How to Get Your Old Clients Back Without Giveaways

Image of Chris Cooper.

Mike (00:02):

A client left your gym and you are broken up about it. That’s normal, but you need to remember that client probably isn’t gone for good. Today on Two-Brain Radio, Chris Cooper will tell you how to increase the chances that departed members will return.

Chris (00:14):

Hey everybody, it’s Coop here. And today I’m gonna tell you how to get your old clients back. Now, we all look at a client cancellation like a breakup, like, oh my goodness, this is the end of our relationship. I am never going to see this person again. And we tend to scramble sometimes to preserve that relationship, to keep it going. But you and I both know that that’s usually too little too late. Once somebody says they wanna cancel, they’ve probably been thinking about it for a few months. And if you haven’t been thinking about it, then they’re gone. There’s nothing that you can do that will keep them. However, I’m here to tell you that as a gym owner now of 17 years, most times they’ll be back. And so today I’m gonna tell you how to do it. Step one is when a client cancels, you have to make sure that they know that they are welcome back.

Chris (01:02):

You can’t just assume that they know that. And so you have to clearly state, we would love to have you back when you are ready. OK? In those exact words, best done face to face. Second-best done over the phone. Third best done through a text and fourth best through an email. That’s the first thing is people need to know that they’re welcome back. A lot of us think that, you know, oh, geez, I canceled there before. Or I ended that on a bad relationship. I’m never going back. But if the door is clearly held open and there’s an open invitation waiting, we’ll feel more comfortable returning, OK? You don’t want somebody to feel too embarrassed to return. The second thing is you have to maintain a line of communitcation. That means the person who cancels at your gym should still be on your email list.

Chris (01:47):

If you have a free public Facebook group for non-members, they should still be in that group. They should still be getting content from you. Our motto at catalyst has always been teach our clients to know more than any other trainer in town. And if they know more then they won’t have to go anywhere else, but sometimes people switch models just because they’re bored. And we sold them on novelty and it’s not novel anymore. And so they’re gonna go try Zumba or Pilates or yoga. And as long as you don’t make them feel dumb about their choice, they’ll probably come back. That means you can’t slander Zumba in your or media. Right? Ask me how I know. I’ve lost clients. Not because Zumba is better, but because I have said Zumba sucks. You won’t get results. And then when they went and tried Zumba, they felt sneaky about it.

Chris (02:35):

And when they liked Zumba and wanted to continue, they didn’t feel like they could look me in the eye or whatever. So they didn’t wanna come back. More than likely they just didn’t want to hear my stuff about Zumba. So that’s the second thing is you have to stay in constant contact. Now, if you haven’t been in constant contact with the client, here’s how to restart that contact. And we call this, you might see this called the 10 word email, the eight word email, the subject line of your email is just like, Hey Chris. And then in the body of the email, you’re just gonna ask a question. Are you still thinking about your fitness goals for 2022 or are you still wanting to improve your fitness in 2022? Something like that, a question. People struggle to resist answering a question, and this is pretty effective.

Chris (03:23):

If you have an email list of a hundred clients who have canceled, you’re probably going to hear a reply. Our data shows from between three and five of them, not everybody, but you don’t need everybody. It’s just the three to five who are waiting for an invitation to come back. OK? So maintaining that line of communication, that friendship usually is what will bring people back. The third thing that you’ve gotta do is be the best. Let’s face it. Sometimes people quit and they go to another gym because that gym is, you know, perceived as different or better or novel. But if they’re really not better and they’re not novel, then the client will come back as long as you’ve kept communication open, but let’s face it. If a client leaves your gym and they go to another gym and they stay at that gym for five more years, that gym might be better than you least in one facet, you know?

Chris (04:19):

And it might, it’s probably not the like bigger thing. It’s probably not that they have a better competitive team. It’s probably not that they have more equipment. They’re just better at something. Maybe it’s forming the relationship. Maybe it’s clarity, whatever. OK. And the next thing is you don’t need to be the best at everything. In fact, you don’t want to be the best at everything. You don’t want to be the lowest price. You don’t want to be the biggest. You don’t really wanna be the gym that has the best competitive team. It really depends on who you’re trying to attract. And some of these things are mutually exclusive. You cannot provide the most intensive coaching care and be the cheapest. You cannot provide the most welcoming, inclusive and environment and be the best at competition. OK? You have to decide who you want and then invite the people who fit that mold the best.

Chris (05:09):

  1. The next strategy to bring back former clients is to introduce something new. So when a client gets bored with your service, it doesn’t mean they hate you forever, or they’re giving up on you. It just means they don’t like the way that you’re doing something right now. So when you have a new program, barbell bettys, your gymnastics program, even a new on-ramp program, it’s very effective to go back to your former client list and say, we have this new thing. If they left because they were bored, that will often be enough to bring them back in. And again, this is not a new free thing. You do not offer a free service or a free trial to a former client. And I’ll come back to that in a moment. So introducing novelty, even renaming your programs can often help you recruit that client back again.

Chris (05:57):

It’s really important to stay in communication with them. Like keep them on your email list. Keep them in Facebook. I’ve got clients at my gym right now at catalyst who are doing CrossFit groups and they have quit my gym five times over the last 16, 17 years. They came in, they stayed for two years. They left. They’re gone for six months. Then they back then they went and did something else. And that’s OK because they are pursuing fitness and they have been pursuing fitness. They started their fitness journey with me. 15 years later, they’re still pursuing fitness. And they come back whenever we are doing something new. So when we adopted the level method, a lot of these people came back because they’re like, what is this new thing Chris is doing? Right? They weren’t quitting me. They were quitting the method. They were quitting the process, they were quitting the classes or whatever, the way that we were doing things.

Chris (06:48):

So a lot of Two-Brain gyms, I’ll be frank with you here. They get a lot of former clients back because they say, oh, actually we’ve cleaned up our systems a lot. Actually we’ve improved our coaching. Actually we have fair pricing across the board without these crazy discounts. Actually, our service is a lot better than it was. Actually. Now we have this kickstart program. Actually now we have a cool OnRamp. They get their clients back and we actually rely on that a lot. So the keys here are that there are a lot of ways to bring clients back that a breakup is rarely forever, if you’re the best and if you stay in constant communication, OK? So, sometimes we lose a client and they come back three months later, sometimes we lose a client and they come back 10 years later. But if they’re in constant communication with you and you are the best, they will probably be back.

Chris (07:38):

Now, what should you never do? You should never prioritize former clients over your current clients. OK. This is just like, you know, offering to take an ex-girlfriend out to dinner so that you can maintain that friendship instead of taking your wife out to dinner. There was a software provider about a month ago, who advertised two months free for new clients and all of their current clients said, what the hell’s that? What about me? I’ve been this loyal customer through lockdowns, through them, like holding my funds for two weeks, through their downsizing their service department through all these problems. And you’re gonna reward new clients instead of me, forget it. And for a lot of people, that was the straw that broke the camels back. But what you have to understand is even if people don’t quit because you’re offering a special deal to other people and not them, even if they’re not willing to cancel their membership, just because they see you giving the service that they’re paying for away for free to other people, you’re still harming that relationship.

Chris (08:44):

You’re still eroding trust with them. You’re still showing them exactly what your values are, that I prioritize other people instead of you. You have to be extremely careful with that. And you have to be really, especially cognizant about like never, ever give a deal to somebody that you can’t give to your current clients first. OK. So be very careful with that. The other thing too is like when you offer a free month to former member, you tend to get people who are attracted to free months, right? They’re more transient. They might join up for a couple of months after the free month is over. But the free month trial doesn’t work for new clients very well. Like the conversion rate is just so tiny because they don’t understand the context of your program. They’ve tried it. OK. Now, what? Is this helping? I don’t know.

Chris (09:38):

And then they generally leave. So the conversion rate on free trials is very, very low. The conversion rate on free trials for former members will be even lower because they already know what to expect. They already know what you do. They know how a class goes. They probably know 80% of the people in those classes. What about a free trial is going to convince them to rejoin? Your communication is what causes them to rejoin. Maintaining your relationship is what causes them to rejoin. Offering a free month will not convince former clients to sign up for more than like a couple of months. And then they’re gonna wash right out again, right? They’re really just kind of vacationing in your gym and it will probably erode trust with your current members. So there are many ways to bring former clients back. I’ve given you a couple here. I’ve given you one that maybe you wanna stay away from. But the overall point here is that if you understand that your relationship with a client goes on even and after they’ve left, that a cancellation is not a goodbye forever. It’s not a breakup. That will probably help you maintain your composure a little bit when people do cancel, save you a lot of frustration and give you the perspective needed to maintain the relationship. I hope it helps.

Mike (10:54):

Two-Brain Radio comes out twice a week and features all the info you need to run a successful fitness business. Subscribe. So you don’t miss a show. Now here’s Coop one more time.

Chris (11:03):

Thanks for listening to Two-Brain Radio. If you aren’t in the Gym Owners United group on Facebook, this is my personal invitation to join. It’s the only public Facebook group that I participate in. And I’m there all the time with tips, tactics, and free resources. I’d love to network with you and help you grow your business. Join Gym Owners United on Facebook.


Thanks for listening!

Thanks for listening! Run a Profitable Gym airs twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays. Be sure to subscribe for tips, tactics and insight from Chris Coooper, as well as interviews with the world’s top gym owners.

To share your thoughts:

To help out the show:

  • Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help, and we read each one.
  • Subscribe on iTunes.

One more thing!

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