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5 Ways to Reach the ‘Disappearing Act’ Client

5 Ways to Reach the ‘Disappearing Act’ Client

One of the biggest failings of the Globo Gym model is the fact that they don’t actually want you to show up.

Their goal is to sell a ton of inexpensive memberships—sometimes as cheap as $10 bi-weekly—so members barely notice the money coming out of their accounts. But if all the paying members actually went to the gym regularly, the facility wouldn’t be able to accommodate the numbers.

The CrossFit affiliate business model is different. It relies on a much smaller membership base paying higher rates. The added value for these higher rates comes in the form of personalized attention from coaches, and the chance to be part of a true community. In other words, CrossFit coaches actually care that you’re showing up and getting fit. Unlike the Globo Gym, disappearing act clients is bad news for a CrossFit box!


Paul Scheuer of Body Armor CrossFit in San Antonio, Texas, believes one of the best ways to keep clients coming back for more comes down to building a great community, a vision and a brand that works for your specific box.

“If people see the value in your product, you work diligently to create your community vision—and your coaches are well-versed in your system—then when your customers leave, it’s only a matter of time until they return,” Scheuer said. “If they don’t, then you weren’t the home for them. No need to force that or chase them down.”

That being said, even those who have found a home at your box sometimes temporarily fall out of the gym routine: Maybe they became stressed out at work. Maybe they procreated and added the time-consuming responsibility of raising an offspring to their lives. Or maybe they accidentally hooked up with another member at a recent late-night BBQ and are scared to show up and face the consequences.

Whatever their specific reason is for being MIA, coaches from various boxes have found it’s important to get to the bottom of your client’s “pain”—to discover the true, uncensored reason for their absence.

5 Ways to Bring Back those Disappearing Act Clients

When I asked long time CrossFit coaches and owners to share their top tips to stop a client from going MIA, they were full of advice. Some of the most commons tips were as follows:

5. Use Technology

As your membership grows, it gets harder and harder to keep track of who is showing up and who isn’t.

Kyle Oberndorf of CrossFit New West in New Westminster, B.C., whose background is in sales and marketing, says why not make your life easier by using client management software that keeps track of attendance and does much of the dirty work for you.

“We have a systematized automated response that goes out to every member who hasn’t shown up. We have those set up to go out seven and 14 days without attendance,” Oberndorf said. Also, if someone does leave his gym, the system contacts the client after three, six, nine and 12 months after his departure, unless the person moved from the area.


This doesn’t mean Oberndorf relies solely on informal technology—he also texts and calls clients who are MIA—but getting your clients in the habit of signing in everyday, and using technology to signal you toward the missing clients, takes the guesswork out of it.

Jason Harpst of CrossFit Ergon in Clarksville, Tennessee, also believes technology is good, but only up to a point. Making is personal, and getting to the bottom of why they haven’t been showing up, is the most important thing.

“Usually we send the members direct email that is personalized to their situation,” Harpst said. “Trying to relate to our members on a personal level helps build the box community and everyone is more like family versus (being) just another member.”

In light of this, when someone falls off the gym wagon for a week or two, his automated system that keeps track of attendance let’s him know it’s time to message the client. Then Harpst sends the client a personal message to check in, find out exactly what has been keeping him or her from the box, and come up with a personalized solution to bring the client back.

4. Tough Love

Perennial Canada West Regional powerhouse competitor Erica Livett explained she employs a slightly tough love approach and send messages to rogue clients, such as:

“Get your ass in my gym,” or “Don’t make me hunt you down with the KBs,” Livett said, adding that messages like this always get a response.

“(I’ll) threaten to show up at their work with KB in tow and make them workout in front of their workmates,” she said.

She added: “I use humour a lot, but am also very sensitive to situations.”


If the client doesn’t resurface after Livett’s facetious threats, she follows up with a phone call to have a serious conversation and find out what’s truly going on, and how she can help.

3. Informal and Organic

Oberndorf believes one of the keys to successfully bringing a client back after a hiatus is to keep your interaction informal and friendly.

He doesn’t believe in offering discounts or financial incentives to essentially bribe the client back into the community. Instead, he thinks it’s best to treat your clients the way you’d treat a good friend you haven’t seen for a while.

His favourite method of reaching the person is through Facebook.

“I have almost every member as a Facebook friend, so we see what they are up to,” he said. “I hate e-mail…E-mails can get lost or blocked…I can see if they saw (or) read my Facebook message. And it feels friendlier, too.”

He added: “It’s very fluid and impromptu.”

2. Meet up Outside the Gym

Sometimes when you reach out to your clients, they’ll reply and spill their heart out about what’s going on in their lives.

“My husband cheated on me and I’ve been pounding a tub of Ben and Jerry’s five nights a week,” a client might admit.

Or, “I started smoking again and have been drunk since July. Borderline depressed.”

Coaches say these types of vulnerable clients are ripe for the picking: This is the perfect time to take him or her out for breakfast or coffee. Sit him down, have a real conversation, and find out what’s really hurting him.

When a client does finally drop his defences, opens up and stops making excuses for his absence, it usually means he’s ready to re-commit to the gym.

Master's CrossFit Games athlete Troy Straith from CrossFit BC in Vancouver uses the 'meet up outside the gym' tip pre-emptively: He often goes out for coffee or breakfast with his last class of the morning.

"Coffee or break after class is a great way to get athletes feeling connected to the gym," Straith said. "Each athlete has to feel connected to the community of the gym; otherwise they may as well go to Globo."


1. Humour is the Best Medicine

"A lonely tear falls

Fat gathers along waistline

Return to what was."

The latter Haiku was written—and sent to a client who hadn’t shown up for six weeks—by long-time CrossFit coach and four-time CrossFit Games competitor (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011) Andrew Swartz.

His client appreciated the humour in the traditional Japanese mood poem, laughed, felt instantly loved, and returned to the gym. Someone had, after all, taken the time to write a poem for him!

A Lonely Tear Falls


Whether you’re an advocate of humour and poem-writing, technology, Facebook interaction, or a tough love approach, coaches agree it’s important to find a way to keep your clients committed to their goals. And the best way to do this is to get to know your clients, as opposed to treating them like just another paying member at the gym.

While different methods work for different coaches and different clients, the only method that doesn’t work is doing nothing at all. That’s what the Globo Gyms, with their empty treadmills, are for. 



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