Episode 284

Hosting Community Events to Generate Leads with Pete Dupuis

In this episode, Pete Dupuis joins me to talk about hosting community events to generate leads.

[00:00:00] Hello, my friend on today’s episode, I’m speaking with Pete and we’re talking about our playbook for having community events at your gym that drive leads. So if you’re used to doing events at your gym, happy hours, potlucks, boot camps, but they don’t ever generate leads for you. And you’re hoping that these events are ones where your clients will bring their friends and their families and their coworkers.

You want to get more bodies into these events to drive more leads into your gym. This is the episode for you. So keep on listening.

Welcome to the business for unicorns podcast, where we help gym owners unleash the full potential of their business. I’m your host, Michael Keeler. Join me each week for actionable advice, expert insights, and the inside scoop on what it really takes to level up your gym, get ready to unlock your potential.

And become a real unicorn in the fitness [00:01:00] industry. Let’s begin.

Hello, fitness business nerds. What’s up? Welcome to another episode of the Business for Unicorns podcast. And I’m back, back, back again with Pete. What’s up, my friend? Hello. Hello. Hello again. What’s happening? We’re recording this in the midst of fall and, and I don’t know about you, but I’m loving this fall.

It finally stopped raining here and I’m looking at my window and it’s beautiful and the leaves are changing and I like the cool air. If we could just keep this temperature for a while, I’d be super stoked about life here in the Northeast. Oh yeah, hoodies and shorts. That’s it. That’s it. Yeah. Before we dive in, this is actually maybe my last reminder to all of you listeners.

That right now, if you’re listening to this podcast, when it’s released, we are in the midst of enrollment for unicorn society, and we only do this right now twice a year, so it’s your last chance to get in and start working with us at the beginning of 2024. And our enrollment ends on November 19th. So do it.

If you’ve listened to this podcast for [00:02:00] days, weeks, months, or years, and you’ve, and you’ve thought about implementing. Many, or all of the things we’ve talked about here, but haven’t been able to do it yourself. Maybe it’s time for help. Maybe it’s time to reach out and work with the people that you’re actually listening to on this podcast.

And we’d be delighted to talk to you if you fill out the application on our website, link down in the show notes, all you’re going to commit to is a conversation where you’re probably going to talk to Ben and you’re going to talk about whether we’re a good fit, but there’s no obligation. We’re not going to hard sell you.

We just want to see if we can help and if we can be a supportive. Uh, as coaches and mentors to you, we want to, so go click that link and apply before November 19th, anything you would add to that, Pete, I was envisioning Ben giving a hard sell and it sounds out of character. It’s not very convenient. My word audience that there are no hard sells coming in those.

It wouldn’t be very Canadian of him. Let’s dive in. Today’s topic is a topic that came to you, came to us from some listeners. I think they submitted it on through our Instagram. And the question was really, can [00:03:00] we do a little bit of a deep dive about how to throw an event? At your gym, that’s a community event where you generate leads, right?

A lot of people do this. They do like an open house or they’ll do a workshop or like a health day or a field day or a potluck, right? There’s some community event where they do something for the benefit of their current clients, but they’re also hoping to generate leads mostly through referrals. And this is an event that can be really successful.

In fact, when Mark Fisher fitness was first starting, we did, uh, these parties after our snatch in six weeks program. So every six to eight weeks, we’re having these big parties and we, everyone who walked in the door, who was not already a member on our list had to sign in and we collected names and phone numbers and emails.

And a big part of how MLF grew in those early years was people bringing friends and coworkers to our. Badass parties. And so I’m a big fan of the strategy. I think it can really work when it’s done well, but today we’re going to dive in and Pete and I will both share some of our experience using events to drive leads.

Kick us off, Pete. Tell me a little bit about what [00:04:00] your, some of your experiences here. We’re fresh off of an event of this nature. This past Saturday, we had one of our charity string camps. Those are every four months up here at CSP. So last one was in July. We’re recording this one in late October here and.

Just had a fresh one, and we’re seeing incremental increases in participation in these. Mostly because, well, there are two things that drive leads on these. Picking a good cause, for starters, and there are plenty of causes that are absolutely worthy on paper, but I have some personal rules for how I select them because I have found in the past that the cause you choose will, will dramatically swing.

in your favor or against you based on how big of an operation they are. Like I’ve, I did a Susan G. Komen one for breast cancer awareness. And I quickly learned that as much as they like the one to 2, 000 we raised for them at the event. [00:05:00] We’re not a meaningful enough sum of money for them to apply any resources toward us.

So basically we just get their blessing to use their branding and then it’s just cool. Just let us know when you got our money and we’re on our own. Whereas if I pick a local cause, I find that the people who are on the team driving awareness to their cause, they commit themselves to driving awareness to our mutual cause and they show up with their people, their team.

And I learned that less and more engaged on that local level. Yeah, I have one other lesson I learned this summer, which I’ll tell you killer we had. Can I just say this first before you dive into that? I just want to say, I love that you started with a charity event, right? Cause I think it’s honestly, for most of you listening, if you haven’t done this kind of community event before, I think finding a local charity that really matters to you personally, really matters to like your avatar.

That is something they genuinely care about. I think it’s a great way to gather people around, not only because you can partner with an organization who will. In some cases, like you said, bring their [00:06:00] own resources, invite their own people and their followers. But also it’s an event where you’re like leading with the values first.

Well, you’re leading with, let’s give a shit about the people around us, about our community, about this cause, what a great reason to bring people together. What a great way to use your gym as like a community resource. And so I just want to say, not all events have to be around charities, of course, but when you can have a charity at the heart of it, I think it’s an amazing place to start.

So I just wanted to say two thumbs up to that idea, but sorry, keep on going. I cut you off. Yeah. Ours is almost exclusively driven around charitable causes. I find that, uh, the goodwill associated tends to put more bodies in the room. But I was going to say that we had our most attended event of this nature ever this past July and the cause was raising funds for a therapy dog that works with sick children at a local hospital.

And you want to talk about checking a few boxes. If you can’t grab your head around throwing [00:07:00] 20 bucks. at a cause that supports an animal that makes kids with cancer feel happy. I’m sorry, you’re dead inside and my wife has hammered this point home to me so many times since that event. She’s like, have you picked a new animal for your next event?

And I said, no, Katie, we’re doing a local food pantry and she’s like, no, it’s all animals all the time. And I was like, how about we feed the locals? And she’s like, no, animals fill that place up. Are animals feeding them? Then no. So for us, it was Valentina, the therapy dog. And she came, that was the key part.

Valentina came with her handler and she hung out and she was part of it. And. Everybody got to interact with this adorable black lab. And that cause just exploded to the point where we have already established what weekend it’s happening next July. And Valentina owns the July slot on our charity event cause indefinitely.

That’s a random piece of advice, but advice nonetheless. No, I [00:08:00] love that. I think that’s great. And I think, again, charities are a great place to start, charities that matter to people. And I think that you actually, by saying that, checked one of the boxes, I think that are like a critical piece here. I’ll give three or four things maybe throughout this podcast I think are critical.

One of them, as you mentioned, is give people a reason to come to this event. And a compelling reason, like a thing that they can’t do all the time, if you’re just doing a bootcamp workout all the time or anything like they can do that other places. How often can you pet, what was the dog’s name? Valentina.

When can you pet and meet a celebrity like Valentina, right? Like you can’t, right? Like that’s a special reason to come. And it doesn’t have to be charity related. Like I said, at MFF parties, sometimes we would have indoors, we’d rent, we’d have a venue. We would bring like a bouncy castle or like a, what are those things called?

A bull riding thing. Or we would have, um, live performances, like a band or a singer. Or we’d have a Food truck. We went into New York, but you could have a food truck or something that gives them a reason to [00:09:00] come. That’s not something they can do all the time. And at supporting a charity, I think is at the top of the list for things I think y’all should consider.

But I think that’s a real important tenant of these events. I know before we recorded, you were talking about the fact that some of these events plant a seed in people that maybe it doesn’t pay off right away. And I’ve seen that as well. So you may want to talk a little bit about that. Yeah. I shared a story with a coach and client earlier today.

We. We host an annual event called the night with the pros and it’s where we get a panel of major league baseball, affiliated athletes and industry adjacent personalities. So that might be like an orthopedic surgeon who. Works on people with baseball related injuries, or it might be a division one college coach.

It’s been a variety of different types of personalities, but what we do is we set up a panel and we bring in parents and the youth athletes, and we allow them basically to fire away with all the questions they could possibly have. And these typically end up being questions relating to club sports, the college recruiting process, [00:10:00] how people use their time and resources during the mid to late high school years, position them to potentially play at the college level.

Things of that nature. And what happens is it draws parents, a number of parents and kids who aren’t yet ready for our services. And so at the back end, a lot of people feel compelled to ask us to work with us. And if I’ve got a nine or a 10 year old and his dad standing in front of me asking for training, we take a hard line policy.

No, we don’t, we don’t have a service to offer you. And it’s not that we don’t like you. It’s that you, it’s not in your best interest. To start utilizing the services we offer. So sure, we could do it safely. We could put a nine year old in the gym and make sure not to hurt them basically and teach them a handful of things.

But the reality is it’s not necessary, which is why my nine and a half year old is not currently lifting weights with us. It’s just, he’s shooting hoops in the warmup area, but he’s not lifting weights. And so what I did was I figured out who the [00:11:00] best service provider in our area is for that sub 12 year old athlete who wants to get into a weight room and see what the gym’s like a little bit.

And I punt to them a hundred percent of the time. And so I say to the parent, look, it’s just not the right time where we won’t deliver a great experience for you. If we start now, I’d suggest you go check out this service provider. And if you decide that you’d like to move on from them and try our services when your son or daughter are 12 or 13 years old, we’d be thrilled to work with you.

And I’ve been doing that for a couple of years and recently I had a parent message me asking for documentation of training for the year for their health insurance reimbursement. And this person spent over 10, 000 with us this past year between his two sons. And I said to him, refresh my memory, how did you hear about us?

Way back when yeah, and he’s oh you kicked me out after a night with the pros a couple years back when my kids Were too young you booted me [00:12:00] down the road Yeah, and I was like, I’m so thrilled to have you back and he made two interesting points He’s I had two very meaningful takeaways there One you had the integrity to take the best interest of the athlete into consideration And not just spend my dollars for me and two, there’s value in the long game.

It made me feel like you guys were definitely going to be here in a few years, so I could wait and it, it made me realize how important. Uh, a long term vision is on these events that don’t always feel like they bear fruit right away. It’s easy to do one and be like, yeah, I got bodies in the room, but nobody gave me money.

Other than raising funds for the event. There’s no one who’s like dying, itching, and scratching to work with us right this second. And my suggestion is that you keep throwing as many things at the wall as you can, see what sticks because those leads are going to manifest themselves at times you don’t expect.

And it’s always too early to quit on the next event is my mindset. [00:13:00] I think it’s such a great story, Pete. I love that you told it because I think too often people do that where they have an event, they make all these connections, they get fresh bodies into their space. Connect and then because they didn’t buy or convert that day or that week or that month They feel like it was a failure and the reality is a lot of times these events are just like the start of a relationship Right.

It’s the very first time your meetings the first time you come to their space. Maybe they came with a friend They didn’t even know what to expect, but we had that happen many times where ninjas Soon to be clients would come to multiple parties. I’d see them a ton of times at our parties, drinking our booze, dancing with our ninjas, but then it would be like months or years before they circled back and decided to come join us.

For a million and one reasons, they weren’t ready, they weren’t financially ready, they were already committed somewhere else. And I think that’s a really important part of this, and maybe I’ll nail this down as one of the criteria I think is critical, which is, after an event like this, assuming you’ve collected people’s names, phone numbers, and emails, which is critical, there has to be a follow up plan.

And you should, [00:14:00] as much as you can, try and get everyone who’s there to take a next step soon. Should follow up that night, the next day, emails, a few texts, thanking them for coming, making them an offer, usually for your low buyer offer. But part of that is also an acknowledgement that not everyone’s going to convert.

So making sure that anyone who’s not converting goes on some sort of long term nurture, whether that’s just your long term email list, or you encourage them to follow you on social media, that they’re now part of your community. Since you’ve connected and you started your friendship, make sure that even if they don’t convert, you still keep them in the loop and you can always circle back to those people three months later, say, Hey, just want to say hi again.

Thanks so much for coming. Just circling back to see is now a good time for you to come try us out. Why not? But if you’re going to do an event like this and spend all this time getting people into your space, have a follow up strategy. And know that some of the follow up strategy is going to make a long term.

Totally agree. I will give you one final idea that relates to this. Yeah. The charity events. I have a email list, a segmented portion of my [00:15:00] list that I have titled the file homecoming. And this is former CSP strength camp clients that I have minimal intentions of winning back. For example, there’s a gentleman named Carl who is like the best, high energy, awesome guy.

But he left for CrossFit because he is designed for CrossFit. Like he is clearly the happiest, most engaged CrossFit user in our community. He’s the face of their social media. He is just like this unbelievable brand ambassador for them. But he started with us a couple of years ago and he never ever misses a charity event when we host one and he brings friends, he brings employees.

And so I have this list that I email and I say, Hey. Long time, no talk. I’m not here to sell you anything. I want to remind you that we’re hosting this charity event. It would be really cool if you want to come in and see some old faces, catch up, shoot the shit a little bit. We’d be so thrilled to have you hope you’re still killing it at CrossFit.

This is the [00:16:00] cause. It would be such a pleasure to have you in the gym. I don’t have any intention of selling them. There is no follow up on the back end other than maybe a, Hey, thanks for coming. The next one’s going to be on this date. And I’m going to show up in your inbox again, but not until then. And some of the most kind of consistent attendees of these events.

Are people on that list and they still send us business. It might not be them, but they were for us friends and we have tons of goodwill with them. Yeah. I think that’s so critical. I think that’s critical. Yeah. I mean, I’ll share one or two last thoughts as well. And we can maybe wrap this up because I think there’s two things.

One I said already, but I want to nail it down as really critical is that I think we need to any event in your space, you’ve got to give people an opportunity to register in advance. There has to be some place where people can say, yes, I’m coming, whether it’s a Google form or an Evite, or you use something like an Eventbrite.

I don’t care what the thing is. It can be a register, enroll through your website or as a class. I don’t care. But I love the idea that people have to [00:17:00] RSVP. There’s a link that they can share and invite their friends and coworkers and families, and you’re actively encouraging them to do that. And then even if they don’t show.

You’ve captured their name and phone number and email, and if they’ve RSVP, it also helps you with a head count. So, you know, how many chairs do I need? How many bottles of wine? How many, whatever you need for the event. It really does help. And so I think all too often people have these great events and I ask them, okay, cool.

How many people said they’re coming? They’re like, I don’t know. I was like, let’s tomorrow, how are you planning for this? If you don’t even know who’s coming, you can give them a chance to RSVP. So I think capture people’s information in advance, I think is really critical. And I think there was one more thing I was going to say, how’s it going to come back to me?

Yeah. I don’t know if it’s going to be a future. It’s going to be a future episode, it’s going to be a future, yeah, a dot, but I think, I think the things we covered just to recap are get their contact information in advance, give them like a reason to come, whether it’s a, for a charity or some cool entertainment or something fun [00:18:00] and engaging your avatar is going to like, and then have a follow up strategy, a follow up strategy that gets people to convert right away if they can.

And if not, it might be a long haul. Oh, I thought of it. My recap brought it back to me. I’ll say this, that. We mentioned partnering with, with charities, but another big way to leverage events is just to get to partner with other businesses, not just charities. And we have a whole playbook for this in Unicorn Society.

So if you want to come up, become a member, we’ll give you step by step instructions for how to do this. But it really, the reason you want to partner with other businesses is you want to leverage other communities of people to invite their people. To your event. So not just putting out a few social media posts, right?

But as, as Pete illustrated earlier, you know, working with that local charity, that charity is going to send out on their social media, your event. They’re going to send out on their email lists, the event, their people who work there are going to be talking about inviting their friends and their donors.

And so the more you can partner, whether it’s at the local charity or local coffee shop or brewery or hair salon, you want to partner with other businesses to help [00:19:00] promote your event, and maybe they want to meet your community. You want to meet their community. It’s a way to get more bodies to the door.

And even if the carrot on the stick, you can dangle for the other businesses. If we co host this in our space, I’ll share the email list with you. You can sell them haircuts and I’m going to sell them gym memberships. And I think that’s, it’s a really valuable way to get just more people to enroll and more people to, um, start friendships with.

We do this routinely with our in house PT clinic as well. Shared lists, mutual objectives. It’s so important. It’s so important. You love it. Events take work. They take work. And so get as many bodies into the door as you can. And we just, I did a podcast a few months ago with one of our Unicorn Center members, Mike Baranas, who has been working with partnerships for years in his community.

And he, he does like a local 0. 5 K that he gets like hundreds of leads from in a single day, but it didn’t happen overnight. This is a relationships he’s been developing with people in his community for years. And I think you dear listener can do this as well. Anything you want to say to wrap up here, [00:20:00] Peter?

No, we got to kill it there. I got to go pick up some kids at school. Got to go get some kids. Listeners, I hope you found this valuable. Like I said, we shared a snippet of some of the playbooks we have in our Unicorn Society content library. If you want to work with us, you get access to all of that. Just click the link down below in the bio and hit the application button before November 19th, if you can.

And we hope to talk to you soon. Have a great rest of your day, Pete. See you on the next one. Pleasure as always.