Bring-a-Friend Day: A giant cluter-f*** of chaos, confusion and concerning-looking squats

“We need new members. At least Bring-a-friend day gets new blood through the doors!”

The latter is a common defence I hear from those who have run, and continue to run, Bring-a-Friend days.

Is that really your goal, though? To get people in for a free workout? I doubt it.

Let’s reverse engineer this for a second and look at what the goals are for the business, the coach and the clients. Generally speaking, the goals for the following three parties include:

The business: To turn a profit

The coaches: To help people get fit, to keep people committed to their fitness, to avoid burning out, and to make a good living so they can stick around coaching

The clients: To sign-up at the gym, to get fit and reach their goals, so they stick around and stay fit for life

So essentially, it comes down to this: Best case scenario is people come in and pay money, and value what they’re receiving from the gym (i.e. they’re reaching their goals and living a great life) so they stick around. Simple as that, right?

I have learned in nine years of coaching that the best way to get people to see value is to connect with them as a human being and then offer them a solution to their problem. We call this “finding a person’s pain.” In other words, discovering the real reason they showed up. The clients I get close to are the ones who have the most success, who value my coaching the most, who stick around for years, and who I enjoy coaching the most, meaning I love my job!

Finding the pain, for example, is the moment the person tells you she has been bullied her whole life for being overweight, and then breaks into tears. Read more on this topic in this BLOG.

This doesn’t mean everyone is going to have some massive traumatic experience to tell you about. Not everyone will cry. But the concept is about getting to know people and offering a solution they value. When that happens, everyone wins: The coach, the client and the business.

That Bring-a-Friend day I witnessed earlier this summer didn’t have the ability to find anyone’s pain. Those eight people were simply there for a free workout, or maybe their friend promised to take them to breakfast after the class. The only way find establish a real connection is in a one-on-one environment. There’s a reason dating generally happens in a one-on-one setting, unless you’re on the Bachelor, but then again those group dates are awkward as ever!

The second reason Bring-a-Friend days don’t work is because of the physical aspect of what we do. Unless the prospect has a background in gymnastics and weightlifting (there might be 2 percent of the population Bring-a Friend day might work for physically), chances are they’re going to struggle by hastily being taught how to squat in a group with other inexperienced gym-goers. Everyone moves differently, has a different athletic and injury history, and learns at a different speed. It goes without saying then that it’s more effective to prepare people for classes in a one-on-one environment than in a group. So why would the first experience you give them be in a chaotic group?

Finally, Bring-a-Friend day doesn’t lay a foundation for a long term commitment. When I consider my own client retention, my most long-standing clients (some of whom have been with me my entire 9 years) are the ones who did the most personal training, and the ones who continue to do more personal training now than group classes. Group classes are a great addition to a person’s journey, but the backbone needs to be based in one-on-one training for the client to continue to reap the benefits of having a coach.

I know what you’re thinking: “People in my city/market/community aren’t willing to able to pay for personal training.” That might be the tape that’s playing in your head, but I promise it’s not true. Stay tuned: That’s the topic for another day!

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