7 ways to retain existing athletes

In the first part of this article, we talked about how to attract new athletes to your coaching business. This time, we’ll discuss what you can do to retain existing athletes; because, let’s face it, what’s the use of getting new athletes on board, if you can’t keep them?

How to choose the proper tactics to retain existing athletes

To retain existing athletes and encourage a long-term relationship with them, you need to choose the tactics that can get you there. And how do you know that you’ve chosen the right tactics? Well, they need to answer the following simple questions, affirmatively:

1. Do they fit your budget?

If the tactics you’ve chosen fit your budget, it means that you can act upon them to get the results you want; simple as that.

2. Do they work with your customer profiles?

Of course, they need to be able to fulfill certain requirements that pertain to your customer profiles; or else, your marketing strategy will not be relevant and it won’t work.

3. Do they work well with your niche?

That’s an obvious one, you are an endurance coach, not a realtor (duh). So, these tactics need to work well with your niche, whatever this may be — running coach, triathlon coach, etc. If you’re not sure about your tactics — and whether they work well or not with your niche — you can always do a little research on your competition.

4. Can you measure them?

This is crucial. If you can’t measure them, you can’t possibly know what works best for your business. Without measuring and analyzing your marketing tactics, you won’t know where you should invest your time, energy, and budget, to retain your athletes.

5. Do you have access to the required know-how?

If you don’t know how to apply those tactics, then, you better find out whether you have access to the required know-how or not. In case you don’t, prepare a budget to outsource them to someone who can pull them off. Doing so will certainly save you time and effort; and, possibly costly mistakes. 

6. Do your competitors use them?

Turning to your competition to see if other coaches are already using these tactics, will help you understand if they’re worth your while. And, if your competitors use them, ask yourself: Are these tactics working for them? Do they help them retain their existing athletes? If so, how? 

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7. What kind of results do you expect from them?

Each tactic focuses on a different aspect of your marketing strategy. And, as mentioned, you need to measure them to follow up on the results they bring. But, to do so, first, you need to be able to set goals for each one separately, to know what to expect.

8. Do they yield a satisfactory conversion rate?

To briefly fill you in on this marketing term: The conversion rate is but a metric that shows you how many visitors completed a desired action on your website. Then, the number of ‘converted’ visitors is divided by the total number of visitors you had, at a given timeframe, to offer you a perspective; that’s the conversion rate. A well-planned and executed marketing tactic will increase exposure to more leads; which can help you yield a satisfactory conversion rate, down the line.  

How to retain existing athletes

Now that we’ve touched on tactics, and how to choose the right ones, let’s roll up our sleeves, and delve into more advanced actions you can take, to retain existing athletes.

1. Go through your churn metrics, regularly

Churn rate —  yet another marketing term for ya 😬 —  is a metric that shows how many clients stopped buying from you, over a certain period of time. To offer a simple example, let’s say that you coach 100 athletes; if 5 of them drop out, your churn rate is 5%. As you can deduce, the higher the churn rate, the more painful it gets. That’s why you need to go through your churn metrics often, change the course of action, if necessary, and find ways to retain your clients.

2. Implement a process to allow for a customer feedback loop

It can be a very simple process, like asking for feedback from your athletes every once in a while; perhaps, biannually or annually — after the end of the season. Or it can be more indirect, sending them an email with a questionnaire to fill in and send back to you. The former is a direct way to get the information you want; yet, the latter can be more targeted and focused. Whatever suits you best, though, these two are certainly not the only processes you can implement for customer feedback.

3. Build trust with athletes

You already know the importance of trust between coaches and their athletes. Naturally, this trust extends to the business level, as well. Your athletes — who are your clients, too — need to feel that you’ve got their back, no matter what. If they trust you, they believe in you. And, if they believe in you, then, you have loyal clients. Yet, trust is a very delicate thing — hard to build, easy to break; thus, you need to tend to it, at all times, both as a coach and an entrepreneur.

4. Use a CRM feature set to manage athlete communication

A CRM system (Customer Relationship Management) can help you manage all your communication with your prospective and existing clients. Therefore, it would be a good solution to use a CRM tool to improve business contacts and retain existing athletes. The good news is that there are many CRM options in the market; and you can find the one that meets both your budget and feature set requirements.

5. Implement newsletter campaigns at regular intervals

Newsletter campaigns are an effective way to keep your existing athletes updated. Updated on what, you may ask. Well, on anything (relevant):

  • Offers and discounts
  • New services
  • Collaborations
  • Educational activities you may organize and host, etc.

6. Host webinars and other educational activities

Webinars, and other educational activities, are great for boosting your brand, and marketing the services you offer. In fact, they’re the perfect communication tool for enabling interaction and engagement with your clients. And, engagement equals retention. Apart from that, educational events are also a great opportunity to display your expertise, skills and even authority in your niche. 

7. Offer a differentiation factor from the competition (that is hard to copy)

This can make a world of a difference in achieving athlete retention, increased brand awareness, and business growth. A strong differentiation factor — or a competitive advantage, if you like — immediately sets you apart from your competitors; and inspires lasting brand loyalty in your clients. However, in order for it to work, it must be hard — if not impossible — to copy; otherwise, it’s not really an efficient differentiation factor — or, rather, a competitive advantage. 

Use customer retention strategies

We’ve broken down the most effective customer retention strategies to save you the time and effort in trying to find the ones that will inspire loyalty in your athletes. Are you ready to take notes? 

1. Leverage your values and mission to inspire and retain athletes

Your values and mission are your “raison d’être”, as a coach. And it is so easy to inspire your athletes, leveraging these two fundamental aspects of your coaching philosophy

How do you find your values as a coach? Ask yourself: What is significant and indisputable — thus, unshakable from external factors — in your quest to become the best coach you can be for your athletes? 

And, how do you find your mission? Again, ask yourself: Why have you become a coach, in the first place? What inspired you? Whatever it is, it will surely inspire your athletes; at least, the right kind of athletes for you.

2. Use customer service tools and automation

On one hand, customer service tools can help you decrease your workload; while streamlining your processes. On the other hand, when you opt for tools that use automation, you can respond fast, with little or no involvement on your part. As a result, you save a lot of time, without sacrificing the quality of your customer service.

3. Show you’re human; acknowledge your mistakes

This is key in your efforts to retain existing athletes. Especially if you run your coaching business solely online. You have to offer yourself to your art, not just the skills and knowledge you’ve acquired on your niche sport. It’s your human side that your athletes will connect to, first. Your unique personality, style and philosophy. Hence, don’t hesitate to show you’re human, and be as generous as you can.

Nonetheless, showing you’re human, means that you’re also willing to show your ‘weakness’. All humans make mistakes, even the ones who are experts and knowledgable, like you. Mistakes are opportunities in disguise; and, strong people know how to ‘capitalize’ on their mistakes. 

Besides, that’s what differentiates a great coach from a mediocre one. A great coach is never afraid to make mistakes, admit them, and learn from them. A great coach also admits that they don’t have all the answers. They’re true to their values and lead by example.

4. Become a part of your athletes’ lifestyle

Do you know why this is important? You probably do, but we’ll still say it 😁. Their lifestyle is directly linked to their performance; it affects performance gravely, in more ways than one. We’re not suggesting intruding upon their lives here, but remember what we said about trust? Once trust is established, they’ll be honest with you, and feel safe to share with you what troubles them. That’s where you step in, to motivate and guide them. 

5. Delight athletes with convenient services: Establish customer loyalty

The factor of delight is critical if you are to establish customer loyalty and retain existing athletes. What do we mean by ‘convenient services’? Simply trying to make your athletes’ training a bit more favorable and suitable to their needs. 

Simple gestures, like offering sportswear or equipment — it doesn’t have to be expensive — can be very effective, if done right. You may also offer a convenient service through a collaboration — maybe with a nutritionist or a sports psychologist? 

6. Personalize your services, if possible

We know that this is very hard to achieve; yet, if you can personalize your services, you increase the chances of unlocking your athletes’ full potential. In other words, the more tailored their training is to their needs, the more likely they are to achieve their goals. An athlete that manages to achieve their goals under your guidance, is an athlete who stays with you. 

7. Talk with your athletes

Open communication — fortified with understanding, and thoughtfulness — is effective communication. This type of communication begins with active listening. Listening — and responding — to their needs, goals, fears, anxieties, joys — everything. Effective communication is also talking to your athletes about your thoughts; regarding their performance, for example. This is essential in keeping your athletes coming back to you every season. 

8. Use a subscription-based model

A subscription-based model is a perfect solution to retain existing athletes, because it serves as a contract. To explain, they agree to pay on a recurring basis — e.g., weekly, monthly, annually — in exchange for your services. Most subscriptions are flexible enough to provide the option of renewal, after a certain period of time; or cancellation, at any time.

9. Optimize the athlete’s experience

Improving your athletes’ training experience is easier than ever, due to two important factors: technology and science. Technology, as in an intuitive online coaching platform, to help you create personalized training programs, and maximize your athletes’ performance. And, science-wise, you have modern studies and methodologies available, to ensure your athletes’ well-being and superior training experience. An experience that athletes of yesteryear did not have the chance to enjoy. 

10. Conglomerate social proof (elements of trust) and capitalize on it

Social proof — or element of trust — is based on the natural tendency people have to imitate the behavior of other people; especially when they see that it’s beneficial. So, when athletes have chosen to use your services and feel happy about it, your services are considered valid and valuable. From that point on, it’s only a matter of time for other athletes to join in, based on how your existing athletes evaluate the quality of your service. At the same time, your existing athletes feel reassured about their decision to use your services; which inspires loyalty — and, ideally, retention. 

Luckily, there are many ways to reinforce your business’s elements of trust, some of them include:

  • Word of Mouth
  • Case Studies
  • Testimonials
  • Reviews on Google, social media platforms, directory listings, etc.

A happy customer will gladly agree to write a brief review about the benefits they gained out of using your services.

11. Gamify your services to retain existing athletes

Gamifying your services will make training sessions exciting; something your athletes will look forward to. Gamification is an easy way to retain existing athletes, as it encourages commitment and provides motivation. Who doesn’t want to have some fun when training? 

12. Create a referral program

Referral programs are not only very effective in obtaining new clients, but also in retaining existing ones. A referral program is a marketing method based on the Word of Mouth tactic. You ask your athletes to recommend your services to friends and family, offering them a reward for their effort. Then, you give your new client (the person that responded to their recommendation) a discount on your services. 

13. Don’t overcomplicate your services: Keep it simple

As it often happens, coaches tend to overcomplicate their services, without even realizing it. Whether it’s planning too many sports activities or offering too many guidelines; it’s an imbalance that will have negative consequences, sooner or later. Coaches who do this mean well, yet, the fact remains: Overcomplicated services are a problem. If you do this, know that you can’t retain existing athletes this way. Be mindful to keep your services as simple as possible, because simplicity always outperforms complication.


It’s one thing to attract new athletes and another to retain existing athletes. It’s a loop that needs to keep going, to keep your business alive. Along with everything we discussed in this article, we’d like to focus on — and summarize — a few points, to help you get your thoughts together: 

  • Set both short and long-term goals; not just for your athletes, but for your marketing strategy, too
  • Keep training sessions exciting for your athletes; spice things up a bit, every now and then
  • Involve them in the training process 
  • Keep an open channel of communication, and build trust
  • Ask for criticism and feedback
  • But, most of all, focus on the human aspect of your relationship with them.

We hope we helped you clarify a few things with this brief guide. Nonetheless, if you need any guidance, you can book a demo with us. Let’s discuss how Endogusto can help you!

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7 ways to retain existing athletes was last modified: November 16th, 2022 by Eleni Konstantinidou