How to Measure the Lives You’ve Changed

how to measure the lives youve changed

Chris Cooper (00:01):

Tell me if you’ve heard this one: You have some clients who’ve been with you for five years or more, and you have some clients who’ve been with you for one year or less, but you have very few people in the middle. My name’s Chris Cooper. And on today’s show, I’m gonna tell you why that is, what to do about it, and, more than anything else, why tracking this retention or “LEG” or “churn”—whatever you call it—is so critically important to your mission as a gym owner and to your business. If this episode helps you, please hit subscribe on your favorite podcast channel so that we know that it’s important and we can keep making episodes like this to help you.

Chris Cooper (00:41):

So we talk about retention. We talk about LEG. We talk about churn. We talk about how to keep people longer, but here’s what makes this important: We are in the business, you and I, of changing lives. If somebody comes into your gym and leaves a month later, they have not changed their life. They have not had time to build the habits that they’ll keep forever or the foundational fitness knowledge that will help them get fit. At any age, they will not have had time to develop good technique, good posture. They will not know how to fix themselves when they go wrong. They will not have gained the perspective that only you can share after all of your years of experience as a coach. Too often, people quit too early. I was having this conversation with my GM and my head coach back in January.

Chris Cooper (01:34):

And we were talking about the Catalyst mission to enhance and extend the lives of 7,000 people in Sault Ste. Marie. And I said, “This is an awesome mission. How do we measure it?” Like, “How do we know when we’ve actually extended somebody’s life? How do we know when we’ve improved their life?” And we had this awesome discussion, and really what came up was people will tell us when their life has improved or there will be some meaningful event in their life that will tell us objectively that their life has improved. For example, maybe they run their first 5k or maybe they have met their spouse at the gym, or maybe they will just say “Catalyst changed my life.” And so I made this social-media post right after this meeting. And it was like, “Hey, here’s my gym. If you’ve been to my gym and it’s changed your life, let me know.”

Chris Cooper (02:23):

And 40 people sent us a message: “Catalyst has changed my life.” Here’s how we looked at those responses. We said, “What do these people have in common?” They had all been members for over three years. Even if they weren’t members now. They had all found a passion for fitness at Catalyst. Even if it wasn’t their first gym, it was the first gym that they liked. They had all found a sport through Catalyst, even if it wasn’t what we found. So some people found other cyclists at Catalyst, took up cycling, eventually moved outta the gym and that’s all they do now. But they found cycling through Catalyst. Some people got married, had kids because they met their spouse at Catalyst. And so when we looked at our clients, we determined that we are gonna declare our mission a success if the average client stays three years at Catalyst because these are the people who report that their lives have been changed through the development of habits, through proper movement technique.

Chris Cooper (03:23):

Even if it’s finding a different passion outside the gym, three years seems to be the most common point for those people whose lives we’ve changed. And so we made our target to have a LEG—length of engagement—of an average of three years. When most people, most gym owners come into our sales calls. They say, “I don’t really know what my LEG is because I’ve got some clients who’ve been with me for five years. And I’ve got a brand new batch of clients who only stay for seven or eight months.” And sometimes they’re embarrassed to even tell us that number. But the reality is that the industry average at a globo gym is about three months. And I’m not talking about membership because they sign a contract. So they’re paying for a year. I’m talking about adherence after March 17th. They stop coming. On average, less than 30 percent of the people who join Jan. 1 will still be there at the end of March—even in the microgym business, the CrossFit gyms, yoga studios, high-intensity interval training, boot camps.

Chris Cooper (04:26):

The industry average LEG is just under eight months. That means the average person shows up in January. And by August they’re gone. It’s just not enough time to change their life. So we’re gonna walk through an exercise today. I want you to think of a client who’s still with you. And they were there at the start. I’ve got a guy like this. His name is Chris. He’s literally been training with me for 20 years. I’ll get him on the podcast soon. But other gyms have clients who’ve been around for 10 years or five or three. They were one of the first clients to join and they’re still around. Think about their experience when they joined. What experience did they have? They probably got a lot of one-on-one attention from you. They probably got a lot of energy from you. They probably got a lot of direct coaching time from you or from your coaches.

Chris Cooper (05:24):

They probably formed a strong bond because they knew things about your life. And you knew things about their life. They probably felt important, like one of the founding members of this gym, and they probably felt a responsibility to carry on the brand and the culture, and to be an advocate for you. They probably took a little bit of ownership, even subconsciously, over your success. They wanted you to be successful because they were one of the first to invest their time, money and attention into you. The great news is that you can instill all of these things into your new clients. And so the reasons that the tactics that we teach to improve retention at Two-Brain work are because we think of the client experience. First, we build gyms that are “client centric.” Their model is built around what their clients want. Their methods are chosen to deliver their clients the best results.

Chris Cooper (06:23):

And it’s no surprise that the methods that I’m gonna share with you right now are what drive client retention. So the first thing is that every client needs a one-on-one onboarding program. Not because it’s what you charge more for. Not because it’s what you see Two-Brain espousing but because that is the best experience for the client. When a client comes in one on one and improves their movement and gets your undivided attention and gets your attention in between sessions and builds up the habits, you don’t have to worry about whether they like your group class or not. You don’t have to worry about them complaining about your programming. You don’t have to worry about them price shopping because they have received the attention that helps them invest in you as the coach. And so, yes, it does drive your average revenue per member up.

Chris Cooper (07:17):

It also increases your LEG—your length of engagement, but not just because it’s a parlor trick. Because this is giving the client the best possible onboarding to fitness, not just to your gym. Another reason that the on-ramp is so important is because if the client learns nothing from you, if they do quit after your four week on-ramp program, they will have gained enough knowledge and experience to train themselves for the rest of their life. I promise you whatever you’re teaching in those three or six or 12 one-on-one PT sessions is more than they will learn in the next 40 years from reading books, from attending seminars, from watching YouTube videos about fitness from their heroes, from playing sports, from anybody else. They will learn enough about fitness to take care of themselves for the rest of their life. Even if they don’t sign up with you after that, even if their friends are going to different gym, even if they decide “this is not for me,” they will have learned enough from you during your on-ramp phase to know what is right for them for the rest of their lives. And I hope that’s true for both exercise and nutrition.

Chris Cooper (08:25):

The next thing that really helps with retention is your goal review process. So you need to track whether the client is actually making progress or not. If all you’re doing is selling access, access to group classes, and you’re never asking the client their goals, and you’re never actually tracking if they’re achieving your goals, one of two things is true. Number one, they’re probably not achieving their goals. They’re achieving your goals. Number two, you’re scared to ask if they’re achieving their goals because you look around your gym and you see people who aren’t losing weight, people who are maybe getting injured, and you’re scared to find out whether your clients are making progress because that’s gonna make you ask some very serious questions about your coaching. I’ve been there. When I was a personal trainer, the first five years, I was not prescribing any nutrition coaching.

Chris Cooper (09:21):

So, you know, I’d be training somebody, especially women, they’d come in, they’d get really strong, they’d gain some confidence, and they would love the training. In two years down the track, they’d say, “Hey, when I signed up, I said, ‘I wanted to lose 30 pounds. I’m actually up three pounds.’” And now you’re trying to convince them to change their entire perspective on their body. And that is tough—worthwhile, but tough. It’s much better to actually get them results and change their perspective on their body so that they know that they’re happier and healthier and they’re gonna have a better lifespan. And healthspan. And so you need to track your clients’ progress individually. One way that CrossFit originally did that was to use named workouts. So you could see your progress. You could see your fitness improving if you did better at Fran or Murph or Grace or whatever. That’s pretty rare now. But even more important is tracking the metrics that your clients came to you to solve, to improve.

Chris Cooper (10:16):

And that means tracking body-fat percentage. It means tracking their weight. Because that’s what they care about. And if you really care about your clients, then you have to give them the results that they care about in return. And that’s what building a client-centric business is all about. And so goal reviews work because they’re an opportunity for you to change your client’s prescription. They’re an opportunity for you to have one-on-one conversations. They’re an opportunity for you, if your program isn’t working, to give them something different instead of them quitting and going out to find something completely different on their own. That’s what good coaching is. It’s not being right the first time, every time. It’s finding an alternative when you’re not right. Goal reviews also mean an opportunity for you to make your clients famous.

Chris Cooper (11:09):

If they’ve had some progress or they’re excited, you can put them on Facebook, which is like putting them on TV, and nobody else in their life can do that for them. Nobody else in their life can make them feel validated or tell them “you’re doing it right. You’re making progress. Way to go.” You can also grow your gym by saying to your clients “is there somebody else in your life that you’d really love to have with you at Catalyst?” Because most of the time your clients have a best friend or a spouse, and they wish happiness for that other person. They wanna share the happiness that they’ve found. And so they’re eager to say, “Yeah, if you can help me talk my husband into coming, you’ll be doing me a massive life service.” So that’s how goal reviews help. They give people opportunities to check in, to change course, to bring in friends, to be famous and also to stay longer.

Chris Cooper (12:00):

And when you’re doing these kind of meetups, which you probably did when your gym was small, that will help you increase your LEG and decrease your churn. Another great one is sending people notes. Now you can send them birthday cards. That’s kind of the tip of the iceberg. You can send them little, you know, little cards every time there’s a special occasion. “Congratulations!” You can take their picture in front of the PR board. You can put their name on the whiteboard. But these little points of communication between you and them—“Hey, Nick, woke up this morning. I was thinking about you. I’m so proud of you”—These will go further than any CRM automation, than any birthday-card service that you set up, than almost anything your CSM can do because it’s you and them. It’s a personal bridge. The more of these personal bridges you can set up, the stickier your net will be just because you’re thinking about them and thinking about their progress—even if it’s negative.

Chris Cooper (12:55):

“Hey, Nick, saw you in the gym yesterday and you looked kind of distracted and stressed. Man, how can I help?” Even that will bring a client back into the fold. Okay? So looking for opportunities to reach out and connect. And if you need help, do five of these a day before you do anything else. Send out five texts: thank-you text, what’s-up text, how’s-it-going-I’m-so-proud-of-you text. Doing that will also improve your retention. Now it’s no surprise that this is a tactic that works because when your gym was brand new, you probably did this. You spent more time talking to your clients. You checked in on them more. And as you grew from five clients to 150, that happened less and less and less.

Chris Cooper (13:41):

And that is why you have this gap between clients who’ve been with you for five years and clients who are with you for nine months and you have very few people in the middle. But what I wanna do is help you keep your clients for at least three years—long enough to change their life. We teach this process. We teach mapping the client journey in Two-Brain. We teach these three tactics that I’ve shared with you. Goal reviews, checkins and an on-ramp program. And we teach dozens of others. But they all come back to this: What would you do if you had only one client? If having one client was enough to pay you what you need to make, how would you treat that client? What would you do for them? What if you only had two clients, would that service change at all?

Chris Cooper (14:27):

What would you charge for it? How often would you be in touch and what services would you provide? Now, your job as a gym owner is not to figure out “how can I charge less and provide fitness programming for 150 instead of two?” Your job is to ask yourself, “How can I scale the level of service that I provided to one client to 250 clients?” That is what makes your gym scalable. It’s not the programming. It’s not the method. It’s not the tools. It’s the client relationship. Now I’m gonna do something here that my mentors have asked me to do that you might not want to hear: You need to track these metrics. You need to track your churn. You need to track your LEG, your length of engagement. These are two very different metrics. Churn is how many people quit your gym every month.

Chris Cooper (15:17):

That’s important to know from a financial standpoint. LEG is more important because LEG is a window into how effectively you’re changing lives. It’ll tell you how long you can plan for a client to stay. So if you know that you’ve got the average client for a year, how much value can you give them in that year? And that attempt will change their life. If you know that clients are only staying for six weeks, you know you’ve got a problem with your onboarding or your conversion. Tracking metrics will help your business. But more than anything else, you wanna know that your business is actually having an effect, that you’re achieving the mission. And so you need to track these metrics. Now, some software providers track these metrics. some track them wrong. Some use our definitions incorrectly. Some of them use different definitions of retention, but what you really need to do is this: the original LEF calculation came from Mindbody.

Chris Cooper (16:08):

And all you’ve gotta do is you look at your client list. You see for how many months has Client No. 1 been a member at your gym. They’ve been a member for 19 months. Great. Move on to the next client. “For how many months has Client B been a member at my gym?” seven months. Great. You put these in a spreadsheet. You total up how many months—total membership across all clients. Then  you have to divide by your number of members. And that’s your LEG. Piece of cake, but it takes a little bit of time. Our Two-Brain dashboard calculates this automatically based on a formula for you. So that you’ve got a really good approximation. You also want to know how long the average person is going to stay because our job is to serve them, right? It’s not to track business metrics.

Chris Cooper (16:54):

It’s not to think, “Oh three out of 150 isn’t bad.” It’s to think, “What’s going to happen to Mary? Where did John go? Why did Kim quit the gym?” That’s what tracking LEG is really all about. And while it’s a super-valuable business metric, more than anything, it’s a lives=changed metric. So when you get on a free call with our team, I want you to think hard about the actual length of engagement the average client has at your gym. I don’t want you to guess. I don’t want you to estimate. I don’t want you to think, “Oh, the average client stays for seven years and that’s great and I don’t have to worry about it anymore.” I want you to think, “Am I changing their lives?” And measuring LEG is one way to tell. Hope this helps.

Announcer (17:37):

That was Chris Cooper on Two-Brain Radio. Hit subscribe, then check out this final message.

Chris Cooper (17:42):

We created the Gym Owner’s United Facebook group in 2020 to help entrepreneurs just like you. Now, it has more than 5,600 members and it’s growing daily as gym owners join us for tips, tactics and community support. If you aren’t in that group, what are you waiting for? Get in there today so we can network and grow your business. That’s Gym Owners United on Facebook or gymownersunited.com. Join today!

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