Master “The Matrix”: How to Grow Your Online Training Business

Picture of Rob Connors.

Mike (00:02):

Bye-bye bricks and mortar. If you’ve moved your business online, or if you’re thinking about it, this is the show for you. Today on Two-Brain Radio, we talked to Rob Connors, who moved his business totally online in May. Now he’s our online and personal-training business expert. Rob will tell you what you need to know about building an online business right after this. What if you could avoid a host of mistakes that are going to cost you money? You can. Head to and click free tools at the top. You’ll find a monstrous pile of resources that contain the collective wisdom of a host of gym owners, including Chris Cooper. Retention, marketing, hiring, selling, or buying a gym. It’s all there for free. No catches, just free help. Click the free tools link in the show notes and avoid all the potholes on the road to profit. It’s Two-Brain Radio. I’m Mike Warkentin here with Rob Connors. Rob is the founder of Signum Fitness and Nutrition in Maryland, but the exact location of the business is a URL, not a street address. Rob and his wife Emily have operated 100% online since May. We’re going to dig into that move and talk about how you can grow your business online. Rob, welcome to the show. How are you today?

Rob (01:00):

Hey Mike. Good to be back, my man.

Mike (01:02):

It’s good. We’re all virtual now. My gym’s online. Your gym’s online and we’re talking online. So we are 100% digital these days.

Rob (01:09):

Yeah, man. It’s like I guess the matrix part seven here. We’re going into the matrix, baby.

Mike (01:14):

Red pill, blue pill, whichever one you want.

Rob (01:14):

All the pills.

Mike (01:17):

Take both and see what happens. We’re in uncharted waters right now.

Rob (01:20):

Keanu was a pansy.

Mike (01:26):

So here we go. I’ve got to ask you the big question right now. If you’ve looked in the past Ashley Mak, we talked to him a couple of months ago. He made the decision to go online right away when the COVID thing happened, how did you make your decision and why?

Rob (01:38):

Oh man, that’s a big can of worms at first, but I really went back to a lot of the things that I learned in what was formerly incubator slash ramp up. And I remember a speech that Coop had given at one of the summits. Basically paraphrasing, if you’re on an eight hour flight going to Australia and there’s one sandwich to feed the whole plane that’s full, who gets the sandwich, right? Yeah. There’s babies. There’s moms, not you and I, you gotta feed the pilot. Because if the pilot goes down, everyone goes down. And when I mean that I don’t want to say Rob needs to eat. It’s, you know, the team at Signum and you gotta look out for what’s best for you and your family. OK. Cause when you formed your business, it was there to service you and your family as the entrepreneur.

Rob (02:36):

Because if you don’t take care of yourself in essence, then the hundreds of people, your members and your clients that you affect, it will trickle down to them. So, that was sort of exercise number one is I went through our perfect day calculation, and exercise as it existed at that point. And then number two is that I looked at and did an examination on basically a big sheet of paper and in my own head of our seed clients, our best clients, clients who have been with us for two years and overwhelming. And we can dive into this more as far as how the online businesses moving, going forward, is that they loved it and they excelled at it. And Ellen, who right after this podcast, I’m gonna, you know, virtually train her, she loves working out of the gym. I don’t have to go anywhere.

Rob (03:31):

I can stay on my farm and work out in my basement. Chris, who is another client who we’re helping to relieve some shoulder and back pain. He’s like, I love it, man. You know, he’s actually doing workouts. He’s down at his beach house right now. And I’m running him through some workouts right there. And so when I looked at my core group of clients, this works for them. And they like it and they’re doing great at it. And so that two things led us to make sort of that big decision is, you know, the center of your affinity marketing circle is actually you, right? And then it’s your seed clients. And then you move outward from there. So why shouldn’t everyone do this is a lot of, I talked to a lot of people and this is not for everyone.

Rob (04:22):

They don’t like sit in front of the computer. That’s fine. You know, you did your exercise and you’re at the center. It doesn’t work for you. Then I talked to a lot of people and they’re like, Oh my God, you’re so lucky. You got to figure out like—there is going to be some tough roads, not everyone’s going to come with you. A lot of you’re prepared for, you know, your revenue to not stay where it’s at, prepare for it to not be able to take all of your staff with you as well. So, I could, you know, it’s like, I could show you the way, but there’s going to be some tough things you’re going to have to go through.

Mike (04:57):

And that’s what Ashley said. Like when we talked to him, I believe he said he expected and did lose up to 80% of his existing clients and that he was prepared for that, because he had a, you know, a significant lease with the parking lot and all this stuff, he was in Hoboken. He wanted to make that change. So he did, he expected to lose clients. He did, we’ve made the same change over at our place. We expect to lose clients because some people want a physical location. They want group training. They want that stuff. I know your gym, give people just a very quick rundown of what your gym was, because it wasn’t like a group CrossFit place where people were doing, you know, 30 people in a group class or something. Tell people what your gym was when it did have a physical location.

Rob (05:34):

Yeah, sure. So if you look at is our IG handle. Signum Fitness and Nutrition now is our Facebook, our website’s in the process of being overhauled. So I don’t know if the photos will be as up to date, we were a thousand square foot, 800 usable. And we only did personal training as well as nutrition coaching. So a lot of one-on-ones a lot of two on on ones, so it was not your traditional CrossFit gym at the time. And so, in that aspect, when COVID was happening, it was easy to pivot because number one, we were already developing the online service and it was very easy for me to have, I mean, I called them all within the first three hours after governor Hogan here in Maryland, shut gyms down, just said, this is what we’re doing. And of those 20 clients only two said sort of let me think about it. It’s because there was a lot going on at the time. And so it was very easy to pivot when you only had to manage, you know, 20 to 25 clients to do it.

Mike (06:42):

How did that transition go? You talked about it a little bit, but did you retain, you said retained a large number of clients. Did you want to retain the same numbers or what was your goal when you moved online? And how are you going to replace those clients that left?

Rob (06:55):

Yeah. Yeah. If we go back to, I don’t want to call it D day, cause that would sort of not put credit to the actual D-Day. Maybe COVID Day 1.

Mike (07:05):

What day was that for you?

Rob (07:07):

March 12th. It was a Tuesday, MD MD COVID day one was our day. And seeing how the dominoes were falling, and hearing about it in the Two-Brain group, I said, OK, here’s sort of my internal plan of action. We’re going to move everyone online. They can either choose to stay at virtual Facetime, Zoom calls one-on-one or they can move to our online platform delivering via an app, so called all of them told, Hey, here’s option one, here’s option two. Here’s the differences in pricin if they asked about that, which one will work best for you. OK. And every one of them either, you know, said one or the other and only two because they couldn’t make sense of the world. That was the common thing between the two it’s like, why are you talking to me about fitness? I can’t make sense of the world right now. And actually only one of those two ended up dropping and came back now, fast forward to when I said, Hey, this is what we’re doing, you know, going forward, that was a different sort of conversation. About four more clients were probably just with us, cause waiting for us to reopen. And I totally get it cause they didn’t sign up for this, you know?

Mike (08:29):

So that would be, I’m just looking at your numbers here. So I’m going to guess that going from physical to online completely sounds like you kept in the range of 65, 75%. Would that be accurate?

Rob (08:39):

Yeah, that’d probably be accurate more about, I mean, it’s different on the nutrition, if you look at our personal training and nutrition, like clients that do both, we’re probably at the higher end of the range. If you look at total clients probably brings us down to the lower end of the range. Now did our revenue sort of have that same sort of retention rate? Probably not because, someone coming—for me, I couldn’t provide or let me say, I didn’t have the capabilities to provide an online package that would be at the same level of value as someone coming to me in person two to three times a week for an hour. And so that was a tough point, but obviously your cost structure goes down quite a bit.

Mike (09:32):

Yeah. So that’s an interesting data point. So Ashley had a more traditional gym with large group classes and things like that. He lost close to 80% of members. And again, when I say lost, he planned for that. He knew that was going to happen. You, with a personal training model and a smaller studio facility where you were working in small groups or one-on-one, retained close 65, 75%. So that’s really interesting. I’d be curious to see what other people in the community experienced with that. Let’s get into when you moved online, you had to create, you know, initially quick response training packages, but then when you decided to stay online, you had to create long-term stuff that you want to now sell and market. There’s a big, we’re gonna get into service packages and so forth and tell people how to do that. But there’s a big step that comes before that. What is it?

Rob (10:14):

You need to revisit your operations. You gotta go back through your handbook, your SOPs, your contractors, your role, excuse me, your contracts with your team, your roles and tasks. Because when you pivot from physical to online, you are at T zero again, you sort of hit the reset button. But having said that you actually really aren’t because you did it before. That entire practice, what I said, took us, you know, in incubator probably four to six months before. I think you go through ramp up faster, but we took longer cause we didn’t have a physical location where if you want to, if you want to talk to me more about those details, I can get into it. But having to redo that again, took me three weeks. Took me a lot faster this time. Cause I’ve done it before. So because until you do that until you get, you know, here’s the high level of service I want to deliver because if you scale up and you do it, you’re going to have to find a coach to pass it on to later, it’s all going to be for naught, so take care of operations. Then we can talk about sales and marketing after that. So that’s a massive step. If you need to know how to do that, you know, contact Two-Brain, contact your mentor, book, a free call, do something like that. Cause that’s a massive step.

Mike (11:36):

Yeah. For listeners, Rob’s referring to the incubator, now called ramp up. That’s the initial period when you sign up with Two-Brain, a mentor will lead you through everything. And in that process, you’re figuring out your SOPs, you’re figuring out your playbook, you’re documenting all these policies and procedures that allow you to scale up and offload roles. We won’t lie to you. It is tedious process the first time, because you’re documenting literally everything, like leave your car, unlock the front door, turn on the computer. And then all the other things that ensure a high standard of service, it’s kind of tedious. But once you do it, the world is your oyster and you can move very quickly. And as Rob said, once you do it the first time doing it the second time is way faster. Chris Cooper

Mike (12:11):

and I’ve talked about this a number of times, starting the first business is really, really tough because there’s a ton of stuff and you make a ton of mistakes. You spend a lot of time pulling yourself out of holes. The second time you start a business, which a lot of us are doing essentially right now in the COVID times, you can avoid a ton of mistakes and move a lot faster. You’re still gonna make some, but you can scale up way faster. So again, we’ve always said start documenting policies and procedures. If you have some already, maybe they just need to be upgraded and adjusted. But start with that. Now the big fun part, we’re going to service packages and selling, and we want to know what you’ve done. And I know you’re big into golf. So tell us a little about that. It’ll give listeners an idea to see what you’ve done and then we’ll talk about how they can figure what they want to sell.

Rob (12:50):

So I guess sort of, if you’re the way I’m going to talk is when I picture in my mind Signum as it moves forward and if you want to call it traditional Signum online and this developed out of seed client interviews, our clients tend to be a little bit older demographic and they came to us to deal with and manage pain that had just built up over their lives, right? Bad shoulders, bad back, arthritis. And so what we did is we’re making the investment right now to help them with, I call it, I’m still trying to figure out the tagline of it, restorative strength training, right? So hybriding, bridging that gap between physical therapy slash I want to get stronger and feel like I got a good workout. I don’t do that when I go to, you know, wherever I go to, and treating them through more natural type approaches.

Rob (13:53):

And so the aspect of that, and this developed out of a few seed clients, as well as my own passions is Signum golf. So if you wanna check that out, where we’re basically evaluating, assessing a client when you come in as far as your movement patterns and we connect the dots is OK, your poor hamstrings can lead you to anterior tilt of your pelvis, which you can’t make a full turn. So you’re losing club head speed, XYZ. Here’s how we can fix it.

Mike (14:30):

That’s specialized and dialed in.

Rob (14:30):

Yeah. So when I looked at that, I looked at like basically the relative value that we can deliver on both ends, you know, both types of products and priced it accordingly. But before I came down to prices, I went through, again, going to back to my perfect day calculation an in order to support our perfect day and where we want to be, how does Signum Training and Nutrition, how much does that need to provide us and how much does Signum Golf need to provide us to get to that perfect day? How many clients do I want to service and then building it up from there and delivering that total value now. To a listener who hasn’t been through this exercise again, you know, your mentor can take you to this, a lot of Coop’s books out there I referenced back to I re-read FFTT.

Mike (15:29):

“Founder, Farmer, Tinker, Thief.”

Rob (15:29):

Yes. Cause I was originally over at founder phase and just getting back through to farmer right now. So when you do that and you figure out your pricing, cause everyone’s gonna be different, especially in the online world, is that we tier it up from there. OK. So three different levels and what you tend to find, it needs to be relatively different, but for the majority of people, they like the accountability and the customization. So with our higher price packages, our higher tier packages, we’re delivering more nutrition and more customization and more accountability.

Mike (16:14):

Which is huge. The accountability we’re hearing over and over again is really huge. We’re selling coaching. We’re not necessarily selling CrossFit or yoga or whatever we’re selling, coaching, accountability, motivation, all of which can be delivered online. No problem.

Rob (16:26):

Yeah. I mean, there’s plenty of 20 to $40 programming options out there. And I did not want to compete with those guys. Those guys are years and years ahead of me, they have tons and tons of their own name and brand equity that I can’t compete with. So where I can compete with them though is, you know, I only have to service 40 or less clients. And I can do that with a high level of service.

Mike (16:52):

So the short summary there is really that you went through the exercise and again, it sounds complicated, but it really isn’t when a mentor guides you through it. But you went through an exercise where you figured out what you need to make essentially to support your lifestyle and your family. And then you work backwards and figure it out. If I price it like this, how many clients I need to have, and you also thought, you know, the two other considerations are, what do I want to do? Who do I want to work with? And then you talk to your seed clients and figure out what they need. And you kind of find the sweet spot between all of that. Correct?

Rob (17:20):

Right. Correct. And probably when I was first going through all of this exercise, I would come to a price and I’d say no one would pay for that. Cause I wouldn’t pay for that. And I had that thought in the back of my mind and that’s, I had to caution myself again, because the way I think about it is that as long as you’re delivering, someone sees that much value in your product. Like if you want to come up and find a $500 service, you will find clients that will, you know, provided you’re delivering a very, very good service, you know? But your niche will be smaller. OK. You just got to find them, OK. If you want to provide a $50 a month service, you’re going to find more people, you know? But I didn’t want to say to myself again, that sort of bias, like I wouldn’t pay for that. There’s not going to be people that’ll pay for that.

Mike (18:22):

Yeah. That’s one of the flaws that we have. And Chris has written about this, projecting your budget onto clients. We all do that where we would say man, I would never pay, you know, $500 a month for fitness and nutrition coaching. Because as gym owners, we can do it. Right. But clients out there don’t have a clue. And when you talk about man, I can’t hit the golf ball very far. And why is that? And you can solve that problem, that sounds like that’s a pretty premium service. You add nutrition training, maybe little lifestyle coaching, maybe get me on track with, you know, sleep habits, healthy things. All of a sudden my golf ball is going further. I feel stronger. I look better. And I’m happier. That sounds like pretty premium service.

Rob (18:59):

Yeah. And as far as them seeing the value, if you’re going to write anything down a little tactic and I learned this early on is—.

Mike (19:09):

We love tactics; hit me.

Rob (19:09):

Ellen, who I am going to be training here. She, you know, she came to me with, she had a lot of shoulder and arthritis pain. OK. She’s 71 years old. And so we’d have something like, you know, Diane, right? The worst probably old school Rob, before I ever opened a gym, say, Hey guys, we’ve got 21-15-9 here, deadlifts. 225 and handstand push-ups. I want you to break up the sets and no more than three sets. Here’s our scales for handstand push-ups, go figure it out. OK. And that’s what I would do in my brief. But fast forward today, Ellen, I got a workout for you. We’re going to strengthen your lower back.

Rob (19:51):

Which is going to help you around your farm. Pick up some things on top of that. What we’re going to do is I’m going to do a push-up motion with you. It’s going to strengthen your shoulders, which is going to help combat some of that arthritis. OK. So take that lesson to golfers. And you say, I got something that’s going to increase your hip flexibility. We’re going to build up your club head speed, as well as work on, you know, some glute strength, which does X, Y, Z, and all you really did, you did the same workout, you know, to an extent.

Mike (20:23):

Well, what you’re doing there is you’re using the workout as a tool to accomplish a task, as opposed to the workout being the task itself. Meaning like back in the day, it was like, OK, I’m doing Diane because I want to have a good Diane time. And I want to win this workout and put the number on the board. We’re realizing that that still exists for some people, but for the people that you’re targeting, they don’t really care about that. What they want is to be able to hit the golf bar further, do more work on their farm, faster, not have pain, whatever that is. And again, the analogy that we always talk about that Chris has made is you don’t go to the hardware store for a drill bit. You’re buying a hole, right. But the tool is the drill bit.

Mike (20:59):

And so in our analogy here, the drill bit is Diane, which is essentially, you know, back end strengthening and overhead strength. That’s something that’s fascinating. So service packages are, here’s an idea of how you can figure out how to create some service packages yourselves. I would ask you this now, Rob, so you’ve moved, you know, online PT is a totally different game than training at a physical location. How are you going about finding new leads? Like, are you starting with the people close to you or are you just advertising or how are you doing this?

Rob (21:30):

Yeah, one question I got early on by someone is what ads are you running? What pictures, what ad copy. Like zero.

Mike (21:36):

Nothing? And I know you know advertising, so that’s significant.

Rob (21:40):

Yeah. Zero. It’s like, Oh, what are you doing? Your SEO, you ads, nothing. I turned them off. And so once you feel your systems, and I had a great specialist call yesterday with someone, once you feel your systems are good enough, let’s start tackling some advertising. And what we did on this call yesterday, with someone who’s, I mean, she’s awesome. She’s already at 14 online clients. She was like at half that a month ago and she’s going to crush it. And so let’s just take a look at your online clients. What do they have in common? This particular one was these, she services women who tend to be in between 45 to 65.

Rob (22:19):

They have slipped up over these past two months. They want to feel better because if they don’t, they get depressed and she knows them more, you know, so you go down that rabbit hole and it’s like they just gave you your ad copy right there. And so here’s what I want you to do. Is what we had her do is I want you to take what you just said, write it all down. And then you’re going to say, you’re just going to start emailing and posting on, you know, just the traffic you own, not traffic you gotta buy. Your Facebook. Your social media, your emails and say, I’m looking for this many number of women who are between the ages of blah, blah, blah. This is what the program’s going to do. And you just do exactly what you’re doing for your seed clients.

Rob (23:05):

Now that post, or that email may get you three responses and may get, you no sign ups. But Mike, you know, about analytics, 3% of your people actually see your posts. 30% of the people actually open your emails. So it’s consistency, it’s doing it all the time. OK. And then don’t forget to also sit down with your best online clients. And here’s the benefit is that when you did your seed clients or goal reviews, before you would say, do you know anyone else who could help you? They would think about three or four other people in your local market. Guess what? You’re not in a local market. You just ask, do you know, three people anywhere in the world who could benefit from this and you’re going to get ideas. You’re going to get referrals. Now, as you, you also have to ask, do you mind if I reach out to them on your behalf. It’s not your client’s job to do that. So, I’m sure she’s going to get at least three to five more clients just from doing that.

Mike (23:59):

Yeah. Jeff talked about that. Jeff Burlingame, our sales expert talked about that. And he talked about that exact same system of posting that you just mentioned. And he said exactly what you did, where you post the thing, but you got to assume that not everyone sees it because not everyone sees everything you post, even though you do, you have to make that assumption. Very few people see your organic posts, but if you keep putting things up in different places in different ways, you’ll expand that reach. And eventually you will see a return on this. And Jeff, uin his experience with clients saw this work very, very well. The principle that you’re describing Rob here, for those who don’t know it is called affinity marketing. What we’re essentially doing is we’re starting with the people closest to us, the people that know like, and trust us already, who then have people next to them and they’re going to be warmer leads.

Mike (24:38):

So if my best client’s name is Sean, and I say, Sean, do you have anyone in your life who needs to get stronger? Like you? And he’ll say, yeah, my buddy Paul really needs to get stronger. And we make that connection. All of a sudden, Paul is not a cold lead. Paul knows Sean, there’s an endorsement there, there is a connection there and things are much, much easier. And you can start to do that all the way down the line. Eventually in the system you end up getting to cold leads, which is like people who’ve never heard of you, you put up an ad, you have to try and get them to click on it and so forth. The benefit of doing it this way is that warmer leads are more likely to buy your services. And it doesn’t cost you anything but a little bit of time to say, Hey Sean, do you have any friends I can help? So that process, Rob, that’s exactly what you’re doing right now,

Rob (25:21):

Right. Yeah. And so, you know, if you want to get into some, I guess, sexier tactics, cause we always think they work all the time, but it all begins with like our seed clients. And I got a client, Chris who, he has, you know, a lot of back pain and what we’ve been doing is just a lot of, if you want to get in technical things, some cat cow type movements, sciative nerve, just hinging with RDLs and sumo deadlifts at very, he has a 15 pound bar on his back and some dumbbells. So what we’re doing is if you know anything you can use Canva or pay someone on Upwork, 15 movements that are going to help you out with your back pain. This was created and images of Chris doing them, you know, and so someone, or let’s dive into more. 15 back movements for successful business owners in the area or not even successful business owners between the ages of 55 to 70, that’s Chris’s demo. He’s like one of my best clients. And then it’s just video demos of it. So guess what, that’s Chris, as the avatar, the seed, and this is someone who’s 25 and wants to compete at the Games is not going to click on that. You know, someone who’s like Chris is going to click on that. But again, it sort of starts out with who you like working with the most.

Mike (26:54):

The interesting thing about your model that you’ve described is that you have figured out what you want to make you figure out how many clients you need, because you’re in a smaller model like online, you’ve removed a lot of overhead costs. You’re not looking for 500 clients, right? You’re not looking to fill 30 spots in a class at four o’clock and then another 30 at five o’clock and cover your expenses. You have a smaller number, therefore you can probably find more people through your seed clients, your advertising bills are likely going to go down. I’m going to guess, do you think that’s going to be the case?

Rob (27:21):

Yeah. I mean, our advertising bills are pretty much nil next to zero, as of right now. What you know, Franklin, a lot of the digital marketing gurus out there, whoever you listen to, like, you know, there’s Neil Patel, there’s Brian Dean. There’s all these guys is in this environment you can get CPMs or your ads out to a lot of people at very cheap costs that they haven’t seen for close to 10 years. You’re just not going to get conversions in this market. So, you can pay to and actually, you know, we put out a guide of 99 at home exercises, we got a ton of emails. My email list grew a hundred people from one PDF. And all I did there was took one of our blog posts and put it into a PDF format. So, but you know, that’s traffic that I own. If you read anything from, who’s the creator of ClickFunnels, like that’s traffic—Brunson. And that’s very valuable now it may not convert right away, but if you continue to publish to that, you know, that list, then they will, you know?

Mike (28:29):

Yeah. So that’s audience building and we’ve covered that in some of the other shows. Won’t get into that super deep here, but I want to talk to you about scaling up online. So you’ve got you doing this work and I know your wife is involved as well with a lot of nutritional stuff. For sure. How do you hire other trainers to work in an online business? Is it harder? Is it easier? Where do you find these people if you want to scale up in your online business?

Rob (28:51):

It’s hard and easy, right? Is that when you’re interviewing someone, you know, the face to face, you see their mannerisms, their body language more. So that is a form of communication. In fact, it’s a big form. So, but how we did it, I have a fantastic guy coming online and through my wife does mentoring with another company and I said, who are your best clients that you meet with, who want to make more? And she named me three people. One of them being Steve, I want to talk to Steve right now. And it happened to be where I knew the owner. So if you’re going to hire another coach from another gym, like I respect him. I had a conversation with the owner, Hey, I got this opportunity for Steve. It’s not going to take away from you.

Rob (29:42):

If anything, I’m gonna teach him some things where he could build a program at your gym to actually grow some business for you. And so we had that conversation. So the benefit about online PT is you have a wider market, but, if you’re a gym owner, talk to some of the gym owners that you trust and like, and maybe they have a rock star that needs some extra income, but also make sure that there is no gray area. There’s going to be no conflicts of interests, you know, online. And if there are set boundaries right away, that’s what we did. So, after you go through that, after you go through your interviewing process, I think some of the key aspects is that they’re able to meet deadlines. They are very good with technology cause there’s spreadsheets.

Rob (30:27):

There’s, you know, there’s Trainerize, there’s TrueCoach, there’s all these different apps. We do screen shares and video recordings. They gotta figure that out. They need to know Dropbox. And so then once they have some tech savviness to it, what I do is essentially, it’s a three to four step process. Number one, watch me do it. Number two, let’s watch you do it twice. When you get a perfect 10 out of 10, I’m going to hand it over to you and then I’m going to evaluate you. And if you never go get a 10 out of 10, then we go back to step one. OK?

Mike (31:01):

Now this throws back to what you said earlier in the show where you need to have your standard operating procedures and policies and everything documented. If you do that, when you’re setting it up and doing it yourself, when you’re quote unquote, laying the tracks, when you want to push another engine down the tracks, you can just say, here is how we do it. This service standard is a a ten out of ten, this is exactly how you do it. This is how I have done it. This is how this company will do it. I’m gonna teach you how to do it. And again, you’re, you’re gonna be ahead if you have someone who has, like you said, tech savviness, because again, when you can’t constantly, I can’t log into the zoom. How does it work? You can’t have that. You need people to understand this stuff, but then you’re dialing in your policies and procedures. You’re reviewing them. And then it’s the exact same thing as you would with a physical location, you’re auditing, making sure things are good and then constantly upgrading and issuing updates saying, Hey, this procedure has changed. Zoom is no longer the best platform we’re using this or changing to TrueCoach or whatever it is. But those policies and procedures are your foundation and backbone. And then you can scale up.

Rob (31:56):

Yeah, yeah, no, that’s what makes you good. As an online trainer, just like, that’s what makes you a good coach, but what makes you great as an online trainer is that you have to form those relationships and unfortunately you can’t SOP relationship for me. OK.

Mike (32:15):

So that’s the soft skills, right?

Rob (32:17):

That’s the soft skills. So, you know, where do you start? OK. Just start with every Friday, you gotta do a bright spot Friday individually with each of your clients. Hey, what are you proud of outside of these workouts? Like what did you did? And then what you’re going to do is you’re going to get to learn and know your clients more. So, if you ever read, friends influence people, you just ask a lot of questions. So what we’d like to do is basically have a bright spot Friday and maybe every other week, just ask something of the client, you know, it’s cause we’re in a digital world. You can form relationships in this world.

Mike (32:56):

I hear Tinder’s a thing.

Rob (33:02):

Don’t go to Tinder. We’re not telling you to go Tinder with it people, don’t swipe right.

Mike (33:08):

Separate business and pleasure. Of course. Right?

Rob (33:10):

Yeah. Yeah. But yeah, I mean, people form relationships and meet their significant others through that. So, so that’s something we’re just starting to work on, it’s like the next sort of level stuff, because that matters with retention, shouts out to Brad Overstreet. He’s a guru, he’s been doing this a lot longer than I am. I’m learning from him. And he opened my eyes to that a lot.

Mike (33:37):

Brad Overstreet was interviewed by Chris Cooper. We’ll get that in the show notes for you. If you want to read about that, he’s been an online trainer for a long time and he can tell you some stuff that you probably need to know. What you’re talking about here, Rob is essentially retention. And in CrossFit gyms, we rely or relied and I won’t even say CrossFit gyms, but in, you know, group fitness model, you rely a lot on the cohesion of the group. So everyone talks with this great community. You have community events where you’re going out, you’re going to the trampoline park. You’re doing, you know, wine and WOD. You’re doing all this crazy stuff. And you’re having bright spots, groups, interaction, private, Facebook groups, all these things that generate a sense of community with a group. When you’ve got this online, one on one thing you don’t really have that group.

Mike (34:15):

You know, you could certainly say to your personal training clients, Hey, I want to host a zoom meetup and we’re gonna, you know, your wife could cook a chicken Parmesan or something like that and teach them how to cook a healthy meal or something like that. You could certainly do that. But the more important aspect of it, if I’m understanding you is to create a one on one relationship and still put those retention things in place. So you’re still doing, what did you accomplish this week? What are you proud of? What’s your next goal? Constantly ask them how they’re doing, what they’re doing and creating that real relationship. Is there any other tips you can give people to create that one on one relationship when they’re really used to doing it in a gym with high fives and groups?

Rob (34:51):

You know, I guess what would you say to the person who they were just like standing there right in front of you is, I mean, like if you were conducting a one-on-one PT or group, just treat them like that. You know? We know when we get a blast email, you know, it’s like, Oh my God, but we also know when we get a personalized email, so, you know, or a personalized message. So just send personalized messages, acknowledge something that’s going on in their life that you saw, maybe, you know, just somewhere or you heard from them. And, you know, just, you just treat people like, you know, just like a person, that’s it.

Mike (35:31):

I mean, you could learn to do that, but it’s harder, right? It’s like, you kind of need to understand how to be a person that people like, right. And you can certainly train that, you know how to win friends and influence people kind of thing. But on the other side of it, you need to be a human being who can interact with another human being to find success. I think, as a coach, would you agree?

Rob (35:50):

Yeah. Yeah. I agree. I think that’s also what will also differentiate you from right the 20 to $40 just programs, just programming versus a much higher value service, accountability, right? Customization on top of that, you don’t list it, but relationship building, but relationship is actually sort of subset of accountability. Cause if someone has a very strong relationship with me, like I’ve mentioned many times, Chris, one of my clients, he calls me when he can’t make it, he’ll call me, you know? Cause he doesn’t want to let me down and that’s his accountability. You know, so that, and that’s taken time and that’s just me getting to know him. I know about his brother. I know the business problems he has. We talk about all that stuff. You know, shouts out to Chris when this was all going down, this COVID heat, he’s very successful business owner. He said, Rob, you get in trouble, you call me, I got you.

Mike (36:51):

Wow. This is truly a seed client. This is a good guy.

Rob (36:52):

He’s like, if you need money, I got you. We won’t worry about it. And I was like, man, we’re not going to get to that. But I was just like, you know, if this all goes to zero, I know I can train Chris in my garage and we’re good, you know?

Mike (37:10):

Oh, that’s incredible. Yeah. So that’s, I mean, the lesson there really is like what we’ve been talking about, gyms with poor retention, what we usually see is people who don’t have relationships. And you know, we’ve written about that on the Two-Brain Business blog a ton where automations are great, like you and I, we both use them. We love them. And they take care of a lot of grunt work for us, like sending out waivers and things like that. But they can’t replace the actual connection of whether that’s even just a video text of, Hey, I noticed you didn’t fill in your forms yesterday. What’s up. Can you give me a call? I want to get you back on track with your workout. There’s a ton of value to that. That is far better than, you know, class missed, please reschedule robot. You know, that’s not going to build that same relationship. So you’ve had a ton of success in doing that, obviously with your personal clients, which I’m going to guess contributed to their retention when you moved online and as you acquire new clients, let’s do this. What are the three first questions that you would ask a new client that you acquire for online training? Just to get a sense of who this person is? Give me three.

Rob (38:11):

I guess number one, I would do my bright spots Friday. Right? What went well for you this week?

Mike (38:19):

Are you looking for fitness or just life stuff?

Rob (38:21):

Just life stuff outside of fitness. Like what went well for you this week? And you said three questions, but they say like the five whys, just getting really, really in depth about like, why they’re actually doing this. Some people won’t tell you until, you know, a year after they’ve been with you. Yeah. And then you gotta just find something that you have common ground on just anything, right? Like Mike, we both like to make boy band videos, that’s a inside joke to the Two-Brain group though. So, all right, man, like you like boy band videos. I like, I know it was a Backstreet video, but I’m N Sync bro in sync all the way, if we’re both N sync guys, then we can start off from there. So just find some common ground there, you know?

Mike (39:15):

Well, it’s less about I need you to push your knees out in the squat because I’m a master coach and more about like we’re human beings, I need to find out why you want to do this program. What are your pain points? How can I interact with you? And just like build that relationship. It’s the same as any time, you know, from grade two when you’ve started making friends in the playground, things like that. It’s like, that’s a cool sandcastle. Want to build a bigger one, right. It’s just relationship building essentially. And we’ve really found over this whole COVID crisis that it’s that relationship that matters. It’s not the physical space necessarily. It’s not the delivery method. It’s not even the fitness program per se. It’s the relationship between the client and the coach that seems to matter. I think that is the key to retention. It’s probably the key to growing an online business because you can, like you said, if you send out programming, there is like 10 billion free workouts out there or $20 workouts or whatever. Like you can’t really compete with that unless you have the celebrity status to put out like, you know, Jennifer Lopez fitness or whatever she, she doesn’t do it. But that kind of thing where you could literally launch that program and have a million subscribers probably tomorrow. Right. So it’s really relationships.

Rob (40:25):

Yeah. Yeah. And sort of getting comfortable with the notion that if you don’t have a set number of clients that like fits your perfect day, then you’re just going to constantly be chasing infinity.

Mike (40:38):

Which is tough. And you can’t compete with the people that can scale up faster than you and have the systems in place already. Right. Well, I want to thank you for your time, Rob. Where can people talk to you if they need to, Two-Brain clients, how do people get to talk to you and get your expertise on a one on one basis?

Rob (40:56):

So if you’re in the Two-Brain group, my email’s, or you can just drop me a slide into the DMs, you know, hit me up. They’re pretty responsive there on Facebook messenger. You can follow us on Facebook, Signum Fitness and Nutrition, the IG handle’s and I’m just, yeah, those would be probably pretty good places right now.

Mike (41:27):

So you’re one of our specialist mentors, correct? What’s your official realm of specialization?

Rob (41:33):

Yeah. So it’s two things. It’s one personal training. So if you’re continuing with the physical location, a lot of gyms when they come into Two-Brain need to build that service. I did it from day zero and I could definitely help you with that. And then also as we’ve been talking, the online personal training route, we have some things in the works too, as you progress further down that line, getting into maybe some more specific things. I won’t, little spoiler alert there, but I’ll leave it at that.

Mike (42:05):

It’s all good. I can tell you already, we’re gonna have you back on the show. So we’ll talk about it again. Thanks for being here, Rob, I really appreciate it.

Rob (42:11):

All right. Thanks, Mike.

Mike (42:12):

And thank you all for listening to Two-Brain Radio. I’m Mike Warkentin here with online training expert Rob Connors. If you want more actionable advice based on data, you need to check out Gym Owners United on Facebook. That’s a private group. In it, you’ll find the daily tactics from Chris Cooper, as well as the support of a host of business owners from all over the world. That group again, Gym Owners United on Facebook. Please join today. Thanks for tuning into Two-Brain Radio. Please subscribe for more episodes wherever you get your podcasts and we’ll see you next time.


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