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Retention Strategies for the Private Sector Gym

Matrixx Ferreira
Sep 14, 2021

For those working in the private sector, sales and our ability to sell represent a fair chunk of what we do. When I started, it seemed like every trainer and coach had a strategy for landing a new client or “a big fish” before even talking about training. I heard cookie-cutter sales pitches and closing strategies, all tools to get folks to sign on the dotted line. Once hooked, they bragged about the sensation of landing a sale and the commissions that accompanied them, never mentioning said customer again.

Training experience aside, what baffled me was the lack of care in these conversations. To me, it felt slimy, like I was devaluing my work and what I believe in. Not once did any of these coaches or trainers mention how to KEEP customers happy. Not one of them talked about feedback or relations or ensuring that the person forking out good money was confident to have a great experience. I want those reading this to really grasp that word because it’s the foundation of retention. Give YOUR customers, clients, and athletes the best EXPERIENCE.

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There’s no denying it, if you want to survive in a private sector industry, you’ll need to be confident in your art of selling clients. More importantly, you need to get better at RETAINING them. What helped me move past the used car salesmen persona was reshaping my thoughts on sales by focusing on what my clients would experience. At the end of the day, you need to be good at what you do; program the goal, and coach the individual. You want to make sure those who experience your training service believe in it like you do.

It’s much harder to sell a new customer than it is to maintain a current one. Knowing this, we need to shift our efforts from hunting down new customers to prioritizing current ones. Below I outline a few tips and strategies on how our staff offers client care and retention at Iron Performance Center.

1) Relationships Trump Training

The old saying reigns true: “they don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”. I believe this concept applies to all sectors of service, not just strength and conditioning. You could be the smartest coach in the world, but if nobody is willing to invest their time with you, your abilities become insignificant. Training is a science, coaching is an art. If you neglect to build meaningful relationships within your own room or within your own community, it won’t matter how good your programs are. You won’t be in business very long.

Creating meaningful relationships doesn’t have to be complicated. Little things like greeting people by their name or asking about their day go a long way. Taking an interest in your clients or athletes interests go a long way and compound over time. It’s simple, be a human and remember how small a role you play in the grand scheme of things. We obsess over training and our love for the weight room, but that’s just one part of our clients' or athletes' lives. Keep what we do in perspective; it doesn’t have to always be about sets and reps.

2) Create Your Unique Culture

Let’s face it, coaches are a dime a dozen. It isn’t hard to find someone willing to take a person through a workout or training session. If all you have to offer folks is a cheaper price point or fancier equipment, you’re in for a quick race to the bottom. Instead, focus on what most gyms struggle to acquire: a unique culture built on the foundation of your values.

Think about your own fitness or training journey. You have experiences that are unique to you that I’m sure some in your community can gain value from. Whether it was striving for a podium performance or overcoming unhealthy habits, your personal journey can be a guiding aid to others willing to invest their time with you. Those who you allow to benefit from your experience make up what will be your culture. 

How (and who) you decide to grow your culture is up to you. It doesn’t matter big or small, the key is quality experience. You’re better off being everything for some than trying to be something for everyone. In most cases, you’ll develop a niche and might not even suspect it.

What really drives our culture growth is the connections. Members welcome new members and build relationships through training under our roof. It creates a community of like-minded folks chasing individual goals down a common path. Hearing long-time members tell their experiences to other members makes it easier to assimilate them into your culture. In my opinion, that’s the part I love best; growing a stellar community of bar benders all with different backgrounds.

I highly recommend creating leaderboards. It creates a competitive environment and fun interactions among members in the room. We also have an athlete of the month every month that gets a gift card and swag pack with our logo and we post their picture to our social media. Having members see other members being successful creates a positive competitive atmosphere; it cultivates awesome attitudes, all-out effort, and more success by default. 

3) Subtle Exclusivity

Be unique and allow creativity to take the reins when brainstorming fun ways to celebrate your clients. One fun thing we like to do is send out physical mail with our faces on the postage stamp. Inside the envelope, we include handwritten notes or custom stickers; something small and tangible to remember us by. It gets a chuckle and becomes a talking point; our mail becomes an easy ice breaker for clients when talking to friends or family.

If you are financially able, host member events or get-togethers. Something as simple as a summer barbecue is a great opportunity to thank clients for their business while offering a chance to get to know them and their families outside the weight room. If you are able, supply your event with food and goods from local businesses. Supporting fellow business owners helps build connections while allowing them a chance to see what you are all about. Heck, a couple might even be willing to sponsor your event. 

Take care of those in your circle before trying to expand it. I’ve found that if you do a great job and provide an excellent experience, your clients will naturally rave about your service to others. Our industry runs primarily on referrals, which isn’t likely to change anytime soon. 

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