3 Keys to Client Retention
As with all things in life, when we are around something for long enough, we can tend to take it for granted. Unfortunately, more often than not the things we should cherish the most, the things that we are around everyday, fall into this trap of entitlement. The family dog. The nice house. Our parents. Our car. Our children. Our spouse. In the fitness industry, the one that jumps out to me, that all of us can take for granted from time to time, is the one that can either make us or break us, and that is quite scary: our client base.
Becoming accustomed to a certain lifestyle, a certain routine, and a certain flow to the workday happens, so it is understandable why one could potentially fall into that trap of entitlement. In the fitness industry, the danger lies in the fact that this could deal a kill shot to your client base, and ultimately, your career, if you are not aware of how to manage your client base, and retain a large portion of it for a very long time. The good news is, as long as we are cognizant of this phenomenon, and work tirelessly to become a better, more thoughtful version of ourselves, the trap of entitlement can largely be avoided, and you can retain the vast majority of your clients, year after year.
In the fitness industry, your “retention rate” is defined by looking at the number of clients that are still with you who you had one year ago today, divided by the total number of clients that you had one year ago today. At Metabolic, we boast an incredibly high retention rate in the fitness industry at over 70%, and here are the Top 3 ways that we do it.
Maybe it is obvious. Maybe it is isn’t. You need to connect with your clients on a deep level. A great way to start is simply knowing their name. Think back to when you were a freshman in high school. I know, I can hardly remember that time either, but bear with me. Remember when the “cool” senior walked by you, gave you a head nod and acknowledged you by name? How good that made you feel? How accepted you immediately felt? Your clients crave that same feeling of acceptance. They are training at your facility because they want to build muscle, burn fat, become more mobile, more conditioned, stronger, etc….but most importantly, they want acceptance. They want to feel like they are a part of something. That they belong somewhere.
In 2019, boutique fitness studios have become like “church” or “temple” for many of us. I mean absolutely no offense to anyone who is extremely religious or may take offense to the comparison, the reality is it is an analogy that hits home for many of us. Whether it is going to church, or going to a boutique fitness studio, we go for a variety of reasons, but the common denominator is by going, we feel better on the inside. Maybe, just maybe, the reason it makes us feel good, is not just the hearing the priest or rabbi speak to us on the weekends, or our favorite coach telling us to go all the way down on a pushup, but it is being around a collective group of people who all have the same, positive mindset of self improvement. We are there to improve both our mental health (and in the gym, our physical health), and when we can do that with our friends, neighbors, and family, that community feel is incredibly hard to duplicate.
But who cultivates that community? Who builds it? Who maintains it? YOU DO. You need to know your clients on an intimate level. You need to know their kids names. What kind of ice cream they like. What kind of pet they have. Where they like to travel on vacation. Where they went to college. Who their favorite NFL team is. What they like to do in their free time. You get the idea.
How many of these questions can you answer about your clients? None? Some? All? If you can answer MOST of these questions, about MOST of your clients, you are well on your way to building a great relationship and rapport with most of them. However, you can’t be fake about it. You have to REALLY care. Nobody likes someone who is fake, or who is doing something forced, and newsflash: your clients are smart, they will sniff that bullshit a mile away. You have to care about their lives outside of the gym, about them as people, similar to the way a leader of a religious establishment would.
Connect with your clients, and you will build a community. Build a community, and you will build something more powerful, durable, and sustainable than you could ever possibly imagine.
Challenge them daily
Bruce Lee had a great quote that I think applies to fitness extraordinarily well:
“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but the man who practiced one kick 10,000 times.”
Think about this. Let it sink in.
Excellence does not revolve around variety. It revolves around mastery.
Unfortunately, as fitness professionals, we face an army of people who crave variety, who feel like EVERY workout needs to be SO unique in order to see progress. At Metabolic, our clients have gotten a taste for my training philosophy. I believe in utilizing the safest, most effective movements, and milking them for all they are worth. Sure, variety in the way the exercises appear in a routine is fun, but ultimately, what really works, what really gets people stronger, more muscle, and the results they seek, is the ability to progress at the basic movement patterns: hinging, squatting, lunging, pushing, pulling, and carrying.
Take the push-up. I am guessing I have done literally hundreds of thousands of push-ups in my life. Until this year, I had never heard the cue “pull your hands together while you press up”…WOW…my pecs were on fire. I had never done this, or been told to do this, in all my years working out. I had discovered a way to challenge myself, and to continue evolving, refining, and progressing on the most basic of movements.
Don’t succumb to your clients and feel pressured to do 10,000 new movements every single week. Sprinkle some in to keep the programing fresh and exciting, but remember, there is no substance to fancy, technically advanced exercises. Soon, the well will run dry, and unless you can master the ability to challenge people every single day on even the most fundamental of movement patterns, your client base will run dry as well.
Work with people on mastering their squat technique, even after class. If someone has upper cross syndrome, teach them how to do prone cobras at home, or in the office between phone calls. The day your clients think they have this fitness thing “figured out” is the day you don’t have a client anymore, so it is in your best interest to become a true student of the proper biomechanics, a stickler for detail, and a cookie dough consumer.
Cookie dough consumer? Remember when you mom made cookies as a kid, and let you lick the spatula? Did you leave a morsel on that spatula, or did you lap up every last bit of delicious goodness before you set it down? The pushup is the spatula, and there is a LOT of cookie dough on it. Don’t let it go to waste.
Give them an amazing experience.
I once heard a very interesting statistic: only 5% of people actually like working out. I don’t know where I heard it, but it stuck to me like glue because quite frankly, it scared the crap out of me. In the fitness industry, we are all competing for a measly 5% of the population, because at the end of the day, those are the people that are going to stay with us, year after year. Scary stuff, huh?
But then I thought more about it. WHY don’t people like working out? Well, ok, it hurts, I get that. If you put it that way, I don’t particularly love working out either. I like working out because I love building muscle, getting stronger, and the way it makes me feel. I also love working out because I can do a painful set of Bulgarian Split Squats o Superthug by Noreaga, and relive my late teens/early 20’s, and let’s face it, anything you do in life is less painful when can revisit those days.
I have worked out in training sessions where a particular coach knows what song I want to hear, what people I want to be positioned next to, or exactly what words and tactics will motivate me to bring my best. I am corrected in a way that I respond to. I have the feeling that for a fleeting moment, I am the only person in the room being trained by that coach. And you know what? THAT is a phenomenal experience that I would come back for, time and time again.
Do you think about each one of your clients experiences in your program? Do you partner them with people they want to train with? Do you position them in a group that does not make them feel self conscious or defeated? Do you give them a smile and nod from across the room when a song they love comes on? Do you speak to them in a way that you know resonates with them? All of these things can have a tremendous impact on the overall experience your clients have at your facility, and ultimately your ability to provide each and every client with a unique experience that they truly appreciate is what separates the “good from the great.” Give your clients a great experience, one that cannot be replicated anywhere else, and you will never have to worry about replacing them.