fitness-marketing-third-placeI’m right in the middle of reading “Onward” by Howard Shultz, the founder of Starbucks. I remember hearing about the “third place” a while back before I even read the book but now it’s even more intriguing. I think it was Big Chris McCombs that told me about that idea.

In the book they speak about wanting to make Starbucks the third place for their customers. Home. Work. Starbucks.

Creating that same idea for your training studio or boot camp is literally one of the easiest ways to improve client retention. Who wants to keep filling a leaky bucket of clients? You work your ass off to get new clients so you better keep them.

fitness-marketing-in-third-placeThink about it, people come from crappy jobs that they hate, busy lifestyles at home, commutes, hectic traffic and other stressors. But they COME. They show up at your studio or park or wherever you train and they want to put in work. Your place is one place that they can blow off steam, boost their own confidence, make friends, laugh, push past their limits (you know everyone lives in a little comfort circle so it feels great to get out of that) and make their bodies look awesome.


fitness-marketing-cool-businessThere are some really simple ways to make sure that you are creating that third place and not just making it another “thing” they have to do every day. We all know if you’re delivering great service and just being a cool person, people will want to stick around. There’s a little bit more to it than that though.



  1. Know everyone. I mean on a personal level. We keep our classes under 12 people so we literally know about their families, significant others (some of them even come to class), kids, pets, jobs, favorite music (they bring in their iPods often).
  2. We keep it small and charge more. I want really committed people, not $47 month boot campers out for the next best deal. We run them through a screening process and a 60 minute orientation before they even start. Sure, we run specials but for the most part people have some serious skin in the game and that makes them work harder.
  3. Say their names during workouts. There’s nothing more powerful for a person than to be acknowledged and praised. Instead of just saying “great job” be sure to say “great job Joe” and it makes it that much more effective.
  4. Myself and my trainer are Facebook friends with everyone. There are some folks that I don’t see because they train in her groups and visa versa. Regardless we’re always interacting on Facebook, posting workout pics, praising people and just being cool and fun.
  5. Client parties. This year we had a brewery tour and a dinner at Sam Adams where one of my clients is the manager. Then we had a Christmas party at my trainer’s house for everyone- lots of food, drinks and gag gifts. This makes people realize you’re bigger and cooler than most businesses because who else throws parties for their clients and customers?
  6. Client of the Month. Each month we’ll decide who has kicked the most ass in terms of attendance, attitude, results and just overall work ethic. That person gets the “black t-shirt” (these are never given out or sold otherwise) and their picture on Facebook, my blog and framed on the wall in the studio.
  7. Spotlight Sunday. I stole this idea from the great Carrie Kukuda. Every Sunday we put a client on the blog with their story. Some of them get very personal and it’s amazing the feedback and love that they get from everyone via Facebook and in the studio.
  8. Have fun. We push people in the workouts but we make sure they have fun. Everyone knows each other and they look forward to seeing their friends.


Overall we make sure this is not just a workout, it’s a lifestyle and slowly as people get acclimated to our culture, it does become their third place.


Callie Durbrow

Durbrow Performance Training