Welcome to Two-Brain Radio. This week, Chris Cooper will tell you exactly why more members aren’t better. And he’ll tell you what you’re actually selling at your gym. Here’s a hint. You aren’t selling programming and community.
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Are you already too big? If I asked how big is your gym, you’d probably tell me how many members you have. And if I asked how many members do you want? You’d probably say more. But the reason you can’t get more could be that you already have too many. You’re trying to attract a number instead of looking at each person as an individual. This is the reason most digital marketing ultimately fails. You run some kind of special, attract 50 people, and then you lose all because you can’t look at the whole as a unit, you have to look at one person at a time. Now we teach gym owners how to help the client in front of them best. And we call that operational excellence. Then we teach them how to help a future client best. And we call that sales. Then we tell them how to help a client’s family, their friends, and their coworkers.
And we call that affinity marketing. Finally, we teach gym owners how to find more people to serve, and that’s called digital marketing. We go in that order. Never wow many women age 25 to 42 with an average income of $50,000 per year live in your town. Instead, how can we help Mary? Great gym businesses aren’t built on their ability to attract people. Great gyms are built on their ability to retain people and you can’t retain groups. You can retain people in groups by building a one on one relationship with them. You can jump ahead and download our full retention guide from the link below. When I hear things like churn rate, average run rate or X, I know the gym owner has a mindset problem. They’re trying to grow their service business as if it were a software company. To a software company or even a product company like Apple,
It doesn’t really matter if you lose a client because you’ll try to get two more next month. Every purchaser is a faceless entity, the important personality in the relationship is the brand, but that’s not us. We’re not selling a product. We’re selling a service. The important personality in our relationship is the client. Every damn one. When I hear this client left and took 12 clients with them, I know it’s because the ringleader had a closer one on one relationship with those clients than their coach did. This has happened to me more than once. And every time it was my fault. Nobody can steal my clients. You don’t sell group training. You coach people. Sometimes you coach them in a group setting. Let’s start with that mindset and build on it. There’s a lot of competition in the group training space now. This is because we figured out how to get people results, intense exercise, and diet.
Many new franchises have emerged from that simple recipe. They charge low rates. They work in really small spaces and they sell a service that looks the same as what most microgyms. Sell they’ve commoditized intensity. And that has a lot of micro gym owners worried. The gym owners who suffer when a new orange theory opens nearby are the ones selling group training and nothing else because orange theory is going to win at that game. But our business isn’t actually the same as their business. So here’s how to set yourself apart. First, let’s start with what you’ve don’t sell: programming. No one is seeking out the best group programming. People look for the workouts that will benefit the most, including beginners and Games athletes. Bad programming can cost you clients. Good programming. Doesn’t gain you clients. Relationships keep clients, sell your relationships. Programming isn’t a differentiator between your gym and the franchises. Two is community.
Like programming, bad culture in your gym can cost you clients, but good culture doesn’t gain you clients. Relationships between clients is important, but not as important as the relationship between each client and their coaches. Your clients are not 50% nicer than Orangetheory clients. Their coaches are taught how to be warm and engaging first and how to teach the squat second. Community is not a good differentiator between your gym and the franchises. Third access to equipment. You know who sells 24 seven access to their equipment? The gyms with amazing equipment and 10,000 clients and no coaching. When you sell 24 seven access to equipment, you begin to compete with Gold’s gym and you’re not going to win that one. Take it from someone who’s tried. Selling access means surrendering coaching control of your clients. It causes clients to misinterpret your real value. Argue about access during class times and leave when rules aren’t enforced the same way every time. Selling 24 seven access, won’t help you keep the right people around. It will just help you attract the wrong people for short term commitments. More on that in just a minute.
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The fourth thing that you don’t sell is group exercise. Pay your membership show up. And you’re like, that’s not a winnable model for micrgyms. Who sells that stuff> Orange theory, fit body bootcamp, F45, Les mil, Jazzerciss. Models built on a low paid group leader. I won’t call them a coach. And a choreographed workout set to music. These franchises have good branding, big classes and low overhead. They don’t need to know Mary’s background. Only that she’s paid her membership. She doesn’t add to the group by joining or subtract from the group by leaving. The programming doesn’t change whether Mary shows up or not, the coach works no harder or less hard if Mary’s in the room, the system doesn’t change because of Mary. That’s the definition of a commodity and every commodity has downward price pressure.
These big chains have enormous advertising budgets. They can spend more and more and make less per client. Their margins can shrink to almost nothing and they’ll still survive, but they can have high churn rate and still be profitable. And you can’t. So let’s go in the other direction towards specialization. Here’s what you really sell. Personalized exercise and nutrition plans. You design workouts and meals that will get Mary the specific results she wants. You are selling the solution to her specific problems. Ideally, she’d train one-on-one with you every day. You talk to her about her meals everyday, or even provide them to her. But few people can afford these options. A less expensive option is to train Mary and the person who shares her meals at the same time. That way you can provide the same guidance and they can split the cost. Even less expensive to train Mary and a small group of people with the same goals and eating habits together.
And finally, if Mary can’t afford anything else, your least expensive option is to put her in a group of people with similar goals. You train people. Sometimes they work out together, but their overall plan should be different. That’s why you have goal review meetings. And if you download our full retention guide below this, you’ll have access to read about how to run a goal review meetings. Second, you sell accountability. You don’t sell memberships. You sell results. Results depend on two things. Knowledge and action. And knowledge is cheap. I can find workouts online. I can attend a group workout on swift.com or I can show up at orange theory and just let them tell me what to do. I can also buy a diet book or I can buy prepackaged low calorie meals. So I don’t even have to learn anything. Action is the hard part.
Most people don’t actually want to show up at the gym. Not every day. Most people don’t want to prep their meals or buy broccoli. And that is where you come in. You also sell decisions. One of my clients once told me I love Catalyst because I can turn my brain off for an hour. When I heard those words for the first time, I was shocked. But now I hear it all the time because I asked, what do you like best about my gym? People want me to make decisions for them because they already make too many, like what to wear, what to say to their boss, what to put in that expense report. They don’t want to decide how to scale the workout appropriately. They want me to tell them. The fourth thing that I sell is care. How often does the average person in your gym hear good job, or is great to see you or even I’m glad you came in their average day, outside your gym?
Probably not at all. That’s part of the reason they came to your gym. They know you like them because you tell them so. They know you have their best interests in mind. You won’t let them do the wrong thing, including wasting their money or their time. The fifth thing you sell is perspective. So their coworker is raving about a new diet. Should they try it? You already know the answer. They don’t have to waste their time or budget or painful effort on randomness because you will tell them exactly what to do. The sixth thing that you sell is course correction. If your program isn’t working, you’ll figure out why and give them something else. When people hire a coach, they don’t expect the coach to be right on 100 percent of the time, but they do expect the coach to correct their course when they go off track. I once shocked a bunch of gym owners by sharing that I sometimes tell clients to take a few months off from Catalyst.
Sometimes I say, take the summer away from the gym. Exercise every day, go for a walk have little jog, run, bike, or swim, try and read 10 books. Does that prescription cost me money? Absolutely, but it’s the best thing for the client. And that’s my job. As a secondary benefit, these clients tend to stick around longer because they know they can trust me to tell them the truth. Even when it’s not in my immediate financial best interest. These things all require a one on one relationship with the client. Building a business means building systems that provide these things and hiring people who deliver those systems really, really well. We teach you how to build these systems and we hold you accountable for doing the work too.
Now that you know what you’re actually selling, turn off this podcast and do three things. First call three clients who haven’t been around for a week and ask them when they’re training next. Don’t text or email, call them. Second, call three clients and personally congratulate them on a recent accomplishment and third subscribe to Two-Brain Radio for more advice from Chris Cooper. Three, two, one go.