Chris: 00:02 – Per Mattsson is a Two-Brain mentor. He is the founder of Coaches Congress Sweden, a huge multi-day event for gym owners and coaches in Stockholm. This week we’ve been talking about building an audience, and I wanted to get Per on the podcast to talk about how to build a huge audience, whether you’re running an event or a competition or like summit event, or you just want to grow your business because the way that Per did this step-by-step is really fascinating. He didn’t use any Facebook ads, didn’t really use any attention-getting marketing at all. He built it one person at a time. I also want you to hear how he established trust with his audience because last year after 280 people signed up to come and hear Greg Glassman talk, Greg couldn’t make it at the last minute, and so the trust the audience had in Per really carried him through that.
Chris: 00:53 – Now he’s going to tell you the story in his own words, so I don’t want to spoil it. Per’s also going to tell you how to extend that audience to talk to people in the periphery, how people in the Coaches Congress group invite their friends and bring their coaches the following year and how that attracts other people who add value like other speakers and sponsors. It’s a great deep dive into how to build an audience, how to sustain an audience, and how to make the people in that audience feel special even as the audience grows. I think you’re going to love it.
Chris: 01:22 – Welcome to Two-Brain Radio. I’m your host, Chris Cooper, here every week with the best of the fitness industry. Got a sec? We would love to hear from you. I write emails to my mailing list every day and it’s a highlight when somebody takes the time to respond. If you’ve got feedback on my show or a guest you’d like to hear on Two-Brain Radio, email email@example.com and don’t forget to subscribe to Two-Brain Radio wherever you get your podcasts. Per Mattsson. Welcome back to Two-Brain Radio.
Per: 01:52 – Thanks. Nice being here again.
Chris: 01:54 – It’s great to have you. You’re a man of many talents. You’ve been on the show before to talk about having hard conversations and leadership. And today we’re going to talk about building an audience because you’re also good at that.
Per: 02:04 – Yup. I hope so. And I think so. Yeah.
Chris: 02:06 – Yeah, definitely. And so today we’re going to be talking specifically about a big event that you host every year, Coaches Congress. Tell us a little bit about that. What is Coaches Congress?
Per: 02:18 – Coaches Congress, is an annual summit that I started here in Sweden in 2012 I think it was. And we tried to be like, a place for coaches and gym owners to meet up every year to share experiences, learn new stuff about being business owners or about being more professional as coaches. So it’s basically a summit right? Every year for coaches and gym owners.
Chris: 02:53 – What said to you, I need to do this, you know, like why did you want to do it?
Per: 02:59 – I think it was because before, you know, starting a gym or actually at the same time as running my first CrossFit gym, I was working. My professional background is in school systems. I’ve been a teacher and I’ve been a principal and I also worked a couple of years as a leadership consultant. And doing that I was like training teachers and principals and politicians around leadership connected to the school system. And I was often one of the speakers at different kinds of events and conferences in Sweden and in Finland mainly. And then when I started a CrossFit gym, we had like three or four CrossFit gyms in Sweden. So the community was quite small and I felt that after a couple of years we had no real gathering point except from competitions. And I wanted to create the place where we could meet up, where we could grow as leaders, as coaches and as professionals.
Per: 04:04 – Because I think one of the main reasons that I started a CrossFit gym from the beginning was that I really wanted to prove something to, you know, people in Sweden that what we think we know about fitness in general is often quite wrong. So I think it’s a mix of me being quite competitive and me wanting to help people. So I wanted to help gym owners and coaches and I was a bit competitive with the fitness industry in general and really wanted to prove something and I can’t do that on my own. So we need all of us who run microgyms, CrossFit gyms, we need to be in it together basically. So I just saw an opportunity to help, I think.
Chris: 04:52 – So you didn’t want to include a competition. I think if you’re listening to this, the advice that Per is going to share with us on building an audience would really help you if you are running a local competition because you probably don’t have a marketing budget for it, but more in a general sense of just building like an audience of attention for your business, I think these are the big lessons that we’re going to learn from you today, Per. So what I want to talk about first is like you said that the reason that you started Coaches Congress was because nobody else was doing it and you thought that something like this should exist. Why didn’t you want to include like a throwdown or some kind of CrossFit competition in there?
Per: 05:33 – Because I was also running one of Sweden’s largest elite competitions in CrossFit. Mainly for the same reason; I wanted to prove that competitions could be done better than the ones that people were doing in Sweden at the time. So I already had that project going and I think I would say it’s two totally different things. If I meet up with owners and coaches to learn more about being a business owner and being a better coach, I think that is what I would like to focus on and not just throw in a competition the same weekend or something like that. And me personally, when we did the competition, I was always the speaker, so I never had the time to actually talk to anyone. So you know, all of these people that I really loved meeting, gym owners, great athletes, I never had the opportunity to talk to them throughout that weekend and they just, you know, messaged me afterwards and thanking me for a great competition and I’m like, OK, so you were there in the audience. Cool. All right. So I just I wanted to have the opportunity to talk to people also.
Chris: 06:48 – And that opportunity is hard to find when you’re at a competition.
Per: 06:52 – Yeah. Because focus is on that competition, right? Especially if you’re one of the organizers, but yeah.
Chris: 07:01 – Yeah, we found the same really. You know, when we’re invited to speak about business at a competition, boy, it’s really hard to keep people’s minds on the business because they’re so attracted to the competition and are worried about their athletes and, you know, I would be the exact same way. So, OK. So when you were starting to plan Coaches Congress, you know, several years ago, what did you think would be the hardest part of putting this event on?
Per: 07:30 – I have to think on that one because, if you would ask my girlfriend, she would call me a bit naive every now and then because I don’t think before I act. So I think I just had an idea and in my head it sounded really great and fun and I asked my business partners, what do you think guys? And they said, yeah, go for it. So I don’t think I actually thought it through. I couldn’t see any potential problems because we didn’t take any big risks or anything. We booked a place outside of Stockholm with cheap accommodation and food and stuff like that. So we wanted to make it easy for people to come. And that’s where we started. So there was no like financial risk in it for me or for us in the beginning at least.
Chris: 08:27 – So when you started Coaches Congress, was it just you, were your gym partners involved or did you have other partners too?
Per: 08:34 – It was me and my business partners in the gym. Yeah. And then we just, you know, asked around people that we knew and respected and that we thought had knowledge that could be valuable for gym owners and coaches. We asked them if they wanted to present.
Chris: 08:50 – OK. And we’re certainly going to come to that. I want to start with how you got attendees to show up. So, you know, you started by just saying I’m going to do this. You found a location, then you started finding speakers. But how did you get the attention of the first person who paid you money to come to this event?
Per: 09:09 – I think I had two different methods. I think one of them was through the network that we had thanks to our being competition arrangers or organizers. So we had a fairly large network and also because I was quite early in the CrossFit community in Sweden we were a tight-knit community. So I reached out to them and told them, I’m going to do this. What do you think of this idea? Yeah, sign us up. So I think that was it. And then we have a group in Sweden, a Facebook group called CF Sweden and I just posted in that group, and I think that every gym owner and most athletes and coaches are in that group as well.
Chris: 09:59 – So, OK. So you were leveraging audiences that you already had, took a second to think about who do I know. So did you send an email to the other gym owners and say, here’s what we’re doing, here’s the price, or was it something else?
Per: 10:15 – Actually I just wrote them on Facebook, personal PM them on Facebook first. The first year. Yeah. I think I only used Facebook the first year, actually.
Chris: 10:26 – That’s very interesting. And one of the things that you use on Facebook was a Facebook group. And since then you started your own group for Coaches Congress. How is that different from the CF Sweden group?
Per: 10:39 – At least, I tried to make it a bit different because I wanted a group with owners and coaches only. So in the beginning it was a private group, so you had to be invited into that group. Then we went the big back and forward. So then we made it an open group. So I’m not sure now if there are other people in that group that are not coaches or owners. But we started by, you know, starting with a private group with invitation only to try to have a group that was more valuable in terms of the discussions being made in it.
Chris: 11:17 – Was it originally for people who might come to Coaches Congress or people who were definitely coming to Coaches Congress?
Per: 11:24 – I think actually that we started that group after the first year’s event. So I think I started it then to keep like, yeah, keep momentum, keep people engaged and as a way of building my audience for the next year’s event.
Chris: 11:41 – I think that’s a great idea too. When you were setting your original prices, how did you decide what to charge for Coaches Congress?
Per: 11:49 – Like an amateur, you know, projecting and but also to be fair, I wanted to make the choice of coming really, really simple because I knew that most gym owners were, you know, doing it the way I was doing it back then, as a hobby. So I think we charged like $100 a person or something like that for two days, a two-day event. And they also had to pay for, you know, accommodation and stuff like that. So I wanted to make it really, really easy. So it was very cheap.
Chris: 12:29 – How many people attended the first year?
Per: 12:30 – 83.
Chris: 12:33 – Well, that’s really fantastic. I’m pretty sure, well, I know for a fact that’s more than we had at the first Two-Brain summit because I think that number was like 26 or something. Might have been 30.
Per: 12:42 – Yeah, yeah, yeah. It was super fun. I was like, I had a dream goal of a hundred and a worst-case scenario in my head was 40 to 50. So 83 was cool, and we had gym owners coming from Finland and Sweden, so I was quite happy.
Chris: 12:59 – How did you find speakers for that first event?
Per: 13:03 – Personal network work, I would say. So we asked one guy that we had taken an education from like a physical trainer education and he was really knowledgeable. So we asked him. We asked around in our network and in the CrossFit community, who do you want to come? I knew or I know Mat Jacobson, asked him and he wanted to come. And he’s a great guy and a great presenter. So, I think also we asked people who were a bit nerdy around their special topics. And I think that people like that, they always like to tell people about their hobbies or their special interests and they really appreciate it when you ask them if they want to talk or speak.
Chris: 13:56 – That’s very true.
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Chris: 14:59 – What about sponsors? I mean one of the things that impressed me the most when I visited last year was how many sponsors there were. And you know, how professional they looked.
Per: 15:09 – Yeah. First three years we didn’t have any sponsors except from Eleiko. So we’ve always been very close to Eleiko, they have always been helping us with our gyms, with our competitions, and with this event. So, and the location where we were, we weren’t allowed to bring in any other sponsors, so we couldn’t really use sponsors. So it was just Eleiko the first years. And then actually last year was the first year that we had more exhibitors and sponsors.
Chris: 15:43 – So how do you attract more sponsors? You know, how do you approach them? Is it an email? Is it a phone call, and how do you sell them on the idea of being there?
Per: 15:54 – Email, definitely. I think same thing as, you know, with people with nerdy interests and stuff like that, you know, many of the sponsors or partners or exhibitors connected to CrossFit is they are also really nerdy about their businesses. That’s what I think at least. So they love events like this, a bit more smaller in scale than big fairs and exhibitions like that. So they get the great opportunity to really talk to all the owners and coaches longer than just two minutes or something like that. So they appreciate that, I think. And also, last year, we were promised from CrossFit HQ that Greg Glassman was going to come to the event so we had a lot of people signing up and if you know that you have like 60, 70, or even 80 gym owners from all over Europe coming, and if you want to, you know, do business with gym owners, then that would be a great place to be. Right. So I don’t even think we had to ask some of the exhibitors because they emailed us and asked if they could come.
Chris: 17:09 – And what questions did the exhibitors ask you about the venue? Was it just tactical stuff like what kind of space will we have or was it more, you know, who’s coming, how should we approach them?
Per: 17:21 – Who’s coming? How should we approach them? And also they wanted to know about the presenters and speakers also. So, at least the professional exhibitors and sponsors, they ask questions like that. Who’s coming? How should we prepare? Is it mostly gym owners or mostly coaches? What do you think would be good things to present for us? Stuff like that. So the professional ones, they ask you a lot of questions.
Chris: 17:51 – That’s good. And we’ve had the same experience with the summit too. Companies, they have booths and they get an amazing return just from the number of people that they meet there. So my question is, you know, how do you attract people who are beyond your personal connection? Let’s imagine that, you know every gym owner in Sweden. Well that’s impossible, but you definitely don’t know every gym owner in Finland or Norway. And I also met people there from the UK. You know, why did those people come to Coaches Congress?
Per: 18:27 – I think it was mainly because of two different things. One of them was like people who had been to the Congress had been telling their friends and other gym owners in their country or area about it. And I also had a couple of personal friends in Finland because when I used to work there as a leadership consultant, I actually helped a couple of guys start a CrossFit gym there. So I had a little personal network there. And also the other thing was that we had this guy, Chris Cooper, was coming as a presenter and we had Greg Glassman and I think every year we have had presenters and speakers in world-class the best of the best, basically. So you can’t really ignore that year after year if you want to be a professional gym owner. And to be fair, yeah, I think that Greg Glassman was the main difference last year. I mean, otherwise we wouldn’t have had gym owners from Croatia or from Latvia or Germany or Ireland or even Greece. No, definitely. But to be honest, Chris, a lot of people signing up, they actually said it was because the strong presence of Two-Brain Business also and you.
Chris: 19:54 – Oh, that’s flattering to hear. You know, honestly Per, like I wasn’t planning to ask this question, but yeah. I’ll say it this way. I felt like HQ kind of backed out at the very last minute. I’m sure that’s just my personal perception. But for whatever reason, Greg couldn’t come and Jimmy was there and you know, Jimmy gave a great talk but it’s not the same. How do you handle that?
Per: 20:21 – It was like the last minute definitely. I think it was like two and a half weeks before the event. So we had been marketing this event like a lot around him of course, but not only because, for me the main attraction wasn’t that, but I knew it would attract people, but I wanted it to be this professional event with a lot of other stuff as well. So we just talked about it a day or two. Me and my partners around this event and then what we agreed on was that I was going to email everyone who had signed up and say, yeah, he’s not coming. I’m sorry guys, but this is still a great event. If you want your money back, we’re going to give it to you, but I really think you should come. So I think we had two people asking for their money back and that’s it. And then I brought it up on my opening speech at the event and I just said, yeah, we all know he’s not coming and it’s not good, but still there’s 280 people of us here. We have great presenters, so enjoy the weekend. And I heard nothing about it during the weekend.
Chris: 21:32 – That’s amazing. So you started with the audience who trusted you the most, your personal connections. Then you went to a slightly larger audience with whom you had something in common, CF Sweden, and then you gradually leveraged that trust over the years to build Coaches Congress, and add speakers and add sponsors. And then when you were tested because your biggest promise, Greg Glassman, didn’t work out, do you feel like trust was the reason that people didn’t complain and most didn’t ask for refund?
Per: 22:11 – Perhaps. At least among the people that I know. And also the fact that it was really close to the event and people had booked their tickets, they had booked their flight tickets, the hotel, et cetera. And also I know that most gym owners, they come for the knowledge around being business owners, and not to listen to Greg Glassman for one hour. That’s what I think.
Chris: 22:34 – The message that I took from the crowd, nobody said we’re disappointed in the event or its organizers. A few people did say we’re disappointed that HQ backed out, and I think that’s because you have such a strong sense of trust that they knew that it wasn’t your fault. And I think that actually probably strengthened the validity of the program. So you had 280 people there. I heard just amazing comments all weekend. So where’s Coaches Congress going, Per? What happens now?
Per: 23:12 – Well, we’re doing it in like three weeks, so it’s between the 24th and the 26th of January. So, it’s still like an international event. We have a lineup of speakers and presenters and workshops that is world-class. I’m using that word over and over again. But you know, we have presenters from—we have Healthy Steps Nutrition and Precision Nutrition coming. We have mentors from Two-Brain Business, we have Jim Crowell and Carl Hardwick from Opex, Keegan Martin from Brand X. Eleiko is bringing a strong team. So, we’re still just trying to provide a great value. That’s it I’m not changing much, right. Still just trying to give people what they need.
Chris: 24:04 – So this really is a world-class event, folks. And you know, I went to Stockholm last year. Had an amazing time. And you know, it might feel like Stockholm is quite a ways away. But honestly, as an English speaker, I don’t think I encountered anybody who couldn’t speak English. Even the Uber driver was fine. And then, you know, Per has a great facility. I slept on the plane, so as soon as I got off the plane I was ready to go, had a shower at Per’s gym and I think went on stage within like 10 minutes. It was great. And the, the other speakers in the lineup were so great that I sat around and listened to presentations all weekend and learned a ton of stuff. And you’ve got some very veteran speakers coming with Nicole. I haven’t seen Keegan since maybe the 2012 or 2013 CrossFit Games when he was still a little kid. He’s a teenager I guess. But you know, Jim Crowell, you know, he’s on the speaker’s circuit a lot. He’s a great speaker. You just got an all-star lineup there and I think that just builds trust more and more. So my last question, Per, is really how many people come back every single year? Like what percentage of the audience is returnees?
Per: 25:21 – I would say around 70%, almost. One thing that I like is that most of the people coming back, they are bringing a bigger team. Right? So let’s say they came as a single owner or an owner or a coach, or two owners, and now they’re bringing all of their coaches and stuff like that. So that is for me a sign that they really liked the event. If you bring eight coaches, then something must’ve been good the year before.
Chris: 25:54 – Yeah. And you know, I think when it comes back to audience building, I think that trust factors into that too because you would not bring your staff or your parents to something where you didn’t think they would have a great time. OK, Per, do you have any other tips for people who are looking to build an audience for their events or their competition?
Per: 26:17 – I think I would mention something that I mention a lot to my mentees as well. And that is around social media and being very consistent on communicating. So I think what I did last year for instance and I have been doing for a couple of years, like everyone who signed up, I emailed them and said, wow, I’m glad that you’re coming. What do you hope to get out of the event? Do you have a picture of you and your team? I can post on Facebook or Instagram. So that’s what I did. I always posted, so CrossFit Escapist from Germany’s coming and they are bringing in a couple of coaches, are you going to be there? Stuff like that. So that made them very happy. It’s like being introduced into the Facebook growth group right in Two-Brain Business. So you need to be very consistent on communication.
Chris: 27:07 – Yeah. So really, you know, creating those podiums for people, making them feel special, grows their trust for you and their influence. So Per, thanks a lot for coming on the show, man. I know, I just gave you the topics this morning. You did a great job and I think everybody can learn something about building audiences through trust.
Andrew: 27:33 – Thank you for listening to another edition of Two-Brain Radio. Don’t forget to subscribe and leave us a rating or review. We really appreciate that. To find out how a mentor can help you add $5,000 in revenue to your gym, book a free call at twobrainbusiness.com.