Top Tips for Dominating Your Local Market

A man whispering the words "Top Tips for Dominating Your Local Market."

John Franklin (00:02):
Hello, and welcome to a very special episode of Two-Brain Radio. I am John Franklin reporting in for Two-Brain with my very special guest and very special friend all the way from the North Pole, Jack Wheeler. How you doing, buddy?

Jack Wheeler (00:18):
Good, Mr. Franklin. How are you?

John Franklin (00:19):
Yeah, Jack was just telling me that it is -22 where he lives. It’s Red Deer, Canada for all you Canadians familiar with that. We’re filming this during the polar vortex, right?

Jack Wheeler (00:31):
That’s right. Yeah. We get one a year.

John Franklin (00:33):
People are just freezing to the ground. You’re saying your food just freezes in your hand. You can’t like—

Jack Wheeler (00:37):
Yeah, if it’s outside, yeah. Even if you’re driving and you have a water bottle in your hand, and it’ll freeze in your hand. But like I said, it warmed up 20 degrees today, and it’s -22 or something, so we’re out of the thick. Yeah, it’s going to be, it’s going to be positive temperatures by the weekend, and that means sandals and T-shirts. Let’s go tanning.

John Franklin (00:56):
As someone from Florida, this is your friendly reminder, Two-Brain, that winter is optional. So despite making poor choices when it comes to where to live, Jack makes very smart choices when it comes to his fitness business. He’s the owner of 360 Fitness. You have two separate locations: one in Red Deer, one in Sherwood Park. We were talking before the show. It sounds like you’re going to be doing over three million in top line, which is insane. And you offer no group classes, right?

Jack Wheeler (01:27):
Yeah, just semi-privates or small group personal training, and one-on-one is our bread and butter.

John Franklin (01:31):
And so how do you, how do you package and price your services? It’s been a while. It’s been about a year since I’ve talked with you, and so maybe you can give me an update to see if anything’s changed.

Jack Wheeler (01:41):
Yeah, so we do our front-end offer. Everything drives towards a six-week intro program, whether that’s our six-week challenge for folks under 50, or our Fit-Over-50 six-week challenge for folks over 50. We just package them up a little bit different. And then for our six-week challenge, they can either do a hybrid option, which is a combination of semi-private and one-on-one or strictly one-on-one. And then our Fit-Over-50 is exclusively one-on-one person training. And then we do the trials over the six weeks. We convert them into our full-time memberships. And again, it’s hybrid or one-on-one. And we got three-, six- and 12-month options. That’s it. Super simple.

John Franklin (02:16):
And that’s six-weeker. What does that cost these days?

Jack Wheeler (02:20):
Yeah. One-on-one—it’s all 30-minute sessions for the personal training and semi-private. So one-on-one is $700 and hybrid is $600.

John Franklin (02:27):
OK. And hybrid is both one-on-one and small group, you said?

Jack Wheeler (02:31):
Yeah. You bet. Yep.

John Franklin (02:32):
All right. And that’s what, three sessions a week? Four sessions a week?

Jack Wheeler (02:35):
Yep. Three times a week. Yep. Same nutrition manual comes with their initial assessment; the six-week nutrition manual, you know, cardio area access and the one-on-one person training in small group or the combination of.

John Franklin (02:47):
So the 30-minute sessions: It’s like you’ll come in, people do like warmup on their own, and the trainer’s there for the meat and potatoes, and they have their own cool down, or do you still—

Jack Wheeler (02:55):
Yeah, they do their own cool down. We have a full cardio area and kind of a warmup exclusive area for our clients to come in. We just got some rollers and treadmills and bikes and some skipping ropes and some mats and foam rolling equipment—that kind of stuff. And the clients are expected to come in about 15, 20 minutes early for the warmup, you know, get changed, get warmed up, be ready to go, and then that when that clock hits, they’re ready to go. It makes their sessions better; it cuts down on their budget. We can increase their frequency for it. And then it’s better for the coaches as well because we can fit more bodies in.

John Franklin (03:23):
And how many sessions are you doing in Red Deer?

Jack Wheeler (03:26):
Over 4,000 a month.

John Franklin (03:27):

Jack Wheeler (03:29):
Yeah, I think it was 4,300 was their average.

John Franklin (03:31):
OK. And how many coaches does that require?

Jack Wheeler (03:35):
I think right now I think we’re about 10 full-timers and about four or five part-timers. And then they’re all about 80% capacity.

John Franklin (03:43):
And how do you do that? I feel like everyone’s having trouble getting like two or three coaches that are solid. What do you—how are you gobbling up 15?

Jack Wheeler (03:52):
Oh yeah. Just doing the simple things. And it makes them stay a lot more if they have a full schedule. You keep them busy, get rid of those idle hands, you know, pay them accordingly. You know, pay them, pay them a fair, honest wage. Make sure that they have a career ascension plan in front of them and not just pay or trading time for money. We do a lot of entrepreneurial stuff where they can kind of—not run their independent business out of our studio, but they can identify their skills and their talents and kind of what they’re really good at. Pitch that to us. And they can kind of operate their own workshops and nutrition seminars and things like that so they can make some more money outside of the person training floor. And then we also have independent profit paths where they get compensated for showcasing clients, writing articles, doing before and after photos, gathering video testimonials. So, things that we would pay for anyways, but it just takes off our ad budget and gives it right to them. So, there’s a whole bunch of different ways that they get compensated.

John Franklin (04:43):
So you have like this punch list of stuff you need to do, and then they can go in there and say, “Hey, I want to do this. I want to do this; I want to do this.”

Jack Wheeler (04:49):
Exactly. Yeah. And it’s not mandatory by any means. They don’t have to hit certain metrics on it. That’s why we call it the IPP, the independent one. And they can do as little or as much as they want to. So, it’s great for slower months, especially in December or if they’re having a trip coming up, holidays, things like that. You know, we pay them above industry average. We have full benefits. We give them tons of flexibility. And then the fact that we’re so full, they don’t have to do split shifts. You know, they don’t have to work every single weekend. You know, they’re doing 30 to 35 hours of PT on a 40-hour shift, filling it with some other things. So that work-life balance is a heck of a lot better. And the burnout is—it’s not like what it is on the industry average. So just treat them good, you know, and then they’ll treat you good, and then making sure that their schedules are full. That’s everything.

John Franklin (05:38):
Yeah. And for you, the big things like ads, right? That’s how—that’s your bread and butter for client acquisition.

Jack Wheeler (05:46):
Yeah, that’s, that’s mainly it. And just to kind of go back, when you were asking about appointments, that’s 4,000 just at the one location. The other location is about 2,700-2,800. So, we’re doing, you know, 7,000 appointments a month.

John Franklin (05:58):
Across the system.

Jack Wheeler (05:59):
Yeah, across two locations. And the towns are no bigger than 100,000 people. It’s pretty awesome.

John Franklin (06:06):
Yeah. When I heard about Jack Wheeler’s gym, the first thing I did was I got on a plane and went to see it myself—because I didn’t believe it.

Jack Wheeler (06:14):
You had to drive hours from the airport.

John Franklin (06:16):
Yeah, we landed on the North Pole, and then it was a seven-hour drive, and we went to the local Boston Pizza, and I saw it. I saw it. I worked out; I drank the smoothies with my own bare hands. And yeah, it’s crazy. It’s a revolving door. It’s a machine, a well-oiled machine, and that was five or six years ago. So, I imagine you have it more dialed in now.

Jack Wheeler (06:38):
Yeah, honestly—

John Franklin (06:40):
Actually more—that would’ve been eight years ago. Wow. Yeah, it’s probably eight or nine years ago.

Jack Wheeler (06:44):
We have like a lot of the same typical offers, right? We’ve just streamlined the process and just mastered it and mastered it and mastered it, so we don’t have to recreate everything every single year or put a flashy new spin on it. The only person that needs it new and fresh is usually you, right? Your customers don’t, your staff don’t, you just need to dial in a couple things and just get better and better and better and better and better at them. And just avoid that shiny object syndrome. Just get rid of that and just focus on the basics—master the fundamentals.

John Franklin (07:15):
And we will talk about some of those. You know, this episode, this week of content, is all about dominating your local market and just being the go-to choice for your specific niche, the people that you are looking to serve there. And so, for you, you own personal training in Red Deer. If anybody’s tossing—if anybody’s by their phone, you do some Google searching, you try to find the best personal trainer in Red Deer, there is no way you are not coming across Jack’s stuff. So maybe you can run across, like, was that deliberate? Like, did you hone in on personal training versus like gym or group training or any of the other words you could have targeted? And then how’d you go about, like, dominating that word?

Jack Wheeler (08:00):
Yeah, for SEO, it’s, you know, frequency and volume and perpetuity, right? So, we’ve been in business for 15 years at the one location and nine for the other. So, like, the fact that we have all that stuff compounding on our digital platforms helps. It’s not like we’re really fantastic at it or put a whole bunch of money behind it. We’re just really diligent on doing it every single month, doing the basics. And then we’ve just been doing it for longer than anybody else. You know, gyms in our town come and go left, right, and center. And then the ones that kind of do stick around are, you know, big brands—big brands with lack of SEO. Big brands that really don’t care a lot about their internal markets and more about the bigger brands behind it. So, for the SEO kind of side, we blog one or two times a month. We make sure that those guys are SEO-optimized. And then we just have everything tying back. In all of our social media platforms, it has our town and what we do and link in bio. It’s town and what we do; a lot of it is just tied back, back and forth, which is nice. You just do it over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. Right?

John Franklin (09:07):
If you’re listening, I have the—I Googled “Red Deer personal training,” and so you literally—Jack is number one in the snack pack. So, he ranks first for Google My Business. It actually says on the Google listing, “10 plus years in business.” Then he ranks number one for “Red Deer personal training,” and then the next is Yelp, in which he’s the number one listing on Yelp. And then there’s a couple of his competitors. Then it’s his Mindbody Link; then it’s his Facebook page. That’s all on page one of Google.

Jack Wheeler (09:42):
Nice, and you’re coming from Florida. And we don’t pay for Google, like, SEO ads. You know, we have video views and things like that, but we don’t do the PPC clicks or anything. Our other stuff is just more important.

John Franklin (09:54):
So if you’re—and again, like, I don’t think Jack could have four things on page one of Google, if he was doing New York City personal training. There is a bias because Red Deer is a small town, but it’s not, like he said, it’s not a 5,000-person town. Like they’ve got—they have a Boston Pizza. So that means it’s on the map.

Jack Wheeler (10:10):
We have two Boston Pizzas. We’ve got two Boston Pizzas, a post office. Like, we’re growing like fast.

John Franklin (10:18):
No, all jokes aside, you said it’s a 50,000 people?

Jack Wheeler (10:22):
Red Deer’s about 100,000 people. In Shore Park, our other location, is kind of a big suburb spinoff of a greater metro area called Edmonton. So, it’s just on the outside.

John Franklin (10:33):
So yeah, we got one, two. Yeah. So, and then on the second page, his personal training subpage is the number one listing on the second page. So again, I don’t know where you would rank if we did “gym Red Deer.”

Jack Wheeler (10:47):
I don’t know. Let’s find out.

John Franklin (10:48):
It probably won’t be as good. So yeah, if you look at “gym,” he’s not in the snack pack, and he makes page one. So, there’s two competitors, two Yelp listings, a third competitor, and then you, so you’re doing—you’re still on page one for gym, but you could see, you know, it’s really been honing in on that specific thing, which I would imagine “personal training” is a much more valuable keyword to own than “gym.” Like you’re here, and Anytime Fitness is number one for—and that’s what? Like a $20 a month membership?

Jack Wheeler (11:23):
Yeah. They’re a huge, big brand. You know, they come and go all the time. But the best thing about it is like, you want to be known before they go to their Google. Right? When they go to their Google, it should just be to compound what they already know about you and all the good information about you and your studio already. So, they’re going to go there after their consumer-aware about you and what problems that you solve, right? They’re going to go there to do homework and find out Facebook reviews and Google reviews and stuff like that, but you don’t want it to be the first thing that they’ve heard about your business. Right? It should be a kind of sprinkle in there and another sign of like, “Hey, yes, we mean business. We’ve been here for a long time. We’ve been doing this longer and better than anybody else.” Assist and buy. Right? It’s a validation of their homework on you. So, they already come to Google already knowing pretty much everything about us that they’re going to need. And it just goes to relate that they’re making a good decision.

John Franklin (12:15):
So I know there’s other—you know, you talked about doing SEO-related blog posts, and that’s kind of where everyone’s headed, like “SEO is blog posts,” which isn’t necessarily true. Like there is a length of time you’ve been in business, but there’s also—one of the things that I think you do well is you win a bunch of awards. And, you know, as someone who’s got a bunch of awards on their wall, like, some of that’s like pay-to-play, right? Like you have to put—you have to be on their map. So, can you talk about, like, some of the places that you look for kind of like “best of” awards, or how you go about that process?

Jack Wheeler (12:50):
Yeah. So, we try to go as local as possible, you know, for—we’ve been named Top 100 by IHRSA so many times; we’ve been named to, you know, provincial leaderboards and national leaderboards and all that fun stuff, and more often than not, your clients don’t care, right? They want to have it local and something that means something to them. So, we go for—we nominate, we get nominated more often than not, or nominate ourselves for the local newspaper awards or local consumer choice awards, things like that, where they can vote on it. There are pay-to-plays on that, but you can’t buy it out. You know, you can advertise on those sites or inside the newspaper or anything else. But the other ones, the newspaper guys, you can’t, which is nice. And for us, we win “Best Gym” and “Best Personal Trainer” at both gyms every year, like rinse and repeat.

Jack Wheeler (13:37):
And we know that we have to have outside players of our gym nominating and voting for us. Because we don’t have enough people; you know, we have 400 members at one gym and 300 at another—where the GoodLife down the street’s got 5,000, right? So, we know that if we have 100% buy-in from our staff and our clients, we still won’t be on the radar. We have to have a community involvement. People that haven’t been our customers and may never be our customers, they’re still voting for us as the best gym because we’ve been around, and we’re doing things outside of our four walls and not just on SEO.

John Franklin (14:09):
And links matter too. Like you say the IHRSA stuff doesn’t matter. But if IHRSA is an old domain, the organization’s been around for a while, and them linking to you and saying, “You’re the best gym,” that’s a strong signal to Google. The whatever, Red Deer Gazelle or whatever paper, like, you know, if you’re the best personal trainer in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 all the way through, and you have all those links, like that’s all cataloged, and that reflects very well. That sends a very strong signal, like: This is the best personal trainer. Like Google doesn’t know how, you know, your reward thing and how you got 500 people to vote for you. Like all it knows is this article that says, “Best Personal Trainer in Red Deer,” it links to 360 Personal Training; it has for the last 10 years.

Jack Wheeler (14:53):
Yeah. Over and over and over and over and over again. Yeah. It really does. And then it all ties into our social media. They bring us back to the blogs, and it’s just kind of a big spider web into it. And then for like our blogs and everything too, it’s—even on like our pages, it’s not like that cryptic SEO stuff in 2014 where it’s just “Red Deer personal training does Red Deer personal training,” not “Red Deer personal trainer,” you know, that kind of thing. You know, we make it very good for the customer. We talk about pain points, things like that, and then draw things back with different links or actually when it makes sense. So, it’s a readable article, readable blog, and it’s doing the SEO at the same time, but not just in a spreadsheet looking thing like a lot of our competitors do.

John Franklin (15:34):
How much are you putting out? Like how many blog posts are you churning out these days?

Jack Wheeler (15:39):
Like one or two a month at each location. That’s it. That’s it.

John Franklin (15:41):
OK. So, it’s nothing crazy.

Jack Wheeler (15:43):
No, nothing. Nothing at all.

John Franklin (15:45):
And are you on the AI train, or are you just—

Jack Wheeler (15:47):
We can for ideas and stuff like that, but we got so much content anyways. Like you’re talking about the same 10 things over and over and over for fitness businesses, and that’s great. You don’t need to—we use AI to kind of help us out on editing things like that. For good ideas, organic is nice and the way to go.

John Franklin (16:03):
I just love putting writing in there and just be like, what can I do to make this better?

Jack Wheeler (16:08):
Yeah, exactly.

John Franklin (16:08):
And get a bunch of ideas. And it’s just like—it’s like a great partner. Like it’s if you had somebody sitting next to you and was giving you some feedback, which is nice. But it’s pretty obvious when people are using it to write their entire blog posts. And I think people don’t like that. So, we talked about the award piece. We talked about honing in on that one offer. You know, CrossFit—a lot of CrossFit gyms will listen to this. Do you think if you were starting a CrossFit gym today, would you focus on personal training, or would you focus on being the number one CrossFit gym? Is that—you know, like you kind of have to—you can’t do both really.

Jack Wheeler (16:46):
Exactly. Like, we’re not the best group fitness place. We don’t have the best classes. We don’t have the best setup for it, so we can’t compete on that. If I was going to be a CrossFit gym, I would be the best damn CrossFit out there. And then once I built up my market, I’d internally advertise that one-on-one person training for that VIP experience. But if somebody’s looking at CrossFit, they’re maybe not thinking that one-on-one person training is their best bet, right? That’s not the service that they’re looking for yet. Once they know I can trust you a lot more, then I would advertise that one-on-one to the interior market. But if I’m opening up a CrossFit box, that’s it. That’s your primary niche focus. You can’t be everything to everybody all at once because that means you’re nowhere fast.

John Franklin (17:28):
And that’s a perfect point. Like it’s something we’ve had a lot of conversations about where, you know, just because you offer nutrition and personal training and you have ice baths in your gym, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to rank first. Like that’s not going to get you in the number one spot. If you’re in a very small town, maybe. But like, if you are a CrossFit gym that also offers personal training, you are going to lose to a guy like Jack.

Jack Wheeler (17:53):
Yeah, exactly.

John Franklin (17:54):
Who, all is writing—his headline, the name of his gym—literally says personal training in it. Whereas if Jack tried to offer a CrossFit-affiliated and tried to offer a CrossFit program, like he’s just not going to rank compared to, I don’t know, “CrossFit Red Deer.” Is there a CrossFit Red Deer anymore?

Jack Wheeler (18:10):
Yeah, we got like five or six at any given time, and four of them always come and go because they’re trying to be everything to everybody. And they’re not known for anything. They’re not known for anything at all, and the names just kind of come and go.

John Franklin (18:22):
That’s not to say like—if you do CrossFit in a 101 setting, you can be like “CrossFit personal training.” Like that could potentially work. You know, you either need to signal “group,” you either need to signal “private training,” you need to signal “small group training,” and not try and be everything to everybody.

Jack Wheeler (18:38):
Yeah. And your customers, like, you got five seconds; you got five seconds. They’re going to search the simplest term, the thing that they know you for, or the thing that you tell them that I’m known for. They’re going to search that. They’re going to Google that. You know, they’re going to ask their friends about those keywords, and you have a couple seconds to catch them, you know? And if it’s not your bread and butter, you don’t need to compete with them on it. You know, just focus on your niche, dial that in, and then double down.

John Franklin (19:01):
And so we talked about GoodLife and Anytime as competitors—people who are ranking in that snack pack for “gym in Red Deer.” You know, they’re deep-pocketed individuals. They got good SEO strategies. What kind of stuff are you doing to differentiate yourself from some of the larger competitors online?

Jack Wheeler (19:18):
Yeah. For like digital things, for sure, it’s really comes down to our social media. We’re quite different. You know, it’s not just a generic post after generic post after generic post with some stock image. You know, and I take a look at our competitors, and it is—they’re asking for a sale every post, every post, no matter what. It’s “buy now, buy now, buy now.” So, like the consumer’s first impression of these box big box gyms with personal trainers or even the personal training studios that we compete for, all they’ve ever seen from that person is when they’re asking for something. Right? And then most personal trainers, it’s—they’re really just advertising for their own before and after photos, or their own booty shots or anything else like that and nothing to do with their clients. So online, through like digital and social media, we are complete opposite than our competitors on purpose, by design.

Jack Wheeler (20:07):
So we have everything based on like education and infotainment marketing on our social media. You know, it’s tips, tricks, strategies, Help First kind of mentality on our social media. And we just highlight our clients like nobody else. You know, probably one to three times a day, we’re doing client shoutouts and profiles and showing the person that we want inside of our gym getting the results that the customer wants as well. You know and just really doubling down on that one. And then even when it’s just outside of the organic, you know, free social media stuff, even our advertising is the same. We take 25% of our ad budget and put that towards educational brand marketing, you know, where we’re solving small things for free. Handing out eBooks and video series and video courses and things like that—and actually putting money behind it so the customers in our local area get stuff for free from us and see client success videos and photos. So, when they actually do see an ad, they have that know, like, and trust factor multiplied by 10. You know, they have that goodwill marketing a heck of a lot more than just that person that’s just like—the only time you ever see them is when they’re knocking at your door asking for a sale.

John Franklin (21:15):
And you mean like when you—when you’re saying that 25% towards goodwill stuff, that’s like your recipe books, at home workouts, basically like lead magnet-y type stuff that’s meant to solve a high—target higher funnel traffic. Right?

Jack Wheeler (21:29):
Totally. And even just like specialized videos—it’s crazy what happens. Like if we put up a video for free, post it out there, meh. But if we have it as like an opt-in wall where it’s like, “Hey, you know what? You’re going to get this special video based on the top five things you could do for fat loss” or “things you could do in the New Year to accelerate your fitness results” and things like that. “A specialized video for you. Opt in here.” You know, send them to a landing page, grab that, and that’s just a video playing on the landing page or the thank you page. That goes through the roof as well. You know, as soon as you kind of have some exclusivity to it and kind of like an increased perceived value behind it, it’s good.

Jack Wheeler (22:04):
And a lot of the things we do on our social media too, we just package up into an eBook. You know, sleep tips or nutrition tips or things like that. We just put it in another form in another media, you know, put an opt-in wall in front of it and go. But a lot of the people on our list have been on our list for six to 18 months, and they consume anywhere between like five and 10 of our products before they become customers, you know? So, it’s just like that goodwill stuff starts stacking all the way through. You know, you compound that with our community involvements, and then when they are ready to buy in any capacity, we’re already top of mind and have been for, you know, six months plus.

John Franklin (22:39):
And you—once they opt into any of this stuff, you pepper them with follow up, right? Like you have a pretty robust nurture sequence built up.

Jack Wheeler (22:46):
Yep. Yeah. For everything. So, all of our stuff, it just filters into, you know, automations that are relative to that eBook or that free thing, free resource from there. And then once they’re done, those automations, they funnel into a greater one—kind of a drip campaign, you know, newsletters and emails.

John Franklin (23:01):
Like long-term nurture sequence.

Jack Wheeler (23:02):
Yeah, exactly. Where it’s more generic, where it doesn’t matter what avenue or funnel they came in, they get followed up on for sure.

John Franklin (23:09):
And you’re also doing stuff out, offline, in the community as well. Like, I know you have like these dinners and stuff like that. What are some of the—I—dinner undersells it. Like you wear like a suit and stuff. Like what are these like events that you’ve got to wear a tuxedo to go to and sell stuff for your gym?

Jack Wheeler (23:30):
Yeah, yeah. We just—we try to get involved in the community as much as we possibly can. So, we do two huge events every single year. They’re both fundraising. One is more client-centric, and one is trainer-centric. But we have our Client Awards Gala every spring where we invite all of our clients and some community partners, and we just have a huge celebration. And it’s kind of a red carpet, Academy Awards gala. You know, everybody gets all dressed up and fancy. We have a beautiful dinner. We hand out awards all night. We do special shoutouts and recognition. We have some partners speak and some motivational speakers and that kind of stuff. And it’s just awesome. Everybody gets all dressed up; we get to celebrate their successes. They mingle; they find new support systems. The high fives are just endless all night.

Jack Wheeler (24:13):
And then the community is so much more than just to coach the clients. You know, the clients are there for each other. They’re supporting each other at their next workouts. They recognize that face from the event before. And then every fall, we do our trainer event, where this is our big, big fundraiser where clients can, you know, pay to beat the heck out of us for a week. You know, they can buy exercises and workouts and kind of get revenge on the coach. And that’s where the coaches kind of put their bodies in the line and see who can raise the most money for local causes. And then we sprinkle it in with community events every, every month. It doesn’t have to be crazy, you know, whether it’s Buddy Week or a barbecue, or you know, a hike or “Let’s go do stair runs together,” or “We’re going to watch the Flames and Oilers game,” things like that. You know, it’s just as much community involvement and just another support system for them rather than just their workouts.

John Franklin (25:03):
All right. So, you literally—it sounds like you’re doing one like once a quarter based off all the things you just rattled—you just rattled off to me.

Jack Wheeler (25:12):
Yeah. We try to do like something every month, really. And we try to do a bigger one, sure, every quarter, but this month it’s 360 Fitness Bingo. Next month it’s going to be Buddy Week; the month after that in March it’s going to be a community workout. You know, just simple little things like that—just getting people to these events and getting them to these events early in their membership is key. Like ideally in the first six weeks is where we personally invite them to the next upcoming event, you know, and just let them know that it’s exclusively for those guys, “Come on in,” and get them immersed in that community as much and as fast as possible.

John Franklin (25:47):
And you start everybody off with that six-week challenge. Right? So, you have like a systemized approach to doing this, I’m assuming?

Jack Wheeler (25:53):
Yep. Yep. Everybody filters in. It’s rolling starts. We don’t do like a start on the 15th and 30th; you know, once they buy, they book in at their next initial assessment phase and then get rolling. And it’s a way for us to be able to sell one-on-one personal training, and not have to clump it in starts. We probably onboard 30 to 50 six-weekers at each location every single month and then convert 30 to 50% of them. And it just kind of keeps us going on that way.

John Franklin (26:20):
And in terms of offline activity, are you doing any offline advertising?

Jack Wheeler (26:26):
Sometimes we have direct mail, but it’s very, very specific. We know that our ad dollars can go farther and be tracked better with online digital stuff. But for the offline marketing, a lot of that is goodwill marketing and community involvement. You know, just getting involved with some of the big fundraisers, finding out where your ideal target market clients are, and then supporting those causes that are near and dear to their hearts. You know, being at their black-tie fundraisers, handing out, selling auction items and raffle prizes at their high events. Finding out where they are in town. Whether it’s—you know, if you’re going after hockey kids, then target the hockey parents, go to the arenas, that kind of stuff. You know, for us, our target market is 55-year-old women and men, you know, so we’re targeting them in certain places. We’re not looking at the arcades; you know, we’re not advertising there. So just finding out where that target market is and just really honing in. But we do a lot of community involvement with giveaways, selling auctions and raffle items to the higher end fundraisers in town and just being in the right, right rooms at the right time.

John Franklin (27:32):
We used to get hit up for things like that very frequently. And we played around with a few different offers. We never had one that crushed. What did—what’s your kind of go-to giveaway for silent auctions and charity things where they ask you to participate and donate?

Jack Wheeler (27:51):
Yeah, like handing out like a gift certificate just meh. It really—meh. So, we have our own supplement line, which is great. So, we bundle that together, you know, whether it’s like gym bag and vitamins and greens with, we call it a PT Kickstart where it’s an initial assessment and a couple free sessions. You know, so the total value is a couple hundred dollars. You know, people are voting—or are not voting, but putting down $100, $200, $300, $400 worth on that. It’s nice when you’re at a silent auction, you’ve got to stand out and just another gift certificate or another gift card or a blank piece of paper with no established value, it’s not going to get you anywhere. So, we just have this raffle thing that we put out. It’s just tons of social proof, our address, exactly what we’re all about, the product that goes with it. So, they get something tangible in their hand to hold value. And then that PT Kickstart.

John Franklin (28:38):
Yeah, whenever we gave gift cards, we’d find that, like the person who bought it was already a member at our gym. And then just come reuse the gift card at half price.

Jack Wheeler (28:47):
So over and over and over again.

John Franklin (28:47):
I had to get the giveaway—yeah, just literally shooting myself in the foot twice there. So, you do like a supplement bundle and an assessment. So, you’re not giving away like six weeks of training or anything like that.

Jack Wheeler (28:57):
No. And you don’t need to, right. They’re not looking for that. And a lot of times too, it’s like that’s too much to chew on right off the bat. Right before they know, like, and trust us. So, a lot of times this would be the first time they see us—just having the product there with it; it holds space on the table too. It’s very eye-catching. It’s different than anything else there. It’s branded with our logo and everything too. So, it kind of just increases that value and makes us look like heavier hitters than we are. And then just the extra couple sessions to go along with it. Easy. And if they’re not sold in the first initial assessment, they’re, you know—

John Franklin (29:29):
Not going to buy anyway.

Jack Wheeler (29:31):
Exactly. Right. And free sucks. You know, it’s like if they are getting at low value on that, they’re not going to show up. So, it’s just chasing somebody for six weeks. So just give them the low barrier offer, and you’re good to go.

John Franklin (29:42):
Especially for like private or small group training because you know you’re paying for those sessions.

Jack Wheeler (29:47):
Exactly. Yeah. Yeah.

John Franklin (29:49):
Group is a slightly different monster, you know, because a coach shows up whether there’s 10 people or 11.

Jack Wheeler (29:54):
You bet. Yeah. Ours has a lot of fulfillment needs, so we can’t be just handing that stuff out willy-nilly. But more often than not, like we only give out those products to current members now, and then they go to their charities of choice, or you know, they’re on the board of directors or a shot caller or an event coordinator thing—things like that. Like, we get hit up, no joke every day, every day for at least one thing. And we only give it out to current members and ex-members. You know, they’re in the circles that we already want; you know, they usually have an affinity to make us look better, do better. They pump us up all the time, or “Hey, that’s my gym; go check it out.” Things like that. Like they’re somewhat on the payroll. It feels like, and it works a lot better that way.

John Franklin (30:35):
You want an inside job, you want—

Jack Wheeler (30:38):
Yeah, exactly.

John Franklin (30:38):
Someone at the silent auction talking that supplement pack up.

Jack Wheeler (30:41):
Right. It really, really is. I know it sounds corny, but yeah, they’re pumping it more than we could ever. Right, and they’re with the people that we know can come to our gym; you know, they’re the affluent markets. They’re usually the same age and social circles and roles and responsibilities and jobs and things like that. So, they’re already there. So, they took us in with them. We got through the doors.

John Franklin (31:05):
So you’re saying you’re only giving the auction items to people who are existing members?

Jack Wheeler (31:10):
Yeah. Or ex-members. Yeah.

John Franklin (31:11):
Yeah. That sent my mind to referrals. I know you are the process king, so I know you have a referral process. So, what are you doing to drum up community referrals?

Jack Wheeler (31:23):
Yeah, we just do one direct referral through the six-week challenge. So, it’s a win-win for everybody. We have actually—I’ve got some here. We’ve got these little cards at the front just like this where it’s like, “Hey, you know what? Somebody really loves you. Your transformation awaits. You’ve got a good human with you.” It says, “Hey, this member is referring this person.” And then they get $50 off for six-week challenge, and then they get a $50 kickback too. So, it’s awesome. And then the member’s going to choose whether they want to give that credit to the new member to sign up, give them an extra discount, or to put it on their account for a floating credit. It’s really easy. Just funnel everybody towards that. And we just pump it at Buddy Weeks. We have internal marketing and posters around the gym, on our Facebook page, inside of our nutrition manuals. Just very, very easy. We tell them how to make a referral, what to do, what’s in it for them, and then what can they expect. Just simplify.

John Franklin (32:11):
What’s a Buddy Week?

Jack Wheeler (32:12):
A buddy week is just, they get to bring a friend to their one-on-one person training sessions. That’s it. Yep. Very simple. They fill out a little form, you know, we pre-qualify them on the form. That’s their waiver as well. And then the sales team looks over that, you know, while they’re getting their butt kicked for their session. They kind of do a little follow up at the end, give us some feedback on the session. We ask them about their goals, you know, if they had fun. “Here, by the way, you get this $50 off the six-week membership. Let us know. But let’s get you booked in right now.” It’s pretty—it’s just simple. Like, it’s nothing extraordinary. It’s nothing groundbreaking. We just do the due diligence and follow up like mad.

John Franklin (32:49):
And how frequently do you do that?

Jack Wheeler (32:51):
Once a quarter, ideally for Buddy Week. It’s got to be special.

John Franklin (32:54):
And how many members will take you up on that and actually bring somebody?

Jack Wheeler (33:00):
Probably about 50 to 100 at each gym.

John Franklin (33:03):
So that’s like—you said you had around 300 at Sherwood.

Jack Wheeler (33:06):
At one and 400 at the other. Yeah. Yeah. So, a couple hundred members.

John Franklin (33:10):
Twenty-five to 30%.

Jack Wheeler (33:11):
And like your main referrers are—you know, 10% of your clients are going to refer 90% of your new members. Right? So, the people that are referring for us, they’re bringing in three or four members that week. It really is—like they’re the big guns on that one. You know, they’re bringing in a couple friends here and there every single quarter.

John Franklin (33:29):
And do you do anything special for those people? Like do you have a VIP special?

Jack Wheeler (33:33):
Yeah, no, like systems or whatever else, but we pull reports every single month of who’s spending the most, who’s referring the most, who’s buying the most product, things like that. And we just give them some free things or even shout outs or even this little text saying, “Thank you.” You know, our target market is different. You know, they’re not looking for handouts. They’re looking for status and recognition when it comes down to it. And just giving them the podium, you know, just giving them a pat on the back, calling them out publicly in front of their friends and thanking them, you know, in the semi-private or at the studio—like that goes a long way for our members versus just like, here’s a coupon that they don’t care about.

John Franklin (34:07):
Yeah. They’re paying $500, $600 a month for gym membership. I can’t imagine that the $50 they’re getting is moving the needle a lot.

Jack Wheeler (34:16):
Exactly. So, like for that personalization, just to kind of give you an example of it, you know, we used to do like automatic emails at birthdays and anniversaries, and “Here’s $100 off,” and “Here’s 25 bucks off,” and like digital coupons and stuff. Now, literally at their birthday workouts or their anniversary week, we have a custom shake for them, a handwritten card by all the clients, or all the staff members—hand them that in front of their friends and their other, you know, co-work workout buddies. And that goes way farther. So, like 10 bucks in a couple minutes versus hundreds of dollars just blast out in an email chain.

John Franklin (34:49):
Yeah. And you mentioned for your referral cards that you advertise them in the gym. That’s something that I think you do better than most people, is you have—you market your existing products to your existing clientele in the gym, like everywhere.

Jack Wheeler (35:04):
Yeah. They’re your best customers.

John Franklin (35:05):
Can you talk a little bit about that? Like people, I think—like they’re probably imagining some like weird printed out clipart thing or some like, you know, dingy thing stapled to the wall. Like when I say Jack does advertising, these are like, you know, he’s got like steel frame pictures or hangers with like nice professionally designed posters in them. And you’re pushing your smoothie program. You’re pushing referrals; you’re pushing social proof. What other things are you pushing?

Jack Wheeler (35:39):
Mainly those guys. Yeah, like when we talk about our marketing, we go just as hard on internal marketing as we do external marketing. You know, whether that’s pumping people for referral campaigns, prizes, surveys, product deals, supplement deals, that kind of stuff. You know, we do internal and external marketing every single month, and we find that it works best on that. And then for kind of the marketing around the gym, yeah, we have posters everywhere: in the washrooms, at the front desk, in the waiting areas, things like that, by the treadmills—everywhere. So, they kind of know exactly what’s going on, what the next events are, what the deals are, what the shake of the week is, things like that. And then at the very, very front surrounded by social proof is our community board, where it’s like January: Here’s all the events. Here’s invited; here’s who the host is; this is where we’re meeting; this is the cost. February, March.

Jack Wheeler (36:31):
They can kind of see it that way. And we also do, for all new members and then conversions, you know, we give them samples for all of our supplements and products; we do free demo days. Like we’re constantly just telling people about what we actually have because you’d be so surprised if your full-time members that have been there for months, if not years, don’t know everything that you sell. You know, they don’t know what the greens taste like, and they haven’t had a shake yet in six months. And like, you’d be so surprised. You’re always looking for that new customer where the best ones are already inside your gym. You just want to increase the average client expenditure rather than finding new customers every single day.

John Franklin (37:07):
And when I hear like an event every month, like being physically out in the community is hard, and then planning events and these galas and stuff, that’s also like very taxing and requires a ton of logistics. And you’re multi-location. So, I’m assuming you’re not driving to Edmonton every month to go to every single event. Who’s planning all—who manages all this? Who’s planning? What are the expectations? Especially with staff? I know a lot of people, that’s a gray area. How do you handle all that?

Jack Wheeler (37:36):
Yeah, so I’m more or less helping the decision-making process, but our general managers and our leadership team at both studios, they’re the bread and butter behind it. You know, they make it all happen. I just give them very clear instructions, give them a lot of autonomy inside of it, give them what success looks like, some plans, and I’m just there for support, and they’re the ones doing it. But you have to choose your busy. Like it’s—you could be really, really busy helping your own internal clients with these events and stuff. Or every month having to sign up 100 new members or chasing down 40 members every single month because they’re not paying or abandoning your gym. Like, you’re going to be busy anyways. Right? But you just have to kind of choose your heart and choose where you want to put your efforts into it. You know, every single time that we do these things, new members, it spikes; retention goes through the roof even more. You know, average client expenditure goes up, LTV goes up, like all these things. So rather than just like chasing new stuff or working on new marketing material or the new fancy thing—like, you’re going to going to be busy, so you might as well just choose what you want to be busy on.

John Franklin (38:38):
Yeah. I mean, I’m looking here; you must have good participation. You said you’re churning 4,000 sessions in Red Deer.

Jack Wheeler (38:45):
Yep. And then just under 3,000 in Sherwood.

John Franklin (38:47):
Across 400 members. So, the average member shows up 10 times a month.

Jack Wheeler (38:52):
10.5 Yep. Yep. 10.5.

John Franklin (38:53):
So yeah. That’s pretty crazy.

Jack Wheeler (38:55):
Yeah. And that’s something we track. That’s a big KPI for us. We bonus it out for our coaches on that as well because we know it doesn’t matter how much they spend, it’s how often they show up. Right? Their engagement and then whether they’re using their sessions because that leads to results; that leads to referrals; that leads to longer memberships. You know, it just keeps spinning.

John Franklin (39:13):
And do you offer unlimited, like do you have people coming six, seven times a week? Like, I’m pretty sure the max I can go to your gym is—

Jack Wheeler (39:20):
No. Four times a week.

John Franklin (39:21):
Yeah, four times a week.

Jack Wheeler (39:21):
Yep. Yep. Four. That’s it. And then, the great thing about it is if they need extra, it’s usually just, “Can only do a little bit of cardio?”

John Franklin (39:29):
Just give them the space to come.

Jack Wheeler (39:30):
Yeah, exactly.

John Franklin (39:31):
I don’t think we talked about this in the beginning. How much—like how many square feet are your spaces? Because, you know, people are hearing cardio area, smoothies—like they’re probably thinking like a 30,000 square foot gym.

Jack Wheeler (39:43):
No, no.

John Franklin (39:43):
It really isn’t that. No.

Jack Wheeler (39:44):
Like we have 8,000 square feet in one gym and 6,500 in the other. And to be honest, you know, our 8,000-square-feet gym is over three floors. We have staircases and lobbies, and it’s a ton of wasted space, but like wasted space, but non-effective, non-revenue generating space for sure. But we could definitely get away with 5,000 or 6,000 each location. Easy, easy. We have a lot of, like, luxury space. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It just has to be really well laid out and optimized.

John Franklin (40:14):
So, one of the things I’ve heard over and over is just the word “simple,” you know? And it seems like a lot of times we’ll talk with gym owners, once they get like a modicum of success, they tend to go complicated. But when I talk to the grizzled vets, the 15-year, the 20-year open, that word comes up over and over and over and over again. People hit you up all the time asking you for advice. If you are talking to a gym owner who’s getting a little more successful, maybe wants to add another program or wants to maybe do a completely different offering, like how are you coaching those people?

Jack Wheeler (40:49):
Yeah, usually they’re looking for new for them, right? Not new for their clients or their prospects. And they usually have a lot of runway left before they should change the offer. You know, sometimes the offer just straight up sucks, and it’s—let’s trash it and get rid of it. But more often than not, the offer is great; it’s just not well executed, or they’re not getting the value to the customer better. Really when it comes down to it, like, I don’t care what you do, whether it’s a 21-day, 28-day, six-week, 12-week, nine—it doesn’t matter. You know, you package up a low-barrier offer where you’re solving a bunch of things for them. It makes it really simple for them to buy. They know exactly what’s included—what the price is, what the investment is, what you expect from them, what’s going on afterwards. And then just hammer it down. And then making sure that they actually feel included, wanted and are engaging during that process, rather than trying to sell as many as you can and then letting them through the door and hoping that they stay. You know, treating them like a full-time, VIP member on day one, whether it’s a trial or not. Yeah. A lot of these guys that have a brand-new program every month, like it’s just—they’re spinning their tires. They really are.

John Franklin (41:56):
Well, I was at an event this week with a bunch of gym owners, and I remember one of the conversations, like one of the guys was like, “My gym hit 30,000; I think I’ve hit the ceiling. Like, it’s time to open a new gym.”

Jack Wheeler (42:10):
No, you got so much more room.

John Franklin (42:12):
And so I’m like, “No, it’s time for you to double down and hit 60,000 in the gym you have.”

Jack Wheeler (42:16):
Yeah. And then 90, yeah. Like you can always find more inside of your four walls. You know, we’ve made those mistakes before where we thought like, “Bigger is better, and bigger is better,” and like, “Oh, we’re capped at four coaches,” and “Oh, we’re capped at 40,000 months,” and things like that. And now we’re doing 140 a month at one and 110, 120 at the other. And like, you always find new ways, whether it’s through new internal services—again, like our intro offers are the same. You know, we do specialty services and things like that. Or just making the members that you have there more valuable; sell them bigger memberships for longer term. That’s way easier than having like a million different services.

John Franklin (42:53):
Yeah. I mean, I remember when we first met, I think you were charging like $250 for your six-week challenge.

Jack Wheeler (43:01):
Yeah, yeah. Now it’s 700.

John Franklin (43:02):
It was like—yeah, exactly. So, you tripled the price and put more people in it.

Jack Wheeler (43:07):
And we have better close rates. Like it’s crazy.

John Franklin (43:09):
And probably better results.

Jack Wheeler (43:11):
Yeah, exactly. Isn’t that strange when people are invested, you know, mentally, emotionally, financially, everything, and then it enables us to pay our coaches better, have better equipment, better front desk staff, more of the amenities that our members want. You know, we say that we’re high value, and we have to actually have high value. We can’t say we’re the best, and then they open the doors, and it’s just a cardboard box.

John Franklin (43:35):
Yeah, yeah.

Jack Wheeler (43:37):
It’s not a car sale. Like, we have to make a sale every single time that they’re there. You know, you’re making the sale either on the membership, or you’re making a sale to tell them like, “Good job on buying this membership. Stay here.”

John Franklin (43:47):
Right. And that’s a—we could probably do a two-hour podcast just on the ways of Jack Wheeler’s sales. But I don’t want to put us too far down that hole. Now, in terms of any other advice you would give to gym owners—you know, let’s make it more specific. If you were speaking with Jack Wheeler 10 years ago, what advice would you give that man?

Jack Wheeler (44:12):
Well, since we’re on the topic of, like, that local market, I really would’ve doubled down on my competitive advantages. Your competitive advantage is that you are local; you are a face, and you are in the community. So rather than trying to be just like a GoodLife or be just like an Anytime or be just like this huge CrossFit brand or Orangetheory Fitness or whatever else, I would just double down and be the exact opposite on purpose. Like when you have such a small little town or a small little local market, double down that you are local, that you are special, that you are involved—you know, that kind of thing. Rather than just trying to be like one of the other guys and race to the bottom, you know, and just keep dropping your prices and closing up gyms every five or six years. That’s what I would just do a little bit differently, just double down on your skills that you actually have and the competitive advantages that you actually have rather than just trying to be another gym.

John Franklin (45:01):
Well, Mr. Wheeler, you always bring the heat. I always love it. Where do people go if they want a little more Jack Wheeler in their life?

Jack Wheeler (45:08):
Yeah, we’re all over the socials as you know, just search us on Google and stuff. But we have our Instagram accounts, and our Facebook is probably the best way to do it, but it’s just 360 Fitness Red Deer, 360 Fitness Sherwood Park, and we’ll pop up. There we are.

John Franklin (45:21):
Or you can just Google “personal training Red Deer.”

Jack Wheeler (45:24):
That’s right. Yeah. We’ll be there.

John Franklin (45:25):
Four of the 10 links. You’re going to find them, so.

Jack Wheeler (45:27):
Exactly, exactly.

John Franklin (45:28):
Well, this is awesome man. People are going to get a ton of value out of it, as always. Thank you very much.

Jack Wheeler (45:33):
You’re up, John. Talk to you soon.

Thanks for listening!

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