You sell coaching.
The best coaching is done 1:1. Top performers in every category have a personal coach (including sports, CrossFit, and business).
Most microgyms sell group coaching. The best microgyms provide personal coaching in a group setting; but participants in a group can receive only a tiny bit of 1:1 time with their coach. And many microgyms sell choreography: a “do this, do that” group workout involving no personal coaching at all.
Coaches who started as personal trainers have an easier time with this concept: when you sell coaching, group training IS your discounted option. Clients trade off personalized programming and 1:1 attention for a lower price. Greg Glassman’s journey was the same as the rest of us: when his schedule was too full to take more personal training clients, he began pairing them up. He sold the idea of sharing time and attention by promising a slightly lower rate. And, in a happy coincidence, his clients actually trained harder when they had a partner. Many of us had the same experience.
But there’s a problem with group training: because it’s not a personalized service, your clients compare group training gyms based on other criteria:
- Programming (more advanced clients, a tiny percentage)
- Convenience (schedule and location)
- How the coach/gym/other clients make them feel
- Peer support (whether their friends like the gym or not)
Those are points of differentiation, but less powerful ones. Think of your business as a castle surrounded by a moat: the more personalized your service, the deeper the moat is. And the deeper your moat, the less susceptible you are to competition. Low prices; different programming; and convenience–these build only a shallow moat. Eventually, someone will be cheaper. Eventually, someone will build a gym that’s closer to your client’s house. And your programming is never more novel than the other guy’s is.
Your services should fall along a Bell curve of price and value:
On the left side are your group-only options. These are your lowest-priced options (and they don’t need to be discounted further). These are your most transient clients. They’re most likely to price-shop or move to another gym.
In the middle are your “personalized group training” options. Clients receive some personal coaching, and some group coaching. For example, a client might like training with a group, but receive a personalized food plan from you. Or vise versa: they might participate in a group nutrition prescription but train 1:1. Or they might come in with 3 of their friends and do small-group training.
On the far right are clients whose experience is totally personalized: individualized programming, individualized nutrition plans, measured recovery and real-time feedback.
Now, imagine if your clients fell along this Bell Curve: 20% did only group training; 60% did some combination of group training, with a personalized experience; and 20% were fully personalized. What would that do to your profitability? How would it affect your clients’ success rate? What would happen to your retention?
Our data, taken from thousands of gyms, shows that the further right you move on the Value Curve, the better your client retention; the better your ARM; and the stronger your business.
The problem most gyms face is this: their value curve doesn’t match the services they offer. Instead of asking “What will help my clients most?” they think “What can I sell comfortably?”
Then they focus ONLY on the left side of the Bell Curve. So they try really hard to recruit the lowest-paying, shortest-staying, rarely-obeying clients. And they don’t offer what the highest-value, long-term, price-agnostic clients want. Not at all.
In fact, many gym owners look at the above Bell Curve and think it’s just a daydream–but hundreds of Two-Brain gyms prove that it’s very real. The difference is a change in mindset; a different approach to service; and excellence in delivery.
Here are the most common questions we get when we present this paradigm:
Which Group Options Should I Sell?
2x/week? Three times per week? Unlimited?
First, sell your group program based on the number of visits a client will use per month, not per week. For example: 12x/month or 16x per month, instead of 3x/week or 4x/week. Very few gyms are still making this mistake, but if you are, change your membership now.
If you’re in the Founder Phase of entrepreneurship, you need to let your clients tell you what they want. That means offering more services at first, and then slowly culling the low-performers. Start with 8x/mo, 12x/mo and Unlimited group memberships.
When you move to Farmer Phase, you can increase your ARM simply by discontinuing your lowest-value package. If you’re following a Prescriptive Model, this is easy: when performing an Athlete Check-In, simply tell the client why you think they should exercise more often. Or, if they should exercise less, tell them how to continue their training 1:1 or with an online option (see below).
What About Punch Cards?
Punch cards hurt your adherence rate (how often people show up for workouts). The problem is that people are more scared to lose something than they are eager to gain something. So if they’re down to their last class credit, they’re more likely to hang onto it until they see a workout they really like, or they feel “ready” to train.
It’s hard to build habits when clients have to make a conscious decision every day: “Do I exercise today, or not?” Instead, a recurring model means the decision has already been made: “It’s Wednesday, so I’ll pack my gym bag today.”
Punch cards are also brutal on your predictive cash flow. And if someone buys a punch card or class pass or package, you have to carry it on your books–possibly forever. Check your local laws. It’s not easy to put an expiration date on your service UNLESS you’re selling a recurring monthly membership.
How Do I Handle Cancellations and Holds?
First, clients with Hybrid and 1:1 packages are far less likely to ask for holds. Most holds or suspensions are requested for summer travel (or Christmastime bills). Clients who can afford higher-value training plans don’t run out of cash at Christmas, and don’t stress about missing a session or two while they’re on holidays.
We don’t allow “Holds”. But we WILL cover the drop-in rate at other CrossFit Gyms for our clients if they’re vacationing. They simply connect with the coach at their destination in advance; we provide the client’s background information and a credit card number; and the coach knows our client details and processes our payment.
For cancellations, we make the client aware that they’ll need to redo OnRamp if they’re gone longer than 3 months, and then enter them into our recapture campaign. Most clients aren’t gone forever; but that’s a different blog post (or even a whole book.)
How Do I Compete With The Big Chains?
I was at a gym owners’ gathering in Atlanta when I heard the phrase “commoditization of intensity”. It’s a great phrase, and it means that the “big chain HIIT gyms” are going to offer a better experience than you are. They’re going to run a tight ship in 2500 square feet, pay their coaches less, keep their bathrooms cleaner, and sell cheaper memberships. You can’t win against that model, because you’re trying to make careers for your professional coaches and yourself instead of running a low-priced turnstile.
If you’re only selling group classes, you’re selling a commodity. Most people can’t tell the difference. And you’ll never be able to sell it cheaper. BUT they can’t offer the 1:1 coaching that YOU can. They can’t make individual prescriptions, and most can’t offer nutritional coaching. This is why Two-Brain gyms are doing better while most group-only gyms are doing worse than they were two years ago.
How Do I Sell Hybrid Memberships?
First, you have to have a clear vision of what you’re selling.
Then you need to get your pricing right.
Then you need a clear way to share that vision (we help you set your rates, build a pricing binder, teach you how to present your options, and then practice with you in the Incubator.)
Then it’s actually much simpler than you think. Quoting JK, who sold his first $660 per month package yesterday:
if you are reading this and are afraid to recommend high-priced options…here is another person who just did it. Make the right recommendation. Tell them this is the best route for them to get to their goals. And then say “what do you think about this option?,” and then let them talk. I didn’t make this stuff up. I learned it from here, so I am paying it forward.
How Do I Sell Online Training As Part of a Hybrid Membership?
If you’re following the Prescriptive Model, it’s not really hard. You would just insert one more question:
“Would you prefer to do this training with me in person, or on your own schedule outside my gym?”
I own a CrossFit gym. My current focus is a 100km cycling race for charity in September. So I have a remote cycling coach. He presented a few options for training, and I took the one that suited me best. I didn’t choose the cheapest.
How Do I Add Nutrition To My Gym?
We recommend Healthy Steps Nutrition. It’s led by an RD (Nicole Aucoin). As more states ban the practice of prescribing nutrition to your clients, you NEED a program led by a Registered Dietitian. And HSN’s program is step-by-step: you can bolt it on, create a great opportunity for one of your coaches, and help your clients get great results faster.
Why Don’t More Gyms Sell High-Value Services?
Frankly, because the owners couldn’t afford it themselves. Most gym owners don’t charge enough, so they don’t make enough. And then they project their poverty onto everyone else.
The real reason most gyms promote their lowest-priced option? The confidence of the owner. In the Founder phase of entrepreneurship (and even through most of the Farmer phase), the gym’s clients earn more than the gym’s owner. It’s very, very easy for the owner to project their budget onto the client in front of them.
Owning a private microgym isn’t going to get easier. As big chains commoditize intensity; more affiliates open in your town; and knockoff chains appear, you’ll find it harder and harder to sell group workouts. But that’s okay: they can’t do what you can, which is to provide 1:1 personal coaching. Call it bespoke, call it personal training, whatever: it’s time to turn your weakest portion into your greatest advantage.