Chris Cooper (00:00):
The key to long-term business success isn’t cramming huge numbers of people into your building or even signing them up fast. The real key is keeping them for years. I’m Chris Cooper. This is “Run a Profitable Gym,” and today I’m going to tell you the five pillars of retention. If you’re missing any of these, your business could collapse. And if you want more info and support, head to Gymownersunited.com to join a group with thousands of the world’s top fitness entrepreneurs.
Chris Cooper (00:33):
Why should you care about retention? Well, first, you can’t save lives if clients are quitting after a few months. Long-term adoption of exercise and nutrition strategies requires at least two years of consistent attendance. Sadly, the industry average for retention is under eight months, even in coaching businesses like CrossFit gyms. Second, you can’t build a sustainable business with high churn if you’re constantly losing members. You’ll spend all of your time marketing, and eventually you’ll just run out of audience unless you’re in a wild market with really high overhead. Third, your staff members wanna work with the best possible clients, not always beginners who are just learning the basics. So what actually keeps clients around long term? I’ve been reviewing data on this for over a decade, and I can tell you this: myths and vague concepts about culture and community don’t give us any information that we can use to keep clients longer.
Chris Cooper (01:30):
So today I’m gonna share the secret of huge length of engagement in gyms, and I’m gonna tell you precisely what to do. If you want help implementing my plan or if you want the specific clients-only worksheets, templates and tools that I referenced, then let’s talk about mentorship. Click the link below this video. We’ll get you on a call with our intake team and talk about whether mentorship is right for you. So here we go. The five pillars of retention. Retention has five pillars to it, and every single one is equally important. If you’re missing one of them, your roof will be unstable. If you’re missing two, you won’t be able to keep a roof over your head. So here they are. Number 1: results. Are your clients actually getting the results they came in to get? Now, when I was a powerlifter, all of my clients became powerlifters regardless of their goals of firming up or loosening up or just feeling better.
Chris Cooper (02:25):
My clients all did deadlifts and presses in the programs that I assigned. They all got stronger and they were all proud of those gains, but some of them didn’t lose weight or improve flexibility or accomplish the actual goals that they were paying me to help them accomplish. And then when I found CrossFit, I thought I’d found a solution to every fitness problem. So everyone at my gym did constantly varied functional movement performed at high intensity, but some people still didn’t lose weight even after a few years. They loved the workouts, and they loved the community, but they still quit to try something else that might give them the results that they actually wanted. A client’s goal is never to exercise more or work harder or move better. Your method is the tool that will help the client achieve a specific goal, but it’s not the goal itself.
Chris Cooper (03:16):
So here’s the solution: Use the prescriptive model, find out what the client wants to achieve, measure the starting point, then make a prescription that takes the client from the starting point to their goal, measure their progress, refine the prescription, and repeat. This will keep you and the client focused on getting the right results. Look, if clients aren’t getting the results they came in to get, they’ll quit, and they’re right to quit. So there’s a free resource below called “The Prescriptive model: The key to Revenue and Retention in Microgyms.” And if you’re a Two-Brain client, you can click the link below for step-by-step instructions, tools, guides and more. The second pillar of retention is fame. Do clients see their progress, and do others see it, too? Now, you and I as coaches know that progress happens very slowly with lots of tiny gains and a few backwards steps even from time to time.
Chris Cooper (04:09):
But when you’re inside a problem, overall progress is hard to see. Many clients actually don’t notice their gains because they happen so slowly and that’s not good for retention. So you must establish two routines. First, you must measure the client’s progress, which is the Prescriptive Model that I just described. And second, you must have the client think about their progress and acknowledge it so they’re actually looking at it, seeing it and thinking about it. Building celebrations into your client journey adds a lot more retention firepower. Asking your clients to celebrate their wins weekly will make them conscious of their progress. Asking them to share their wins in your private Facebook group will motivate them to take five minutes every week to reflect and to provide social proof to the others that your program works. Finally, sharing your client’s stories on your blog, YouTube channel or podcast has tremendous retention value because nobody quits the thing that makes them famous, and this is a huge opportunity that most gym owners miss.
Chris Cooper (05:12):
Below this video, there’s a link for a free resource called “How Sharing Joy Makes You Happy,” and if you click that, you’ll get step-by-step instructions. If you’re in Two-Brain, I’ve got a lot for you. I’ve got step-by-step instructions, worksheets, tools and more to tell you exactly how to make your clients famous. The third pillar of retention is compatibility. Can they actually afford it? Do they like you, and do they fit with your other clients? Keeping clients around longer starts with making sure they’re a good fit from the start. So clients can be good people, but they’re still not a great fit for your program. First, let’s face it, you’re not running a charity. If you’re selling a coaching program, you are, by definition, selling a high-value service that some people can’t afford. Now, if that makes you squeamish, then you have one of two choices.
Chris Cooper (06:03):
First, open a low-ticket gym that sells access but doesn’t require your time and fits into everybody’s budget. Or second, make lots of money from your high-value gym and then donate your extra time and money to people who are less fortunate. This is the path I choose: Make lots of money and give it away. So your first criteria in this retention pillar is “can they afford your service?” The second is “do they like you?” There have been times when my in my career as a personal trainer and gym owner when I was pretty hard to like. I did client sessions in which I was literally like dozing on my feet or distracted by a personal injury or clearly sick or obviously depressed. I’ve posted rants on Facebook, and I’ve sent angry messages to “punish” the clients who are paying for my service. I’m literally shuddering to think about these mistakes, and, unfortunately, I’m thinking of more as I talk about them. But it’s hard to keep a client around if you’re unlikeable. If you’re tired and angry, admit it to yourself and put somebody else in front of your clients.
Chris Cooper (07:05):
You don’t need an expert to run a group class. You need somebody who can smile at 5 a.m. Finally, are they a good fit with your other clients? Sometimes a client is a really obvious bad fit. The person is rude or they break your rules or they’re distracting. But other times great people just don’t fit with your program. When we started to realize that the competitors in our gym were the ones causing 99% of the problems, making 80% of the mess and paying less than anyone else, we ended our competitive program, and then we ended open gym, which was their favorite hangout. Doing that was hard. They were my friends, and I loved their drive, but they were negatively affecting the experience of everybody else. They were creating mess and noise and cliques. To retain a lot of clients for many years, all those clients have to fit together in a business that’s clearly set up to solve their problems.
Chris Cooper (08:00):
Now, I’ve got a free resource for you below. Just click “Unlikable Gym Owners: Don’t Do This Stuff.” And if you’re a Two-Brain client, you can click the link below for step-by-step instructions, worksheets and tools to help you solve this pillar. The fourth pillar of retention is consistency. Do clients get the same great experience every single time? I asked our mentor team a question: “What is the most common characteristic of the gyms you mentor with the best retention?” And every single mentor—over 60 on the Two-Brain team working with nearly 900 gyms around the world—said “systems.” What does that mean? It means the client’s experience at your gym doesn’t depend on who’s coaching class that day. Instead, systems are in place to ensure that clients can show up to any session at any time, even unexpectedly, and receive the same care and the same quality coaching or service they would get from the owner.
Chris Cooper (08:56):
Retention doesn’t rise with the quality of your best coach. It falls to the level of your worst. And the same is true of all of your systems. Clients will leave if your payment system screws up, if your bathrooms are dirty or if your bars are rusty. They’ll leave if your systems suck or they feel like a number instead of feeling like Frank or Sam. I hate it when somebody quits a gym with passionate, knowledgeable coaches because they couldn’t get a parking spot. Systems mean that nobody leaves for the wrong reasons. So I’ve got a free resource below for you called “Gym Business Systems: How to ‘Survive a Bus Crash.’” And I’ve got something extra for Two-Brain clients. You just click below to get all the systems that you need to evaluate and improve your systems. Now, the fifth pillar of retention is referrals. This might sound backward, but do your clients refer others?
Chris Cooper (09:46):
This might sound like the fruit of good retention, but it’s actually the cause of good retention. Investment in your gym doesn’t just happen when clients spend money on your services. When people give their recommendation to their friends, they will invest time to make sure their prediction of success comes true. Science backs this up. We form tighter bonds by introducing good things into the lives of our friends to maintain and improve connections. We never wanna recommend something they might not like. Think about your favorite restaurant. When you take a friend for dinner, you really want them to love it, right? So you do everything you can to make sure they appreciate the place. “Hey, did you check out the bathrooms? They’re amazing. Wow. Look at this wine list. Hey, I know you love steak. Look at the menu. The chef’s cut is unbelievable.” Because you’re invested in your friend’s experience.
Chris Cooper (10:34):
When people bring their friends or their spouses to your gym, they have a lot on the line. And if you can deliver with excellence, everybody stays longer because the whole is more than the sum of its parts. When it comes to referrals, for example, if I take my wife to yoga and she loves it, we’re both likely to stick around longer. Retention matters big time. Retention matters more than marketing. It matters more than sales and it even matters more than your programming because if people stick around long enough, they’ll see progress no matter what your programming is. So this is why we focus so hard on retention in our mentorship practice. If any one of these five pillars is missing or weak, it can cause your business to collapse. Great coaches who can’t smile at 6 a.m. can’t keep clients. Great owners who are passionate about a method but don’t track clients’ results, won’t produce passionate clients. And great entrepreneurs who underprice their services can’t pay the rent.
Chris Cooper (11:33):
It’s easy to say retention is just about caring more. It’s easy to pass off responsibility to the community or attribute retention to something vague like the quality of your coaching. But retention doesn’t just happen, and it’s measurable. You have to be very deliberate about keeping people around, and you must track improvements so you can stop wasting time on bad tactics and double down on the good ones. If you do that, your length of engagement will increase, your business will grow, and you’ll change more lives. This is “Run a Profitable Gym.” Thanks for listening. Click below to find out more about working with a Two-Brain mentor.