What Your Clients Want (Vs. What They Need)

On a wooden wall, one end of an arrow points to "wants" and the other end points to "needs."

In this series, I’m telling you how to build a client-centric service. It’s the type of business that attracts high-value clients and keeps them around for a long time.

One of the biggest challenges to a client-centric model is that your clients don’t really know what they need—but they think they do.

The key is communication.

You’re in the coaching business. And coaching is more than teaching. It’s much more than correcting movement faults. Coaching is communicating.

Here are some tips:

1. Lay down a base of knowledge.

You must publish nearly every day. You must share your method. You must share client stories of success. You must share the reasons your method is successful. Occasionally, you should share stories of your own journey and explain why you’re a coach.

2. Remember: Every client is a 1:1 client.

When clients join, they must receive daily communication from you for at least the first 90 days. This can be done in person—even in a group setting—or it can be done through text, video or email.

(Here’s how we do it at my gym now: The Catalyst Method.)

Your media doesn’t have to look professional. You just need to teach people enough to know, love and trust your gym and process. CrossFit used to do this for its affiliates. But now CrossFit affiliates, like other gym owners, have to do this themselves.

When clients are with you in person, they must receive one-on-one attention—even if they’re in a group class. That attention should answer the question “how will this help me?” first and address movement faults later. “You’re doing it wrong” is not a message you want to give your clients daily.

Protip: Use client avatars to help explain the “why” of every workout. Three sample avatars: a client who wants to lose weight, a client who wants to gain strength and a client who wants to improve general fitness.

3. Explain it in their language. Most of us have the “technician’s curse”: We want to use fancy terminology that would impress other coaches. But our clients don’t understand it.

I use this simple rule: Explain it in a way they can repeat to their friends.

4. Over-introduce.

Look for excuses to connect each client to other clients—”Jim, have you met Mary?”—and share some details with each one. This “triad effect” is very powerful for retention.


Communication: What and Why


Your clients come to you for coaching. They want you to tell them exactly what to do—and, more importantly, why they should do it.

  • Marketing your service requires communicating why people should hire a coach instead of buying a 24/7 membership they won’t use.
  • Selling your service requires communicating how you can solve their problems.
  • Getting results requires communicating why they should try their best today and stick to the plan.
  • Retention requires communicating why they should come back again tomorrow.


Good communication turns “want” into “need.” It doesn’t mean professional media. But if you want to be successful, you need to stand up and speak.

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