Marketing & Retention: Tips From Gym Owners With 300+ Clients

A picture of Chris Cooper with the title "Marketing & Retention: Tips From Gym Owners With 300+ Clients."

Chris Cooper (00:02):
Quick question. If you’ve got 1,000 clients in a micro gym, can we still even call you a micro gym? I’m Chris Cooper. This is “Run a Profitable Gym,” and it’s our leaderboard show, and it’s one of my favorites where we talk about who is serving the most clients in their box. Today, what I’m going to do is give you our Top 10 for client headcount in Two-Brain, worldwide. There are a few reasons I’m extra excited about this show. Number one, as always, we’re going to tell you how they did it. We’re going to go step by step and say like, “Here’s how this gym got to over 1,000 members, and here’s how this gym got to 700.” Number two, I love the international flavor. Now of course these are microgyms. Some are CrossFit gyms; some are strength conditioning. I think Fit Body Boot Camp might be on the leaderboard this time.

Chris Cooper (00:49):
There are some franchises like F45 in the mix here too. So, it’s really awesome to see how these all work together or compete with one another or play out. But what’s really cool is that no matter what the gym method is, the model that we give them in Two Brain is highly effective. And using the four marketing funnels that we teach in our mentorship practice is exactly how every single one of these gyms—no matter what stripe, no matter what country, no matter what method—got to where they are. So, let’s get into it. First, I’m going to do a countdown of the Top 10 gyms by client headcount in Two-Brain Business. Now, first, number 10 on our leaderboard for client headcount last month comes from the USA. They have 324 paying clients, and that’s amazing. But what’s really amazing is that their profit margin is also great.

Chris Cooper (01:36):
Look, while client headcount is amazing and that’s what we’re here today to celebrate, it’s not the only thing. There are many gyms out there, especially in the CrossFit world, but also in like some kickboxing franchises, they’ll say, “We got 500 gyms,” but they’re not even profitable with 500 clients, or you know, “We got 500 clients.” They’re still not even profitable. They can have 300 clients, and they still can’t pay a coach a single great income, or the owner is not making a great income themselves. And so, often if you see people who are like, “I got 300 clients, and I’m going to open a second gym,” it’s because they don’t know how to make good money at their first gym. 300 clients is a lot. The other thing you have to consider is that sometimes with a client headcount that’s really high, you also get a lot of churn.

Chris Cooper (02:22):
You might not even want 300 clients because that means you’ve got to get 10 new clients every single month just to replace the ones you lose. But the amazing thing about the people on this leaderboard is that while they’re really, really strong at this client headcount metric, all of them are also pretty good at retention, and some are amazing at ARM. There’s somebody on this leaderboard from the U.S. whose headcount is under 400, and their net profit for one month last month was $35,000. One month. That’s just profit; that’s not revenue. So, looking at client headcount, to me, is like looking at the biggest deadlifts in the world: amazing, inspiring, incredible. I can learn from you, but if that deadlifter is in the Top 10 in the world for deadlift and can also run 17-minute 5K, wow, I’m going to learn a ton from you.

Chris Cooper (03:10):
And so publicly, we share one of these every single month so that you can learn how to get more clients or how to improve client value or how to improve retention. And then in our mentorship program, we teach you how to do all of it. Alright, so starting with number ten, 324 clients in your microgym. Congratulations. Number nine—also in the USA—346 clients in your microgym. Congratulations. I know both of these gyms; I know who they are, and the owners are making a good living and providing meaningful opportunities to their coaches at 324 clients. And that’s what we care about most. At number eight, we have a gym from the Netherlands with 363 clients in their microgym. Congratulations. We spoke to this gym and got a little bit of information, and what they’ve been doing recently to make it onto the leaderboard is just auditing their marketing funnels.

Chris Cooper (04:02):
So a lot of gyms will find they’re doing good things with their marketing, but they don’t have a cohesive plan. And so, they work with their mentor to audit all four of their marketing funnels. So real quickly, those four marketing funnels are paid ads: You need to have a paid ads funnel, even if you’re spending a dollar a day on paid ads. If you’re not doing paid ads right now, you’re losing ground. We’re going to show you how to do that really effectively, so you don’t have to blow 500 bucks a month on it—unless you want to. Second, you need a referral funnel: You need to be active about referrals. You need to have a process for getting referrals, not just like waiting and hoping that somebody brings their buddy. Third: You need to have an organic social media funnel. This doesn’t just mean posting random junk on social media like memes and gifs and jokes.

Chris Cooper (04:46):
You actually have to have a plan, and you have to have a plan to get people off of Instagram and onto your seat in your sales office. You have to have that plan—like it’s the whole funnel. It’s not just posting every day that counts. It’s: How do you get people from Instagram into your office? Facebook, et cetera. And then the fourth funnel that you use is a content funnel, and this is like the bigger content: This is blog posts, podcasts, YouTube, and producing this stuff is what builds trust. It helps with your retention, and it helps with your marketing. And each one of these four funnels feed the other; the ads funnel gets people to see more of your content, and your social media funnel gets people to engage with your content better or gets them off Instagram and onto your website. And then your website gets people to book the NSI.

Chris Cooper (05:29):
And of course we measure metrics along every step. The people who got on the leaderboard are not there because they’re really, really good at Facebook ads only, or they’re not there because they have an amazing retention plan. Maybe they do, but more than anything else, they’re probably pretty good at all four. They’re probably good at auditing all four. They probably routinely check to make sure that the funnels are active and working. If there’s one meta lesson that I want you to take from this episode, that’s it. Go audit your four funnels; audit the different stages of each funnel. Is this generating me leads? Are those leads going to my website? Are they booking appointments, and are they signing up when they come in? Those are the four levels of the four funnels. You need to audit all of those steps, and if you do that, you’ll get more clients.

Chris Cooper (06:11):
Number seven is from Belgium: 373 clients. So far, we’ve only gone through four gyms. We’ve got two from the U.S., one from the Netherlands and one from Belgium. The number six gym is also from the U.S. They have 391 clients. Again, these are high-value clients. They’re not just paying you 70 bucks a month to come in and attend your group class. Like these are good clients with long-term retention and a very high ARM. Number five on our leaderboard, just shy of 400, but also tied with number four is 395 clients, and that’s to a gym in the U.K. Love it so much. But as I said, they’re tied with number four in the leaderboard, who also has 395 clients, and they’re from the Netherlands. This is the first time that I can remember that we’ve had two completely separate gyms from the Netherlands crack the Top 10 for client headcount, value or retention.

Chris Cooper (07:05):
So congratulations to the owners of both of those gyms. That’s incredible. Good for you. Alright, third on our list for most clients in Two-Brain last month: 457 clients, and this gym is in Denmark. Amazing job. Now I just want to have a quick reminder here. These are not like 457 clients across two gyms, three gyms. This is one location: 457 clients. I know it’s really popular in a lot of different methods or affiliates or franchises to hear about these gyms that have 1,000 clients, 3,000 clients. You need to ask questions about those numbers. You always want to know, like, “Yeah, but what’s your retention? Are you replacing 50 clients a month? You’re not going to be able to do that forever. What’s the value of these clients? Why do you need so many clients? And is that all-time, or do you know for sure?”

Chris Cooper (07:56):
“How do you have a relationship with all these clients?” So, we want to report single-location clients so that we’re comparing apples to apples. You know, if somebody shows up, for example, like maybe you’re in Spain. You’ve only been open for a year; you’ve got 400 clients, but that’s spread across three boxes. There’s less we can learn from you than from these guys who have been open for years, and they have clients who stick around for years, and those clients are high value and you know, et cetera. And they’re still providing an amazing opportunity. They’re good at marketing, but they’re really, really, really good at retention. You know, most gyms that we meet don’t have a marketing problem. They have a retention problem. And the way that you get to a good client headcount is not to be the best at marketing; it’s to be incredible at retention.

Chris Cooper (08:43):
It’s not just getting more people in. It’s keeping the people you get. So that’s a top tip from some of these people on the leaderboard. Our second-place last month has 698 clients at one location in the USA. Congratulations to them. And finally, I guess we could do the big drum roll here. Our gym with the most active clients last month is 1,034 clients. This is a CrossFit gym—single location—in Chile. This guy has been on the leaderboard before. He has an enormous heart. Actually. He just texted us two nights ago. He was on the beach somewhere in Mexico on a family vacation. His gym is still going without him. He’s got over 1,000 clients. Like this guy is a rockstar in the fitness community, let alone the CrossFit community. He is legit when he says he’s got 1,034 clients, that means like active as of, you know, today.

Chris Cooper (09:36):
He knows exactly how many clients he’s got. He’s got systems in place to help him get and keep those clients. Now, I’ve got a couple of other tips for you from the leaders. So, I said earlier that the reason that a lot of these gyms get these clients is retention more than marketing. You know, you used to hear from all these marketing agencies, “We put 80 clients into gym last month.” They never say, “And 60 are still there today.” They never say, “We put 100 people into that gym last year, and 98 of them are still there,” right? You never hear that. And that’s because while these agencies sometimes are effective at getting people in your gym, the people that they bring in are the wrong people, or those people are really not interested long-term, and it creates this big churn problem.

Chris Cooper (10:22):
These gyms that I’m highlighting to you are impressive not just because they have big numbers, but because they keep them. And so, when we were talking to one of these gym owners—he was always on the leaderboard, by the way; sometimes he’s top, but he is always like Top 4—he said, “My numbers are due to retention. I use a CSM”—that’s a client success manager, somebody who’s just in charge of retention—”and we do goal review sessions. I gave the CSM targets, and they dramatically increased the number of people who show up for their goal reviews. We started doing them first with new clients. Then we started targeting at-risk members to save them by booking goal reviews and talking to them before they quit. Then we started backfilling with goal reviews on all of our existing clients. And at first, they were hesitant, but we’re now seeing new people get better service and results.”

Chris Cooper (11:10):
“I tracked all my metrics, and I saw them improve as a result of this. My business is 75% group and 25% personal training. And while group rates in Denmark”—this guy is in Denmark—”are not good, like a hundred bucks a month or something, personal training rates in Denmark are very high, like 130 bucks a month.” So, almost double the average of the U.S. So, there’s a massive premium there. And the beautiful part about all that PT is that the people who sign up for PT at this guy’s gym in Denmark, there are people who would’ve said no to his group program. Like he’s opening the door to them and letting them come in and keeping them longer in PT, and they’re paying more per session than most people pay per month for a group. So, while this is kind of a HIIT-model-type gym, just having that option for one-on-one will allow people to come into your gym who wouldn’t be signing up for your group program.

Chris Cooper (12:05):
I think that’s really important to learn here. And he’s keeping them. The same guy says he’s also having great success with Facebook ads, and he hit a jackpot in January after the leaderboard came out. He got about 200 leads, and he added about 50 more clients. So, his board total of 457 back then is now 512. That’s not his only funnel, but it’s the big one for him right now. So, look: Which of the four funnels are going to be most important to you? It depends where you are in the world. It depends where you are in the lifespan of your gym. Right now, if you’re in Western Europe, Facebook ads seem to be working really well. Right now, if you’re in the States—depending where you are in the States—Facebook and Instagram ads might be working, or they might not be.

Chris Cooper (12:48):
It could be where you are in the states that Google is far more important, and you need to be working on reviews. The key though is that you’ve mapped out your four marketing funnels. You check them every quarter or so; you audit them to make sure that they’re working. The big mistake a lot of gym owners make when they’re trying to get more clients is they’ll just try one thing in isolation. “I’m going to post every day to Instagram for 30 days.” Great. Like, that’s one part of one funnel. It’s like changing one tire on your car and letting the other three stay flat and not checking them. You have to do this. It doesn’t take a PhD in marketing to figure out how to do a social media audit. We do it with our clients all the time. It’s a standard operating procedure between the mentor and their client.

Chris Cooper (13:34):
They just do this. And once they fix those funnels, they find that, “Oh, I don’t actually need to do this new thing, or I don’t have to go learn about this crazy thing that I don’t have time for. I just need to fix and shore up the marketing that I have if I want to get more clients.” And most importantly, for the millionth time, keep the clients that you sign up longer: That is the key to big numbers. It’s retention, not marketing, but you have to have the marketing too. I’m Chris Cooper. This is “Run a Profitable Gym.” Hey, if this is helpful to you, you can talk to the people on this leaderboard at That’s our free group. There are almost 9,000 gym owners in there sharing advice, sharing tips, sharing resources, and we share free stuff from Two-Brain every single day. If you’re ready to stop trying to figure this stuff out all on your own, you want to just get the results fast instead of, “Oh, I’ll read this book. I’ll try and figure out what he’s talking about with funnels and leads and set rates, show rate, close rate. I’ll just like forget about this podcast.” Look, book a call with my team; get a mentor. When you buy mentorship, you’re buying speed. You don’t have to guess. You don’t have to figure it out. You don’t have to study on it. You just have to do it. And the mentor is there to do it with you. Thank you for your service.

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