get and then you track their progress toward those results and then you show them that they’re getting those results. So, I think everybody listening to this, watching this, you’ve had this instance where this client is doing amazing: They’ve been with you for five or six months, they’re down 20 pounds, they’ve got lots of energy—they quit, and you’re like, “What? You’re killing it. You’re getting these results,” and they don’t see it because they’re inside the problem. So not only do you have to get them the results that they care about—might not be their deadlift—so you have to know what they want. You have to prove that you’re getting those results, so you have to talk to them every quarter, measure their progress, but then you actually have to say to them, “You are getting good results,” and celebrate that in front of other people. And if you don’t do that, they’re not just going to naturally realize how well they’re doing. And that was a big misunderstanding that I had when I started.

Mike Warkentin (10:22):
Yeah, and you really can’t improve this without an intake interview, like a free consultation where you find out goals, a prescription—the prescriptive model where you tell them, “Here’s how we solve your problems.” And then a 90-day goal review session where you say, “Here’s the problem we laid out. Here’s the path we took. Here’s where we are. Are you happy?” “Yes, let’s keep going.” “Are you not? We’ll make an adjustment and go further.” If you don’t have that system in place, it doesn’t work. And again, the gym that I spoke to with 512 members: goal review sessions, that’s what he focused on. He gave his CSM hard targets: 15 additional goal review sessions every single month. He’s got something like 200 booked or something like that every month now or whatever it is. And he says that this is the absolute key to growing his gym because he’s retaining members, and he’s selling more in those sessions. So, I don’t think you can do it without that stuff.

Chris Cooper (11:04):
Yeah. And I think a lot of people are scared to do a goal review because I can remember when I was a new trainer, I would be terrified that a client would ask for a body fat calculation or they’d ask to get on the scale because it’s like, “Oh, what if we’re not getting results?” But the reality is it’s better that you discover that the client’s not getting results and then say, “Here’s what we’re going to change,” than for the client to uncover that on their own and be like, “This isn’t working.” You know, Brian Bott once told me that the best prescription for a client is always the next prescription because you’re just going to keep making a tighter and tighter prescription for them over time. And so, if after the three months, you call a client in for a goal review, they get on the InBody, they haven’t made progress, they’re going to look to you to say, “What do I do?” If you don’t call them in and they get on a scale at their mom’s house, and they haven’t made progress, they’re going to be like, “I’m embarrassed. This isn’t working. I’m wasting money and time. I’m gone.”

Mike Warkentin (11:58):
Yeah. And that buys you extra time, right? Each prescription buys you extra time. And like exactly what you said, if they just pull the ripcord in three months, nobody’s talked to them, they’re gone. But if you talk to them at three months, you can then fix something, buy another three months and maybe you get it right at that point, and at least you’re holding them a little bit longer. That’s good for your business, but it’s also going to get them close to that point where exercise becomes a part of their life, and it’s better for them.

Chris Cooper (12:18):
Yeah. I mean, think about going to the doctor, right? And the doctor says, “You’ve got high cholesterol, and we’re going to try Lipitor. Let’s book again. In two months, you’re going to come back, we’re going to measure your bloodborne cholesterol again and see if it’s doing any better.” Well, you go back in two months, and your cholesterol is not better, and the doctor’s like, “OK, Lipitor is not the answer. We’re going to try this next thing.” You’re actually way more likely to stay with that doctor because you’ve been through step one than to go start all over again with somebody else. And that’s how you actually build trust.

Mike Warkentin (12:49):
Makes sense. So, retention—or pardon me, results is going to be your first thing to focus on. What’s next? What else we got?

Chris Cooper (12:55):
Fame. So surprisingly people want to feel like they are important to the community, not just part of the community. And this is a difficult one to measure, but what you want to do is make everybody famous to everybody else in your gym. So yesterday, man, or Wednesday, I walked into my semi-private session. I was the last one to arrive as usual. You know, the three women who were also in my semi-private group, they were already there working out. And first, Kelsey’s like, “Chris, what’s up?” And I’m like, “Kelsey, you haven’t had your baby yet.” And then Lauren is like, “What’s going on, Chris? Glad you’re here. I’ve got so many frigging planks, and you need to tell me jokes while I’m doing it.” And then, Natasha’s over in the corner, and she’s like, “Coop, what’s up? I heard you got deadlifts today.” Right?

Chris Cooper (13:39):
Like, you want to be famous within your tribe because if people know you and know things about you, you fit in; you’re part of it, right? So that’s really important is that you make your clients famous to all of your other clients. The only skill that I really ever had here was that I’m a classic over introducer. I can’t remember if I’ve already introduced you to Crystal or not, so I’m just going to do it again, right? And people make fun of me for it. But that’s how you make people famous. So, you want to do a couple things here, Mike, like number one, you want to get people to have a PR board in their gym. So, “Hey, Mike, you’ve never cleaned 205 pounds before. Amazing bro. Let’s go put that on the PR board and ring the bell and take your picture and put that in the private members’ group,” right? We’re doing that for you because it helps you feel famous among your peers.

Mike Warkentin (14:30):
From a media perspective, I like using social media for stuff like this where you collect the stuff; you collect videos and pictures and all this stuff, and then you just celebrate your members and make them superstars. And what inevitably happens—they like the post that you put up, which is good for you—but they also share that stuff. So, when you put up these videos of them doing incredible things or even just basic things that are incredible for a basic person, right? Like, I’m not talking about a 400-pound deadlift. I’m talking about someone who just deadlifted 100 pounds. They put that up, share with their friends. Their friends are like, “Maybe I could deadlift a hundred pounds,” and all of a sudden—and we’re going to get to referrals, but that’s where that piece comes in. So, these are these pillars that you’re laying out, they’re interlinked, like you can see already sort of how that’s coming. But it definitely works. And I love the idea of making people famous internally inside your gym—newsletters—and even externally on social media or blogs or testimonials. And we know that works in marketing as well. So that’s a great one. What do we got next? What’s pillar three?

Chris Cooper (15:19):
Number three is compatibility. And what we’re really talking about here—this is product-market fit, and this topic is going to make a couple of people nervous, but you have to understand that while your service is for anybody, it’s not for everybody. And so, you want to be attracting the right people. What happens a lot of the times with gyms is they spend so much time and energy and money marketing to everyone that they wind up getting a lot of the wrong people in. And so those people will have a very short LEG; they’ll be out of your gym within three months. And that’s exhausting for the owner. It’s exhausting for the coaches because they have to work with new people all the time. And you start to feel like you’re on this treadmill of hopelessness. You really are churning people out really, really quickly.

Chris Cooper (16:06):
So what you have to ask about your clients is, “Can they afford it?” Right? We sell a coaching service; that is a premium service that not everybody can afford. Now, yeah. I get like, you got in this to help people. You want to help everybody in your community. You live in the lowest income demographic in America. I think everybody’s told me that once, but the reality is we sell a high-value service, and it’s not going to be a good fit for everybody. I’d rather you make lots of money and give it away to people who need it by focusing on the right clients who want to pay for coaching than by undermining and having this constant revolving door of clients who just don’t have good product-market fit. So, “Can they afford it?” is one. But “Do they like you?” is another. Like are you likable? And another is, “Do they fit with your other clients?” You know, sometimes you don’t get that compatibility between clients either.

Mike Warkentin (16:59):
Yeah, and I’ll put this in perspective from an experience that I actually had is that we try to get every single person, because everyone can do this fitness program. We love everyone, we bring them in, and all of a sudden, we’ve got this mixture of people, and some of them really wanted to be competitors. I didn’t really care about that after about 2012. And so, we had this wrong group of people in our gym who wanted to do competitions and open gym and focus on their special little snowflake programs. And our gym struggled. We lost a lot of people. And so, we looked at the client journey: We were losing people at a certain point because they wanted to do competitive programming and extra stuff that we didn’t offer or care about. I had the wrong people in the gym. When we got those people, when they moved on to their other places—and they’re great people—and they moved on and were happy, we started referring when people came in and said, “Hey, I want to focus on competition.”

Mike Warkentin (17:41):
I’m like, “That gym down the street is much better. They’re the place for you. They specialize in that. You’re going to have a much better time. I’m more for professionals between 35 and 55 who want to generally get fit and have fun and then take their kids to the park.” And I got all those people, and they were amazing. We built our business stronger; the competitors went somewhere else and made another business stronger—that was the right people for them. So, I agree with you, compatibility is super important, but you don’t see that as a new gym owner because you want everyone.

Chris Cooper (18:06):
Yeah. I think the key to your story though, Mike, is—well one key is that the competitors went somewhere else where all the other competitors were. Like for some people, that competitive audience, that is good product-market fit. But it’s not for me.

Mike Warkentin (18:21):
It wasn’t for me either.

Chris Cooper (18:21):
Yeah. Like more and more my best audience is people over 50. They’re stable in life. They probably have adult kids. I mean, our Legends’ program, it’s called Prime at Catalyst. But those are amazing clients for me. They’re very high value. They show up every single time. They’re so coachable; they’re lots of fun. They refer their friends; they want every Catalyst T-shirt there is, and I just—I love them. So that’s good product-market fit for me. But that product-market fit can change over time too. You know, it is just a matter of always assessing “Who are my best clients?”

Mike Warkentin (18:54):
Yep. No, the gyms that these people went to, they still exist, and they’re still focused on competition, and they’re still going. So, they have a good product-market fit; they’ve got the right people, so they’re literally solving problems for the other gyms.

Chris Cooper (19:03):
The key is figuring out: What is your best product market fit? And we teach this exercise called the pumpkin plan. And just really quickly, what you’re going to do is you’re going to pull up your client roster; you’re going to write down the people who pay you the most money. Again, “Can they afford it?” That’s an important filter that you have to embrace and accept. You write down the top 10 who pay you the most, and then you also write down the top 10 who make you the happiest. And some of those people are going to be different, but a few are going to be the same. And those are—that is your target audience. And so, to get good product-market fit, there’s your market: How can you reframe your product to better serve them? And what you’ll find is that over time you wind up niching down and specializing, which makes you more valuable and improves your retention.

Mike Warkentin (19:47):
That’s the first exercise you guys can do right now to improve your retention is do that pumpkin plan exercise that Chris just laid out. Pillar four, what do you got? What is the next one?

Chris Cooper (19:56):
Well, this one’s consistency, and I don’t think this is a surprise to anybody, but there is something a little bit surprising about it. So, the common mantra around fitness is that the more people show up, the longer they’re going to stick around. That’s not actually true. Some people shouldn’t be with you five or six times a week. Some people can just burn out. And I mean, you know what it was like; you were probably an early adopter for CrossFit. Like I was where it was like, “I can’t get enough of this. Like I can’t—rest day? Hell no. Let’s go again,” and you’re hitting refresh on the main site at midnight and stuff. But then over time, for a lot of people, that enthusiasm waned, and they moved on to the next thing or whatever. What you actually want is to measure adherence.

Chris Cooper (20:38):
So if somebody signs up to come to your gym three times a week, how often do they get there three times a week? Like how often are they actually fulfilling on that? Because if they sign up for three times a week, and they’re only coming twice, they’re way more likely to drop off, right? People don’t care about spending money as much as they do about wasting money. And if they’re paying for something and not using it, then they will say, “I’m just not using the membership.” So again, in a goal review session, if they’re only coming twice a week, you should absolutely recommend that they downgrade their membership to twice a week. If they’re coming three times a week and you want them to come four times, you better make a strong case for them coming four times and say, “We’re going to reassess this after 90 days to make sure that you’re actually showing up four times a week.” Because it’s not how much they’re paying, it’s how much they’re wasting.

Mike Warkentin (21:27):
OK, that’s interesting because I used to think more is better. Yeah. I wanted everyone to go to my unlimited program, which was the most expensive one—which was underpriced, but it was our most expensive program—and I wanted everyone to ascend to that. So, I’m like, “OK, off, off, off one to three times a week and have these weird memberships in there; everyone will ascend to unlimited.” And that didn’t happen. My one-time-a-week-ers left; they all—every single one of them just left because it was not, there was no consistency there. And they would miss one thing, and that’s a hundred percent of their classes, right? Two and three kind of were OK, but there was not really an ascension plan. So, you are saying measure how often people come in relation to what they’ve booked and try and get them to fulfill as much of that as they can. Is that right?

Chris Cooper (22:07):
Yeah. Like what they’re doing should match what they’re buying basically. There’s so many problems with that whole unlimited idea, Mike, but you and I both had problems at the other end of the spectrum, which is people thought unlimited meant unlimited access to our life. Like, “Hey Chris, I’m borrowing the truck.”

Mike Warkentin (22:24):
Yeah, you’re—yeah, that actually happened guys. So that’s a thing.

Chris Cooper (22:29):
Yeah, exactly.

Mike Warkentin (22:31):
OK. So that’s interesting.

Chris Cooper (22:33):
Yeah, “I’m going to call you at 5 a.m.” “Hey Chris, it’s 10:30 at night, man. I’m really craving Cheesies; what should I do?” “Don’t eat the Cheesies.”

Mike Warkentin (22:40):
“What’s the workout tomorrow?” “I saw a typo on the blog.”

Chris Cooper (22:43):
Oh my god. Right?

Mike Warkentin (22:44):
You know that one? “What’s the workout tomorrow?” That one—you missed the post by five minutes, and you’re getting three, four, 10 texts—like that happened.

Chris Cooper (22:51):
Oh, even recently, like, “What do you mean I can’t come in 20 minutes before the class starts? My membership says unlimited. Unlimited, right?” Yeah, yeah, yeah. “OK. I mean, I’ll leave a shovel outside. You can clean off the roof.” Yeah. And so, the fifth one is referrals. And this one was always kind of a surprise to me, but only in retrospect of learning the science behind it does it make sense. So, if you read an anthropology book about how tribes are made up, we’re very, very cautious to recommend things to friends because of something that’s called “social risk.” So, if I’m like, “Mike, the new Ford F-150 Lightning is amazing. You should get one,” and then you get one, and you hate it.

Mike Warkentin (23:30):
“It sucks. Chris, ugh.”

Chris Cooper (23:33):
“It sucks.” You’re going to second guess. Like, “Is Chris really—is he dumb?”

Mike Warkentin (23:37):
The next thing you tell me, I’m not going to listen.

Chris Cooper (23:39):
Exactly. So, there’s massive social risk. And so, when somebody does refer a client to you, you’re actually invested in that person’s success, right? So, I’m like, “Mike, you really got to take Crystal to this amazing restaurant,” and you come back and you’re like, “Actually, I’d give it a B. It was OK.” And I’m going to be like, “What? Oh my God, come back with me next time. We’re going to sit at the back. We’re going to ask for Rico as the waiter, and I’m going to call the chef in advance.” Like, I’m invested in you liking that.

Mike Warkentin (24:11):
“I’ll tell you what to order because you ordered the wrong thing.”

Chris Cooper (24:13):
Yeah, “You screwed this up.” But like, I’m invested in it, so—and also I’m going to defend my position because I don’t want you to distance yourself from me because then I’ll be pushed out of the tribe. So, if I refer somebody, I’m more likely to stick around too and make sure they’re successful, right? Like, you’re not—I’m not going to be like, “Mike, you should come to this restaurant with me. OK, let’s get seated. OK, let’s order. Oh, you’re happy with your order? See you later.” Like, I’m gone, right? Like, I’m invested. I’m going to stick around and make sure you enjoy.

Mike Warkentin (24:45):
Think about that at your gym. You’ve seen the exact same thing. Someone refers a friend; they’re definitely like, “Hey,” walking their friend in, their friend looks nervous. They’re just like, “Oh, this is my other friend here. This is where we put our stuff. This is the whiteboard. This is how this works. Class is going to start here. The snatch is this one.” Like, they’re helping—they’re kind of being your assistant coach at that point. And it’s great because—“Hey, hey, Cindy, where’s Jen?” “Oh, you know, I messaged her, and she’s coming tomorrow for sure.” Like, you get all these different fringe benefits when someone refers someone because they’re sticky to that other person. So, it’s something that you might not think of. But again, it also solves a marketing problem because if you get a ton of referrals and a ton of retention, you don’t need to market all that much. So, it’s a really important one that has double benefits.

Chris Cooper (25:27):
Yeah. And it doubles the effect of your ad spend because now everybody who comes in through your Facebook funnel is bringing a friend, right? Like, if you don’t believe us, try this. Do a bring-a-friend event at your gym, OK? And you tell people it’s invite only, you can bring one friend, and we’re going to like a protein supplement thing. We’re going to do a fun workout; it’s going to be partners, blah, blah, blah. You do the little workout, and then you go up and you say, “OK, Crystal, I know you brought Mike here. Mike, hey, what’d you think of my gym?” And you’re like, “Oh, it was good. You know, it’s alright.”

Mike Warkentin (26:03):
“Kind of scary.”

Chris Cooper (26:04):
The next thing that’s going to happen is Crystal’s going to jump in and try and sell Mike on signing up, right? “Oh, you did amazing. Yeah, you did so great. Oh my God. Like you’ve got to sign up.” Like that person became an advocate because they’ve invested social currency in convincing that person to join. So, it does make sense in hindsight that referrals is the fifth pillar of retention. It really does boost retention among your existing clients.

Mike Warkentin (26:31):
Alright, so those are the five pillars, and we gave you one actionable thing, which is the pumpkin plan to find compatibility and find the right product-market fit. Chris, give me, as we close this out, what are other things people can do right now? Let’s give them some actions to take to measurably improve retention. And we’re not pulling stuff out of the air here. This is stuff we know works. So, what do we got on the plate here?

Chris Cooper (26:51):
Yeah, man. So, I’ll give you one for each one. So, results: Start doing goal reviews, measure results, change people’s prescription, but make sure that they understand that they’re getting results. And often you have to tell them; they won’t just see it on their own.

Mike Warkentin (27:03):
You know what, I’m going to jump in Chris. I’m going to give you listeners an easy button for that. I’ll put a link in the show notes to the prescriptive model that tells you exactly how to do all of it. Easy button. OK, Chris.

Chris Cooper (27:12):
Awesome. Thanks buddy. People think I’m generous, but you just give away our stuff all the time. So, it’s actually you that’s so generous.

Mike Warkentin (27:18):
Yeah, maybe.

Chris Cooper (27:19):
So fame: What I want you to do is brag about five clients this week. You know, go on social media. “Here’s a picture of Mike. Here’s a picture of Crystal. Here’s what I love so much about Mike. Here’s why Crystal is the best deadlifter in the gym,” whatever—like brag about them. You will feel great, number one, but they will feel amazing, and they’ll have their story on the internet, and their friends will see it too.

Mike Warkentin (27:44):
So put five people on a podium.

Chris Cooper (27:45):
Exactly. Yeah. Podium week is a great way to do it, by the way. Next is compatibility. You want to have that good product-market fit. And we talked about doing the pumpkin plan. I mean, to take it a step further, after you identify who your three or five best clients are, take each one out for coffee. “Hey”—you know, I did this with a woman named Anne. “Anne, you got time for coffee?” “OK.” We sit down for 20 minutes. I’m like, “Why did you pick Catalyst in the first place? What is it about Catalyst that keeps you coming back?” She wasn’t traditionally a gym person, and before you know it, she’s bringing her husband Jamie in off the street too. And that’s the perfect client because he’s already got product-market fit, you know? So pumpkin plan.

Mike Warkentin (28:26):
Pumpkin plan, plus we’ll call them seed client interviews. Identify your best people; find out more about them. They’re going to give you marketing gold and a lot of important info. All right, number four.

Chris Cooper (28:34):
Yeah. And I know I’m skipping over this, but we teach people, and we walk them through it step by step in the mentorship practice, like that’s what we do. Number four is consistency. And really what you want to do here is just do some goal settings. So, when somebody’s new especially, the win is the work. Like the win is showing up. They’re not going to lose 20 pounds in their first session. The win is they came back for the second session, they finished on-ramp, they did their first group class. And so, what you’re looking for in consistency here is for you to say to them, “OK, can you commit to three sessions per week?” And then after the first month, you call them and be like, “You did it. You made all 12 sessions last month. We’re so proud of you.”

Chris Cooper (29:16):
“Can you commit to the same next month again?” And you really want to be tracking that. So, this is why we track LEG and why we track adherence. The best thing that you can do is look at your reports every month and say, “Oh crap, you know, Mike is paying for eight, and he only showed up four times last month. Like, let’s get on the phone and make sure.” But if you’re not looking in the data, it might take you a while to catch it, and then it’s too late. Like, “Hey, has anybody seen Mike?” “No, I haven’t seen him in like five weeks.” It’s too late by that point.

Mike Warkentin (29:46):
“I only coach mornings. I don’t know.” You know, that whole thing,

Chris Cooper (29:49):
100%. I mean, if I went into my private coaches’ Facebook group right now, and I’m like, “Have you seen this person?” Four of the coaches are going to be like, “I only coach mornings.” “I only coach evenings.” One is going to be like, “Oh, I bumped into him at the grocery store.” You know, and like, “Where is he?” And that’s why you have to look at your client list and your data every single month.

Mike Warkentin (30:08):
OK, so that’s a good one guys. Check that one out. Number five thing that you could do today to improve retention.

Chris Cooper (30:15):
Yeah, I mean the easiest thing is if you have five clients who you know really, really well, especially if they’re a personal training client, is just say, “Hey, do you want to bring your spouse in for a buddy workout next week?” That’s the easiest. If you’re not tight enough like that with your clients—I mean that’s a red flag—but what you can do is just run and bring-a-friend event. So basically, you say, “We’ve got to bring-a-friend event on Friday for 10 buddies. It’s invite-only. Tell me in advance who they’re going to be.” And you set up a fun workout; you know who these people are going to be, so you’ve got them in your lead nurture process. You book them for a No Sweat Intro when they’re there. Don’t just give them a free trial and let them run away to make up their own mind—like book them a No Sweat Intro and leverage the person who’s already in there. You know, “Do you want to do what Ann is doing?” Frequently what we’ll find with referrals is everybody starts with on-ramp at Catalyst, but their next step is determined by how they came in. So, if they came in through an ad, they’re probably going to want to pick semi-private. If they came in through a referral, they’ll want to pick whatever their buddy is doing. “I want to do this with Mike.” That’s fine.

Mike Warkentin (31:21):
And I can tell you, another gym on our leaderboard from December 2023 with a huge client count, they have a very formalized bring-a-friend event that happens on a regular schedule. It’s laid out. They know exactly how they’re going to run it, when they’re going to run it, what they do at it. And they have a huge client count as well. So, these events do work. The pacing of them, we’ll have to figure out. Our mentors help our clients figure out exactly how often to do them and in relation to their other strategies, but bring-a-friend event can have good results, but it’s not a whimsical, “Ah, bring a friend,” and toss into the wind—

Chris Cooper (31:50):
Every Saturday.

Mike Warkentin (31:51):
—and people show up, right? It doesn’t work like that. You have to make it formalized, and it’s even better if you can say, “Dude, your best buddy Phil should come to this bring-a-friend event because he’s got that 5K run coming up. Would you invite him?” Phil’s going to be there. Phil will probably sign up. So, it has to be more formalized than just saying, posting it on Facebook. It does not work like that anymore. You have to be a bit more tactical, and we help our clients do that specifically. So those are five things you can do today. Take them from the show. Chris, if people haven’t been taking notes, we have a brand new guide that’s going to lay out some of this stuff. How can people get it?

Chris Cooper (32:19):
Well, it’s called “Never Lose a Client Again.” And all they have to do is go to gymownersunited.com and say, “Hey, can I have it?” You know, send me a DM on Facebook. We’re not into a formal process here where we got to fill in a form, then we automatically email it—like you DM me on Facebook, I’ll send you the guide. I’ll ask you how things are going because I care. I want to know. And if there’s something else that I can do to help you, then I’ll tell you.

Mike Warkentin (32:44):
“Never Lose a Member Again” guide. If you want to get more into this topic, keep more clients, earn more money, get that guide. All you’ve got to do is DM Coop, and you can do that through the Gym Owners United group. Chris, thanks for your time and sharing all this stuff. I hope it helps gym owners keep more people.

Chris Cooper (32:58):
I hope. Yeah, that’s how we change lives. Thanks, Mike.

Mike Warkentin (33:00):
This has been “Run a Profitable Gym.” I’m Mike Warkentin. My request to you is just to hit “Subscribe” on the way out and then head to Gym Owners United to get our new guide. Thanks guys.

Thanks for listening!

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