I remember August 2008 all too clearly.
I had cancellations. I had unforeseen bills. I had clients who wanted to put their membership on hold; staff who wanted to take time off; and PT clients who weren’t showing up for their sessions.
I remember no money, no sleep and mounting pressure. I remember saying, “I’m never going through this again.”
I knew I had two choices: close up the following July, or make a plan. I’ll share it below. If August isn’t the worst month in your fiscal year, that’s okay: just replace “August” with your worst-performing month.
The best step YOU can take is to think about August back in January. Work with your mentor through an Annual Plan. Schedule some revenue-boosting activities in July and September, and schedule expenses around it. Plan to take a little vacation in August yourself, and schedule your staff some time off too!
Here’s how I bridged the gap the following year, and every year since:
- Plan an event for the first weekend of September. Charge enough to keep people committed to training through August.
The Catalyst Games were born for one reason only: to boost August revenues. But they also improved adherence (people trained more through August so they weren’t “wasting” their $50 entry fee.) We just completed our 11th year.
- Sell prep courses for your event. Release events slowly, Castro-style. Run workshops or short courses to help people succeed at your event.
- Run a no-risk apparel order in July. We use the Forever Fierce preorder system.
- Run a no-risk supplement order in July. We use the Driven preorder system.
- Ask clients to be realistic about their 1:1 bookings in August. “I want to see you succeed. How realistic is it to expect you to make your Friday at 3pm appointment time?”
- Focus on nutrition. Book goal reviews for July.
- Schedule staff meetings and time off. You might as well rest: September is coming!
Here are some other options that gym owners in Two-Brain are using:
- Bingo challenges – clients are rewarded for adherence and other tasks in August
- Nutrition challenges – clients pay to enter and earn prizes
- Teachers’ Week – invite local teachers to try a class before the school year kicks off
- Corporate challenges – focus more on delivery of your services outside your daily clientele
- Sport-specific training for preseason – it might be too late for football, but winter sports should start doing their strength and conditioning work now
- Increasing ad spend – not EVERYONE stops exercising in August. Balance out lower attendance with the opportunity to onboard more new clients.
In my city, high-earners “go to camp” in August. It’s the end of the kids’ summer vacation; it’s the warmest time of year; and many Catalyst clients like to spend as much time on the lake as possible, or taking vacation. If you plan for lower adherence (and possibly lower revenue) that’s GREAT. If you don’t plan for either, August can be CATASTROPHIC. You’ll wind up sitting in an empty gym, hating life and stressing over your bills.
No matter what your plan, August is a critical month for mentorship. The best time to plan for August was back in January; the next best time to plan for NEXT August is NOW. And if you’re panicking about your bills, this is actually a great time to think ahead. Tell yourself, as I did back in 2008:
“I’m never going through this again.”
Then take steps to make it so.
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You sell coaching.
Your clients come first.
When you became a CrossFit affiliate, you didn’t take a vow of poverty. No one asked you to give strangers free coaching and charge full price to the people who put food on your table. But somehow, affiliates who do charge for drop-in visitors are sometimes attacked for being “not very CrossFit.” These poor manners were on display again at the CrossFit Games all weekend (“But my nephew is a Games athlete in the 14-year-old-division! You have to coach me for free!”)
No, you don’t. And you shouldn’t, because every additional participant in your class reduces the coaching your REAL clients get. One more client in class means your attention is split 12 ways instead of 11. And the additional background work required to host a stranger means they should really pay FAR more than your daily clients.
Here’s How the Perfect Drop-In Situation Should Work
- Visitor contacts the gym a week in advance and fills in a “visitor” form. He or she pays for the visit, chooses the class (peak times are reserved for real clients), and provides the name and email address of his or her primary coach.
- A coach at the gym contacts the visitor’s coach and receives training background and notes.
- Visitor arrives, gets amazing coaching, loves CrossFit more than he or she did before.
- Maybe visitor buys a souvenir (not included in the price.)
Here Are the Top Mistakes Gym Owners Make With Drop-In Guests
- “Buy a shirt and work out for free!” You are not in the T-shirt business. And your margin on shirts isn’t great. If someone pays $20 and you subtract the price of producing the shirt, you’re probably charging under $10 for coaching. What do your regular clients pay? Do THEY get a free T-shirt for every class they attend?
- “Your first drop-in is free!” You’re prioritizing strangers over the clients who keep you in business. Do THEY get a free class every week?
- “Just show up and sign a waiver!” If you don’t know a person’s background, how do you know who you’re coaching? Allowing a drop-in to jump into your classes without a check is the same as allowing new clients to do a free trial instead of your on-ramp program. It’s just not good coaching.
Why do gyms make these mistakes? Because they think they sell participation instead of coaching. They think they sell access to group classes. But they don’t.
Selling access to group classes is selling a commodity. If your group can absorb 1, 2 or 5 people without affecting the experience of the others in the group, then the experience wasn’t personal enough to begin with. Every additional body should affect the experience of everyone else.
Here’s How It Works at Catalyst Now
- Visitor applies to drop in for a workout.
- If he or she is a member at a Two-Brain box, we know the person is positive and well taught. We welcome the drop-in with open arms.
- If the person is a member at a CrossFit gym elsewhere, we contact his or her coach first, then usually welcome the person.
- If the drop-in hasn’t done CrossFit or isn’t a member at a real CrossFit or Two-Brain gym, we invite the person to book a personal training session.
- Everyone pays.
- The drop-in buys a shirt if he or she wants a shirt. It’s not a freebie.
Do some people complain? Sure. Some people want to use open gym time to do their own thing while they’re in town. We don’t do that.
Some people think they should receive our valuable coaching for free, while our clients pay for the gym. We don’t do that either.
Some people want to bring their dogs or take our bars outside into the gravel or play angry rap or scream during their last set of thrusters. We don’t do any of that stuff.
We also don’t welcome drop-ins during Hero WODs or on holidays because we want our coaches to be focused on our clients.
Because our primary responsibility is to my beloved clients, I have no problem saying “NO” to drop-ins. They’re usually great people; they’re almost always good huggers. And sometimes they add a new dash of spice to the noon group. But they’re not my main concern. We accept drop-ins who make things easy for us; not the other way around.
When you visit a gym that’s not your own, you should expect to be their lowest priority, not their highest. You should expect to pay more than their clients do. You should practice “beginner’s mind” and welcome a novel opportunity to learn from a coach with a different perspective. You should expect to tell your host a few things about yourself so they’re ready for you.
You should not expect a free ride. And gym owners shouldn’t put their clients aside to give you one.
Need more advice on common problems? Click here to book a free call with a certified Two-Brain Business mentor.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- You don’t need a platform like Hootsuite unless you can consistently post good content–not just social media pics–every single day.
- 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?
Most CrossFit Gyms (and other microgyms) have encountered the Six-Week Challenge: a short-term introduction to high-intensity exercise for new clients. Some love it; some hate it. But like CrossFit itself, there are dozens of variations of the Six Week Challenge available. And they all have one thing in common: they’re mostly set up as a marketing strategy. Because, as a marketing strategy, six-week challenges work.
But most gyms fail to retain the clients when the six week challenge ends. And since The New-You Challenge popularized the idea years ago, others have added their own twists–sometimes with long-term negative results. Bait-and-switch promises; rapid turnover; and outright lying to potential clients has tarnished the strategy’s image among gym owners. But potential clients are still attracted to the idea of a Six-Week Challenge.
At Two-Brain, we teach gym owners how to use Facebook marketing effectively. But we don’t teach slimy gimmicks. We want clients to find what they seek; and we don’t want gym owners to sacrifice their values. It’s possible, and we have the data to prove it. Here’s how to separate the baby from the bathwater with Six-Week Challenges:
- Make them personalized. Each client’s six-week challenge should be different, because they’re all starting from a different spot. That means Amy’s six-week challenge and Marcy’s six-week challenge will include a different mix of nutrition coaching, personal training and group training. But both will be effective if they’re tailored to the client.
- Start with a consultation. Instead of selling a group-entry option, have every new client book an appointment to talk with a coach. Then make them a prescription according to THEIR goals, instead of trying to sell a general group workout plan.
- Make them premium. Personalized service is the path to being commoditized brands like Orange Theory. But it also takes more of the coach’s time. Make sure your gym has the pricing and service structure to sell premium services (usually $500-800 for the first six weeks.) If you don’t know how or what to sell for $500, sign up for the Incubator here. We’ll teach you. (It’s not a sales trick: you actually have to build and sell amazing services).
- Follow the Prescriptive Model: measure what the client cares about (tip: it’s not the Functional Movement Screen.) Measure again after the six-week challenge ends. Prescribe a new six-week challenge, or enrollment into your regular program: whatever is best for the client.
The industry “experts” who criticize Six-Week Challenges usually don’t know how to separate the marketing from the negative stuff. That means they usually don’t understand Facebook marketing at all. We take a “two-brained” approach to every strategy:
First, we want to know what works. And Facebook marketing definitely works.
Second, we want to find ways to deliver what works in a professional way. Six-week challenges, done individually, provide excellent solutions for your clients.
Introducing 30 people into a high-intensity group exercise class at a time? That doesn’t work. You’ll lose your current clients along with the new ones. Bait-and-switch, “$0 challenges”? Same. Your reputation will suffer. But an effective marketing strategy doesn’t have to be slimy. Keep the marketing, AND the clients, by doing it the right way. We teach you step-by-step in the Incubator.
Yesterday’s workout was very challenging for me, because it was easy.
My new cycling coach instructed me to ride for an hour with a heart rate between 137 and 158–what endurance athletes call “Zone 2”.
My resting heart rate is around 62. But I LOVE CYCLING. When I hear my feet snap into the pedals of my Scott Gravel, my heart rate jumps by 10 beats per minute. And most of my workouts are hard, so the little dose of anxiety bumps my heart up another gear. I was coming off some huge personal bests, and was eager to see even more progress. And I had just watched Julian Alaphilippe win a Tour stage on a solo breakout. I wanted to go fast and hard. But I listened to my coach.
For the next hour, I coasted a lot. I slowed my climbs to try and keep my heart rate low. I listened to Bon Jovi (no joke) instead of my usual playlist. It was extremely challenging to slow down. But I did it, because I already knew the value of going slow. I learned it from my first business mentor.
In 2009, I was broke and exhausted. My ego was gone. That made me an empty shell: I was finally ready to receive help. When I made my first appointment with Denis (my first real mentor), I expected him to give me a silver bullet marketing strategy. After all, I thought I knew my problem: I needed more clients.
Instead, Denis taught me to break down the Roles and Tasks in my business. It was an extremely slow process. It was especially painful because I didn’t understand the value: I didn’t have any money to pay others to fill these roles. But I sat at my coffee table and wrote all weekend anyway, because I knew that really was my last shot.
Two weeks later, he told me to write out my Mission and Vision for the business. Again, I struggled to see how this would solve my financial problems. But I wrote them down, and then started writing about my process on DontBuyAds.com. If you’ve followed that blog, read my books, or received my emails at any point over the last ten years, you know that these “easy” exercises are the foundation of everything I’ve built. They were my fulcrum for leveraging change, and then growth. The principles on which I’ve built Two-Brain Business (a multi-million-dollar worldwide corporation with trademarks and patents and extremely powerful leaders) are the same ones I had to learn to save Catalyst (my first gym, which is still very profitable without my presence.)
The discipline to go slow is the hardest of all.
As CrossFitters and fitness enthusiasts, we’re taught that intensity>everything else. But every professional athlete knows that’s not true: that the body adapts and down-shifts its output over time. Max effort workouts become “sorta hard” efforts. We self-regulate with overtraining, injury, and plateaus. But amateur athletes try to go hard every single day, because they’re drawn by the novelty of short-term results. Pros know better.
Entrepreneurs (and I’m the worst here) try to approach every idea with maximal intensity. We over-market, over-hype, over-hire and overspend. Eventually, our efforts to learn more; hire and train staff; build staff; and improve retention become “sorta good” work.
Writing roles and tasks, staff contracts, and mission statements aren’t sexy. Facebook ads are sexy. But if you haven’t built the foundation–if you haven’t done the slow work–your business will self-regulate. You’ll burn out; you’ll have high turnover; your staff will leave to open competing businesses; and you’ll hit a revenue ceiling.
The Discipline to do the slow work is the hardest of all. I couldn’t do it until I was desperate: my business was injured. I was thinking about quitting. Luckily, I found a coach when I was desperate enough to listen. Now, I hope, I’m smart enough to do the same on my bike. Because soon it will be time to go FAST, and I want to be ready.
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.