Retaining Customers Long-Term Chris Cooper 260

January 12, 2018




Chris Cooper and I talk about retaining customers long term. That seems to be one of our biggest challenges overall with every business. But it’s so, so, so much in the fitness industry. And so, we can pull some nice golden nuggets from Chris and the way he lays out his business and what he does to help you grow your business.

Our guest today, Chris Cooper. He is founder of the largest mentoring practice in the fitness world with clients and every time he started his entrepreneur life as a gym owner and in 2005,

Chris Cooper had a new home, wife, baby. His job as a personal trainer wouldn’t cover the bills so he opened a business or, so he thought he did three years. Cooper realized that he didn’t have a business but he just bought himself a high-risk job with no upside when he missed paper and hit bottom and realized he needed help he found a mentor. He paid for the service and checked that should have bounced. Over the next two years.  Chris Cooper was taught how to build a real business.

He began mentoring gym owners 2013 and founded his own practice, Two-Brain Businesses and in 2016 it rapidly grew to become the largest fitness mentorship practice in the world with over 350 gyms participating worldwide.

Now the cool thing about Chris and I just told you all about him is that today we talk about retention of customers. You know that seems to be one of our biggest challenges overall with every business. But it’s so, so, so much in the fitness industry. And so, we can pull some nice golden nuggets from Chris and the way he lays out his business and what he does to help you grow your business.

Chris, I’m just so glad you could be with us today. Share your expertise and your knowledge on how you built your business and some of the things you did that will help our business owners. So again. Chris thanks so much for being with us today.

My pleasure Dave thanks for having me on.

This is going to be cool. I know that you have your own business. It’s called two brain businesses which is kind of interesting in that. So how did you get started in this particular business? And you also have your podcast too but how did you start in this business. And what were some of the things that got you to where you are today?

Well I own several small businesses mostly in the fitness industry in northern Ontario Canada and so around 2009 my GM which was my only business back then was very close to bankrupt and I kind of had this epiphany that I was a great fitness trainer but a very poor business owner.

I lucked into some mentorship and that turned my gym around and as that was happening, I started blogging about the experience because I thought maybe there were some other gym owners out there who could use the same advice. And after about 300 blog posts, it’s kind of a funny story but I was invited to speak at a seminar and I knew one of the other speakers would have this handbook that he would share with the audience and I said well I’ve got to have a book.

So, I took the top 12 blog posts from this blog which was called and the cheapest way that I could get these things printed so that I could give that out to the audience was to self-publish them into a book. So, I self-published and shipped them shipped them to Florida. We were in Fort Lauderdale

  1. I didn’t have any page numbers or chapter headings or even a table of contents and 18000 copies later. That’s the bestselling fitness business book of all time. Wow. Yeah. And so, as people started to buy this book and read it I started being called for mentorship and in 2016 I launched and we have about 364 clients in on every continent. We’re a worldwide organization. There are 12 mentors who serve with me and that’s what we do.

Well, that’s pretty awesome. Just get to the key with just getting started. Yeah exactly. To not worry about perfection just to worry about executing every day taking very small imperfect steps. And then I notice that your success came overnight. 300 blog posts later.

Well, actually you’re up around 1300 now. Wow. You know the original book. I mean it was it was really published for real in 2012. But two weeks ago, I was asked how often do you actually publish blog post now. And so, I asked our editor to go into the archives and pull out just the blog posts from the last year. And that turned into a book. There was 308 pages long. Wow. Just without even meaning to. So yeah, we do publish a lot.

That’s awesome. But that’s the key is to get people that were actually you know get people to use to find out more information which absolutely physical recording business. So, one of the things that I know that you hear in the mentorship business but you’re also in a fitness industry and that has and it’s like most businesses. I think that one of the biggest challenges is retaining clients long term. So how. What are some of the success stories are some of the things that you’ve used to just build a like a platform or a system into making that work? The most effective way.

Well, so for some context for us I mean the fitness industry is one where it is very hard to retain clients. It’s not really hard to get people to sign up. I mean you and I both know what will happen two weeks from now or you know a week and a half everyone is going to have this new year’s resolution. They’re all going to want my service right. Right. So, by March 31 statistically about 43 percent of those people will be left. Most people survive in a gym environment for less than three months. Well, we have to do is make sure that we are basically selling a service business instead of a fitness membership. We start off differently than other people do. We start with a consultation process which I’m sure many contractors will do and I’m going to start with a blank slate.

What do you want? And then from there, I’m going to narrow the options and tell the client and I decide that you know here’s our best course of action or here is our fitness prescription.

So what aids in that number one is having like almost a third-party dataset. So, for example, let’s say that I put a client on the scale we don’t do this anymore, but we put them on a scale and we say, Dave, you and I need to beat that scale. Okay.  I placed the client and myself on the same side of the desk and were facing off against this third object with this data. How can we work together you know to beat the scale? So, the first thing that happens is the mindset of the client that I am their guide.

But they remain the hero of the story here. Okay. And I am yeah. So, I’m helping them. Then during the first period that we work with a client whether in a mentorship practice or in the gym you have to look at the first maybe three months is kind of an incubation period.

Okay so in the fitness industry people are not comfortable with being uncomfortable and you’re right you can’t just talk them into that and you can’t say no pain no gain or suck it up or anything like that. It’s not going to work. Well, we have to do is have more frequent touch points in those initial stages after they’ve made that initial purchase. So I need to talk to you, every two to three days at the outside.

I need to email you sometimes in between those discussions and just basically reassure you that you’ve made a good investment. After that, I need to make sure that I have a clear path to follow up and then you know the most important question I think that we teach is what do you want now. So, in the gym every three months I want to meet with the client and ask three questions.

The first is what are you most proud of achieving in the last three months? So, I’m framing the conversation by focusing on bright spots.

The second is Dave since we started. Have your overall goals changed and what are they now. And the third is do you feel as if you’re accomplishing your goals quickly enough? So sometimes if they say yes, I do feel good. I think I’m making good progress. We say that’s fantastic. I love to brag about you.

 Can I take your picture and put it on my website? If they say no I think, I’d like to go a little bit faster than I can say. You know Dave if it were me here’s what I would do and basically change the prescription. OK. So, there’s no upselling ever involved. It’s just a common feedback loop of what do you want now. And here’s how I can help.

The other the last big retention piece that I think we’re kind of famous for is a strategy called bright spots and I’m sure some of your listeners have heard of Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath in their new book The Power of Momentous Phenomenal.

If they haven’t though Chip and Dan Heath and our researchers from Harvard University and they basically study the science of retention. So, in a gym setting what I’m going to do every time you do something for the first time. Let’s say that you deadlift 200 pounds and you’ve never done it before. I’m going to write that on a whiteboard for everyone in the gym to see. And then on Friday, I’m going to call you and say, Dave, we’re so proud of you what are you going to do next? And what we’re basically doing here is giving them these peak moments in their life.

You and I both know that people don’t really remember what you say to them but they always remember how you made them feel right. Absolutely yes. And so, the key is setting yourself up to have all these positive feelings as often as you can. And so, you know we build up an entire plan and strategy around calling the client saying We’re proud of you etc.

Yeah. And then they quit because you’re setting up a whole new paradigm shift for them as opposed to what they were used to in that industry were just come work out and will help you lose weight. You just take them with baby steps and reassuring them and helping them in and walking along with them may be behind them so that they’re the hero. Like you said they become the hero of their progress but you’ve basically egging them in little different ways. But the cool thing is that its constant communication.

And so, what did I write down here a constant communication and always following up no matter which way. And I love the way you put it. It’s not the upsell but where do you want to go now. What do you want to do now? So, it basically takes you out of the selling cycle and creates them into the buying cycle with their own thought process. Or the continuation. Yeah. You know I never put it that way but that makes total sense.

Absolutely. Yes, so they’re comfortable with the whole process because basically what you’re doing is you’re helping them own it. Right. Exactly. Yeah, they feel like it’s their choice right. Yeah, yeah, No pressure at all. I like what’s going on and I’d like to be just a little better and how are we going to do that?

Yes, so there are a few things there. Number one I think is the realization that 10 years ago we could sell information and information was the salesman’s tool.

Now it’s the buyer’s tool. You know a lot of the times people who come into my door they know how to lose weight. They know that they have to cut back on carbs and go for a walk every day. The problem is that they’re not going to do that you know. I mean anybody now can go to Home Depot and take a lesson on how to paint their bathroom.

So, the question is our real value now is not the ability to paint a bathroom. Our real value now is you know we’re going to save you a lot of time. We’re going to eliminate the stress involved in doing all this stuff. We’re going to help you make a better color choice. You’re going to love you know.

And that’s what we’re really selling now our service has changed but our services become more valuable because of that change. Now you know we have to be authorities. It’s not enough just to sell anything anymore. So, going into that conversation. That’s basically what you’re looking at.

And so, what I’ll start most people with is six months from now if everything is going perfectly. What changes should we expect to see?

And so, in their brain, the client is painting this picture for themselves of. They’ve been successful. They’re the hero. Then I’m going to say six months from now if you take no action. What do you think will happen?

And another painting a separate picture telling a different story in their brain. And then I’ll say I would like to help you become more successful as your guide. Would you be more comfortable having me as a guide one on one or guiding you in a small group setting?

And what I’m basically doing now is filtering them toward the two service options that we sell you know. So, at this point, they’ve already purchased in their brain. Now we’re just saying you know we’re filtering basically thank you notes. Awesome stuff.

I go through the entire process in my book ‘Help First’. But also, I’ll have it in the next book, Affinity Marketing, which will be a more updated version of.

So, you’re just leading them along the path of actually, no resistance because they see themselves working a plan. It’s just now it’s ‘Do I want to do one on one or do I want to do in a group setting?’

Yeah and as soon as I learn that I learned a lot more about you know how I should set up this meeting with the client. I mean one of my favorite stories about meeting with a client as she came into the gym and she was carrying her little 1-year-old and you know 1-year olds are very squirmy they don’t want to sit still.

But outside the gym was a kid selling lemonade. And so, we went outside, and I carried two chairs and we sat outside and had a lemonade and you know her baby had a lemonade and, we talked about you know where she wanted to be in a year and that just kind of helped her paint that picture in her mind of what her perfect day was and Perfect Day as a concept that we teach everyone. I mean you should ask your staff what their perfect day is you should ask your wife what her perfect day is so that you’re all working toward the same goal. But if you get your client to paint that picture in their mind early and then you suggest that they can achieve that.

You know they can ride off into that sunset and you’re going to be their guide and that that follows the same basic story flow of every epic adventure.

You know the Walt Disney produces right. Yeah. So, I’m sure you’ve heard of the hero’s journey before. In case your listeners haven’t. It’s basically every Disney movie, every heroic epic you know almost every religious story follows the exact same plot line. And so, you know we are we’re taught from an early age that here is how you achieve greatness.

Here’s how you become a hero. And so, it’s just an aid that if we say you can be that hero we can be your guide. You know people really latch onto that idea. Yeah, I love that. Cause it’s taking, I don’t know, it’s just the whole another concept that most people don’t think about, it’s like your saying it’s not your fault. We’re going to help you become the hero. Yeah, exactly.  Exactly yeah.

So, I think that’s what has really helped us and in the mentoring practice to every day. Basically, I send people a story that’s about 800 words long. I tell them about something that I’ve screwed up and that’s why I’m in a good position to be there guide as they go through the same thing right.

I learn from my mistakes, not yours. Yeah exactly. Yeah exactly. Yeah, just like what I’ve said, I want to learn from another people’s mistake because I don’t want to make them all. Too expensive right.

But you know that’s part of the growth process of making mistakes and not being afraid to make them just you know I’ve always wanted of my pet things. You know let’s just do it and if we make a mistake, great let’s learn from it and move on to the next thing as fast as we can because failure is part of success Exactly.

It’s a critical part of success. It is the keynote though I think though Dave is what you just said is that it doesn’t have to be your own failure. Right if somebody else can learn from our failures that’s incredibly valuable. Sure

it makes it a lot easier and BOOM. I can. OK. He did this so I’m not going to do that exact same thing. So. Exactly. I’m going to treat people this way. I want to talk to people this way especially if you’re going through a process like your retention program where you start off at A and you end up with Z. And you know that’s a big long process that you’ve gone through and it’s you documented and systematized and you know that if you say this, this is going to happen and when you say this or do this that this is going to happen and so you’re  increasing your success exponentially.

But there again people come into your business who can hold fast and true to the stuff that you’re doing because you’re creating great results for your clients. On all facets.

So, one of the questions that I wanted to ask you I know that you since said that you don’t particularly like sales funnel. Well, I think that it starts from the wrong end.

You know a sales funnel is like when you’re trying to you’re trying to meet a woman that you’re going to marry. OK. Are you going to first sit down and think What do I do? Who do I like? You know what trades do I want. Who shares the same values. What do I consider attractive or do you say I’m going to date 500 women and then pick the best 300 and date them again. And then I’m going to pick the best 100 of those and date them. I mean it just doesn’t make sense. It makes good TV, but it does make sense.

So, what we do is we invert the funnel and we say let’s start with the people who are most likely to actually want to buy from you and are also able to afford your service.

So, we start with what we call Identical Seed Clients like Mike McCalla wrote this amazing book called The Pumpkin Plan. And we’ve taken his method of identifying who your best clients actually are and we apply that to other businesses too. So first we say my best client is Dave because Dave makes me happy every time he comes into this gym and he always pays on time and he buys my most expensive service.

So, the first question I’m going to ask myself is how can I serve Dave better. Right. So, if I’m a contractor and I’m redoing your kitchen and I say, Dave, this kitchen is really starting to look fantastic. You’re going to be able to host more dinner parties here. Is that, is that your goal. And you say yeah, we love having guests over.  I could say, ‘that’s great’. You know the most popular place in your house or the most important place when you’re having guests over is your kitchen.

The second most important place when you’re having guests over is your bathroom. Nobody talks about the bathroom unless it’s bad.

What are your plans to renovate your bathroom? Right. So, we will start there and I think the philosophy of help first is really important because most entrepreneurs are not good salespeople. So, if they think about this as an upsell they’re not going to do it are they going to stammer and they’re going to blow it.

You have to think about like how can I help Dave best. So, if I know your goal is to have more and better dinner parties than I’m helping you by suggesting that you think about doing your bathroom next. Then I’m going to say Who are the people that Dave influences so you can picture a bull’s eye where you, the ideal client are in the center. And I’m going to radiate out ring by ring again and we call these affinity loops. So, the first ring is the people you influence most of the people you live with or your family.

I’m going to say Dave who visits your house the most. My kids do when they come home. Fantastic. And when they come home for Christmas you know do they bring their kids. Yes. They live nearby. Yes. How can I help them have a better house?

  1. Then I would radiate out to the next infinity loop which is usually your co-workers. Is there anyone in your office who is looking to get the home makeover done before Easter. Because my schedule is filling up quickly in the fitness industry.

I would say you know is there is there anyone in your office who is trying to lose weight by Easter. Or I would say I know this is a tough month in your tax office because everybody’s rushing to get their tax filings done.

How would you feel about bringing all the bookkeepers and accountants in on Friday night and we’ll have a fun little party in the gym? You know you can bring some wine if you want to and I’ll just give you some fun little team building challenges. You know it’s actually easy because most gyms are just big playgrounds right.

And then the fourth loop is people with whom you recreate so you know who do you golf with. Who do you play midnight basketball with?

It could also be who do you go to church with. I mean you have such a strong bond there and it’s it’s a very trusting bond. And then from there, we would say OK those are your personal connections. Who is almost a personal connection?

So, the fourth affinity loop are people who are paying attention but not paying you money yet and that’s usually people who have given either e-mail address or they’ve given you permission to talk more to them.

And then the next infinity loop would be people who are slowly paying attention they’re already aware of you, so they’ve clicked like on your Facebook page or they follow you on Instagram or something like that.

And then the last loop would be Cold Leads. People who know nothing about you. They don’t even know they need your service. They’re not looking for you. They’re not comparing you to anybody else yet. So, if I’m a chiropractor this would be someone who has back pain, but they don’t know that there’s any way to get relief or they just think while I’m 50 and everybody gets back pain when they’re 50 you know that. They’re completely oblivious.

They’re not looking for a solution to their problem. But this is where most funnel marketing starts is that person and they try to dump you know a thousand of those people into a funnel and then filter out oh yeah that guy. He’s too old. That guy doesn’t make enough money. That guy lives too far away.

And so finally you get down to these like kinds of ideal clients who by the way still really don’t know anything about you. You don’t have a personal connection with them. I mean you might as well just drop fliers from a helicopter onto the roof of their car and hope one of them calls you. So, there is a time and a place for online marketing. We do teach Facebook marketing. We have a huge course for that. But it’s really maybe step eight. I think there’s a lot much lower hanging fruit.

Within the process, you went through so much smarter and simpler because you’re going through the whole thing of who do I know who do I like and who’s around me that could benefit that way. And it makes it easier for you as a business owner whoever the business owner because it’s a referral in a sense.

And it makes so much more sense that it’s easier to get referral business. And I think one of the biggest challenges about that is that referral is awesome, but no one has figured out how to do it on a systematic basis.

We’re basically everyone for all businesses as gravy. And so that’s why they go after the other stuff to fill in. But somebody should come out with a plan to really work that referral business and have that be that’s one of the best parts of their system whether it would be referral marketing or referral rewards whatever the case may be.

Yeah. So, we teach that, and we call that sales and you know marketing would kind of be at the tail end of that. But we teach that, and we call it affinity marketing. And I have a book on call affinity marketing by May. Cool. cool. You know this is really been awesome. Off I’ve got the whole sheet of notes.

But there’s a lot of great content there. Just you know making them feel like the hero and being there guide them and not really selling them anything but just ask them where they are so that they can pick and choose the points that they want to move to because you’ve helped them along those lines as being their guide or that’s the perfect way to put it the way you put it being their guide, we are going to help you get to where you want to go.

Yeah, I think it’s really tempting. You know this is old school marketing. Dave, you and I both over 35. So. I’m always over 35. Me too, but back then I mean you tried to make your brand a hero.

You talked about what you could do and how amazing your company was and how long you’ve been in business. But that’s not the way our brains are wired. No, our brains are all wired to think that we’re the hero. And so, if you can show your clients how they will get to be the hero and you will be their guide you know the genie in Aladdin or Yoda to Luke.

That’s going to fit their mindset a lot more Oh absolutely. Absolutely. This is really being awesome content. I got it. I know everyone. So how can our listeners get in touch with you Chris?  is our Web site. People can actually book a free 30-minute call with me through the website, and on Amazon, on If you look for Chris Cooper, you’ll find my books. And that’s probably the easiest way call.

Hey. Wow, that was a really great interview. Great talk with Chris Cooper about retention of long-term clients and here just a couple of takeaways that I took away. And I wrote notes, I’m just real quick real clean for you. But here’s the key.

Constant communication and it had a path to follow up and he always asked the client where do you want to go now. What do you want to do now? How can I help?

These are just some great key takeaways to help you build and go through this again because there are some awesome nuggets here on how Chris builds his business and helps others and I love them some of the stuff that’s customer-driven it’s not sales driven. So, to your success continue learning more being better and all that you do so you can have the dream lifestyle. The dream business you want to have the lifestyle you wanted to create. So, until the next time. Have a great week.

You may visit this website to know more details about Chris Cooper:

Chris Cooper’s book two Brain business get it right here

There are so many ways to do almost free marketing you just have to think about it or you could just go to the web site and pick up the free download.

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