Bridging the Gap with Former Members

By Mike Watson, Mentor for the 1-1 Coaching Course

Friendships come and go.  So do gym members. 

How can you reconnect with the ones that you miss having around?

Our gym, Catalyst Fitness, has been around for 16 years and we’ve been doing CrossFit for approximately 13 of them.  

We have 1 client who has been with us the entire time. 


That means that there have been a lot of people who have come and gone.  

And come back again.  

And left again.  

Many of them keep coming back when they couldn’t find what they needed somewhere else. 

What keeps those members coming back for more?

This article will take you through some simple actionable steps that you can take immediately to rekindle your relationships with clients who aren’t currently doing burpees within your walls. 

I want you to think about 3 clients who you used to LOVE seeing at your gym. 

Write their names down – make notes about WHY they moved on from your service

The foundation is a consistent level of service.  At our gym we’ve gone through a lot of staff and management turnover in the past 16 years but people have come to expect a great, positive, welcoming community and a consistent level of service and relationship development in their coaching.  

People who leave your gym and go other places often start to realize that not everyone does things the way you do.  

Good SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) that are reviewed on a regular basis are key to creating a strong consistent level of service.  

Your coaches don’t need to robotically follow the SOP but they do need to follow the same processes as everyone else while injecting their own personality into the delivery.  

Does your gym have SOPs?  If not, get to work on creating them and make sure that everyone who works for you knows what is expected in their role. 

So how do we keep that level of service but sell our product the same way twice, or three times or more?

  1. We highlight the wins our current clients are achieving and share them across our multiple platforms including our own personal accounts. 

Success breeds motivation!  Those who have moved on may have found their success somewhere else, but not all will be so lucky.  We want to create a consistent outward positivity blast that can’t be ignored. 

My colleague Jen Broxterman often talks about the image of a Care Bear Blasting rainbows of positivity into the world.  

Do that. 

Earlier you identified three former clients – do they have a way of knowing what awesome things you’re up to?  If not, this is homework. 

  1. I mentioned changes in staff.  Highlight them and give them the opportunity to shine within the context of our SOP framework!  

For the most part, we recruit from within, but not always.  We recently lost two very popular coaches.  Our solution was to replace them with four new coaches – two of them were popular members, one was an existing teens group coach and one was an outside hire who has too much technical knowledge and personality to ignore.

When I talk to former members and people outside the gym I don’t bemoan the loss of the two coaches.  I pump the tires of the new hires and highlight all the amazing things they bring to the gym in terms of personality, their ability to relate to certain population groups and their LOVE for the gym. 

You don’t have to have a significant staff turnover to spread the word about how amazing your staff are, or how they are connecting with people in different ways.  Your love for them will shine through, but you have to talk about them! 

Highlight their accomplishments, things you’re grateful for, development they’ve taken on, etc. 

Remember our former clients?  Reach out to former clients who you think would be a good fit with certain coaches.  Some people love big personalities, some don’t.

  1. Maintain relationships.  

I assume that most of your clients have moved on amicably.  If not we might need to have a different discussion…. 

Often it’s a GOOD thing that your clients have taken the habit development you’ve taught them and they can now use these skills on their own in the wild! 

Long term coaching is about relationship building and accountability more than it is about sets, reps and barbells.  The longer I coach, the more I believe this to be an absolute truth. 

Maintaining a positive encouraging relationship with your clients through social media and in person shows your clients that you are on their team and have their backs no matter what, even if they aren’t giving you any of their money. 

Reach out to former clients to congratulate them on completing their 5km run, competing in a powerlifting meet or doing well in an activity or sport.  

Tell them how great, happy or healthy they look!  Practice being happy for others, it can be contagious! 

You can also remind them of the good times – Facebook ‘memories’ are great for this!

And most importantly, the best way to show people you care about how they are doing is to ASK them how they are doing!!!! 

  1. Remember how you connected with your membership base in the first place. 

Ask yourself what has changed?  Did your clients change or did you?

If these types of people are important to you, find ways to reconnect with them.  This isn’t a simple fix but it could be a valuable one over time. 

Get outside the gym and actually connect with people. 

I’ll give you a great example.  I LOVE coaching runners and cyclists.  It is 100% my niche audience.  In the past few years I’ve made a concerted effort to reconnect with these groups on their turf by entering races and attending social events.  Spending time with your target audience can often be more important than the event itself. 

  1. Encourage people to post their wins – and tag your gym. 

I recently reconnected with a former client of mine.  She hasn’t been to our gym for about 8 years.  Our paths cross a bit more now as we both have kids in the same class at school.  This client reached out when she found out I was taking on more clients with her own proposal.  She wanted to book a weekly training session with me, and bring her husband.  It would be their ‘date night.’  I’ve never had more fun being the third wheel!  Not only are they hilarious, they also post a weekly selfie of themselves sweaty and happy (?) in the truck on the way home from the gym.  This simple act has led to at least three other couples reaching out to start doing the same thing.  I might have to trademark Date Night CrossFit. 

Let your clients know how much you LOVE when they share their wins with the people who matter to them! 

  1. Create an environment that matches your desired avatar group. 


You don’t need to re-create your gym every six months but you do need to understand WHY people use your gym.  

If you have clients who are interested in powerlifting you need to be offering powerlifting on a fairly regular basis.  

Creating specialty groups or programming streams for your target avatar is a great way to keep your current clients as active members but it also shows past members that you get them and that you have what they need. 

Do you have programming to meet the needs of your 3 target clients? 

If not, is this something you can do?  If not you might be trying to jam one of these people into an avatar they don’t belong in.  If this is the case, go back to step one..

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