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We’re applauding the wrong thing in fitness

Posted on September 18, 2020 Paden Hughes

I heard a story on a podcast today that completely resonated with me about what is going wrong in the world of entrepreneurship, but more specifically how it impacts the fitness industry. So here’s how it goes: 

Gary V, who I love and think is fantastic as an entrepreneur and an inspirational human, was sitting there as part of a panel of entrepreneurs in front of a big audience, (obviously pre-COVID). One by one, each person is going through describing who they are, their business, what their mission is, what problem they solve and at the end, it was typically going into, “and we’ve raised $3 million in venture capital” and everybody cheers in the crowd and it’s super exciting. 

Then it goes to the next person and they tell their story, what makes them unique and they raise $5 million in VC capital and everybody’s cheering for them. And the next person goes and tells their story and what they’ve done, that’s really exciting and then says, “and we haven’t had to raise venture capital because we’ve been able to cash flow it through really satisfied customers”.

And it’s silent… 

Gary V continues to tell the story of how he grabs the microphone and says, “and that’s the problem”. 

See, in Entrepreneur World, we’re so used to celebrating and applauding the people who created enough belief and hype around what they wanted to do and what they plan to do so that people will throw venture capital dollars at them. But then we don’t save our applause for the people who are actually getting the shit done and actually having services people are willing to pay for. 

We see this happening in the fitness industry all too often with fitness influencers who have 50,000 Instagram followers and they have washboard abs and they’re out there peddling their inspirational life, but are they making money?

I’ll say it again, are they making money? 

Here’s the thing, we have shiny object syndrome for what’s sexy. In Entrepreneur World it’s venture capital and in the fitness world, it’s the number of followers or number of engagements. You may look like you’ve really got your shit figured out, but here’s what I see really being the blind spot in the fitness industry: too many people are obsessed with looking like they are amazing and looking like people are interested and looking like they’ve got something awesome to offer. Maybe they even spend the money on ads. They have the lead magnet and the email list. They have the sales funnels. They’ve got all of the glittery, sexy things out there that everybody is pitching, but what did they do once they got a client in the door?

I just don’t see enough real emphasis, real applause, real celebration for the trainers out there who have discernible skill sets that people are really wanting to pay for. I don’t see a lot of smart training programs. We see a lot of boring ass workout plans with a really pretty face doing it. We see a lot of people obsessing about, “I got X number of leads this month”, but we don’t hear about how long the clients stays with them. We don’t hear about what the dollar value is of the lifetime of that client is. We’re focusing on the wrong data. 

Now don’t get me wrong. I think it’s great to get leads through the door. Obviously we’ve grown our business doing that, but there was a year, maybe about an 18 month window, where we didn’t get a single new client. If we were at 200 clients, we were still at 200 clients 18 months later, BUT we doubled OUR BUSINESS. 

We did that by not getting distracted by the hype and not obsessing about getting people to walk through the door at any price to give them a short-term fix in the hopes that they stick around. We obsessed about three things: 

  1. The client experience 
  2. Building trust and loyalty 
  3. Solving problems for our clients (particularly around pain and discomfort)

We were able to double our business simply because we increased the lifetime value of our clients. We doubled down on what really mattered: creating a quality customer experience with intelligent modifications paired with movement strategies to get people from pain to comfort and from insecurity in their movements to feeling confident as an athlete. 

This approach has absolutely transformed our business. And that is why we’re so passionate about teaching the fitness industry to stop applauding for the “number of bodies through the door” and start actually giving a shit about the longevity and quality of the experience you’re providing your clients. Because a quick sale doesn’t mean they’re still going to be here after that six week program is done and it doesn’t mean you’ll still have them as clients, six months later.

So here’s the takeaway: 

The quality that you offer AFTER you acquire a new lead is MORE IMPORTANT than simply spending all of your time trying to acquire more leads.  

In two words and one symbol: 

Retention > Acquisition.

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