How to Help Your Clients Win

How to Help Your Clients Win

Only you can put your clients on a podium.

Their bosses aren’t writing their names on the wall after a good week in the office.

Their kids aren’t giving them a round of applause after they mow the lawn.

No one else is celebrating them.

You have a daily opportunity to delight your clients. Not just to deliver a good class with individual scaling and cheerleading. Those are the basics. The best gyms put their clients on a podium.

Here’s how to do it.

1. Find opportunities for “podiums” within your scheduled workouts.

For example, in the workout Jackie, there are at least four opportunities to do something they’ve never done before:

A. Row 1,000 m faster than ever before.
B. Do 50 unbroken thrusters.
C. Do 30 unbroken pull-ups
D. Finish the workout in a PR time.

And I’m sure you already see more opportunities, right?

2. Before the workout, ask each client which podium they’ll aim for (or their personal goal in the workout).

3. Coach the client toward that goal when the workout begins.

4. When he or she hits the mark, write the goal on a small whiteboard and take a creative picture of the person holding it up and smiling. Stand the member on a plyo box with a small whiteboard listing PRs and use the #podium hashtag.

5. Post on your Facebook business page and your personal page. Tag the athlete. Make sure the post is “public” so the person’s friends can see it.

You’re probably already taking pictures of your clients during workouts, right? Uploading and tagging them? That’s not new to anyone. But context matters: a sweaty heap of Henrietta on the floor isn’t as appealing as a beaming Henny, standing on a plyo box, holding a banner that reads, “I DID IT!!!”


This is also helpful to your gym in other ways:

1. It gets your coaches thinking about celebrating success and delighting your clients.

2. It teaches the habit of internalizing small wins.

3. It presents a new way to approach old workouts.

4. It puts small wins in context (“the growth mindset”).

5. It allows for mucho celebration. If you’re using SugarWOD, the fist-bumps will fly.



1. Review your programming with coaches a week before. What are the best opportunities for podiums?

2. Get 10-15 small whiteboards and a lot of whiteboard markers.

3. Allow two minutes at the end of class for podium celebrations, pictures and hashtag time.

4. Post one picture from each class to Instagram; auto-feed to Facebook.

5. Create a Facebook album on your page for the other photos.

6. Tag every person in every picture.

7. Host a Podium Party every quarter.

8. Smile.

Our business isn’t “based on service.” It is service. The best way to service your clients is to show them the path to success … and help them celebrate when they get there.

Your best programming doesn’t matter nearly as much as celebrating success does.

When your clients celebrate success, they’re more likely to internalize joy and gratitude. That is the definition of delight.

Put them on a podium.


Other Media in This Series

How to Delight Your Clients
Delighting Your Clients: Giftology
What Jason Ackerman Learned From 10,000 Hours of Coaching
How to Delight Your Clients Online

Delighting Your Clients: Giftology

Delighting Your Clients: Giftology

I love giving presents. I get more excited than my kids do. I am horrible at keeping gifts a secret.

Every time I build a new tool for gym owners or create a new handbook, I feel amazing—that’s why we spend around $20,000 per month publishing this stuff and then giving it away for free. Here ya go!

I love giving my gym clients the Intramural Open experience every year. It feels like I’m giving them a present.

I love giving my coaches an annual shopping spree on me at Christmas.

I love giving less-fortunate families in our community a huge present every year (we call it “The Gift”).

But the greatest gift I give is opportunity and empowerment.

When a gym owner shares an amazing blog post, social post or other media with me, I sometimes send them some money. Then I turn around and give it to the Two-Brain community as a gift.

When outside experts have brilliant ideas but no audience, I pay them for their education and then give the idea to the Two-Brain community as a gift. For example, we have amazing new templates for nutrition challenges and online coaching thanks to this acquisition process.

Giving gifts makes you feel great. And it can make your clients feel great, too.

But giving gifts costs money. And the ROI is impossible to measure. Many businesses give their clients gifts for the wrong reasons:

1. They think it will increase retention (there’s no data demonstrating that to be true).

2. They think it will make a deposit in the client’s “emotional bank account” (which doesn’t exist).

3. They think it will encourage a higher perception of value from the client (again, impossible to measure).


Welcome Boxes?


Welcome boxes and packages are becoming more popular, and some companies have even tried to provide custom welcome boxes to gyms. It seems like a great idea but sometimes backfires because:

A. The gym is spending money without tracking any kind of outcome. Does it really change anything? If so, what? And by how much?

B. The gym has to buy a ton of inventory to be cost effective, tying up resources that it could invest elsewhere.

C. It’s awkward to give a great gift to a new client without giving anything to your existing clients.

On the other hand, a “welcome package” is a great way to share your policies with new clients, kickstart their journeys and empower them to be successful. There’s a great example of a “welcome package” done right in the next section.


When Should You Give Clients Gifts?


1. When they show up for a No Sweat Intro, give them bottles of water. This triggers an impulse of reciprocation.

2. When they sign up for your gym, give them your welcome package, which includes your client handbook (or gym rules, or whatever). Give them the rules, but make it feel like a present. Add a couple of little surprises. Here’s a great example of a cost-effective welcome package from Push511:

(Can’t see the video? Click here.)

3. When the client hits a first little accomplishment, give the gift of a podium. Read more about that here.

4. When your client hits a new milestone, give the gift of recognition: a small badge, some social media posts, a round of applause from classmates. These are gifts your clients can’t get anywhere else. I like the Level Method for creating these powerful moments.

5. At the big milestones (100 workouts, three years as a member, becoming a coach, etc.), you should celebrate with a gift. Some ideas are below.


The Two Best Gifts I’ve Received From Other Businesses


1. Incite Tax—When I referred my first client to Incite Tax, John Briggs sent me a pretty amazing gift: a jersey from the Sault Greyhounds. The jersey wasn’t cheap. But the real gift was knowing that John’s team had done some research: They had figured out that I liked hockey, that my highest-level hometown team was the Greyhounds, what size I wore, and that I went to watch the Greyhounds play every month or so. That is a thoughtful gift.

2. Forever Fierce—Matt Albrizio once sent me a custom North Channel Lightning banner. I volunteer to coach and sponsor a team of local kids. Every year, we travel to a couple of tournaments, and I usually have to cover some travel costs, food and hotels for families who need it. I love doing it. We buy the kids warmup suits and new uniforms and everything they need to make them feel like pros. Matt made up a huge North Channel banner that the kids signed, and we take it to tournaments to rally the crowd. They love it. The gift was incredibly thoughtful.


Top Lessons From Gifting Pros


Here are the basics of great gift giving, according to John Ruhlin, author of “Giftology”:

1. Buy the best in the category instead of a mediocre gift in a higher category. For example, you’re better off to give the best speed rope in the world ($20) instead of a cheap water bottle (also $20).

2. A gift with your logo on it isn’t really a gift. This is a hard line to walk, because some clients really do want to show off their membership. I’d go with a combination gift: something best in class and something with your brand on it. For example, a great backpack and a bumper sticker.

3. It’s more important to be timely than to give a big gift. Immediate recognition encourages repetition. When clients hit PRs, it’s better to stand them on boxes and take their pictures right away than to give them a “shout out” in an email newsletter later.

4. A gift is not a bribe, and a bribe is not a gift.


Top Lessons From a Bad Guesser (me)


As much as I love giving presents, I’m really bad at guessing what individual people will want to receive. So here’s what I do:

1. Personalization is best, but cash will do. Our local team gets a “shopping spree” at Christmas because it’s fun. And they show me the stuff they’ve bought themselves. It’s never anything I would have chosen, but it’s always something they love (skis and boots were really popular this year).

2. Presentation is everything. If you make a big deal about giving the gift, you’ll increase its perceived value. If you downplay it (“I’ll just leave this on the desk”), you’ll decrease the gift’s value. For a gift to mean something to the recipient, it must mean something to the giver. So when you give a client a “100-workout badge,” it’s critical to stand the person in front of the class and make a huge presentation.

3. The best gifts don’t cost much. Recognition on your PR board, a round of applause, a picture on the internet—your clients probably don’t get these awards anywhere else in their lives. Their bosses aren’t writing their names on the office wall to celebrate their performance. Their family members aren’t clapping because dinner was great. Their spouses aren’t celebrating them on Instagram.

4. Use something you can automate, like We use it at Catalyst and Two-Brain. The site has my handwriting uploaded as a font, so cards look like they’re handwritten. Put a personal picture of your client on it, type a quick note and hit send. And the cost to send a card is usually around the cost of postage.

Delighting your clients can mean giving them gifts. All of us have money to spend, but none of us has money to waste. Approaching gifts pragmatically means optimizing the gifts you share—and making the most of the Big Give.


Other Media in This Series

How to Delight Your Clients
How to Help Your Clients Win
What Jason Ackerman Learned From 10,000 Hours of Coaching
How to Delight Your Clients Online

How to Delight Your Clients

How to Delight Your Clients

I write about retention a lot: the things you have to do to keep people engaged in your gym.

Providing great coaching and having clean bathrooms? These are the bare minimums necessary but insufficient for business success. Neither will get you more clients, but failure to provide either will cost you clients. It’s possible to have clean bathrooms and knowledgeable coaches and still provide a C- experience. And no one brags about a C-.

Planning the Client Journey, celebrating Bright Spots, putting your clients on podiums—I covered all of that in our “Changing Behavior” series. These are specific tactics that are proven to improve retention.

According to our data, the average microgym has poorer retention than it did two years ago. Meanwhile, the average Two-Brain gym has higher retention than it did two years ago—part of the reason for the widening gap between Two-Brain gyms and the rest of the industry. As our data shows, a three-month improvement in retention can mean an extra $40,000 per year for gym owners!

Download our free “Never Lose a Member Again” guide here. Bring your gym up to the new standard of excellence first.

These are specific tactics dedicated to keeping your clients around. If your clients are happy, they’ll stay. But if they’re delighted, they’ll become evangelists.

“Get your clients good results and they’ll tell their friends”—we all know that doesn’t work because good results are the expectation. Meeting expectations is the bare minimum requirement for retention. But delighting people is something far different. This week, we’re going to talk about how to delight people.

In Part 2, I’ll talk about my favorite activity: giving presents.

In Part 3, I’ll tell you how to make your clients feel famous—a feeling they can’t get anywhere else.

Part 4 is a podcast: Jason Ackerman, author of “Best Hour of Their Day,” will be on Two-Brain Radio with me. He’s going to share the highlights from his new book and the number one thing he wants to tell every coach on the planet.

Finally, I’ll tell you the secrets of how to delight your clients online—the specific tactics I use to make the private Two-Brain Facebook group incredible. (No, you can’t join—that’s one of the secrets.)

I know you’ve probably been told that “getting your clients good results is the best marketing.” But when you put your groceries on the line, you can’t afford to wait and hope. You have to take action.

Delighting your clients is more than providing a great experience in class. Coaching and community fill their cup; this week we’re going to make it overflow.


Other Media in This Series

Delighting Your Clients: Giftology
How to Help Your Clients Win
What Jason Ackerman Learned From 10,000 Hours of Coaching
How to Delight Your Clients Online

What’s Holding You Back?

What’s Holding You Back?

This is a hard post to write. It might be a hard post to read. But these are the truths I’ve had to face about myself to make my gym successful.

The thing that stops our gyms from growing isn’t lack of knowledge. It’s certainly not lack of ideas. It’s usually our own self-limiting behaviors and beliefs.

Here’s a great example: When I found my first mentor, I thought, “I need better marketing.” It took an objective third party to say, “You have no systems. You’re yawning in front of your clients. Your staff don’t feel secure. And you’re mad all the time.”

When we take clients through the Two-Brain Incubator, we know we’re taking them through a process that often requires them to change their beliefs. We can say, “Discounts are bad. Here’s why you need to eliminate them and how to do it.” But, as I’ve written all week, changing behavior means more than informing the rider; it means motivating the elephant.

Gym owners usually don’t want to change their beliefs. Their brains wriggle around, trying to find an easier way. They procrastinate. Sometimes they argue. The elephant doesn’t want to follow the hard path.

Trust me: I face tough decisions and hard conversations all the time. I still try to avoid them. My rider is very informed, but the elephant in my head has its own ideas.

Self-examination is critical for the growth of your business and your growth as a leader. I needed my first mentor to perform this examination of my business because I was too close to see its flaws. Now my mentors help me work on the biases and bad behaviors below. You might have them, too.


Confirmation Bias


We surround ourselves with people who believe what we believe. We create online “echo chambers” around ourselves. We seek out people and ideas that confirm what we think we know instead of challenging ourselves to see another perspective.


Novelty Bias


We tend to believe that the last thing we learned is more important than anything else. How often have I read a great book and immediately changed my business because of its message? Too often to count.

The last thing you learned or read is important, but not so important that it replaces everything else. This is sometimes called “recency bias” but could be called “frequency bias,” too—you also tend to pay attention to the things that appear most often. So if other affiliate owners are talking about Facebook ads all the time, you’ll pay attention to advertising on Facebook even if it’s far less important than retention or lead nurture.

I once had a coach who attended a weightlifting seminar. He didn’t own weightlifting shoes, so the instructors had him place 5 lb. plates under his heels while lifting. When I walked through his first class on Monday, every person in the class had 5-lb. plates under their heels!

We had a long conversation about the goals for our clients and recency bias after that. The memory still makes me smile.


Busy-Ness Bias


We believe that if we’re super busy we must be getting closer to success. But this isn’t true. Truly successful people have control over their time and brain space.

Like the other biases and behaviors, being busy can become hardwired into our brains. Everything we take into our minds for processing goes through this little almond-sized part of the brain called the amygdala. It’s a really old system that predates our prefrontal cortex, and it’s mostly responsible for fight or flight. The first unconscious thought we have about anything in our world is, “Will this hurt me?”

The thing is this: Founder-phase entrepreneurs face a ton of fight-or-flight decisions every day. Everything is an opportunity and everything is a threat. Plus they’re stressed out. These factors are like exercise to the amygdala, and it grows. Then, when the entrepreneurs finally reach Tinker phase, they try to relax—and their amygdalas fight back.

To justify its own size and control, the amygdala seeks stimulus. The entrepreneurs can’t put down their phones. They create drama in their lives unnecessarily. They make sweeping changes to prove their businesses still needs their constant attention.

For more, read “The Hustle Is a Lie” here. Most gym owners I know are working really hard. Very few of them are actually accomplishing anything that will grow their businesses.


Multitasking Bias


We try to do too many things at once. The reality is that you can only do one thing at a time, and jumping back and forth between them makes you tired.

If you have five big ideas for 2020, I can guarantee you won’t deliver all of them. I can almost guarantee you won’t deliver any of them. But if you have one big idea and work on it with singular focus, you’ll probably bring it to market.

Here’s how to fix the multitasking problem: “The Multitasking Myth (and 5 Steps To Fix It).”




It might not be your fault, but it is your responsibility.

When I see box owners complaining online, I always want to ask: “What are you going to do about it?”

Complaints about city zoning, rants about their clients, frustration about their staff—when you realize that you have to actually solve the problem instead of just sharing the problem, you waste less time complaining and spend more time working on the answer.

Still, I love to play the blame game. “If that guy had just done what I told him in 2018, he wouldn’t still be stuck with a broken gym!” But that’s the wrong mindset. Instead, I should say, “If I’d only convinced him to work with a mentor in 2018, he’d be successful by now.”

Here’s one I see all the time: “My clients gossip or chat while I’m explaining the workout, and then they ask me questions instead of warming up! Why can’t they just pay attention?”

The real question should be: “How can I get my clients to engage with my workout explanation?”

Blame and ownership are mutually exclusive.

Leadership means radical acceptance of responsibility.

If you’re blaming others, you’re not fixing problems.

That’s fine if you’re an employee. It’s not acceptable if you own a business. If you don’t solve problems, they’ll kill you. And if you’re blaming others, you’re not solving problems.




This is the hardest of all.

Ego isn’t the enemy. It takes a bit of ego to coach people. It takes more ego to open a gym. When you’re starting something new, ego is a tool.

But ego is also the mental trap that kills most gym owners. It almost killed me.

When I opened a gym, I didn’t have a plan. I was just really passionate about teaching exercise. And, in full honesty, I was probably the most knowledgeable coach in town.

But that didn’t make me the best coach in town.

My ego said, “You’re the smartest, so you’ll make the most money.” That wasn’t true.

My ego said, “If you tell your clients how dumb that other coach is, they’ll respect you more.” That really wasn’t true.

My ego said, “You’re smarter than all those business experts. You don’t need their help.” That almost killed me.

My ego said, “Asking for help means you’re too pitiful to deserve help.” That was completely backward.

My ego said, “You can outwork your mistakes. You can dig yourself out of this hole.” That was—well, crazy.

My ego said, “Your wife and kids will respect your sacrifice more than they’ll miss you at bedtime.” And that almost ruined my life.


Tough Love—and Learning


It’s hard to write this post because reading the list of biases makes me realize that I haven’t eradicated any of them completely. And that’s a bit depressing—until I realize that even a little progress on any of these biases will have a tremendous impact on my business. I don’t have to eliminate my ego. But if I learn to recognize its tricks, I’ll remove the barriers that are stopping my growth.

Because here’s the ultimate hard truth: All of us are holding our businesses back.

The knowledge and systems are out there. But most of the time we’re pushing the brake pedal while we’re pushing the gas.

Identifying and working on these biases and behaviors will take your foot off the brake pedal, a little at a time. But you can’t do it alone. It’s impossible. It took my first mentor to help me see. And every mentor since has helped me peel back the behaviors a little more, allowing my business to grow faster and faster.

Other Media in This Series

How to Change Your Clients’ Lives
Changing Behavior: The Elephant and the Rider
How to Change Your Client’s Behavior
Behavior Change: How to Turn New Year’s Resolutions Into Long-Term Success

How to Change Your Clients’ Behavior

How to Change Your Clients’ Behavior

Humans do things for a reason.

You can’t improve a person’s health until you change his or her behavior. This includes your clients, your coaches and yourself.

The process I’m about to teach you is the result of all the current research on behavioral change. It’s the sum of two decades’ worth of study in changing behavior and making people healthy. It’s so important that I co-founded Two-Brain Coaching to help coaches learn the things that really change lives.

Everyone teaches cues and corrections; no one teaches how to change behavior—until now. It’s a fundamental part of our courses at Two-Brain Coaching.


8 Steps to Behavior Change


As I’ve said earlier in this series, behavioral change has to come before motivation, before adoption of a new fitness program and before adherence. Retention—keeping a client long term—is the result of mastering behavioral change. It’s a lagging metric, not a leading metric.

Here’s how to do it, step by step:

1. Start with a clear picture of success. No one joins a gym for the sake of joining. Ask every client—in a sit-down, 1:1 conversation—what his or her goals are.

2. After you get a clear goal, ask “Why?” until you get to the root motivation. You need to know what the elephant likes to eat, so to speak. In this analogy, the elephant is the client’s emotional mind, and the rider atop the elephant is the client’s rational mind.

3. Show the client your plan to get him or her to the goal. We call this the “prescriptive model.” If you read the previous post in this series, you can call it “informing the rider” atop the elephant.

4. Provide a 20 percent bonus. Show the client what he or she is already doing right. It’s easier to modify an existing behavior than to start a new one. I wrote about “head starts” in “Two-Brain Business” and “Help First.” It’s important to show people they’re already a little bit successful.

5. Find Bright Spots. Motivation requires success, not the other way around. Highlight wins early. Celebrate them. Make this a priority for your coaches.

6. Put clients on podiums. A podium is a victory over a previous best. It’s also a chance to step up and move to a higher degree of challenge. And it’s the best marketing you can do. Make your clients famous. Tell their stories.

7. Ask for the next goal. This is the step most coaches miss.

8. Repeat.

The fitness industry is changing. Selling the same thing to everyone means selling a commodity. But no one can compete with personalized delivery. Even if your gym sells only group programming, your program must be delivered in an individual way.

Gym owners in our Incubator program build out their Client Journey step by step. They plan every interaction with their clients in advance. They keep clients longer. They don’t sell memberships; they sell change. And they can make this righteous claim because they understand behavior.

In the next installment in this series, I’ll talk with Ty Krueger of Behavior Change Collective and Packerland CrossFit on Two-Brain Radio. He’ll give you some real-world examples of behavior change in action.


Other Media in This Series

How to Change Your Clients’ Lives
Changing Behavior: The Elephant and the Rider
Behavior Change: How to Turn New Year’s Resolutions Into Long-Term Success
What’s Holding You Back?

Changing Behavior: The Elephant and the Rider

Changing Behavior: The Elephant and the Rider

I will never be the cheapest gym in town.

I will not spend $100,000 on equipment every year. I will not provide 24-hour keycard access. I will not provide towels or run a juice bar.

I sell coaching. Coaching is more than teaching, more than cheerleading, more than dictating. I don’t merely provide access to equipment; I deliver people from their current state to their goals.

Reaching their goals requires hard work. But before hard work comes motivation, and before motivation comes behavioral change. I can’t out-yell a bad lifestyle.

No goal is motivational enough to pull a client past every temptation, every late-night craving, every moment of weakness. None. The knowledge that “this is bad for me” won’t overcome “I want this right now” without practice.

That’s because logic doesn’t drive our behavior; emotion does.


Riders on the Storm?


Picture an elephant with a rider sitting on its back.

The rider is your client’s rational mind: the logical thinker, the planner.

The elephant is the client’s emotional mind: the irrational, easily distracted thinker driven by urgency and whim.

The rider sits on top of the elephant. It’s how our brains have evolved.

But the driver only thinks he or she is controlling the elephant.

The rider can see the road ahead. The rider can consult the map. The rider can plot a course. But in the end, if the elephant wants to stop to eat, it will stop. If the elephant turns around and heads in the other direction, the rider can’t really force it back on course. All the kicking, prodding and even whipping won’t force an elephant to turn around.

To keep our clients on track, we have to understand how to inform the rider and how to motivate the elephant.

What really motivates the elephant?

Fire. Mice. Immediate threats. Things that are urgent, not necessarily things that are important.

Luckily, elephants are trainable. The best way to keep an elephant from crashing off course is train it to stay on the path.

It’s not hard to train the rider: Just tell the person exactly what to do and why.

Training the elephant part of the brain is more difficult. In the next article in this series, I’m going to share our step-by-step process for training an elephant.

People do things for a reason. That reason is rarely logical. Most even know what they “should” do. My job is to make them want to do it for the rest of their lives.


Other Media in This Series

How to Change Your Clients’ Lives
How to Change Your Client’s Behavior
Behavior Change: How to Turn New Year’s Resolutions Into Long-Term Success
What’s Holding You Back?