Hosts of New Clients: How to Trigger the Surge

A close-up image of a fire hose with a wide spray of water coming from the nozzle.

In this series, I’m talking about the “Surge”: new, higher-value clients joining gyms post-COVID.

In Part 2, I told you what stops the Surge from happening. Here, I’m going to tell you how to trigger the Surge in your gym and how to ride the wave.

Who Are all These People?

When we see a trend happening, we dig in: We call Two-Brain gym owners and ask, “What’s going on here?”

And what they’re saying right now is this:

The new, higher-value clients appearing in gyms come from one of two camps:

1. They’re friends with/related to your current clients.

2. They’ve been on your email list for a while but have never taken action. They’ve been paying attention. Now they’re ready to start paying you money.

Data from IHRSA says that, across the board, gyms are seeing a percentage uptick in new memberships. COVID created that demand. Here’s how to make sure they pick you.

1. Focus on the people most likely to choose you.

Get referrals from your current clients and practice Affinity Marketing to bring their friends in. (You can get our definitive guide to this marketing tactic here.)

2. Throw out the welcome mat to those who have “always wondered what it was like.”

Offer a “community workout” on a Saturday morning at 9 a.m.—twice in the next six weeks.

This is a short-term strategy; use it once or twice. The “free trial” hasn’t worked since around 2010, when most new clients visiting microgyms were early adopters and already sold on the service before they even searched for a gym.

The key is to deliver these trials in the right way instead of the old, passive, wait-until-someone-throws-us-money way.

Make sure every new “free trial” client talks to a coach for 5-10 minutes before or after class. One on one. Talk about the client’s goals. Fill in a sheet. Make a prescription. Book the next visit.

If a “trial client” leaves without booking the next appointment, that person is not coming back.

Open the Floodgates

Here are the exact strategies to trigger the Surge, from high affinity (those closest to you) to lower affinity (those more distant from you and your business):

Goal Reviews

Sit with your clients. Ask how they’re feeling post-COVID. Ask how they feel about their fitness level. If they’re happy with their progress, ask, “Who do you know that really needs help with their fitness right now?”

Get a name. Get an email address or phone number. Call them and offer to help.

Check out the Goal Review process: Click here.

A screen shot of a post from a private fitness industry Facebook group.


Invite your clients to bring a friend to a “community workout” on the weekend.

Tell them your mission: to change the health of your local community.

Hosting an open “community workout” might catch a few stragglers, but “bring-a-buddy” works better because your “trial” clients already have a strong social connection (and you have someone selling them on the idea).

It will be very hard for them not to sign up—unless you let them walk away after the workout. Sit down with the person and the buddy and ask about the prospective client’s goals.

Wine and WOD

Ask your best clients how you can help their coworkers. Or ask your clients how you can help their friends. Then host a “themed” bring-a-buddy event.

“Wine and WOD” is a good example, and you can download the step-by-step playbook in our “Broke Gym Owner’s Guide to Marketing.”


If you can’t bring them in, go to them.

Athletes on sports teams (especially kids) now have a huge hole in their lives. And corporations are dying for something to get people excited about returning to the office.

A screen shot of a post from a private fitness industry Facebook group.

How to Ride the Wave

It’s easier to capture new clients. But the goal is to keep them so you don’t find yourself in a trough again in a few months.

Make sure these clients start the right way: with the Prescriptive Model, with 1:1 training and with Goal Reviews every few months.

Make sure they get nutrition coaching and introduce at least some of the SEMM model—sleep, eat, move, manage. There’s a chance you’ll have to coach them online in the future, and this intro will pay dividends if that happens.

A screen shot of a post from a private fitness industry Facebook group.

These new clients are, by and large, willing to pay more because they understand the urgency of the situation. For the first time, they know the costs of poor health. Give them the full solution, not just workouts.

This is also the best time to capture interest and start a conversation. I recently published a full series of posts on starting conversations with people and keeping them engaged until they’re ready to sign up. They might not want to sign up right now, but they’re interested. Talk them in.

Finally, show off your party pictures. Make sure your previous clients know that you’re open and that people are back in the gym, working out and having fun. Use FOMO for the power of good: “Hey, Mary! Three separate people asked where you were today!”

Most gym owners are really excited about the Surge. No one is more excited than me: It’s time for gym owners to win one. We’re swimming in a bigger, bluer ocean now. It’s time to eat.

Other Media in This Series

“The Surge: Why Some Gyms Are Thriving After COVID”
“5 Things That Will Kill Post-COVID Recovery (and How to Avoid Them)”


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.