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How To Know What Clients Want, Part 2: She Lost 50 Pounds But Fired Us Anyway

By John Berardi, PhD

Client and Customer Research

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Health and fitness has been historically bad at figuring out why clients really hire us. This leads to hit-or-miss marketing, confused prospects, unsatisfied customers. This 3-part series offers a better approach to knowing what clients want and delivering it every time. In part 2, using Jobs To Be Done in health and fitness.

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The Client Feedback That Changed Our Business

Some years back, I read a review from a former Precision Nutrition group coaching client. Someone asked her if she would recommend our program.

Here was the gist of her response:

I don’t recommend it. I lost some weight, but I never felt like I connected with my coach. I didn’t really need much help from her. But if I would have needed help, I’m not sure how much I’d have gotten. So no. I don’t recommend it.

Curious where we went wrong, I dug into our database to discover that this client lost over fifty pounds working with us! Yes, fifty. In addition, nearly every metric we collected improved—from health, to body composition, to food and nutrition knowledge, to resiliency.

Yet here she was: unhappy and actively not recommending our coaching.

I could have chalked up these comments up to her being overly picky, to having unreasonable expectations, or to being fundamentally unpleasable. That would have come at a huge cost. So, instead, I asked her if she would sit for a paid interview so I could learn more.

What I learned changed our business.

Until that point, I believed that clients would be happy if they lost weight and kept it off, if they improved health markers, and/or if they improved their quality of life, especially if they’d tried and failed using other programs before. All of these were checked off for this client.

However, there was a completely different (and legitimate) reason she didn’t recommend us: She didn’t feel like anyone cared. She didn’t feel heard or understood.

Losing weight, while nice, wasn’t enough. She wanted her coach to be with her every step of the way and her coach wasn’t.

Yes, our team won the battle with fat and preventable disease. But we lost the big one—having a lasting meaningful relationship with our client, one where she felt she got her money’s worth, one where she raved about how we changed her life.

And why did we lose? Because we made too many assumptions. Instead of knowing, we guessed. Instead of asking questions, we bought into clichés.

Let’s Dive Deeper Than The Surface

Today, thankfully, Precision Nutrition does much better.

But I see this same problem everywhere in health and fitness. It’s the reason why magazine covers haven’t changed in thirty years; men’s magazines continue to drone on about “torching fat” and “rock hard abs” while women’s magazines talk about “long, lean muscles” and “shapely thighs.”

These “insights” are the product of a surface-level understanding of clients and customers, like the initial McDonald’s approach. This approach rarely works because people’s true motivations are often hidden so deep that they don’t even know what their motivations are until someone strategically uncovers them.

One of my favorite examples of this comes from an interview with another Precision Nutrition Coaching for Women client. Within a few weeks of joining our coaching group, she was randomly selected be interviewed. (As we do with all in-depth interviews, we paid her for her time.)

During the interview she talked a lot about how she “needed to lose weight” and “realized it was time.” As we asked more about “Why now?” she couldn’t share any additional insights.

However, when we asked about what was happening in her life around the time she purchased, lightning flashed. She mentioned something, in passing, about taking her teenage son for a driving test. While this seemed like an irrelevant detail to her, we knew it could be a critical one.

We learned that her son was a competitive swimmer and she’d spent the last ten years shuttling him around before school, after school, on the weekends. She’d spent thousands of hours in service of his goals: driving to and from practices and meets, watching practices and meets, reading books and messing around on her phone while waiting.

One week after taking him for his driving test, Precision Nutrition Coaching appeared in her Facebook feed, and she signed up.

The timing wasn’t a coincidence. She’d been wanting to get coaching for years. But it was only after this “trigger”—after her son got his license and no longer needed so much of her care—that she seriously considered taking better care of herself.

Interestingly, she didn’t notice the connection. Which means surveys, focus groups, and direct questions wouldn’t have uncovered it.

Big A-Ha Moments For Our Marketing and Product Teams

Only by assuming less, asking strategic questions, and listening deeply can we figure out the real reasons people buy when they do. And, historically, these insights lead to some big, strategy-changing questions for Precision Nutrition’s marketing and advertising teams:

What percent of clients are “hiring” coaching after a significant “trigger” event?

(Answer: A big percentage.)

What kinds of “trigger” events could lead someone to “hire” a coaching program?

(Answers: Getting a scary medical diagnosis, a youngest child starting school, a child getting their driver’s license, a child moving away for the first time, separating from a spouse or partner, losing a job, retirement, the loss of someone you’re providing care for, and more.)

What if we started proactively reaching out to people most likely to have a “trigger” event?

(Answer: Our advertising costs go down, conversions go up, and we get in front of the people who most need our help.)

Sure, folks may want to “lose weight” or “get a flat stomach,” but those aren’t the real answers to the questions: “Why’d you sign up for this program?” “Why now?” Knowing those answers will help shape both your product offerings and your advertising choices.

Of course, it takes mindfulness, even a little moxie, to discard industry clichés and look for the deeper reason people do what they do. But it’s worth it. Learning more about the “jobs” people are hiring for means you’ll stand out. You’ll no longer need pressure tactics or hard selling, and you’ll attract clients who are confident you can meet their needs.

And, in part 3 of this article series, I’ll show you how.

In The Meantime, Want To Learn More? Go Deeper?

Then download this FREE sample of my latest book, Change Maker.

Change Maker shares the tips, strategies, and lessons I learned growing Precision Nutrition from a two-person passion project to a 200 million dollar company that’s coached over 200,000 clients, certified over 100,000 professionals, and revolutionized the field of nutrition coaching.

Whether you work as a health coach, strength coach, nutritionist, functional medicine doc, or rehab specialist, Change Maker will help you discover the right direction to take, the fastest way to make progress, and the practical steps required to build the career of your dreams in health and fitness.

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