Free Advertising: Yes, It’s a Thing (and You Can Get It)

Picture of Julie Johnston with title text reading "Free Advertising: Yes, It’s a Thing (and You Can Get It)"

Mike (00:02):

Tired of trying to figure out where to spend marketing dollars, not getting any return on investment with ad spends? What if I told you there was a way to get free advertising? Two-Brain mentor Julie Johnston is here to tell you how to do exactly that right after this. Website, designer, marketer, landing page software, calendar, CRM, form builder, emailing service, texting platform, connecting software. You can get rid of all of them by switching to Gym Lead Machine. This is the platform used by Chris Cooper, along with over 60% of the Two-Brain mentorship team. The average gym owner saves over $300 a month with Gym Lead Machine. And they’ll even waive the $1,000 setup fee for Two-Brain Radio listeners. Switching is easy and you can go live in just one week. Visit to watch a demo and book a sales call. Welcome to Two-Brain Radio. I’m Mike Warkentin here with certified Two-Brain mentor Julie Johnston. Julie has gotten tons of free advertising over the years, and she’s going to share her secrets with you. All right, Julie Johnson. Welcome to Two-Brain Radio. How are you today?

Julie (00:59):

Oh man. No complaints. So excited to be here.

Mike (01:01):

Where are you at in the world?

Julie (01:03):

I am in Las Vegas, Nevada United States.

Mike (01:07):

Is it hot?

Julie (01:09):

I dunno. It’s fine. No, it’s great. It’s great. You can go just about 30 miles out of Las Vegas and get some great, great weather anytime you want at Mount Charleston. So I haven’t even noticed.

Mike (01:20):

OK, well, we’re going to gamble today and see if we can win some free advertising with you seasoned. Now we’re talking some Las Vegas. Is there such a thing, I’ve been told nothing in life is free and you’re telling me there might be some free advertising. Is there such a thing?

Julie (01:33):

I mean, it does require your time and they do say time is money, but what I’m going to tell you, this one really cool, free trick that you might not have heard of before. I’m going to tell you at the end of this podcast, so you have to listen. Cause there are some steps in between that I definitely want to kind of get into your brain and have you follow before we get into that.

Mike (01:55):

So the payoff is coming at the end?

Julie (01:56):


Mike (01:56):

  1. So if people want to hear it, they have to listen to all the way through and then you’ll give them, you’ll give them all your secrets.

Julie (02:02):

I’ll give them one secret.

Mike (02:04):

  1. Well, one, one big one would count. So we’ll definitely do that guys. Listen along. Julie’s going to give you something good at the end, before we do that, tell me a little about your history. Why are you an expert in free advertising? What’s your story?

Julie (02:17):

So, first of all, I started when I was 17, I had a one woman show, a little print business and I was making flyers for people and I was helping them do mailers. You remember mailers? Post office with my bulk postage and mail out for local businesses. And, when I was 21, I had gained 65 pounds and I couldn’t stand myself. And so I started my gym when I was 21 and I used my advertising history to kind of help with the gym. And so I did flyers on doors, flyers at the college. I built up the business and started doing TV and radio. I had a $10,000 per month ad budget, TV, and radio, then the recession hit. So you’re starting to be able to guess my age and after the recession hit, you know, it really took away a lot of the opportunity we had to say, Hey, we’re going to spend a bunch of money to get a bunch of people through the doors. We had to just be a lot more careful. So guess what was starting at that time? Groupon. So Mike, did you know that you’re talking to the girl who sold the most Groupons in one day for a gym? 1,121.

Mike (03:26):

That’s actually you?

Julie (03:28):

That’s me. I mean, I don’t know if it’s still the record, but it is not something to actually be proud of, but I just want you to know that I went that route.

Mike (03:37):

Do you get a prize for it? Did they give you a plaque or something?

Julie (03:40):

I don’t know if they did. I was too embarrassed to hang it up. That’s for sure.

Mike (03:45):

Don’t tell gyms to do Groupon, but we also learn from our mistakes. And so you did that and you probably found some much better ways to do it now, but that’s amazing that you managed to sell that many.

Julie (03:55):

Well, and I just want you guys to know that I’ve tried a lot of things, so I can definitely tell you what not to do and that’s what we’re going to do first. And then we did challenges and we’re going to go over the challenges too. And I’m going to tell you like how we did build our business on these things. We rebuilt our business on these things, but I’m gonna tell you the problems that came with that as well. We’ve always been able to get a lot of free press, you know, there’s very few things like happening at 5:00 AM. So just a little tidbit for you like local news stations. If they know that you have a class going on at 5:00 AM, they’ll come visit you when there’s nothing else going on. Just a little tip there. And in 2018, December, 2018, I just started, I decided to start for the first time, like real paid ads on Facebook.

Julie (04:42):

And I had, you know, someone helping you with that. And it was so surprising how well they did, but they did not represent our brand. Well, I did not like the ads. My coaches were asking me, what is this? This doesn’t look like us. It worked, we closed sales. I didn’t like the ads. And you know, it brought in great people, but you know, about half the people that would come in, they just definitely weren’t a good fit. So after that experience, you know, I kind of ran the gamut with a pain for advertising I felt like, and in doing free advertising and getting people like Groupon to help. So I’m like, you know, Julie, have you really tried all the free things; like have you really tried it? And so I quit cold turkey. And you know, just to give you an idea of that December. In December, I made $18,000 in front end revenue on paid ads, but I didn’t like what we were doing. And so I quit cold turkey, even though it was working. And I said for the next year, I’m going to represent my brand properly and I’m going to get as much free advertising as I can because have I ever really done this? And over that year, at my second location, it’s a little bit, the second location is newer, newer audience. So it’s a little bit easier to gauge metrics off of. We increased our revenue January to January 41% with free advertising. How cool is that?

Mike (06:13):

We’ll get back to free advertising in just a minute. Two-Brain Radio is brought to you by Forever Fierce. Reach out to them to sell more apparel or retail items. Matt Albrizio and his team will save you time with templates. They’ll provide ideas and tell you what’s selling best. And they’ll supply marketing material and preorder sheets. If you want to get serious about apparel and retail, visit And this is Colorado, correct?

Julie (06:35):

Yes. This is Camp Rhino in Las Vegas. Yeah.

Mike (06:39):

Cutting off your—we all know that marketing is kind of addicting, right? It’s really cool to put up these ads, see people clicking and watching all the things and seeing people come into your lead sheet and then seeing them come into the business. So you just went cold turkey. I got, I’ve heard that might be just about as tough as you know, quitting smoking.

Julie (06:55):

Well, you know it just doesn’t feel good to build something for, at that time it was 15 years, and feel like you’re doing something that you don’t like to make money. And I didn’t like those ads. They were kind of, they got people in, they got cold traffic, people who had never heard of us. They got them in the door, but I just didn’t like them and I’m not going to tell you what they were. You can use your imagination for that, but advertising is fun as long as you don’t have to make money from it.

Mike (07:35):

  1. So now you’ve told me that you went cold turkey. And so you had to find a way to, you know, quote unquote, feed yourself without paying for advertising. I bet you have some incredible stories of free advertising things, you know, gimmicks and stunts that you’ve pulled. Have you got some of those? I think I’ve heard one before, but you have some really good ones.

Julie (07:52):

So none of my great stories are from the past year. The past year. And I’m going to tell you how I did it. The past year was really just following the good old Two-Brain principles of producing content on all the channels. And I’m going to tell you exactly the steps that we went through on that, but a couple of good stories. So obviously you have the Groupon story, but another one and this was years ago. So seven years ago, we were about to lose everything and I was trying to figure out how we could get people in the door and back then I still had that free mentality. And I was trying to save the world, still trying to save the world. But I don’t want to be poor and give up my house again, ever to try to save the world.

Julie (08:34):

So back then we decided to do this free six week challenge. And it was awesome. It was OK. People would pay $300. They would get it back at the end of the challenge, if they—and they didn’t have to lose 20 pounds or anything like that. They just had to come to a certain amount of classes and they had to meet with the nutritionist once a week and we’re giving this away for free, right. But we over-delivered on value so much that we actually had a 70% conversion into memberships. We had a 98% across the board graduation rate, which meant you can do the math and figure out how many refunds we were giving $300. Like I probably have given the most refunds in the history of our gym software because of that challenge, because people would complete the challenge and they would get a refund and then 50% would stay longer than six months.

Julie (09:27):

But here’s the thing. The classes were full. Coaches were suffering because of client turnover and the 30% who would come and they would utilize all of our resources for six weeks and we loved on them and we treated them, you know, they deserve to be treated well, right. But then they were just there for the six weeks and then they would leave. And that was really, really hard. We were changing lives. I loved doing it, but we were sacrificing a lot to do it. And so here’s the thing from that lesson. I learned that if you’re not in this for the long game, then you just have to either sell or get out. That is what I’ve arrived and I’m in this for the long game. So here’s what we’ve done now. This is how we increased 41% off of free advertising. The first thing we focused on was fixing our business.

Julie (10:20):

We had to commit ourselves to what we were doing, you know, back in the day, I thought that my goal was, you know, I thought that my perfect day was to have my gym running by itself and I get to work out there and then I get to do whatever I want all day. Actually, that doesn’t make me happy. Working, striving, building, connecting, helping people; that makes me happy. So I am committed to my gym. I’m committed to advertising for my business because microgyms, in my opinion are too small to have a hundred thousand dollars a year marketing person to quote unquote, do it right.

Mike (10:57):

And if your business isn’t running properly, there’s no sense in dumping more people in a sinking ship, right?

Julie (11:02):

Yes. Yes. That’s exactly where we’re going with this. So, step number one is get excited about helping people with your content. Play the long game and the first step for anyone who wants to capitalize on free advertising, there is nothing more important in my opinion than what I’m about to say. And it’s that you have to get your mission and your client avatar right. You have to figure out what you’re trying to do with your gym. And you have to figure out who you’re trying to attract and to bring does a great job of this in the incubator. But when I went through it, I was still like thinking, I wasn’t thinking about how I was advertising when it came to that. So when this is right, and when you have your avatar right, you think about that avatar with everything you put out and you get excited about putting out content.

Julie (11:58):

So instead of saying, Oh man, I need to advertise. Oh man, I need to post on social media. I really need to do this instead. You’re like, I have a message. I have an audience. I need to change the world. I’m about to do it with this blog post that I’m about to put out. And if people don’t like the blog post, it’s probably because they’re not my, you know, client avatar. They’re not my seed client. They’re not my best client. So that’s the first thing. Figure out who that is. Then of course systems. Get ready to take amazing care of that new client that you’re going to bring in. So here’s the thing. If you’re in love with your client avatar, if you have built this dream client and you can visualize them, you want them to have the absolute best journey possible and you want to hear about mine?

Julie (12:47):

So my dream client is Teddy. The male version is Dalton. And Teddy, she tries to be positive and she tries to, you know, to be motivated, but she doesn’t quite have the tools. She just doesn’t quite know how to get to her goals. And that’s where we come in and she’s been looking for her whole life for a gym like ours, where we will just take her, love on her and teach her all the things that she needs to know to be successful. And when I think of Teddy or Dalton, the male version of that, I can’t wait to talk to them. And I can’t wait to build a system that protects them and helps them and gives them everything that they can want. So build that system second, and this is goal reviews, guys. This is Two-Brain 101. Do the goal reviews, ask your client, how are you doing?

Julie (13:35):

You know, our first month of our client journey actually has an appointment every single week. And we tell new clients when they come in the door, we say, Hey, you know, we’re going to sign you up for this membership. We’re going to do this on rep, but we want you to be taken care of. So we’re going to add in mentoring for the first month, and this is serious. This is real. You’re gonna get a 10 minute check in with your coach. And our coaches teach the same classes Monday through Friday and at that check-in we’re going to ask you about your last week. We’re going to ask you how you’re feeling. We’re going to ask you like, what are our goals for next week? And we’re going to make sure that you’re OK coming through the journey and that’s the first month. And that’s cause I love Teddy and I love Dalton. I want to take care of them.

Mike (14:17):

I’m gonna interrupt for just one second and say guys, listeners, if you want more on this stuff in the archives, right before this episode, we’ve got Brian Zimmerman talking about how to onboard clients and how that is your greatest opportunity for business success. After that, we’ve got Brian Strump, our chiropractor in Carolina, and he’s telling you how to retain members for 10 years. And he’s got a huge section there. He’s talking about the client journey, which is super important. And that’s where the avatars that Julie’s talking about are coming in. And then in the archives there’s Kaleda Connell, she is talking about taking your vision and making it operational. So that’s meaning your mission statement, your statement, the thing that inspires you, she will tell you exactly how to make that tangible for clients on a day to day basis through systems and policies. So all the stuff that Julie just listed, we have episodes dedicated exactly to that in our archives. Check them out if you want to hear more. Go on to your next point. Thank you, Julie.

Julie (15:07):

Don’t skip that part. There’s a reason I’m talking about it when I’m supposed to be giving you free advertising tips. There’s a reason, please listen to all those guys. Any way you do it, as long as you’re thinking of helping your client avatar, as long as you’re thinking of helping Teddy and Dalton it’s going to be the right way. OK, next.

Mike (15:24):

Be clear. Like, you know, just as an aside, retaining a client is better than getting a new one, right? Like it’s cheaper and better. And we’ve talked about, Chris Cooper, our founder for years, retaining clients, getting your systems dialed in and doing all the things you can to make it a great business for people to stay in are much better than having to constantly find new clients. But at some point once you’ve got everything dialed in and you as a mentor, help clients do this in a ramp up program. Once that happens, then it’s time to find some new clients. But you want to find exactly what you said, the right clients. So on you go, let’s talk some more.

Julie (15:57):

I think that was such a great point though. You know what? The hard part of that is Mike, and I’ve been here. I’ve been in a point, my lowest position as an entrepreneur was when I was $150,000 in debt. I had $24,000 that I had to write out in payroll. And if all of those checks were cashed, I would be negative $13,000 in my checking account. We’re talking no savings. We’re talking no rich people that I knew to help me. And there was an issue with my social security at the bank. So because of that, I couldn’t ever get capital for my business. So the problem is if you’re listening and you’re saying, OK, Julie, OK, Mike, OK. Brian Strump, OK Brian Zimmerman, of course I want to retain clients. But my problem is I need money right now. That’s my problem, Julie. Like I hear you.

Julie (16:49):

Of course, I know that, but I need money right now. My advice to you is if you’re in this for the long haul and you want to do this and you’re serious about it, go get a loan and gamble on yourself and give yourself breathing room. Get enough money to give yourself breathing room, to build your business to last. Don’t just try to get new clients into a broken system, into a broken foundation. Don’t don’t do that. Just believe in yourself, invest in yourself and don’t go for the quick fix. I mentioned it earlier. Advertising is fun when you don’t need the money. But most of my time owning a gym, I needed the money I was about to not make it. I was about to not make payroll if I didn’t get new clients in the door and that’s just terrible position to be in. And if I could go back and teach Julie something, I would say, Julie, do you believe in yourself? Do you believe you can make this work? Yeah, of course I do. Go get some money.

Mike (17:50):

And then I’d say get a mentor, you know, because you and I, we’ve made so many mistakes. Like we’ve made so many mistakes over the years. You don’t have to make a decade worth of mistakes. All you have to do is talk to a mentor who can say, here’s what you need to do. And the Two-Brain Growth ToolKit will help you do that. You know, get some money, invest long term. And part of that is finding someone to guide you.

Julie (18:09):

I’m so glad you said that, like we’re on Two-Brain Radio. So I assume everyone believes in mentorship is listening, but you’re right. Get some money and hire a mentor and fix your business. Thank you. So I’m going to be fast because it sounds like you have so many awesome mentors sharing so many awesome things on this podcast. But the next thing I want you guys to do is solve your client’s problems. What are your tools in your toolbox? Once you get these people in the door, how can you solve their problems and what are you going to give them to solve their problems? And I’m going to be super fast. Over deliver on value. What can you add to your memberships to add value? I’m going to give you an example. We’re building a membership site right now and we’re building content to just help our members out.

Julie (18:53):

So in these mentor check-ins when someone says, I really need some stretching routines to do at home. We’re going to unlock the stretching routines in the membership site. Over deliver on value, help them out. OK. I’m almost done. Last key point. And this is the big one. You know, I said that there was something else that was the most important thing, but this might be the other most important thing. Staff. If you don’t have good dedicated staff members and this includes you like, it’s OK. If you’re an operator, that’s great. If you don’t have good dedicated staff members providing your services, then you don’t have anything good to sell. So if you are advertising and your end service is something that just dumps people in to a group class where they get injured or they’re not taken care of. Or, you know, you just accept everyone or you discount.

Julie (19:51):

And you’re discounting because you have to, because you’re trying to get people in the door. It’s this terrible, terrible cycle. Or if half of your staff is awesome and half of your staff needs to go get a job somewhere else and not be a coach, then you’re also going to have that problem where half of your service, half of it, half of the people serviced are not telling their friends. They’re not getting the results they want. So please, I beg of you don’t have advertise until you fix this. Like do whatever you have to do to fix these things. And OK, I’m off my soap box, but these are really what I wish I hadn’t spent 16 years learning, owning my gym 16 years. Like I just recently learned this.

Mike (20:38):

Spend 60 minutes and save people 16 years let’s do it. That’s great.

Julie (20:41):

And it’s all in Two-Brain. But for some reason, all of including myself, when we joined Two-Brain we’re like, I just want to get to the marketing. I just want to get to the marketing. I don’t want to do the systems and processes. So OK. Off my soapbox. I’m ready for the free advertising part now, unless you have something.

Mike (21:02):

Yeah, no, that’s good. Let’s talk about a little bit about how we can capitalize on it. What is your best technique for finding free advertising? You’ve hinted at a few things like you’ve talked about, you know, 5:00 AM nothing’s happening. How would you go about doing it right now? What would you do to get someone to pay attention to you and your business for free?

Julie (21:24):

So cool free trick that I stumbled upon. Go to Google my business, go and set up your business if you haven’t already, go to manage your business and click on posts. When you click on posts, it’s so cool. It’s like Facebook on Google, except no one can comment and ruin your life.

Julie (21:50):

But you can add an update which can include a YouTube video or a picture, and it can include a certain amount of words. You can make posts on Google with client testimonials, or you can just, you know, just do a blog post or anything that is you talking to your favorite client. Me talking to Teddy and Dalton. Anything I want to put out there, you can post on Google, the largest search engine that there is. How cool is that? And a couple other extra things, you can add an offer. So we definitely don’t believe in discounts, right? But we do discount our on-ramp because we want people to do it. And our coaches still get paid well, and it’s a great introductory, right? So you can add that on there. You can add updates to your businesses and you can add events all on Google. So that’s like the big, I hope it was worth it, guys, but I was blown away when I saw it. I hadn’t heard anyone else talk about it. And so that’s my first thing. My second—

Mike (22:55):

I’m going to piggyback on that just for a sec. Cause I love that stuff on Google and you can use, like you could even put in a facility tours and things like that. So you can take like 360 pictures of your offices and spaces. And you can put up pictures of your staff, the exterior business, all the different stuff that, you know, Google wants people to find stuff and to spend time using their, you know, their sites and their systems to find your business. So when they search, you know, best local gym or something like that, and they find you, they want a user rich experience, right? So you go, Oh, I can click on the front door and I can walk through the facility. I can see where the people are. There’s smiling staff members. This is what the staff looks like.

Mike (23:31):

These are some of the services. All of that helps people get right in touch with your business, because if they found you on Google and you have to do some work to get in the right spots on Google, but that’s a whole other story. But if they find you and they can interact with your business, that is a huge, huge thing. And you know, I’ll take you one further. There are a lot of people that don’t update those Google my business listings. And so you’ll, you’ll go to their site and it’s like, OK, a holiday Monday and they’re open and you go to the store and they’re not there. And you’re furious. So really paying attention to that Google my business listing is super important. So that is a huge free tip. Doesn’t cost you anything. You can certainly spend ad dollars with Google if you so desire, but you do not have to, you can do it for free.

Julie (24:08):

And I remember when I was crazy busy trying to make it all happen, doing all the jobs, right. And things like Google and Yelp and trying to update it. I never knew what my passwords were like. It was just this really tough thing. And so I want you to get into the mindset of investing in your business, investing in the foundation of your business so that you or someone else has the time to really take advantage of all of these things and the daily post part of Google. That was the part that I just had no idea about, but you’re right Mike, and some other places too LinkedIn. On LinkedIn, you can do a post a day. So if you make some type of post and you put it on Facebook, you can repurpose that for LinkedIn, for, you know, obviously Instagram, but also Google. And then Yelp allows photos. It doesn’t allow posts or anything like that, but it allows photos, which is really, really nice. But I encourage you. Like if you feel like you’ve tried advertising and it’s not working, or if you’re just wondering what to do, dedicate yourself to figuring out a process for making a post a day and getting it on all the platforms and see what happens to your business. As long as you’re talking to your client avatar, that’s the little trick there, but I just challenge you to do that and see what happens.

Mike (25:28):

Chris has been doing this for well more than a decade. You know, he started blogging and just telling his story. You know, he had a screwed up business and he started fixing it. He started just writing about it. And that was back on an old site called don’t buy and that spiraled into Two-Brain mentorship. And Chris literally just started by just talking and just it was don’t buy ads. Like that was the name of the original site, because he was just talking and creating content. Right. So that’s a really cool idea. And I love that. The fact you have your avatar’s named and is Teddy left handed or right handed. Do you know?

Julie (26:03):

Well, in the picture of her eating delicious food with a smile on her face that I have up on my wall, she’s holding the food in her right hand. So there you go. I have a picture of her and I have a picture of Dalton too. It just really helps me and you know, Chris said a long time ago, find your muse and write to your muse. But my problem was I would use a different muse every time. And then my message, you know, was just a little bit muddled there. But when I’m mentoring clients and we’re talking about this, I say, Hey, how did Two-Brain Business get you? And they say, Oh, I’ve been following Chris for years. I’ve been following what you’ve been posting for years. And I say, exactly.

Mike (26:46):

I asked people at the last Two-Brain summit in Chicago, asked a bunch of people the same question. And a number of them said exactly that they said, Oh, you know, I’d been reading Chris’s stuff for forever. And, you know, just all of a sudden it came to a point where I needed some help. And that was the first name that came to my mind. And again, so that goes back to what you’re saying about the long game. It’s not enough to put up an Instagram post or commit to it for like three weeks or two months or something like that. People talk about content marketing, you have to do it long term. And we were talking like, Chris has done it for probably 15 years or more. Now at this point, it’s huge, it’s like starting with this tiny little snowball.

Mike (27:22):

You’re in Las Vegas, I’m in Winnipeg, Canada. So I’ll tell you the snowball analogy, but you push a small snowball and the more you push it, it gathers more snow and becomes this gigantic thing. And eventually if you get it down a hill, you just push the thing down and away it goes. You’re talking about building momentum and that doesn’t happen from a short term commitment. It doesn’t happen from a little bit of Twitter. It doesn’t happen from a little bit of Facebook. There’s a long term commitment, and I’ll take you one further and say, it really, you need a strategy for stuff. You can certainly just hammer things out. But the other end of it, who is your avatar? Who are you speaking to? What did they want to see? What do they engage with? Put that stuff out. And it doesn’t cost you anything about your time. And there is a cost to that, but it’s still not as extreme as buying a billboard on the side of the highway,

Julie (28:03):

And Trello boards, Whoa, didn’t know about that until recently has really helped me dial in my content. And then you can add team members. So if you have, I have someone distributing the content for me once I produce it, cause I know if it’s left up to me to actually distribute it, I’m not going to, it’s going to stay in my Google drive. And so we have Trello boards where you can not just get together as a team and make sure that things are getting done. But all of this stuff is classic Chris Cooper Two-Brain Business; nothing new, but I just really want people to just know, like do this, do the foundational things that Chris has been telling us to do forever. Focus on one thing until it’s done and the new Growth ToolKit, Mike, I’ve been taking my clients through that and it has been so cool to just allow them to focus on, you know, one part of the Growth ToolKit and get the foundation done. And I just did a call yesterday where I said, OK, we’re going to get all of these parts of the Growth ToolKit finished before we get more leads that get more leads part of the Growth ToolKit. And because of the way it was structured, it was really easy for them to understand. And there’s a month in between calls that they know exactly what they need to do because the Growth ToolKit so kudos to Two-Brain Business, everyone who worked on that and put it together.

Mike (29:24):

Yeah. And for guys, if you’re listing the Growth ToolKit is a step by step series of squares in it’s broken down by different aspects of your business. So there’s, you know, get more leads, retain clients, improve your staff, all sorts of different categories and you move along and there are squares that you unlock and they build upon each other. So the first one might be, you know, what’s a good example here. For example, is when you get further along is like fire a weed client. And it’s like a badge of honor where you identify someone in your business who is not a good fit, that’s making things worse for everyone and get rid of that client. Then you go onto the next one. And there’s a whole series of things that builds up. And eventually the idea is that if you get into high levels in each of our highways on the Growth ToolKit, you’re going to have a very successful business that’s going to be generating a lot of revenue for you and creating jobs and careers for people. So that’s a really cool product that we’ve got and you can always click to get a free call with a mentor to talk about how mentorship works. I’m going to ask you to just talk to me a little bit about media and free advertising in the sense of, have you ever been able to, you know, hook the local media to come and do a story on Julie and Camp Rhino or something like that through some clever ideas?

Julie (30:27):

Yes, but it’s not really clever ideas. It’s just sending them everything I’m doing until they like one.

Mike (30:36):

And that’s, I mean, that’s a clever idea with persistence maybe.

Julie (30:40):

Yes. I always say I’m like the water dripping that eventually does the hole in the rock. That’s me, I’m very, very persistent with everything that I do. And this is one of them. They have their news desks where they, you know, take the release, like you send them over the releases and they decide if they want to use it or not. And that’s what we do. We just always tell them what we were doing. So when we gave out our equipment to all of our members, you know, a lot of gyms were doing that, but that was just one of the things that we kind of sent along. And they picked up on that and they liked it and they came out for that. And we’ve had a lot recently.

Julie (31:23):

And then I had a trailer that was stolen and we gave it away, to the people that actually, yeah, it was the people that stole it, but they needed a home. And so we gave it to them. And the news picked up on the story just by members tagging the news, you know, in the posts that we had made. And those things like that’s just good will, you know, when you’re doing good things, it’s nice for people to hear about it. So the news likes to share nice things that people are doing, but it’s really not clever. It’s nothing special. It’s just persistence.

Mike (31:56):

But, you know, and I’ve sat on the other end of that. So I’ve sat in those newsrooms and got those releases and I’ll give you two secrets from there. The first one is exactly that, the squeaky wheel does get the grease. So someone who does talk and keep telling people and say, Hey, it’s me. Hey, it’s me. Do you hear about this? You hear about this. The more you do that, the more people like I have literally at times assigned stories just to get someone to stop bothering me. And like, it is a thing it does work. The second thing is that the easier that you make it for media people to do their job, the better it is. So if you send them, you know, a succinct summary of what you’re doing and why it’s important along with like great images that they can use right away, or maybe a video that showcases exactly what you’re doing, because they’re gonna ask for it anyways, right.

Mike (32:37):

If you can make their job really easy and everything’s lined up in one nice little package, these people are like mostly and they’re understaffed, overworked, the whole situation with media right now, if you can really package things up for them and give them everything on a platter, they’re going to be more likely to take your story, than a similar story that doesn’t have anything, any assets like that. And the final thing that you mentioned, which is great, is building up that good will, right? Once you have a relationship with one media person, all of a sudden, you’re not emailing, you know, or whatever, you’re actually have a phone number and a face and a name, you know, get a business card, build a relationship and talk to these people. And eventually when they’re desperate for a source, probably going to be you. And so this is media, not technically advertising, it’s editorial, but in a grander scheme, it is free advertising because your name is getting out there without having to do anything.

Julie (33:25):

You know, this is such, I love this. I wish I could have listened to this podcast so long ago. But a couple of other resources to help you. I took a writing course from Donald Miller. It was a one day writing course, four hours. It was incredible. It taught me how to have a controlling theme, to be concise and it can teach anybody how to make their posts and their stories and everything. Don’t look at my posts yet. I’m still working on clarifying all of my messages, but taking a simple writing course is so helpful in feeling confident in posting. And then secondly, if you’re going to be on TV, give them soundbites and be excited. It is so much more important to have enthusiasm and to give them short soundbites than it is to not stutter. It’s OK to stutter. It’s OK to be ridiculous. It’s OK to look ridiculous. It’s just not OK to be looking off into the distance and yammering on for a long time. And then they have to package that. You’re probably not going to get a call back if you’re talking and talking and talking, and then they have to figure out a package. Am I right about that?

Mike (34:31):

100%. Every news outlet has, unless you’re live, of course, but even then people will like interrupt and redirect you and so forth. But if you’re doing something recorded, like I did, for example, a TV interview over Zoom about the COVID crisis and fitness, we talked for maybe 10 minutes. And I think they used maybe 17 seconds of what we said. And you kind of know that. You have to think of like, you get your good lines in there. Right. And you don’t kind of bury them with a bunch of other distractions. The fitness industry is in trouble right now, but we are going to survive the COVID crisis. Boom. They used a line like that. Right. And there was a whole bunch of stuff around that, but exactly having your thoughts laid out and framing things properly is very appropriate.

Mike (35:06):

And you’re right. If you stutter or mess up, we have an editor who cuts out all the mistakes that I make on the podcast here. So every news outlet has that. Of course, if you’re live is a little bit different, but you’re exactly right. So polishing things up definitely helps and like, you’re very enthusiastic. It would make sense why media outlets would enjoy that because they don’t want a boring person talking about free advertising in a monotone voice for 20 minutes, right? Your excitement carries over obviously in your gym and your community, but it also carries over into media very well.

Julie (35:36):

I say ridiculous things that I’m embarrassed of so often just for the record, but that’s not near as bad as worrying so much about what you’re about to say that you don’t have a clear message that you don’t actually say something important. And in that writing course that I took, he said something really interesting. You’ve probably heard it before, because you’re a writer. He said, if you’re writing worried about what people are going to think about what you’re writing, then you need to not write it. And I was like, Whoa, I always worry about what people think. Dang it. Like everything I’ve ever written, worried about that. But it gave me freedom. Because if you have anything to say, you know, you’re going to be polarizing. I was so scared to get on the news during all this coronavirus stuff. And you know, but whatever, like as long as you are doing that out of good intentions and you have your vision, you have your mission and that’s at your forefront on all of your social media challenges then you’re probably not going to get blasted too hard because people know who you are and what you stand for.

Mike (36:38):

Passion is better than perfection, right? And obviously like high standards are important and you should strive to make things better all the time. But it’s a mistake. Like there are gym owners that I’ve talked and I’ve done some consultations about media plans and so forth. Some of them will say, well, I can’t publish anything. I don’t know how to publish anything. I get scared. I don’t know what to do so they don’t publish anything. And then they, that just continues, right? It’s a perpetuating cycle where they’re too scared. So their Instagram account is dead. It’s that consistency we talked about is lacking. They need to just start getting something out. And so one of the tips that I’ve given people is just take a picture in your noon class of every single person, smiling, and just put up the post and say, this is Carol, Carol’s an accountant.

Mike (37:18):

And she’s having a great day at my gym, whatever, do that with an X person, this person, John is a bus driver, whatever they’re, you know, there’s 12 people right there. That’s 12 posts. That’ll buy you some time to figure the rest of it out. You can absolutely just get some stuff out and you know, a tip that I’ll give you as well is the more nervous you are about something, make it shorter. Right. You just keep it short and blunt. I think Donald probably talk to you about that. Make it concise. There’s nothing worse than something rambling and bad, but something short and bad you can definitely live with that’s OK. Right. Cause it’s over fast.

Julie (37:51):

I love that. You know, recently I noticed that we had, you know, we weren’t on top of our social media game. And so I just have my guy just get a picture out. We have tons of pictures, just get a picture out every day, both locations, you know, even if I’m not giving them material that’s actually a little bit longer. Just a picture people smiling. Like you said, just be out there.

Mike (38:14):

This was Donald Miller of StoryBrand that you were talking about.

Julie (38:16):

Yes, yes. He has a writing course and he’s writing a book about writing and it was wonderful. The controlling theme part really helped me because I like to go on tangents.

Mike (38:29):

Yeah. And that’s, and so we’ve also got a slight tangent for me is that we do have a show, in the archives here, uh, about StoryBrand and whether it can help your gym. So that’s an interesting one. If you guys want to look that up, that talks all about Donald Miller and the StoryBrand concept. So that’s in the archives. Do you have any other clever ideas that we want to throw at people before we wrap it up here? If you were to go back and you know, like, let’s say 10 years ago, what would you do? Let’s say you were just starting up a business 10 years ago. What would you do right now? Would you start doing paid advertising or what would you do instead? This is Camp Rhino, the fictional version. That’s, you know, you just started, what would you do?

Julie (39:14):

I would go online and build a following first and then start the gym.

Mike (39:20):

  1. So even before that, where would you build that following? How would you do it?

Julie (39:26):

I would start on Facebook just because most people are on it. And then all of the content that I started on Facebook, I would leverage even in a podcast, even on Instagram, LinkedIn, the Google my business, I would leverage the content on there and I would probably start it the way I did before ,I did start out in the parks. And so you start with something, you know, when you’re going to start to me any health and fitness business, you start with something that worked for yourself. You know it worked for you. And you know, you look at a bunch of other people’s frameworks for getting people results. You adapt it until you have your own, and then you try it on people until you have those testimonials. And then you keep building up your following based on the testimonials that you have.

Julie (40:14):

But that’s one thing that I would definitely do differently is instead of always just using my weight loss story, I would have been much better about sharing the results of my customers. And we all make this classic mistake of, Oh, I don’t want to bother my members. I mean, I’m here to make their lives better. I’m not here to put their images and their stories all over social media, but people really love being inspirations. And that’s what you’re helping them do is you’re helping them be an inspiration to other people. And luckily what we’re selling and what we’re spreading is happiness and positivity and feeling better, looking better, having more confidence and really you can change the entire energy of your city if you do a fitness brand right in your city.

Mike (40:58):

Essentially putting these clients on podiums, right? Like with permission, you’re glorifying them and you’re giving your, you’re making them celebrities and like, who doesn’t appreciate that. There might be a few clients who are like, ah, you know, I’m nervous. Don’t do it. But by and large, nine out of 10, if you ask them, can I share your story? They’ll be more than happy to first of all, because it makes them feel good. And they feel like superstars. Second of all, because they like you and want to help you. They want you to succeed, right? They love your service. They love your product. They want to tell people about it. And all you have to do is ask. We have for Two-Brain clients, we have social media playbooks that we give you guys to tell you exactly how to do some of this stuff. If you’re not a Two-Brain client, go to our free tools section, you will find all kinds of resources, including an affinity marketing guide. In that guide, you’re going to find all sorts of ways to use your current clients, to find more clients without spending a dollar. Chris has never spent money on advertising because he uses affinity marketing to an extreme degree. And he’s really, really good at it. You don’t actually have to spend money on that. And Julie, I’m sure with your mentoring clients, you probably tell them about affinity all the time, because you don’t have to spend any cash and it gets results.

Julie (42:00):

Yes. I want to tell you about one of my clients recently. And she had tried the Facebook ads and we started talking about affinity marketing because the budget really wasn’t there to spend any more money on ads. And I’m not obviously a big promoter of that anyways.

Julie (42:18):

And so we started talking about her goal review sessions. She had sat down with someone who had a job that basically had, it was in a niche and she was a part of a larger community and they all spoke Portuguese. And the gym owner spoke Portuguese. And I have a feeling that her starting these classes for this group of women in Portuguese is going to have such a bigger return on investment than any ad spend she could have done. And that’s affinity marketing, her sitting down with the client and saying, you know, who are you? How are you? Like, what is your story? And just, you know, seeing where she can help the client. It was beautiful. And I, you know, I’ll, I’ll circle back on that and let you know how it goes.

Mike (43:03):

Our listeners have spent 45 minutes with us, but they haven’t spent a dollar and they probably gonna make a bunch of money if they follow some of your tips. Thank you so much for being here, sharing all your stories.

Julie (43:12):

But none of this matters if you don’t have a mentor that tells you what to do first. So get on, right? Get that free help call. I remember mine.

Mike (43:21):

Thanks for being here, Julie.

Mike (43:24):

Thank you for listening Two-Brain Radio. I’m Mike Warkentin talking free ads with Julie Johnston. If you want more directive advice based on data, Two-Brain Business founder Chris Cooper is all about that action. Things will not get better unless you make them better. Head to and check out the blog for daily action items from the guy who ran a failing gym before he created a multinational, multimillion dollar business. Chris shares his secrets daily for free. Check out Thanks for tuning into Two-Brain Radio. Please subscribe for more episodes. See you next time.


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