Chris Cooper Answers: “Should You Change Your Marketing Plan?”

Chris Cooper

Andrew (00:02):

What are the keys to good marketing, and should you change your plan regularly? Two-Brain founder Chris Cooper will tell you right after this.

Chris (00:09):

Chris Cooper here to talk about Beyond the Whiteboard, the world’s premier workout tracking platform. Beyond the Whiteboard empowers gym owners with tools designed to retain and motivate members. We all know clients need to accomplish their goals if they’re going to stick around long term, and Beyond the Whiteboard will help your members chart their progress. They can earn badges view, leaderboards, track their macros, assess their fitness levels, and a lot more. Your job is to get great results for your members. Beyond the Whiteboard’s job is to make sure your members see those results and celebrate them. For a free 30-day trial, visit today.

Chris (00:42):

Hey everybody, it’s Chris Cooper here and today I’m answering questions about marketing that some of you have been kind enough to ask me through email. So first thank you with trusting me to answer your questions. We send emails to about 29,000 people every single day, over 40% of you open these emails and read them every single day, which is tremendous. And many of you, dozens of you every single day, write back. And sometimes when I get the same question over and over and over, I know that this is something that will matter to a lot of people. And so I record it as a podcast instead, or we create a free guide for people to help them. So the first thing that I want to start with is a great email that I got a couple of days ago. And he said, Chris, which marketing strategy do you teach?

Chris (01:29):

Because I’ve been using this Facebook marketing strategy and it’s not really working anymore. The thing about mentorship is that we teach all different types of marketing. Maybe I’ll back up a little bit. The core of your business rarely changes. You sell fitness coaching. The method of your business changes sometimes, but not frequently, maybe every five to 10 years, you might find a new method that works better and change your method, the delivery, and your sales process. These get upgraded over time and you see small incremental changes, but you never really completely change everything. The core marketing fundamentals, these don’t ever change either. Things like getting referrals, um, going out and meeting new people face to face. These things never go away, but advertising does change. When I started a gym, I was buying pages in the yellow pages, right? Ads in the yellow pages. People were still buying billboards.

Chris (02:27):

People were getting into like geurilla marketing and they were actually staging car crashes and stuff like that to get attention and like driving tanks down the middle of streets to get attention for airlines and Coca-Cola and stuff like that. That’s gone now. And it’s been replaced by digital marketing. The old marketing or the old advertising required a lot of creativity. You had to like grab people’s attention. But now everybody’s attention is so scattered and scarce that you have to use data. So where once you used to be like a great ad person, if you had the most creative ads, now you’re a good ad person. If you can disseminate data, figure out what’s working, tweak your ad and redeploy. You have to be more of a scientist than an artist now. And that’s how we approach advertising. We look at data from all the gyms in our data set.

Chris (03:16):

We say, what’s working right now. Where is it working? How is it working best? And what can we expect from it? So when I get questions like, should I switch to Facebook or Instagram or Tik-Tok? The answer, and I’m sure this is disappointing as always, it depends. So first I want to walk through how we approach marketing, and then I’m going to answer some very specific questions about different platforms and methods. In general, when we teach marketing, we start with the easiest wins. So upgrading the value of your current clients, offering them more value. Then the next step is to recapture former clients. When people quit your gym, it’s not a breakup. It’s rarely even a goodbye forever. These are people who actually know like, and trust you, and they want to come back. If you’ve got a good strategy for it, then we turn to nurturing leads who are already on your list.

Chris (04:06):

So people who are interested in your service, but they don’t have any sense of urgency. They don’t know why they need this right now. And usually that means like your email list, or if you have a public Facebook group, it’s people who are in that group. Then we set up a referral process that we call affinity marketing. Now sometimes by this fourth step, I’m going to be honest, we can get a gym to 150 members and a hundred thousand dollars in net owner benefit. And the gym owner says, you know what? That’s good. At my gym Catalyst, we haven’t run ads in about six years because we haven’t needed to. We ran ads for a little while. We brought people in, we kept them for a long time. We generated referrals from them and that’s the key to good marketing. When you bring somebody in, that person should be able to turn into two or three people.

Chris (04:52):

If you’ve got these other systems in place. But most gym owners actually skip over these initial steps because they are attracted to the novelty and the sexiness of like Tik ToK ads or Clubhouse. When really, if they focused on just getting the fundamentals right first, having a good referral plan, having a good plan to recapture former clients and upgrading the value of your current clients, they might not need to run ads at all. Now there’s a difference between marketing and advertising. So we’re going to refer to marketing as talking to your friends and advertising as talking to strangers. OK? So after we’ve worked out a referral plan and the other steps that I just mentioned, we moved to organic digital marketing strategies, like direct response. So one of the sexy strategies right now that you’ll see a lot is sell by chat. And really there’s no proven template for sell by chat for gym owners yet, but we’re working on that and sell by chat works well on different platforms, depending though on your presence there.

Chris (05:53):

So for example, I personally don’t have an Instagram presence. If I started an Instagram account and then started doing sell by chat, it might be successful because I’m present everywhere else. And I’ve got this big bank of content. If you’re just starting out as a brand new gym, people have no scope of reference for what you’re selling. You don’t have a bank of content. You’ve got a brand new Instagram account. Sell by chat won’t work very well for you. You have to have already established trust to use sell by chat. Tik Tok is another great example. If you’re looking for like a really younger clientele who are quickly attracted to a very short message, who aren’t really looking for expertise, but might be looking for a lot of fun, tik tok can work. And we’ve got some gyms who are proving that it can work.

Chris (06:40):

However, that’s not a good fit for my demographic. So my demographic is still best represented on Facebook. Some of the mentors do their best work with DMs on Instagram. It really depends on your gym. And so a mentor’s job is to audit your gym and say which marketing platform is going to be the best for you for doing organic. And then the final step in advertising is paid ads. Which platforms should you use? It’s the one in which you works best organically for your gym. So if you’re getting good traction organically on Facebook, by all means, invest in Facebook ads. If you’re getting good organic traffic on Instagram or Tik Tok, or even LinkedIn, invest in ads on that platform. Paying for the platform, doesn’t make it effective. It should already be effective and paying for ads should just dump some gas on the fire.

Chris (07:33):

So after we identify what’s working organically, then we add juice by running ads. So that’s really step six or seven in most cases. And every lead who comes in through those ads should be able to generate multiple new clients because they go through all this other stuff, referral process value, upgrade that kind of stuff. And of course, none of this matters unless your sales process is strong. So we also measure set rates, show rate, close rate. And in fact, we train gym owners on sales first, so that every new client that comes in is a real opportunity. I’ll give you an example of where this goes wrong. You hire an ad agency, they charge you 1800 to $3,500 per month to run ads on one, maybe two platforms. They’re not from your gym. They have no incentive to optimize lead quality. So their goal is book as many free calls as we can.

Chris (08:32):

Well, you’re going to get unfiltered leads. You’re going to get cold leads. You’re going to get people who are just completely unaware of what you’re selling and they’re not prepared to buy. And then you put those people into your sales process. And even if your sales process is great, you’re closing like 10% of leads because these people are just not ready to buy from you. And a lot of those leads are unlikely to stay for very long. If your sales process is not great, you’re probably not going to sign up even 10% of these leads. And then what happens? Well, you’re using a lot of time selling and getting rejected over and over and imagine what that does to your ego. It’s like asking nine people out on a date and getting shot down every single time, every single day. Imagine how that affects your confidence as an entrepreneur.

Chris (09:19):

So your sales process is super important and you need to build that before your marketing strategy, which changes. But before you build your sales process, you need to have a retention strategy because if your sales process is strong and your marketing is strong, but you’re only keeping people for seven months, which by the way, is the industry average across 6,500 gyms, then you won’t be doing anything except sales and marketing and worse, you will not be keeping people long enough to change their lives. So you have to build a retention system first. And what is foundational to that retention system? Consistency and delivery. Your coaches have to deliver to the exact same standard that you do or better. Your staff has to deliver to a consistently excellent standard all the time. If you don’t have those things in place, then you’re not going to fool anybody. They’ll come in, you’ll sell them.

Chris (10:12):

They’ll sign up for your gym. And they won’t like it, or they won’t be able to use the bathroom or the bathroom will be dirty. Or the coaching isn’t great, or they get injured, heaven forbid, or maybe the classes are way too big and they’re packed and they’re not getting any attention or maybe nobody’s reviewing their goals with them. And so they don’t really know if they’re making progress. So, you know, peace I’m outta here. See, before you can really have good marketing, you have to have amazing replicable systems that don’t depend on you. Then you need to have a solid retention plan to keep people engaged. Long-term then you need to have sales systems and referral systems. Then you can add things like organic marketing lead nurture. And then finally, only then should you add advertising. Now, this was a long description and we usually address advertising last in our process.

Chris (11:04):

So that it’s most effective when you do get there. And when you do, we’ll give you hundreds of images and emails and texts that you can just copy. We’ll give you processes and checklists and worksheets for sell by chat and lead nurture after somebody’s booked an appointment, chat and email, and you know, every, every possible thing that you could think of, we give people hundreds of these things, but the 850 gyms are building their own marketing plan with their own marketing mentor from Two-Brain, not running the same lead magnets or pictures or anything else, because if you don’t learn how to do this stuff yourself, when your advertising eventually stops working and it will, you won’t know what to do next. And so this takes me to the second question that I got this week. And this is actually just a fantastic question that we hear all the time.

Chris (11:56):

So this person said, Chris, we can pay Two-Brain to learn how to do this stuff, or we can pay a company to do the Facebook and Instagram marketing for us. We’re not really sure what to do. And this is a really great question because most gym owners are weighing the decision on money. They can only afford one or the other, and time. Which one is going to make this happen for us. And I would love to say that there is a marketing agency out there that doesn’t take any time that you give them their money. And it’s like a money machine and more money comes back. But that doesn’t happen. Even when you invest in the best marketing agency in the world, they’re going to need a few months to gather data. And then maybe the ads do start working and you get a great ROI for three or four months.

Chris (12:43):

And then lead cost goes up, lead quality goes down. You’re not keeping the people, you’re not closing the people. And you have a couple of months where you’re really not getting a good ROI. And then you say, OK, I’m going to cancel. And then you start all over and it takes you two months to find the next thing. And so you’re spending all this time starting to try to get traction and figure out like, should I be advertising on Tik Tok, Instagram, and then you find another agency. And so really you’re running ads effectively about six months out of the year.

Chris (13:12):

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Chris (13:44):

The alternative to that is to start with the foundation, get the ball rolling down the hill, gathering some speed. And then when you have that foundation of good ops, good retention, good sales process, good organic marketing, you can swap out the advertising pieces really, really quickly. You can pivot. You can even hire an agency if you want to at that point, but you’ll know exactly what kind of results you should expect. You’ll have some metrics to say, Hey, look, you know, this isn’t working or, Hey, this is working really well. I’ll give you an example.

Chris (14:18):

So Two-Brain experiments with this stuff a ton. We often invest 10 or $15,000 testing ads for our gyms, because we want to be able to say, conclusively, this works or this doesn’t. We want to be able to say do this, but it’s equally important for me to be able to say, you don’t have to waste your time on that thing. It’s not going to work for gyms. So when we were testing sell by chat, we already knew what our set rate was. We already knew what our show rate was. We already knew what our close rate was. So testing sell by chat allowed us to identify and manipulate only one variable. We’re only testing this one thing. So the first thing that happened when we started testing sell by chat, which by the way is just like a DM strategy on Facebook or Instagram.

Chris (15:05):

The first thing that happened was we booked more calls. OK, great. You know, mission accomplished, right? Except that our close rate went way down and our show rate went way down. So we had our sales staff sitting on the phone, missing calls, having people no show and fewer and fewer people signing up. So we went back and we said, OK, you know, we’re $3,500 into this. Now let’s commit to doing another month, but let’s change the script to filter people better. And so our book rate went down. Fewer people booked free call. Our show rate went up though. And our close rate went up. OK. So we’ve got a handle on this. What if we do this thing to cue people better. And we invest in another $3,500 for another month to test something else. If you don’t know what your set show and close rates are, you don’t know if it’s actually working.

Chris (15:53):

You don’t know if the problem is your ads, or if it’s you, or if it’s like your staff, or if it’s the agency, you have no idea. And so you’re always just jumping from guess to guess to guess trying to figure it out and never actually getting there for us. We can easily say sell by chat works or doesn’t work. We can easily say Tik Tok works or it doesn’t work after a very short trial because we know what all of our other metrics are. We know how many people should be getting on calls. We know how many people should be showing up and how many should be signing up. And so if a platform isn’t performing, that’s obvious and we spend way less money. In fact, the money that we save over time more than pays for the ads that we buy, which are very minimal.

Chris (16:35):

So everybody in the Two-Brain program has a primary mentor to build their business. But we also have them work with a marketing specialist as they go through ramp up and they do some one-on-one calls to tailor their marketing to their gym. The problem is that paying somebody else to do your marketing won’t help you long term, In a few months, you’ll have to start all over again with researching what the next thing is, finding the expert in that space and then hiring them where we do this for you. We run tests on everything. And then we set up a marketing plan from the bottom up. Client upgrades and then client recapture and then client referral, and then organic and then ads so that every new client in your gym generates a couple of clients in your gym and stays around longer. So I’ll give you an example from my own gym, Catalyst.

Chris (17:20):

If you’ve been listening to this podcast a long time, you’ll remember that years ago, Tommy Hackenbruck and I talked about this thing that he called the new you challenge, and this was an initial six week, Facebook marketing offer that gyms used to generate a lot of up-front front-end revenue. And it worked for a couple of reasons. It worked because the gyms who used it already had a lot of local trust in their communities. It worked because they were selling something that was way more expensive than anything that sold before it worked because of the term challenge, which was very novel at the time, you might remember that there were all kinds of like cold water, dunking challenges going on and all kinds of stuff. And it worked for Catalyst. It worked the first time we had about 18 people sign up for the challenge.

Chris (18:05):

The second time we had about 11. And the problem was though that we didn’t have a plan for after new you challenge, stopped working and you know what, maybe new you challenge is still out there somewhere. Maybe it’s still working. I apologize. I haven’t heard of it in about two years. So we said, OK, what do we do now? Well, so we hired a Facebook ads company. We thought, OK, Facebook advertising works. We just need to learn how to use it, or we need to use it better. And so we started paying $3,200 per month, but when their ads didn’t return an ROI, that was it. We canceled the service. We wrote off the $10,000 we had spent. And we had to start over. We hadn’t gained anything. We hadn’t even moved the ball down field. We didn’t know how to run Facebook ads ourselves.

Chris (18:45):

We didn’t know what to use next. We didn’t know why they didn’t work. So we still didn’t know what to do, right? So there’s this like two month gap where we tried to figure out what the next step should have been. And I don’t want other gyms to go through that. There’s no way that every microgym should have to spend $10,000 each to figure out this thing doesn’t work. We should be able to do that for you. And so as a central body in the microgym community and the CrossFit affiliate space, we can do all that testing for you, show you what works. And then when we prove that it works, like in the case of Facebook ads, we can say, here are the images you need. Copy paste. Here are the texts that’s working. Copy paste. Here are the emails and the texts that you can use for lead nurture, copy paste.

Chris (19:28):

Here are some great pictures for your nutrition program on Instagram, copy paste. And all these things have been tested and proven. So while the ROI on advertising first peaks, but then shrinks over time, the ROI on mentorship snowballs over time, it gets bigger and bigger. The next thing is somebody asked my favorite question. So I’ll give you some context. On this years ago, somebody said, Chris, when you’re talking to your doctor, you never ask, what should I do? Instead you should ask, what should you do? And so I got this amazing question. I think it was from Cody this month. And it was Chris, what do you do for marketing? Because we teach all these different methods in Two-Brain somebody wanted to know like, what exactly I do. Now. Catalyst has been around for 16 years. This is almost our 16th anniversary. We don’t do Facebook advertising.

Chris (20:18):

We don’t need to. And the reason is that over the last many, many years, we have built this foundation of care and knowledge in our community. So there are other great gyms in my community. Absolutely. They’re amazing Two-Brain gyms in my community, even like a block away from mine, they have their own culture, their own community, their own feel. And we love to collaborate with them and talk with them. But my gym has been around a long, long time. And so what generally happens is that people start their fitness journey at a big chain, like the YMCAs or Good Life. And they try their best and they maybe get some initial results. Maybe they even do some personal training, but eventually they’re interested in fitness, but they want something more. They’re not sure why they’re not getting results. And so they come to us and they get coaching.

Chris (21:06):

And when they think about fitness coaching in Sault Ste Marie, they generally want to speak to the people who have been around longest. There’s also maybe one degree of separation in our town. So if I don’t know you, I probably know somebody else who has been to Catalyst over the last several years. Now, of course we didn’t start with this trust on day one. We had to build it and I couldn’t talk to everybody. And I couldn’t wait for everybody to come in my door and meet me. So what I had to do was start publishing. I had to become my own publisher. And so at first I would write on our own blog. And then I started writing for local news sites. I had this column about health and fitness, and that started attracting people to me, but some of those people weren’t signing up.

Chris (21:48):

So I had to continue the conversation by using email marketing. And so I would say, if you want more, just click here and I’ll email you once a month. And what I started to notice was that every time I sent out an email, I made an average of $320 because people would call me and say, yeah, I want to sign up. Or I want to sign my kid up, or I want to do this thing or that thing. And so I said, well, what if I just did this all the time? And so I gave one of my clients to one of the trainers to buy myself two or three hours of time every week to work on email marketing, because that’s what was working. And that’s still what we use today. Catalyst has a massive email list, probably about between seven and 10,000 people on there.

Chris (22:30):

We send out emails two to three times a week because that’s enough. And that’s all we do. Everything else is referrals. So we do affinity marketing. We’re really, really good at relationships. We’re really good at saying to our client, you’re doing a great job. I know this is a stressful time of year at your accounting firm. How can I help the other accountants in the firm? And then showing up, doing a talk, inviting people to train with us. We’re really good at that. The key to being good at that is that we don’t wait. Early on in my career as a personal trainer, I learned like my clients love me. They’re inviting me to their kid’s wedding, but they’re not referring any clients to me. So I need to take the lead on that conversation. And that’s what affinity marketing is. So what we do at Catalyst is just basically that we do email marketing.

Chris (23:18):

We do a ton of storytelling. So we share client stories on our site and on social media. And that’s it. Catalyst doesn’t have a podcast. Catalyst, I believe has an Instagram channel. I’m not on it. My younger coaches do a good job, but we post maybe three or four times a week. Mostly we just tell stories and share knowledge. The secret that I shared with my coaches 10 years ago is that I want my clients at Xatalyst to know more about fitness than any other coach in town. Because if they know more than the other coaches, they don’t have a need to go to any of the other coaches. And so we teach all the time. How do we market at Two-Brain? And so this was another question that I got this week, which was awesome. He said like, what’s your lead nurture sequence?

Chris (24:01):

And the answer, I’m just going to whisper it here. The answer is, if you’re listening to this podcast or you’re responding to my emails, you’re in our lead nurture sequence. Our lead nurture sequence is super simple. Give you the tools to make the money to pay for mentorship. Knowledge is free, right? Like I can tell you what to do. And we’ve published books and guides that you can download for free off the site. Sometimes we go on Amazon and order books for people, like we sent out 63 books to Australia this month, just because there was a group of gym owners who are struggling there and they needed help, especially like Victoria. But the thing is that knowledge, it tells you what the answer is, but it’s not the answer itself. So for example, I can tell you, yeah, you need to raise your rates.

Chris (24:48):

But that knowledge is not enough. Number one, most people won’t do it 90% of the time. They won’t. Number two. They don’t know how to raise their rates with minimal pain. Number three, they have nobody to talk to or support them through that challenging time. And so we have a mentorship company because we want to help you manage these changes. It’s not enough to know like, OK. I only need 150 clients to make a hundred thousand dollars a year. Right? How do you do that? And how do you increase client value? So our lead nurture sequence at Two-Brain is really, really long. When people sign up for our email list or join our Gym Owners United Facebook group, they either sign up for Two-Brain within six days, or it takes about six months. And so if you’ve been listening to this podcast for six months and you haven’t signed up for Two-Brain, hey, you’re due.

Chris (25:38):

If you just found us and you’re starting to listen to this stuff, take all the time you need, you know, use the resources to make some money, download the Broke Gym Owner’s Guide toMmarketing, make a thousand bucks and invest that in mentorship and then watch the results snowball. The key is to have a big picture perspective, is to be objective. If you want your business to last 30 years, you have to have somebody that can see out that far. And when you’re down in the mix of everything and coaching new classes, it’s very, very tempting to say, I’m just going to abdicate the responsibility for my marketing. I’m just going to hire an agency to do this for me. But the reality is at some point, to have a longstanding business, you have to elevate yourself enough to take the long view. In our next episode, I’m going to talk about how to automate your business. How do you use services like, uadvertising agencies and VA’s and automation software in your gym to buy you some time. I’m going to walk through the steps that you need to do to make that happen. But the bottom line is that you need to learn how to do all these things yourself, or you’ll never know what’s working and you’ll always be chasing the next expert, the next tactic, the next shiny object. Have a great week.

Andrew (26:57):

Thanks for listening Two-Brain Radio. Please subscribe for two great episodes every week. For more industry insight from Chris Cooper, join the Gym Owners United group on Facebook. Chris is constantly posting articles, instructional videos, and advice in there, and these resources will literally help you make more money. That’s gym Owners United on Facebook. Join today.



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