Robert Gerrish Tackles The Main Causes of Customer Churn

Published on: 
03 May 19
Posted in: 
47 min listen

In this episode, we talk to Robert Gerrish. He supports individuals starting, growing, fine-tuning or exiting their business. He founded the Flying Solo online community, co-wrote the bestseller of the same name, and in mid-2018 launched his latest book, ‘The 1-Minute Commute’ with the publisher, Pan Macmillan. He’s a podcaster, speaker and works one-on-one with small groups of independent professionals.

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Robert: But there is space in a lot of businesses and sometimes it can come after five years, sometimes it maybe 10 years in where you just get a little bit blur with the whole thing. “Really is this it? Is this my life? Is this all that I’m going to be doing?” And that’s the decision that I’ll find a number of people through the 10 or 12 years that I’ve been in this industry I do find people that have been going for quite a while that they get to a point where they’re just thinking, “What’s next? How do I stay excited in this business?”

Kevin: How is it going everyone? Welcome to the Fitness Founders Podcast. I’m Kevin Mannion, VP Marketing here at Glofox. This week we talk to Robert Gerrish who works with small business owners to fine tune, grow and exit their businesses. He founded the Flying Solo online community, co-wrote the bestselling book of the same name and had made 2018 released his latest book The 1 Minute Commute. He is a podcaster, speaker, and works one-on-one with established and aspiring entrepreneurs. Okay, let’s have a listen.

Robert, welcome to the show.  

Robert: Kevin, it’s great to be here. Thank you very much.

Kevin: Now, you are famous for creating, and I think eventually selling a community that you called Flying Solo. Can you tell us a little bit about this?

Robert: Yeah, sure. The danger here, I must tell you Kevin, is once you start me go into my story you might have to interrupt me and tell me to stop.

Kevin: You’ve got lots of time. Don’t worry.

Robert: Alright. So, yeah look, Flying Solo is a business that I started down here in Australia, so I’m talking to you from Sydney. I’m originally from London but I came to live in Sydney about 25 years ago. And I came here off to raise with marketing career in London with a small agency. I came here to Australia with a view to designing a different way of working. I was pretty burnt out by the time I arrived in Australia, and I wanted to work in a different way. So what I found when I got here is that an awful lot of people here, and it is the same indeed throughout most of Europe throughout the U.S., an awful lot of people worked by themselves in what I think of as a lifestyle business but it’s not. You know, often when you use the phrase “lifestyle business” you see these images of people lying in hammocks with their laptops, and this is technically unrealistic so the images. But in fact in Australia what there is, because the climate is on our side and there are lots of benefits to be living and working I guess in this environment, there are a lot of people that are running businesses that are rarely closely designed to suit how they want to live. And that was exactly where I was when I arrived and I thought:  “That’s what I want to be doing. I want to design a business”. You know, I’d recently met my now wife of 20 or more years. We wanted a solo family so I knew I wanted to build a business that was really going to suit our life.

And I sort of got into that space and started thinking about that, that’s when I realized just how many other people are doing it, but also what little support and any sense of community there was around these people. They’re all lone individuals building little businesses but didn’t sort of come together anyway. And this is in the late 1990s when the Internet was only really just kind of starting. We didn’t have blogs, we didn’t have forums, but we did have things called portals which were very clunky; so the places where people shared content. I’d always love writing so I kind of started writing and developed a little thing that sort of turned into a portal almost accidentally. Very soon after I was approached by a publisher who saw my work and said, “Will I write a book?” Then I was approached by a TV crew who were doing a big documentary on new work. So all this thing kind of, I realized I was on to something because as soon as I got sort of seen a bit, you know, the publicity just started almost automatically. So being a marketing man, I thought, “Okay, well, I’m clearly on to something here.” So I registered the name Flying Solo and I started this online community that over the next dozen or more years grew into a big business down here in Australia. So we have 120,000 members, a number of people, in all walks of life. We had a lot of people within this, fitness industry, whether they’d be individual trainers and practitioners, yoga instructors and so on, to people that were actually running a small studio themselves. We are looking to grow that.

That’s kind of what I did, and during the course of that I got involved with the fitness industry. I was approached to run some workshops for a big event down here called FILEX which some of your members may be aware of. So I presented and run workshops for that event for a number of years. And yeah, that’s kind of what it moved into, so that’s really I guess most of the last 12 or 15 years of my life. It’s dedicated to helping people build small businesses that rarely suit the way they want to live. So I’m all for growth, and expansion, and all of those things but I think the core of the work that I do is making sure that the person that runs the business is living the way they want to be living. That’s kind of what drives me is to help people create really effective enjoyable businesses.

Kevin: Okay. And you gather the community of more than 100,000 entrepreneurs. What was it that drew this people together? What kind of problems does everybody have?

Robert: Yeah, that’s a good question. Well, it’s interesting because we run research, a quite extensive research, every couple of years with the community and sadly every time we run it, we ran it about eight times while I was there, the challenges were the same and the order of the challenges were the same; so they’ve kind of etched in my mind. So the first and most constant challenge for people running a small business is having enough clients and having enough money so the two actually go very hand in hand. So client finding clients, retaining a clients; that’s absolutely the number help button. Now, bear in mind the community that we grew, a majority of those people were in these professional services. They were selling services be that training, personal fitness, design and all of these kind of things, more so than they were selling widgets or products. But number one help button is finding enough clients and making enough money in your business, so that’s number one.    

The second one was wearing two many hats, so trying to do everything. Now obviously when you’re in a very small business that to some extent kind of comes with a territory but it doesn’t have to be like that. So overwhelm is really number two. People were just finding, they had so many things to do that they just weren’t able to do anything or didn’t stance or feel that they were really getting to what were the priorities in their business. Now, I think since the growth and rise of social media so many things that distract us and pull as away, some of them very usefully, but occasionally they take this kind of suck our time. They take us away from where we need to be. So that was number two.        

Number three is actually very closely related, this kind of time management and having enough hours in the day to do the work you need to be doing. So a lot of people running a small business is running around somewhat like “headless chickens” is an expressions that I use. You know, just putting out fires, responding to things, not working efficiently and effectively so clearly two and three are quite close together.

The fourth point is actually getting the business model right. It’s actually really making sure that what you’ve got works. You know a lot of businesses are still very much in the kind of peaks and troughs type area. You know where business is good one month, bad the next month. There is a lot of businesses ran like that. So kind of ironing out the troughs, getting things to be much more constant and viable; that was the fourth help button. And you know from there it goes into a whole lot of others but those are the four that dominated.

Kevin: Sounds like you haven’t forgotten those. They’ve been well ingrained in your mind.  

Robert: I’m afraid they have. And no matter what we do that’s still largely the order. Marketing, marketing, marketing, is pretty well always number one. And it just that relate to your knowledge of, you know, you clearly have the best knowledge in your industry, would you say that those correlate very closely?    

Kevin: Yeah, I would say so. Yeah, number one, people that I talk to, number one thing is getting customers and keeping customers. It’s like the formula for growth and I definitely want to peak your brains in a little bit more detail on those. But I notice you’ve actually just started a new podcast. I think it’s called Rekindle and focused on how to stay focused and energized in business. And so tell me why did you move on to that topic or what makes you passionate about that?

Robert: Yeah, okay. Well, look, part of it to some extent, Kevin, I suppose is kind of where I am now in my own life so I am now in my early 60s. I’ve built a business, absolutely you do every day of running and growing that business and I’ve not exited that business. And so now I find myself to the point where I don’t want to grow another big business, kind of not my goal. So I kind of look around like what’s the one thing that is still within so much of the space that I love so much, this small business space. What’s the one thing that I see time and again? And it didn’t take me long to realize that this kind of middle space if you like, when you pretty well got the business model just about right, you kind of you know what you’re doing. You now have to do this thing. You’ve been doing it in many cases for probably a little while. So it’s a business that you know. It’s something that you’re not going to walk away from anytime soon because it’s what you know, it’s what you do. But there is a space in a lot of businesses and sometimes it can come after five years, sometimes it may be ten years in where you just get a little bit blur with the whole thing. “Really is this it? Is this my life? Is this all that I’m going to be doing?” And that’s a position that I find in a number of people through the 10 or 12 years that I’ve been in this industry. I do find people that have been going for quite a while but they get to a point where they’re just thinking, you know, kind of, “What’s next? How do I stay excited in this business?”

Now, when you’re an employee if you’re in that position you go to your boss and you go, “Hey, get me another job. Move me to a different department. Give me another challenge.” When you’re the business owner there is no one to go to to kind of have that conversation so that’s really what Rekindle is all about. I am talking to people that have either been through that kind of scenario or in that scenario and finding out what do they do to stay energized, focused and on tracked. Because I think when I look at sort of business failure and you would know, Kevin, as well anyone listening, that there is unfortunately a high incidence of business failures, knowing near as high as a lot of people talk about but it does happen. And often when businesses failed they don’t fail in some spectacular financial implosion. Often when a business fails it’s just because it gets too hard and the business owner thinks, “You know what? I think I’d rather going get a job than doing this.” And that pains me greatly, Kevin. That’s really why I started Rekindle and why I have started this new focus is I don’t want people to fall out of love with their business because it’s still the business they fell in love with.  

We shouldn’t, I don’t believe, I suppose there are parallels with relationships and marriages. You know, let’s rather than running away from things let’s fix it up. Let’s remind ourselves why we got here in the first place. Let’s look at those things that attracted us. And once you start to look, you’ll find that in many cases that actually, you know what? All the things I really love, they are still here. I just kind of I don’t notice them anymore or I don’t bring them to the fork quite so much. So that’s what I’m doing with Rekindle I hope overtime is I’m speaking to a lot of individuals and I’m learning it quite a lot myself about what people do to stay fresh and that I think is so important.

Kevin: Maybe let’s, for the sake of our listeners, break it down to some of the challenges they may be facing in the business. I think what you’re saying is you just become a little bit stale overall in how you perceive your business and the potential for it. Maybe if we look at a marketing perspective, where you would say, if I have a business that’s relatively established, where I might be, you know, falling off track or loosing focus when it comes to marketing?

Robert: Okay. Well, look, that’s a great question. And I’ve got a few things; I’ve got a few responses to that. The first thing, and a number of your listeners might well have heard of this, but there was some research done coincidentally again in Australia by a guy called John Gattorna. And he looked at why people left a business, why customers left a business, so I’m going to start from perhaps not what you would thought I’d start. So what this guy found through, so the extent of research that he did that 68% of people, of customers who leave the business, think of it in your industry, that is members who used to come to a gym that don’t come to the gym anymore. 68% of them leave because what he termed as perceived indifference. Perceived indifference, 7 out of 10, or 68% of people leave a business because of perceived indifference. What that means is they are leaving because they think that you don’t care. They think the business actually doesn’t really care about them very much. Now, whether those figures if you run that research just within the fitness industry I suspect it there would be a different figure. It might not be 68% because I suspect there are other personal factors why a member of a gym or a member of a yoga studio stops going and it’s sometimes not so much to do with perceived indifference, but it is lethargy and dry, even the individual you know will also play a large part. But I do think it’s interesting, and I think we should all learn from this that so many customers leave because they think that as business owners that we don’t care. Now if you think of it, sorry you are about to say something.

Kevin: No, I was just going to ask. Yeah, like what would be some examples in a fitness business of maybe something people aren’t thinking about that could be leaving a bad impressions with their customers.

Robert: Okay, that’s a great question. So I’ll give you an example, and let’s use, I was going to a café example but let’s use a fitness industry one. Right, so for many, many years, I used to go to a small fitness studio up the road from where I live. Now, I stopped going and in hindsight now I can look at it and say, you know what? The reason I stopped going actually was because of perceived indifference. Now this was a very small studio, Kevin, so this is probably not representative of a large number of your customers. This is a studio that has maybe four or five trainers. I can’t remember how many cubic feet it was. It was quite a small studio. Now, why did I stop going? I stopped going because I got into the fitness habit which is kind of as an individual that’s what I wanted. But I think my trainer basically got a bit bored with seeing me. You know, and that’s what I feel and when I went there I notice that when the first time I use to go there I got a nice warm reception. My kind of program for the day was all nicely worked out, the equipment was all nice and clean, the music was nicely considered, and then little by little, maybe over the course of a couple of years it wasn’t quite like that. When I walk in there the approach from my trainer was more kind of, “You know what to do, so you get started over there. I’ll be with you in a minute.” What did he do? He went and sat in the corner on his phone.

You know so little things like that. Now, that’s actually quite noticeable thing. But I think it is detail where people when they first join somewhere, and you think of a new business. You know, when you walk in all the staff are smiling at you. People turn around the minute you walk in the door. They don’t stand huddled in some kind of conversation behind the counter. When you walk into a studio, a trainer might be overworked with someone else but she or he will still smile at you and kind of welcome you with their eyes and their face. These are the sort of things but if you’re not careful they stop happening because we get used to the business, and we get used to the customers, and we don’t care as much as the water bottle maybe isn’t filled up quite as much as it is, the showers and the bathrooms aren’t cleaned as regularly. These little bits of detail that just people get into the habit, that is a business owner and the staff just gets a little but too comfortable and little bit into a habit. Now, that often the thing that can happen in a business.

And the thing that really bugs the hell out of me and I speak to a number of people about this is when you walk in somewhere and you’re standing to the counter and the reception area and no one, like, can anybody see me? Have I turned invisible? You know, this is the kind of the greeting, the welcome, the thank you for making it into this studio on this called wet, miserable day. You know, it’s making them feel, “Hey, you’re here.” It’s the greeting, it’s the welcome, and the detail that is so important and those are the little things that ease as away as a customer. And if there’s kind of losing a little bit of that own resolve which a lot of people do clearly within the fitness industry as a customer. If their resolve is getting a bit weaker and then they start to think, “You know, I don’t think this people notice if I came or didn’t.” You know, it’s not hard to see that that can result in people leaving. And also we’ve got now fiercely competitive businesses. You know, you might have a pilates studio but next door, 200 meters down the road there might be a yoga studio.

Kevin: Yup, lots of choice.

Robert: Absolutely lots of choice. And the chances are the new people are just a little bit bouncy, a little bit smilier, a little bit more polished than you are because you’ve been doing it for a while. So that’s one of the key things and I think what we should do as business owners, and not just in our own industry, but go and have a look at the people that have really got customers flocking in. What are they doing? You know, go and walk into an Apple store. Just go and look at the way, see the way that staff greet you and smile at you and welcome you. Look at those things. Go to a café that’s popular and then go to a café that’s unpopular and just sit there and work out what’s the difference. The chances are, it has nothing to do with the coffee. It’s more to do with the ambience, the greeting, the decoration, the sound, the noise, you know. It’s that detail that keeps customers.

There are so many times in business we think what keeps customers is dropping the price or upping the benefits, and sure those things can have a role. But the main people will pay premium, people will pay more if they feel that that institution, that studio, those individuals that work there actually care about them. That’s the key thing.

Kevin: Okay. And tell me, Robert, when you sit down with somebody in this situation that’s not seeing enough growth or you feel things or they feel things are going stale, what do you say to them? How do you help change their mindset? What are some of the things that you advice them to do?

Robert: Okay. Well, that’s another good question. In that scenario you painted is a classic one. You know, what often when I have someone in front of me who’s just feeling flatters attack. So the opening question I usually start with is, “Where do you get your energy from?” Now when you say that to somebody in that position, they will look at you with sort of hanger eyes and say, “I haven’t got any energy. I don’t feel I’ve got any energy.” I’ll say, “Okay. Let’s wind the clock back then to a time when you did when you were bouncing with energy and you were much more buoyant and upbeat than you are now. Just describe what was going on in your business and in your life at that point.” Now, when you ask that question, that really opens the floodgates.

Now, I’ll talk here more about personal and business for a second. Because when you ask a business owner, “When was it that you had most energy? What were you doing?” Often the responses you get, “Nothing to do with business.” Often what you’ll hear are things like, “When I had lots of energy I used to play soccer with a bunch of mates every weekend”, “I’d go out with my wife for dinner at least once a week or to the movies”, “I catch up with friends every couple of weeks, we go on bike rides.” You know, all these sort of activities start to come out but when we start to get under the pump what we tend to do is we stop doing the very things that gives us energy. And that’s the killer, once we stop doing those good things, and we fall into that trap of thinking, “Okay, business is a bit tough so I need to stay at work longer. I need to stare at my computer longer. I need to stare at my figures longer.” You know, that’s not the right solution. What we need to do as business owners, if we want to maintain the energy to run our businesses and re-energize our businesses, then we have to energize ourselves. And it’s quite ironic I think, but within this sort of the fitness industry, you know to think that anybody in that industry can be low on energy. But we both know I think that there are plenty of people that are. The people at the front desk may be all buffed, and polished, and shiny but the chances are there’s someone in the back room who is hunched over and feeling much less energetic.

So the first question is look at what you’re doing in your whole life. What’s the bounce of your life like? How much are you spending doing fun and recreational things? How much time are spending with friends and family? Looking at the makeup of your life that’s the place to start. Because often you’ll find that the business owner, who is really kind of struggling with energy and with trying to find solutions to go forward, is the person who has isolated themselves. You know, their mates, their friends don’t spent time with them because they are boring, to just journeying on about the struggling business. Their friends and family don’t want to spend much time with them because they’re just miserable. It’s a sad situation but it’s often what happens. So they end up feeling very isolated and alone, and that’s not a good situation.

Kevin: But it must be very hard to leave the office in that scenario to go and do those fun things. How do you convince people to take a chance on that?

Robert: Okay. Well, that’s a good point. It is difficult, but the situation is if I’ve got, I mean I supposed it’s to be easier for me. If I’ve got someone coming to me then it’s a little bit like if you go to a doctor and the doctor says, “Take this tablet three times a week, and stop smoking and go for 5 mile walk every day.” It’s what the doctor says so you’ll kind of do it. What I find is if somebody comes to me, I’m known for what I do, and if I say do this, chances are they might do it. It’s a bit like you go to a gym and the trainer says, “Okay, here is your program. You say you want to lose three inches around the waste here is what we are going to do.” You’ll do it. The first step is actually having the courage to stand up and go, something here is not right and I need some help. So that’s the first things.

So you don’t, I’m not suggesting and I’m not trying to do some kind of cheesy sale here. You don’t have to go to somebody but you can buy a book, and not just my book, any old book. You can buy books for $20. You can do courses at places like Udemy online. You know, there are so many means now by which we can upskill and learn more and we just need to do it. If you’re energy is low and your clarity is cloudy then let’s take some action. It’s just imagine your potential customer is walking into a fitness studio. That’s the kind of condition there and they are coming to you. So now, actually put yourself in that position. What are you going to do? What are three things that you’re going to start to do? That’s going to just clear the fog of it for you. And you know there are so, you can may be buddy up with a couple of people. Because often once you start to voice this with another couple of business owners maybe it’s a networking event or it’s some kind coffee of catch up, you’ll find that, “You know what? I feel a bit like that too.” So buddy up with somebody and say, “Okay, why don’t we both work on this together. Lets meet once a week or talk once a week and let’s see if we can just kind of change the energy around here a bit.” But the first thing is having the courage to go, to recognize that something needs to change. And once you do that then I’d think you’re on the way slowly at least.

Kevin: Okay. I’ve heard you talked about getting a coach or an accountability buddy to help improve your business, overall. What is that and where would somebody who is running a fitness business find one of those?

Robert: Okay. Well, look, finding a business coach to support you these days is pretty easy. When I started coaching in 1999, the way, funny enough that I had to explain to people who didn’t know what coaching was. I’ll say, “Well, you know how a fitness trainer is that person who runs alongside you? I am kind of like that but I am a business coach, so I will kind of run alongside you in your business.” So that was the analogy that I used to have to explain it.

Today, there are so many business coaches. There are so many people that are doing it so you don’t have to look terribly far. You just Google business coach and the name of your nearest sort of mega city, you will find a lot of business coaches. A business coach generally speaking will give a little bit of their time for free just to make sure that it fits right. So I would suggest to anybody listening who had not done it. Again, Google what it’s like working with a coach. Have a look at what are some of the discussions are. You can also Google how to find the right coach, lots of articles about that. But basically a coach is someone who will hold you accountable on a weekly, for monthly, monthly basis, whatever works for you and will work with you just like a trainer does. Work with you to work out what are your goals, what are your business goals, what are your personal goals, and will talk with you hopefully on a fairly regular basis and work. Okay, if that’s what you want to do? What are three things you’re going to do in the next seven days in that direction? And you will say, “Well, I’ll do this. I’ll do this. I’ll do this.” And coach say, “Okay, when I talk to you next time let’s see how you’ve gone with that.” Just that action and I’m simplifying it hugely, Kevin. But that just action knowing that somebody is kind of watching your corner, watching your back if you like often is the thing that brings about major change.  You’re not going to have to work with a coach forever, but it can absolutely be the thing that can set you on a new path, so well with it.

Kevin: A question though. How do you know you found a good coach?

Robert: Okay. Well, that’s a good question as well. How do you find if you’ve got a good coach? You should, for a start, you need to work with somebody who you feel that they are speaking the kind of language that resonates well with you. That they are not sort of too airy, furry and fluffy but they are actually hopefully they’ll have some track record, maybe some testimonials, they talk about the work they do. So we need to make sure that you’ve got someone who actually knows what they’re doing. But I think I honestly do believe good old fashion intuition is extremely useful, talk to the person, tell them what it is that you are trying to achieve and then just listen to what they’re saying and how they think they are going to do it, so look at their processes. You might also look and see where they’ve done their training. So these days to call yourself a coach you don’t need to done anything so you know how we look of what they’ve done and where they’ve come from. Again, testimonials are really key thing, look it testimonials.

The other thing is just too and a good question to ask the coach is, “How will I know that what I’m doing with you is working? What measures should we have?” And then just wait and see what the coach says, you know, because there should be measures. And if you’re working with a coach, the right coach, you will notice and feel change just as you would with, again, I keep coming about the personal trainers. You know, how do you know if you’re working with the right personal trainer? Well, one way is if you can feel it and you start to see results. The same is true with a coach. And if you are going there because you want to re-energize, well you should within a couple of sessions, start to feel somewhat re-energize. And the great thing is you’re not signing up to some ongoing, you shouldn’t sign up to some big long ongoing expensive contracts. You know, keep it simple to start with, just get a few sessions going and you’ll soon know whether the fit is right for you.

Kevin: Okay. I think you gave us some good recommendations there around re-energizing yourself. But tell me for people who are employing staff, administrative staff, personal or trainers, group trainers, personal trainers. How do you go about energizing those people if you feel things aren’t really running a hundred percent?

Robert: Okay. Well look, the first thing is and I’ll think this is something that some every business owner needs to take on the chin is, if you’ve got a number of staff that are low energy, demotivated then you need to go into the bathroom and look in the mirror, because staff take their lead from the business owner. So if there’s a general sense of low energy within a business, the top person that I believe is the most responsible for that. So that’s the first thing, you need to going to have a good long look at yourself, right? Because if people are demotivated and people are coming up to you sort of demanding more money, more time off, more whatever, if they are making those kind of demands, it’s because your business and your employment is not satisfying them. It’s not giving them enough energy and fulfilment, and that’s actually down to you. So that is the key thing I think is the people are low in energy and low in motivation, you need to firstly look at yourself and what are you doing. Because it’s often what happens in a business, particularly in a newish business, is in the early days, this sort of hopefully somewhat charismatic, somewhat energetic business owner is kind of always around, bouncing around from here to there, doing all of these things, and everybody feeds off that energy and that’s what often create, that’s why so many start up businesses are so totally exciting, it’s because they’re all centered round an individual or couple of people and everybody sucks on their energy.

Unfortunately, what happen then is business starts getting busy and that energetic bouncy person is now sitting on a corner staring a monitor, right? What has happened is the staffs have lost that person, because they’re over there now, they are worrying about cash flow and all that stuff. Now, that’s one of the many challenges of running a business is how do we juggle all that? Well, that’s a great question and we need to look at every business before we find the answer to that. But often if you are the source of energy and if you have taken yourself out of the picture that’s why your staff are demotivated and are feeling a bit flat. And so you need to shift that, either we need to get you out of the kind of doing of some of the business and back on the floor, if you like back doing being seen, being visible and that that’s all about delegation and how you structure your work. And if that’s just not possible then we need to some degree replicate the energy you had with someone else within the business. Again, what often will happen with the business that’s kind of under some kind of struggle is the business owner will be the person walking around with a very long face just looking, you know, the staff will be, “Oh Christ, what’s wrong with him today?” You know, that sort of stuff. Once you got that atmosphere permeating a business is not long before everybody just feels miserable.

Kevin: Okay.

Robert: That’s bit of a harsh response.

Kevin: No, I like it.

Robert: But where that needs to start is with the person who runs the business.

Kevin: Cool, okay. I am going to circle back and maybe pin you down a little bit more on my very first question. Let’s say I’ve had a change of mindset, that energy is running through the business, give us some tactics in marketing that people that you’re seeing working across small businesses? What is it that’s getting more people through the door? What can you leave our listeners with here that will just give some of a little bit of inspiration?

Robert: Okay. Perfect, alright. Well look, there’s a couple of things. So I talk a bit about perceive indifference, people leave a business because they think that business doesn’t care. So I still, I’m somewhat old school, and that’s my belief is that people stay with the business absolutely and they talk about the business to other people when they feel confident with the business does care about them. So that shift is a huge one. Now, if you want to absolutely retain costumers and grow word of mouth, and word of mouth is still a winner from our research, and I’m sure Kevin you will agree with this, word of mouth is still by far, by far the major source of new business in just about any small business. And within the fitness industry it’s absolutely must be right at the top of the list. Doesn’t matter what advertising promotions you do, what really works is when somebody leaves your fitness studio and says to someone else, “Oh my god I feel so good. I feel so fit. I feel so energize because that wonderful place I go to. They are so lovely to me. I can’t believe how lovely they are”, that’s what grows businesses, word of mouth.

Now, the people to talk well about your business means you absolutely should have number one of your list making a faster people. And any business owner who’s got their finger on the pulse will know who the people are in their business who are really supportive of what they do. They’ll know their costumers that really get something from their business. Now, again I’ll use a fitness studio sample, if you’re standing at a front counter and you’re there and you watch all your costumers come and join a course of a week, I guarantee you will recognize four, five, six, or ten of those people, they are the people that are the real supporters of what you’re doing. Does that makes sense to you, Kevin?

Kevin: Yeah it does. What do you do with them?

Robert: Right. What you do with them is you first you acknowledge that they are such strong supporters, and you enrol them in being advocates for you. So an advocate or a champion or raving fan, use whatever terms you want, those are the people that spread word of mouth. But in many cases, they don’t spread word of mouth because they don’t think that you need it, or that you want it. So what a lot of businesses will do is they will do a very sort of carte blanche, you know, one size fits all promotion. You know, introduce a new member and we’ll give you a free towel or free water bottle or something. So just a bulk standard promotion that goes to every member. And those sort of things have a role but the more effective thing to do is gather together the 10 or 20 people that you know are already kind of fans of your business, get them together on some special event, take them on some special event, host a barbeque for them when the sun get so shiny. Do something just for those people and then talk to them and say, “Hey, the reason I’ve got you all here today is because I know that you all really support what we do here, you make good use of what we do here, and we want more people like you. You are the people that are really benefiting from our services, that are enjoying a healthier life, you’re going to live longer, and what we want to do in this business is help more people benefit the way that you do. And the reason that we brought you here today is to let you know, please we would like more people like you to come here.” Here’s a gift to acknowledge the great support that you give us and for the next month please bring any guest with you that you feel will benefit from this and we’ll make a big…” You know, I making stuff on this.

Kevin: Yeah, I like it.

Robert: But that’s the critical thing, it’s to target your message at the people who already get you as opposed to what I call bench marketing which is where we do a broad message to anybody who listen. You know, we spent money on flyers, on radio campaigns, TV ads, magazine ads, you know largely a waste of money. A lot of them are waste of money. What we should be doing is targeting it to the people that already get us and then trying to excite and enrol their support. Because the thing is, Kevin, is that a lot of people that are already kind of supporters of you, they don’t actually know that you’re looking to grow your business. Because often what we say, they come in and they go, “Kevin, how are you going?” And you go, “Oh fantastic, mate. Everything is terrific.” We tend to do that. Whereas what we can be doing is saying to this people, “You know what? Everything is terrific, but doing another three people like you. You know, when I stand in front of a class and I see you in the room just makes me feel so good and so many other people are looking at how you exercise and how you train and I can see that they’re benefiting from your commitment. Gosh I could do more people like you.” That’s the kind of language that we should be using but we often don’t have the courage to do that. So what we end up doing is fairly blunt sort of message that we think is going to everybody but in fact it’s just ending up in the bin.

Kevin: Yeah, so you’re saying the key to word of mouth is be selective about who you ask and then make the ask.

Robert: Yeah. Yes, that’s right. What a lot of small businesses do and they do this in a, I’m sure this doesn’t happen much in your industry but they often do it in a very clumsy way. They will ask people for referrals or word of mouth, regardless of where the relationship is. You know, I’ve been to networking events where I meet somebody and already known the person for two minutes and they’re asking for referral. That just makes you go home and have a shower, that’s not good at all. But what we can do as businesses is to sit down with our key staff and go right to people, what I want to do here this morning is write a list of all the customers that come in here, all the members, the we believe really enjoy coming here, and really get something for coming here, these people that are engaged with us as a business. Now, you guys do that exercise and you’ll end up with a list of 20 people and you say, “Right, the task for the next week is I want all of you here to really make a super extra big fest of this people. Let just let them know how much we love them. Let’s say, “Hey, Dave you’re back. Thank you so much for coming again. It’s the third time this week. You are a legend.” Make a fast of those people, make them extra special, and then actually do side lapse to then and you kind of go, “Dave, you know what? It is so great having you in here. Boy, we could do it in another 3 or 4 people like you.”

Kevin: Yeah.

Robert: You know, that’s the way to it. Now, there’s another thing and I’m just going to go on to which is, if I may?

Kevin: Go on.

Robert: Okay. So I’m going to take us into a different industry which is the landscape design industry, and I’ll explain why in the minute.

Kevin: Okay.

Robert: Right. So in the landscape, you imagine that your job, Kevin, is to design a park for your local community. There’s a new piece of land come up and they want you to put a park in there. Now, often what a landscape designer will do, they’ll design this park for the council and they’ll put the parts into it and locations, you know, near the trees and to the playground and the swings and all that stuffs. Then what happens, they open the park, the public come in to it for the first time and what do they do? They tend to ignore some of the park.

Kevin: Walk on the grass.

Robert: Walk on the grass. And they create a different path because getting from here to there is actually a bug on your part. I’m going to walk through the trees, it’s quicker. And what happens is, you end up creating a sort of trampled bit of grass and then it turn into a dirt track. Anyway, those things are called desire line, so it’s a technical term for those little pathways, they are called desire lines. That’s when the public show you, “This is the way I want to go. I don’t want to follow your stupid path.” Now, why I’m saying all of these?

Well in business, there are desire lines in our businesses. People are showing us ways that we can improve that often we don’t notice. So that might be that they don’t put the used towels in the bin in the corner of the changing room. They throw them on a little ledge that happens to be there or it might be that they don’t park their cars in a way that they want to park and they park in somewhere else. Or they don’t put the dumbbells back where you want them to put then and they put them in somewhere else. This is your customers and this is just sort of you know pity examples. But our customers often show us the changes that we should be making to our business. But what we tend to do as business owners frequently is we’ll go, tatatat, you know, and go, “Don’t put that there, put that there.” You know we will try and keep people doing things the way we want.

Whereas often what we can do and this is very this can often help us in marketing our businesses is look at what your customers are doing. If they are not coming to your 5am class, but they are queuing for your 7am class, you know then that’s a desire line. They are showing you, you know forget the 5o’clock, let’s maybe do it on 6 o’clock, you know whatever. Our customers often show us the course that we should take. But if we’re not careful in our businesses, we ignore those desire lines. You know another great common ways how people use your website, how are they booking, how are they traversing through your website, what are they clicking on? And we can get a lot of these stats from our analytics. It’s just we just to have a look what are our customer showing us that maybe we’re ignoring.

And again, this is sort of this might not be sort of just kind of response you expect when you’re asking about marketing tactics. But often the solution to marketing is a lot closer than we think. Often it is as I said you talking about customers that really do understand us and kind of re-energizing them to talk more about us. It is also having a look at how customer are behaving or what they’re doing and seeing by shifting a few things we can create more of that. So marketing I think a mistake and I spent a large part of my sort of 30’s or all through my 30’s working in the marketing industry. Marketing, you know, and when I was a marketing consultant I would make it sound very high, so I could charge you higher fees, to do all sorts of marketing work for you. Marketing is actually at its heart is simple. Marketing is putting the right thing in front of the right person at the right time. You know, there’s no great science in marketing, really. Marketing consultant make it sound difficult to say so they could charge you more. But basically if we look what our customers are already doing, we look at the habits of people then that’s how we can benefit.

I’m jumping around, but let me give you another example. So we talk before about customers in your fitness center that other people that get you. Well if we’re doing, if we’re very active in social media and we want to put video content on social media, then the people that we should be talking about or interviewing are those people, the people that really gets us. So a great thing that I’ve seen in business do recent not in your industry but in a different industry, was they pick up the people they know really gets it and just as that person about to leave, they jump out in front of them with a smart phone and go, “David, how is your session this morning? What did you get from it?” And that’s all they say and then David would just be, “That is brilliant as usual. I got some, I can’t wait to get off to work now, I feel. Those are meaningful.” Those are brilliant that said by somebody you know, that’s the kind of stuff that we should be doing, to spread the message and get the people that already your fans to talk about you. Far best of that is some stilted staged video by somebody who really doesn’t want to be there.

Kevin: Yup, yeah. No, I think that’s what people want to watch and I think overall that’s a lot of food for thoughts. Okay, listen, Robert, like this has been fantastic. Wish we can stay longer, and before I let you go, tell me about your new book, the “One Minute Commute”. And just tell me how people can get in touch because I’m sure there’s going to be some people may be down on Australia who want to talk and learn a bit more from you.

Robert: Yeah sure, thank you. Well, so the One Minute Commute, and the title is you know suggesting that it might be home based business and the commuters from your living room to your front room. But it’s not just about running a home based businesses, about running a small business designed the way you wanted totally on your terms. And what I talk about in that book is basely what I’ve learned through following this 120,000 community, speaking with them, talking with them and it’s kind of everything I know about working in a very small business. So I go through a lot of marketing, I talk a lot about productivity, how to actually work efficiently and effectively. I talk a lot about staying motivated and upbeat. So all the kind of stuff I’ve been speaking about today. And you know I’m working on my next book now which will basically be about Rekindle, about how we keep the flame alive. Certainly my book, you can buy online and it’s Amazon and various other places. It’s just the One Minute Commute and there’s also an audio book version on audible.com so you can listen to me joining on about 7 hours. And so I’d love people to check that out. If they listen to podcast and Rekindle is on Apple podcast and Google podcast and wherever you get your podcast and basically all of the stuff that I do is on my website which is robertgerrish.com. Please pop by, say hello, any questions you got and hit me up and you know I love what I do. I hope it comes across in what I do, and it’s just been terrific to speak with you, Kevin, so thank you so much.

Kevin: Yeah. Thank you very much. I think all of our listeners are going to be delighted with us. Thank you very much and hopefully we chat again soon.

Robert: Okay thank you.

Kevin: All the best.

 

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