Special Events and Retention: 8 Simple Steps to Success

A mixed group of happy gym clients participate in a fun outdoor running race.

Running special events a few times every year can help with retention, client motivation and—sometimes—profit.

But most gym owners run events that create a ton of extra work, establish bad habits in their clients, create membership cliques, and don’t generate profit.

Below, I’ll tell you how to do it better.

Two-Brain clients: Get the step-by-step process in the Toolkit by clicking here (the package includes promotional materials, checklists and even programming for specialty groups!).

4 Events and 8 Steps

Here’s how to fire up your clients, expose them to new and fun challenges, and drive revenue—without adding a huge amount of work to your plate.

1. Pick four events to run in the next 12 months. If you can leverage someone else’s event to fill any of these spots, do it. See the previous post.

2. Make sure you have a balance of events, like a running event, a lifting event, a “fitness” event and an obstacle-course race. Don’t just choose four throwdowns.

3. Plot these events on your annual calendar, one for each quarter. Competing isn’t the point; preparing to compete is the point. You want people to have something in the future that keeps them motivated to work with a coach. (I’ll share a sample calendar with you in the next post in this series.)

4. Work backward from the date of each event to set up a “prep group.” For example, run your Couch to 5K group six weeks before the local race. If you don’t have a good local 5- or 10-km event, set something up that’s novel and easy. For example, we ran a “midnight 5k” for years, and we always got dozens of members to show up with glow sticks at midnight. Another option is a “pump and run”—every bench-press rep completed at body weight in one set without a break removes 30 seconds from your 5-km run time. Build your prep group according to the instructions in the previous post.

5. Charge for the prep group, but also charge for the event if you’re organizing it. Make sure the fee is enough that people won’t just shrug it off (usually $50 or more, including a shirt). You need to charge enough to make the experience amazing and pay your coaches.

6. Encourage people to sign up and train hard for the event. If they’re scared to look bad, that’s OK: Fear is actually a great motivator. This is how events can help clients get results and stick around longer.

7. Collect the revenue for the event in advance. Promote it before you promote your prep group.

8. Pay coaches an hourly wage to run the event if you’re the host, or recruit volunteer judges. Pay the coach 44 percent of the prep-group revenue.

Something for Everyone

Ideally, every person in your gym will be challenged enough to do one event every year. But people will want to do different events or different combinations of events.

The “elite exercisers” can challenge their fitness with the full series—maybe a powerlifting meet, a run, an obstacle-course race and a fitness throwdown. The beginners can pick just one, compete for the first time and feel great about completing the event.

These quarterly competitions are a great way to give your clients something to work toward, and people who have clear goals are unlikely to cancel their memberships. You’ll also create a series of opportunities to celebrate your clients, put them on podiums and make them smile. If you follow the steps above, you’ll see a financial reward as well.

The key takeaway: Do not just add more work to your annual plan without ensuring you are rewarded.

Other Media in This Series

“Six Simple Steps to Generate Revenue Using a Local Fitness Event”
“The Super-Special Quarterly Events Calendar for Maximum Retention”


One more thing!

Did you know gym owners can earn $100,000 a year with no more than 150 clients? We wrote a guide showing you exactly how.