Client retention – 5 ways to keep more clients (online)

If you’re a top personal trainer then you’re already coaching clients online.

You’re answering client questions via email, sharing your expertise through your blog and inspiring your clients every week on Facebook.  This shouldn’t feel weird or uncomfortable because you were doing all of these things face to face…talking with clients, listening to their problems, talking through solutions and tracking their progress…

What’s different is we don’t have to do it in person anymore, at a particular location or even at the same time.  This means we can scale our impact as health and fitness experts.

Yesterday, I went to a powerful seminar with leading fitness business consultant, Justin Tamsett, where he described his top strategies for better client retention.  His focus was on member retention for physical gyms and personal training studios but I immediately could see that the same principles could be applied to the online world.

So instead of listing the 31.5 strategies Justin was teaching, I wanted to describe how each strategy could be applied for online fan/follower/ client retention.


Before going through each one, I thought I’d be clear on the client retention rate we’re trying to improve.

As Justin, Paul Bedford and other the leading experts on customer retention suggest, the formula is NOT clients at the beginning of the month – minus the clients at the end of the month

You have to exclude new sales/clients/fans/followers

That means – clients at the beginning of the month – minus the clients at the end of the month – minus new clients (so that you’re comparing apples with apples)

How can we keep more people engaged – responding to our emails, opening our email newsletter and seeing our Facebook posts?

When I was writing out how each of these strategies applies, I realised that there were three things to remember:

  • Be yourself
  • Choose your environment and tools wisely
  • Know what your clients want from you and when


Be Yourself

If you’re a health, fitness or wellness coach then people are choosing you for your unique personality and approach. You have to be consistent and transfer your same personality online too, no matter how you’re communicating…writing a message, curating a blog, creating a video, delivering a webinar or recording an audio.

Choose your environment and tools wisely

A gym needs to be clean, easy to navigate and enjoyable so that members want to take advantage of the space.

The equipment also has to be clean, easy to use and effective or it’s a waste of time.

Just like in the real world, we need to look for the same aspects when choosing the environment and tools we use to coach online.

If you’re not using a specialist coaching software or app like Moxiee, the most common tools online are an email account, a newsletter, a blog, a website and a Facebook page so those are the tools I’ll talk about.

The space we have for online coaching or training could be considered either infinitely large or simply the size our screen.  Either way, we need to make sure our tools are optimised for our screen, and especially for our smartphone, since that’s what all the “cool kids” have these days.

Know what your clients want from you and when

While this point is obvious when you’ve got a face to face in the session, it’s less obvious online.  Your clients want different things at different times online, and that’s a good thing.

Some clients want accountability, others motivation, others knowledge, others feedback, others answers but they want it to be friendly, timely, convenient – i.e. hear from you at the right time through their smartphone

Before you start stressing out about those emails – chill!

Just as you train your clients as to what to expect in person, you may need to retrain your clients as to what to expect online.

If you want to have a life, you don’t have to do everything real time. People are happy to wait so long as you’re consistent and have set the right expectations.

Forget instant, reactive email and text messages.  You simply want to send the right message to the right clients at the right time.  That’s why we need to be wise with the tools we use and way we communicate.

So without further ado, the first 5 of Justin’s 31.5 strategies for better client retention, reinterpreted to help you keep more clients online:


1. Run an exercise adherence program

These work basically the same online as they do offline.  You basically have a goal for the group and ask participants to record their milestones publicly so that by the end of the program you can declare winners or finishers.

These are good for client retention because they keep clients focused and motivated for a period of time.  Why would clients want to leave your service if they’re making progress and enjoying the challenge?

In Justin’s example it was a “Tour de Active” program where participants were recording their best cycle distance in 10 minutes everyday of the week for 3 weeks (signed off by coach) so that the organiser could tally up all the distances for the different teams to declare winners.

There is no reason why you couldn’t do this same kind of concept for your clients online. So you’ve got to decide how you want to facilitate it…

We’ll use our 3 checkpoints again…

Be yourself online

Many personal trainers are passionate, fun and energetic so if you’re like that, you have to do your best to convey that through your posts and messages.

Use imagery, emojis and lots of friendly language to get the same tone

Choose your environment and tools wisely 

Let’s use the same example. Most top personal trainers or fitness coaches have at least an email address, blog and facebook page. Those are the basic tools for helping clients online so we’ll focus on those.

Do you want clients to email you their progress…ummm…not really, that’s going to be a real pain to collect the information for so many people.  And actually to be honest, a website, blog and facebook page is great for sharing highlights and creating momentum but not great at receiving/collecting data for groups.

The simplest way to do it with free tools could be use a google sheet and private facebook group.

You create a google sheet for each team so the team leader can invite the participants,who can simply record their progress throughout the week.  It’s important that every team has a leader responsible for making sure the sheet’s filled in properly and frequently – otherwise it’s more work for you.

You can then use a private facebook group so that all participants/from each group can publicly record/prove their progress.  There’s a bunch of ways you could do this – either participants could take a picture of their times/distances with their smartphones, use an app like Strava or Map My Ride – all of which could be easily posted to the facebook private group page – or even screen shot their data from their app.

It’s probably overkill but if you did want to make sure no one was cheating, it would be easy to spot and deter if you asked all participants to copy and paste the url link of their facebook post in the google sheet when they record their result. The google sheet has a revision history feature so any strange behaviour, like later revising numbers, could be easily spotted and dealt with.

Know what your clients want from you

Your clients probably are most likely just wanting their efforts to be acknowledged throughout.

Facebook private groups do make this aspect easy because you can simply scroll down the facebook group page every few days and “like” every post and comment where needed.

A couple of well timed meme’s wouldn’t go amiss to keep up the inspiration nor would the occasional update on team results to stir up the competitive spirit and drive better results…

While timeliness is important online, responses don’t have to be real time. What people don’t like is inconsistency so know what time you’ve got available for this and create the right expectations around it.

2. Celebrate a Member Appreciation Day

In a gym, this could include offering fruit to all members, greeting them in a special way, giving small, meaningful gifts to key members, offering an extraordinary experience or simply thanking them individually.  We can look for similar tokens of appreciation online…

Be yourself online

Make sure you’re authentic with how you communicate and appreciate your clients. Think about how you appreciate your clients offline and then use that same sincerity with your appreciate your fans, followers and members online.

Choose your environment and tools wisely 

You’ve still got your 3 basic tools to spread your message: email, blog and Facebook page.

Email can be perfect if you want to send personal messages to particular individuals. This becomes time-consuming pretty quickly if you have a lot of clients, members or fans you’d like to acknowledge, even with a generous amount of copy and paste.

When you’ve got too many clients than you can possibly personally acknowledge, you’ve got the blog, facebook and group emails/newsletter.

Whenever you’re communicating with a group you’ve got the same problem – will your members see your message? On your blog, only 1 – 10% might see it, on your Facebook it might be just 10 – 20% and with a group email it could get up to 30 – 40% with the right subject line.

You have to make a tradeoff between time and personalisation and value…

Know what your clients want from you and when

People want to feel special, unique and personally cared for. When people feel like just one of the masses they don’t feel valued and don’t feel a sense of loyalty.

So your aim with a member appreciation day is to find the right way of making each member feel unique and special.  Start by thinking…what would make me feel so special that I would tell all my friends about it.

The first thing to remember is that this is not a sales pitch about why you’re awesome, it’s about saying thank you because your client is awesome. Can you create a relevant video, stage a fun photo or write a personal email acknowledging a recent client success…

The closer you get to creating a personal experience, the more valued your client will feel.

3. Create an Education Hub

Justin had a really compelling reason to create your own education hub – the “threat of substitution”.

While I’m sure you’re the best at what you do, you don’t have a monopoly on ideas, advise and success. You might think that you’re only competing with other professionals like you in your local area but actually, just like every other profession on the planet, you’re competing nationally and globally now.

This is seen best when your client hits a problem that you haven’t been able to or had the opportunity to solve.  Your client may not reach out to one of your “competitors” but is very likely to reach out to “Dr Google”

And the problem with google for you, is that you don’t rank very well which means your client is likely to come back with more questions than answers for you.  In fact, your client might decide after reading about the latest, popular fad in weight-loss that you’re not working out…

No need to freak out though, you can keep your customers by creating a fantastic resource and education hub for your clients to find out anything they might want to know about health, fitness or wellness.  It’s never been easier.

Be yourself online

You don’t need to be everything…a wellness coach, personal trainer, naturopath, life coach, dietitian, health coach, physiotherapist, physician…you just need to be you and refer to the other experts you trust.

The minimum you could do to create an education hub is simply to curate a list of the people you like and link to their content.  The best you can do is curate the content you like by either linking to it or re-writing it in your own words to reflect your approach (not plagiarising it).

Choose your environment and tools wisely 

Firstly decide if you want the content to be permanent or temporary.   If you want your content to be displayed in a permanent place that your clients can always refer to, use a blog or website.

There are plenty of easy, free wordpress templates to start with if you don’t have one yet. This is probably the best place to create your education hub.

If you want to drip feed this content in a more dynamic way, facebook page posts are what you should start with.   The good thing is that it’s also the simplest way to share content and for the content you curate to be passed on.

Problem is that your peeps are unlikely to search through your facebook page and think of it like an education hub because by default it’s ordered by time vs relevance.  So it’s not as easy for you to find and share previous, relevant posts.

Know what your clients want from you and when

So I would suggest creating a blog for this reason. Start with curating a simple list of the expert authors you agree with and include links to their websites so it’s convenient for your visitors to find them.

Then perhaps brainstorm the different areas of interest your clients and members will have. Prioritise these questions and then look for the right content.  Again start just by curating links and then look at how you can grow this by either summarising or personalising the content to make it more relevant for your clients.

4. Gather Groups

Gyms that have a vibrant group fitness component have much higher retention rates than those that only attract the individual. The key aspect of group fitness is the social aspect. You’re not having to motivate yourself and don’t have to progress in isolation.

Be yourself online

Stay personal, connected and inclusive because people don’t want to feel judged or talked down to.

Choose your environment and tools wisely 

Facebook private groups are by far the best tool for the job here.  Group emails are not nearly as engaging and you can’t create much of a community buzz like you can through Facebook.

People are on Facebook (like over 1 billion of us) so that’s why it’s so much easier to be where the people already are rather than forcing people into a blog or member forum where people have to make the extra effort to be there.

Know what your clients want from you and when

Working with a group is different to working with an individual. You have to act the entertainer for a group.

If you’re not going to do this through your own written words, then you need to find and share entertainment posts about a particular theme.

Use tools like Hootsuite or Buffer to release the right post at the right time though.

Key here is to be you but be systematic about it. No reason to jump all over the show. Think of some patterns and themes so you can provide a little more structure to you online groups. Most importantly, remember you are there for the group and not the other way around.

5. Run social activities

If you were doing these in person – it would be able bringing people together to do something.   Something entertaining or challenging.  What’s the equivalent online of bringing people together to go hiking or go out for a drink.

Be yourself online

As a coach, you need to be the “host of the party” and introduce people to each other so they can achieve more together.

Choose your environment and tools wisely 

There is a subtle difference between gathering a group (ongoing with focus on same goal) and running a social activity (event based around interest ).

You can use a Facebook private group for both but the social activity might be a one time thing.

Webinars can be social and engaging. You can stream a live interview with a relevant expert and have your members ask questions throughout.

You can simply promote the 1 hour that you’re going to be online, on Facebook, each week to do Q & A.

You can organise a time where you all watch an inspiring movie together and have the conversations on twitter using hashtags.

You can be just as creative online as you can in person but the big benefit is scale. You can have thousands of people online at the same time, whereas organising and talking with more than 20 – 50 people in person at a time quickly becomes impractical.

Know what your clients want from you and when

Your clients want to get to know each other in a social activity…not just you. You’re simply providing the excuse. The beautiful thing about social media is that the conversation is visible to everyone and can see multiple conversations happening at the same time – so clients can enjoy the one they want.


That’s just 5 of the customer retention tips we were talking about at the seminar with Justin.  There’s so many more tactics for keeping online clients engaged and loyal but we’ll have to leave it there for now before my fingertips rub off on the keyboard ;)


  1. Think of the online world simply reflecting and enhancing what is happening in the real world
  2. Client retention is all about making your clients feeling special
  3. Remember to make each strategy work for you online you need to:
    1. Be yourself
    2. Choose your environment and tools wisely
    3. Know what your clients want from you and when

To learn more about how to succeed at online coaching, just email me and will be happy to share the best content from Moxiee University –

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>