Permission Marketing

Permission Marketing

Email marketing works. Spam doesn’t.

Good emails are part of a conversation. Good emails include things your readers care about (I call mine “love letters”). Good emails actually help your audience.

Bad emails are sales pitches. Bad emails includes lots of “!!!” and “?!?!”. Bad emails are noise. Bad emails are spam.

But the real difference between a great email and spam?



“I’m Listening”

When people give you permission to email them, they’re not necessarily giving you money. They’re giving you something far more valuable: their attention.

We spend almost $20,000 every month building amazing tools. We build them so people in our audience will know they can trust us to be valuable and relevant. Here’s a list of tools we’ve published recently, and here’s the result of all that work:

7,500 people open our emails every. single. day. Because we’re not spamming them. Because we earned their permission to send them a love letter.


No One Likes Spam

Now, I get spammed a lot.

I own a gym. That gym is on a list of CrossFit affiliates. That list gets scraped by hackers and sold to marketers who don’t care about permission. Then those marketers spam my gym. Here’s one from last night:

Title: “New Member”

Body: “Hey Catalyst Fitness, I know cold emails are about as much fun as doing burpees… .”

That’s spam. I didn’t ask for help with whatever they’re selling.

I also still have my email account. That account gets spammed daily.

Here are two from yesterday:

“Chris, does your gym qualify for our free habits course?” (Spoiler: it doesn’t.)

“Ready to teach Pilates?” (I’m not.)

I built a $7 million company on the back of great content. We publish every day. We don’t spam anyone.


How to Use Email to Build Trust With Your Audience

1. Know what they actually care about. I write about gym owners because I am one.

2. Make your emails directive. Rants, attacks and “don’t make this simple mistake!” are noise. Tell people exactly what to do to improve.

3. Give people valuable stuff for free. Here’s our most recent set of tools, again.

4. Ask permission first. And keep earning it every single day.

I learned about Permission Marketing from Seth Godin back in 2009.

If you’re thinking about spamming gym owners, I’ll make you a deal: Don’t send that email.

Let me send you Seth’s book instead. Email me (once) with your address and watch your mail slot. Then take me off your list.

Need more advice on common problems? Click here to book a free call with a certified Two-Brain Business mentor.

How to Say Goodbye (For Now)

How to Say Goodbye (For Now)

“It’s not you; it’s me.”

Cancellations in your gym are hard to take. When you build a career around caring for 150 clients, you form tight emotional bonds. As Greg Glassman wrote in 2006:

“You’ll find me at my clients’ parties, weddings and family gatherings. Indeed, I am a personal friend to nearly every one of my clients.”

As much as we try to stay objective, it still hurts when a client says goodbye.

Here’s how to respond to that “Dear John” letter saying “I want to cancel my membership.”


1. Express Your Concern With Specific Details

“Oh Sally, I’m sorry to hear that—especially right after your recent weight loss! We’re just getting momentum!”

And leave it at that. Don’t include a “but I understand” or easy way out of the conversation.


2. Remind Them What They’re Losing

The fear of losing something you have is far greater than the promise of getting something good. That’s why you see all those “don’t miss out!” deals on Facebook: You don’t want to have things taken away from you.

For example:

When you cancel your membership, you’ll lose access to our:
– 1:1 coaches
– Nutrition accountability program
– Goal-setting meetings
– Workout-tracking app
– Private members’ Facebook group

And so on. Fill out your own list, starting with the most valuable part of your service.

Surprisingly, I’ve had clients say, “Oh, I’ll be back in a month and don’t want to lose my data on SugarWOD. Just keep the membership going.”

There’s far more value to your program than the classes you teach. Sometimes it’s easy to forget how much.

So remind them.


3. Make It Easy for Them to Come Back

Asking the question “when do you think you’ll be back?” can help the client create a clear picture in his or her mind.

If you can book a goal-setting appointment with the person in the future, that’s a huge win.

For example: “OK, Robin! I know you love spending time at your cottage in the summer! I want to make sure you don’t lose too much of your hard-earned fitness while you’re away. What will you do for exercise while you’re away? Can we schedule an appointment for September 7 to restart your fitness progress?”

Even if you can’t, make sure the client knows he or she will be welcomed back. Fear of an awkward “what are YOU doing here?” actually stops many people from trying new things.


4. Keep the Conversation Alive

We want a record of a client’s cancellation. We want to remind him or her of our cancellation policies. But more than anything else, we want the client back!

In the Incubator and Growth programs, we teach gym owners how to build a cancellation page.

Clients fill out the form on our site to cancel.

The form reminds the client of our policies. Then it adds him or to our email “recapture” list: a slow drip series of emails designed to bring the client back.

(Two-Brain Clients get the form design and email sequence in Growth Stage.)

Every quarter, we’ll also send the client something personal, like a text or video. We follow a 10-word email format (and also provide it to our clients in Growth Stage).

Exit interviews would be great: You’d learn how to improve your service and possibly talk a client into staying. But very few clients will do an exit interview. Honestly: If your hairdresser asked you to make a trip across town to have a heavy talk about your feelings, would you do it?

And while we want to keep every client forever, it’s likely that a departing member will only remember the last interaction with you. If it was awkward or painful, he or she won’t be back.

Most importantly, try to remember: The client probably isn’t gone forever. Just gone for now.

Treat your separation as temporary and you’ll sleep easier.

Which stage of entrepreneurship are you in? Take our 20-question quiz to find out and get the exact steps you need to take your business to the next level.

The Best Time To Improve Your Gym? IT’S NOW.

The Best Time To Improve Your Gym? IT’S NOW.

Yesterday, I wrote that the best time to start a gym is NOW.

But what if you already own a gym? What if you’ve made mistakes–with your pricing, with your location, with discounts…?

The best time to fix them is now.

NOW is the best time to grow your gym. Here’s why:


1. Mistakes Are Less Fatal Now

Five years ago, one or two mistakes could have killed you. Now we have antidotes.

If you priced your service too low in 2012, you were probably dead. You’d fall into the trap of more members paying less money. You would work crazy hours yourself. You’d coach new clients every single week because of a high churn rate. Then you’d stop getting new clients, and that would be it.

Now, if you’ve made a horrible mistakes with pricing, we know the way back. We’ve done it hundreds of times with gym owners around the world. We can walk you through the process step by step, and support you all the way.

Discounts? PIFs? Lifetime memberships? All poison, but now all treatable, thanks to experience and data. We’ve got the cure for the mumps, and now we’re working to vaccinate fitness entrepreneurs to avoid these problems.


2. The Marketing Problem Has Been Solved

The top question fitness entrepreneurs asked in the 1970s was still the top question they asked 40 years later:

“How do I get more clients?”

Now, we’ve solved that problem. We teach the step-by-step process in the Incubator. It goes like this:

Fix your retention problems first
Sell a valuable service, at the right price, really well
Help your current people more
Help the people closest to them by getting referrals (in an un-slimy way)
Help the people surrounding your best clients by knowing their problems and solving them
Find the people who need you on digital platforms, and market to them effectively
Track every step along the way, and double down on your strengths.

That means a different solution for almost every gym…but not THAT different. We can tell you exactly what to do now. This has never existed until now.


3. The Staffing Problem Has Been Solved

It’s hard to make accounting and payroll sexy, but some authors have actually done it.

If you’ve read “Profit First” or “Simple Numbers,” you get it: your staff costs should be 44% or less of your gross revenue.

And if you’ve read “Two-Brain Business 2.0” or been through any of our content over the last decade, you know our directive process for making that 44% target.

(If you haven’t, read “The Salary Cap” as a starting point.)

But hiring is far more than knowing how to pay coaches.

We know how to identify great fits.

We know how to train them to replace you.

We know how to make sure they do it the right way (and what to do if they don’t.)

We know how to help them advance their careers without becoming your competition.

We know how to make them great, even if they want to stay part time.

And we know how to keep them happy for decades.

You’ll lay the foundations in the Incubator, and grow your opportunities in Growth Phase.


5. You Have Real Models of Success

No one thought a human could deadlift 600lbs and run a six-minute mile in the same day…until someone did it.

The CrossFit Games and other fitness competitions help microgyms because they provide real-world models for fitness success. Ten years ago, the “models of fitness success” were steroided, starved and kinda slimy. Now we have happy, positive role models for fitness.

And we finally have the same for entrepreneurs.

We know who’s actually successful. We can ask them questions. We can track their actions and copy their success. We can be like them. We have data and proof.

Sure, there are a lot of pretenders in Facebook groups. There are bankrupt gym owners who won’t hesitate to give others advice; there are failing MMA guys who will tell you how to run a jiu-jitsu school; and there are yogapreneurs who lie.

But data doesn’t lie. Data is painful to collect and expensive to curate. But we have it now. And it grows every day.

Data shines a spotlight on success. That allows us to put real models of success on our stage.


5. You Have a Clear Path Forward

I think the biggest problem facing entrepreneurs is too much information.

I think most of our paralysis; most of our stress; and most of our fear is caused by overwhelm. There are simply too many options out there now, and too few filters to tell us:

a) what’s true;

b) what’s best;

c) what’s best for US;

d) what’s best for us right NOW.

It’s the reason I wrote “Founder, Farmer, Tinker, Thief“: to give fitness entrepreneurs a way to sort this information into actionable steps.

The book describes a gym owner’s path to success. It tells you what should be done, in which order.

But our Incubator and Growth programs are directive: we mentor you through that path with clarity and objectivity. We help you fix your problems and move on. That’s what mentorship is.

You can get the first clear step for free. Just book a Free Help Call here. No sales pitch, just help–the way it’s been since 2009.

What To Post

What To Post

If you’re an entrepreneur, your media is your resume.


Most people apply for a job once; force a smile through their interview; and then let their guard down again. But the second you open a business, you become a public figure. The media you produce–especially your social media–becomes a magnifying glass into your beliefs, personality and character. What you post can help you grow your business. But it can hurt you even more.


Most entrepreneurs don’t gain clients on social media; they LOSE clients on social media.


And here’s the worst part: you can’t just hide. You have to post something. But what? And when? Here’s how to do it; why; when; AND what to stop doing if you care about your brand.


What To Post On Social Media


Members of the Two-Brain Family receive their Social Media Playbook in the Incubator. Or, more accurately, they receive two: one for gym owners in the Founder Phase, and one for gym owners in the Farmer Phase.(Don’t know which phase of entrepreneurship you’re in? Take the test here.)


The playbooks are pretty long, but here are a couple of highlights:


  1. If you’re in the Founder Phase, tell your story. Your goal is awareness: if you’re the first in a market, simply saying “I’m here, and I care” is enough to get started. Write blog posts and link to them on Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram. That’s where your clients are. Maybe you like SnapChat or another platform; but data shows your ideal clients for a gym are on Facebook. So post there.
  2. If you’re in the Farmer Phase, tell your clients’ stories. Make them famous. Write about them. Post their pictures and videos. Shine your spotlight on them.
  3. No matter what, always lead back to your website or straight to an action (like Book a Free Call or Book a Free Consultation). Very, very few people sign up for a paid service straight from social media; and only a tiny fraction of a percent sign up for an in-person service without seeing it in person first. Don’t just post pictures.


When To Post on Social Media


Timing doesn’t matter, really. But consistency does. Whether you’re in the Founder or Farmer Phase, you need to post every single day.

You’ll get tired of yourself before your audience will.

  1. Start with consistency. Don’t try to launch a YouTube channel, blog and podcast all at the same time. All of those articles you’ve read about shooting a video, extracting the audio for a podcast, transcribing that audio for blog posts, and cutting up the blog posts into Social posts? That sounds great, but you’re probably not going to do it. That’s a full-time job. Publish on one channel every day for 30 days, then think about expanding.
  2. You don’t need a platform like Hootsuite unless you can consistently post good content–not just social media pics–every single day.
  3. Timing doesn’t really matter, but if you know when your potential clients are most likely to be online, post then. But this is about 1% as important as posting consistently.


Should You Boost Posts?


Marketing on social media isn’t art; it’s math. It doesn’t matter how well-produced your videos are, or how creative your photos look. If people don’t click your link, it’s not a good link. Let your audience tell you what they like.


When you post a link to a blog post or video on Social Media, and it gets a lot of interaction–not ‘likes’, but shares and comments–then consider boosting it. But ONLY if you’ve already built an audience for targeting (or retargeting). That first audience might just be your Friends list if you’re in Founder phase (because they’re your first clients), but over time, your marketing power really rests on your retargeting audiences. For more, read “How Many Likes Do You Need?” here.


How To Blow Your Thumbs Off: What NOT To Post


Unfortunately, some phony experts now tell people to use the “Tantrum” strategy: It goes like this:

Find the leader in your niche

Attack one small part of their platform relentlessly

Build a free Facebook group for retargeting

Sell your “program” (even if you haven’t actually built anything yet–just take the $$$)


…in other words, throw a tantrum until some grownups buy you some candy. The strategy is very similar to the old “How To Make a Million Dollars Selling Books” scam, in which the buyer pays $100 for a book, and is then told to republish the same book and charge $100 to the next buyer. But the internet makes old scams look new, and because I care about gym owners, I want to warn you:


Attacking people on social media is a horrible idea that will ruin your business.


Your job is to make people feel good–and, if possible, famous.


As everyone becomes more skeptical of what they see online, people are quick to read provocative headlines…but also quick to identify and discard phony “gurus”. And once they’re gone, they’re not coming back.


If you post “Vote G.I. Jane For President!” you’ll immediately tell half of your audience that “I’m not like you”. You’ll cut your potential clients list in half. And then, when you share your views on gun control, you’ll isolate 50% of the remaining list. And you won’t gain back those you’ve already lost: social media has a one-strike rule.


Just like a resume.


As soon as you open a business, you begin applying for a job with every person you meet. It’s a never-ending interview. Will you start a conversation, or throw a tantrum?

How To Take CONTROL Of Your Business

How To Take CONTROL Of Your Business

You’re good at tracking numbers.

As a fitness coach, you probably measure your clients’ body fat. You probably measure their progress on workouts and their max front squat. And then you take those numbers and plan the next steps. Right?

The best coaches take control of the client’s journey to fitness. But not all coaches do.

In business, you have to measure your profit, your revenue, and your expenses. But that’s where most gym owners stop. They can report their numbers to their mentor every month; they know where to find ARM and LEG in their management software. They know how to check their bank account. Some even know how to find leaks in their marketing funnel!

But they don’t DO anything with the numbers. Instead of using their numbers to control their business, they let their business happen to them.

We recommend Profit First for gym owners, because it helps them take control of their money.

Instead of waiting to see what they have left at the end of the month, they write themselves a couple of checks at the start. Then they cash them. And then they work hard to make sure the money’s in the bank! It works.

We teach the 4/9ths model to most gym owners for the same reason.

Instead of making wild guesses about what coaches should be paid, or trying to figure out a percentage, we tie payroll to revenue. Coaches can do 1:1 training; make more for group classes; do semiprivate training; coach nutrition; offer specialty programs–but the gym owner never has to worry about starvation. And neither does the coach.

We teach the Prescriptive Model to every gym owner.

Instead of hoping their “community” or “WOD scores” will keep clients around, gym owners meet with their members quarterly to measure progress; then they decide what’s next or each client. Members aren’t left to guess about their progress, or wonder if another gym would be better, or just wander into classes aimlessly.

We teach Intrapreneurialism to every coach.

Instead of waiting for staff to “do the right thing”, or guess what’s in the owner’s head, an owner can help her coaches build a career on her foundation. No more wondering if they’ll leave to start their own gym. No more asking for favors (“Will you take out the garbage when you leave?”) no more hoping they’ll live up to their salary, no more trading for classes coached. Owners do Career Roadmap meetings with their staff; plot out their opportunities to earn; and give staff as much (or as little!) coaching as they want.

We teach Affinity Marketing to everyone.

Instead of praying for clients to refer their friends, gym owners can make the referral process an active one. They use the Affinity Marketing strategy to meet the best clients and offer the best service.

We teach Digital Marketing to everyone.

Instead of waiting for people to search “Gym near me”, stressing about the messages potential clients are hearing about CrossFit, or hoping the Games shows up on ESPN this year, gym owners can take control of their media. Lead generation isn’t a problem anymore–unless you’re just waiting for them to find you.


If you build it, they will come.




If you take CONTROL, they will come. And they will stay.


I remember running out of money before I ran out of month. I remember being terrified to check my bank balance. I remember praying for sales so my rent would clear.

Then I took control: I decided how much to spend on staff; how much to spend on marketing; how much to spend on equipment. That’s when I became an owner instead of a passenger. That’s when I stopped yelling “Jesus, take the wheel!!!!” and slid into the drivers’ seat.


Need help making that shift? Book a free call with our mentoring team here.

What’s Wrong With Your Website

What’s Wrong With Your Website

How many people who visited your site last month booked an NSI?

Most gym owners have no idea.

But if I asked 500 gym owners, “Who has a great website?” almost all of them would put up their hands. Here’s why most of them are wrong.

Your website should not be judged on its art.

The purpose of a website is to convert your lead traffic to in-person consultations.

Your website’s purpose is NOT to showcase your creativity. It’s not to list your options or tell your prices or share your schedule or brag about your equipment. It’s not even to show your coaches’ bios. Prospects don’t care about any of that stuff, even though you do. People care about themselves. Your website should tell them how you’re going to solve their problem.

Think of your website as a boat in the middle of the ocean. You bring fish to the boat using paid ads, word-of-mouth, Affinity marketing, and all of your other attraction media. Then the boat brings the fish to dock. Then you eat.

Any messaging, pictures or videos on your website that don’t serve that purpose? They’re extra weight. Sometimes they sink the boat.

Your site should give just enough information to lead a client to book a No-Sweat Intro. That includes a few testimonials, and a description of how you’ll solve their problem. That’s it.

In fact, our head of marketing, John Franklin, argues that most gym websites shouldn’t even list their programs. Listing “CrossFit, BootCamp, CrossFit Lite, SweatRx…” and other options actually stops a prospective client from clicking through, because the site is asking them to figure out what they need before they decide. That’s backward. A client should ask her coach what to do.

Clients aren’t interested in your “playground”. No one’s googling “best gym community in Middleton”. Cut your website back to the bare bones; say less; tell them how you’ll solve their specific problem. THEN forge elite fitness with constantly varied functional programming in a supportive community that feels like a sport.

Good websites are more science than art. If you’re not tracking data from your site, how can you know if it’s good?