Customizing Your Gym’s On-Ramp for Better Retention and More Sales

A brilliantly lit section of freeway stands out from a web of roadways.

By Brooks DiFiore, Certified Two-Brain Fitness Business Mentor

What’s the goal of a gym’s on-ramp?

Is it to teach clients to move safely or familiarize them with terminology? Is it to show them how to scale specific movements and where to find equipment? 

Or is it to show clients the best past path forward and tie everything they will be doing directly to their goals through an individualized experience built specifically for each client? 

Most gym owners I talk to tell me their on-ramp is just this thing that’s meant to take new clients from not knowing anything to knowing just enough to be ready for classes. Yes, your on-ramp program should absolutely prepare your clients and let them know what to expect in group classes. But if that’s the only thing it’s doing, you’re missing out on a massive opportunity to increase retention and staff opportunity. 

People aren’t coming to us for group classes or personal training. They’re coming to us to achieve their goals, and helping them do that requires individualization from Day 1. By making two simple tweaks to the beginning and end of your on-ramp sessions, you can transform a one-size-fits-all program into a customized experience that improves retention and creates more opportunities for coaches to help clients achieve goals faster.

Step 1: Talk to Each Client Differently

The first thing you need to do is tell your clients exactly why they are doing what they are doing. It’s not enough to say, “Today, you are going to learn to squat because squatting is the foundation of nearly everything we do.” 

You need to tell a weight-loss client that squatting will help him reduce fat by building more lean muscle. You need to tell a general fitness client that squatting will help her increase bone density. And you need to tell a client who wants to increase strength that squatting will help her build muscle because of increased hormone production.

To us, these “whys” might seem obvious, but I promise they are not obvious to your clients.

At Two-Brain Programming, we use avatar briefs to make every group workout relative to the individual. We also use them for on-ramp sessions to show new clients why teaching them X, Y, and Z will help them achieve their goals. 

Here are three examples of how to present squatting to different avatars:

Three avatar briefs showing how a coach might explain  the benefits of squatting to 3 different clients.

Using avatar briefs helps your clients understand why they need to come in when they see squats in a workout. These briefs also allow your coaches to create stronger connections and better understand why clients are really there. The deeper those connections become and the more coaches know about clients’ goals, the more opportunities will be available for trainers to help through additional services such as nutrition, extra one-on-one sessions or mindset coaching. 

Step 2: Diagnose and Prescribe

Once your team has mastered delivering avatar briefs during the on-ramp, the next step is to finish each session with personalized accessory and mobility work.

We use the Prescriptive Model in our sales process to give clients exactly what they need. Your coaches must do the same thing and personalize each on-ramp session by diagnosing a client’s shortcomings and prescribing fixes. 

We often see coaches identify a fault or weakness that needs to be fixed with additional exercise by telling the client to scale to a certain level or modify a workout by using a substitute movement. These adjustments are important and have a place, but they don’t do much to personalize the client’s experience, and they don’t create a path to long-term success. They are equivalent to providing the client with a bandage; they don’t address the root cause.

By carving out time at the end of each session to deliver customized accessory and mobility exercises, coaches can begin building a Growth ToolKit to success clients can use over the next months. By using a “choose your own adventure” system like the one below, your coaches can quickly identify the most significant areas of weakness and begin addressing them after the first session. 

A graphic showing accessory and cool-down movements coaches can prescribe to different clients.

Ideally, your team members should use this system after every session to create a personalized template for each client. By the end of on-ramp, your coach will have a fully customized plan built for the individual, and that plan can continue through 1:1 training even as the client transitions to classes. 

Instead of knowing “I use the green band for pull-ups,” the client knows exactly what to do move to a smaller band and eventually be rid of the band altogether. Even more important, the client knows that the assigned work will help her achieve the long-term goal of an unassisted pull-up, and more personal help is available at any time if needed.

Know Their Goals!

Showing clients that we know and understand their goals is the key to increasing adherence and retention. By making these small changes, you can transform your on-ramp from a simple prerequisite for group classes into a unique client experience that sets them up for long-term success and creates new opportunities for your staff. 

Other Media in This Series

“Stop Losing Clients Before They Start”
“Personal Training: When to Give a Freebie”
“Stop Losing Clients After the First Session”


One more thing!

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