Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Opening a CrossFit® Gym - Is Being Different Achievable?

There can be a tremendous amount of pressure on the desire to market your gym as different than the one around the corner.  Maybe you might think that if you aren't different, then potential clients won't be drawn to your business.  But the market is quickly changing into no longer being about the gym that is different - the 'different' gym card has been played.

There are now multiple CrossFit® Affiliates in every major city and suburb and touting your gym as different than the others doesn't have the same effect as it once did.  Competition is no longer with the traditional old school gym and with this change in the market there are other factors coming into play when potential clients decide on which gym they want to be a part of.

If being different in how you train them isn't going to draw their attention, what is it then that will get you noticed?  The need for curb appeal along with quality coaching and great equipment is beginning to be the game changer in drawing clients to your gym.

Advertising has it's highest impact when it's targeted toward something your client wants.  For me, no amount of Coca-Cola advertising dollars will get the job done.  That's a product that I just don't want.  That's not to say that they aren't good at what they do.  But what can we learn from the Coca-Cola story above?  Make sure your advertising is hitting your target audience.  None of us have unlimited marketing dollars.  We need to spend them very frugally and very effectively.

Before we talk at all about spending time and money on advertising, recognize first that your own clients have the highest potential to bring you the greatest success.  That next client of yours will be much more apt to walk through your doors if they know someone on the 'inside'.  The personal invitation from a friend costs you much less and is much more successful than many other forms of advertising.  So what to take away?  Offer some incentives to your current members to bring in their friends.

Location, Location, Location - We've all heard that location is one of the most important factors in success.  If your gym is to far off the beaten path, it may be harder for people to find you.  Of course, finding a spot closer to residential areas will cost more.  A quick rule of thumb is that if it was hard for you to find the first time you looked the location over, how hard will it be then for others?  And a few things to put on your checklist when scoping out the new location:

  • Is there ample parking?  Is it close?  Where is overflow parking if necessary?
  • Be sure to visit after dusk or early in the morning to see how well or how poorly the place is lit - both inside and out.  Your gym will be running early in the morning and after dusk at night.  Making sure there is ample light inside and out is important - especially if the space is being re-purposed.  Proper lighting outside will make your clients feel safe and your business more noticeable.  And be sure to ask about who is responsible for changing/replacing light bulbs.
  • Are there other businesses close by? - Coffee Shops and other eateries are good places to check out.  If they are busy and within eyesight, chances are if they are doing well then you can get a lot of attention by virtue of being close to them.
  • Will you have neighbors adjacent or above? - There's no harm in being upfront with the leasing agent that you are going to be noisy.  It is a gym after all.  And if there is potential for other small businesses to move into the same building with you, be sure to get something in the lease to protect yourself form complaints.
  • Heat and A/C - Be sure to ask about what services are provided.  Who is responsible for utility costs?  What are they per month on average?  What happens if they are insufficient or break down?

Hours of Operation - Here's one that can make all the difference, too.  We saw a message board post lately where a small gym owner was wondering why his 'unlimited' clients were only showing 1-2 days a week.  We looked a bit at the website and found that only one 'early' morning class was offered.  The time?  7AM.  Not so good for those that have to be at work by 8AM.  We've seen most gyms successful with 2 early morning classes of 5:30AM and 6:30AM then maybe a 9:00AM or 9:30AM, a Noon class and a few more after 5PM.

Website / Photography - There are a few website developers that cater specifically to CrossFit® gyms.  We like Box Jump Marketing.  It's worth the investment to hire someone that knows what they are doing.  Stay away from stock pictures and hire a professional photographer for a day.

Social Media - We all know that Facebook, Google +, Instagram and other type of social media are free.  And establishing and maintaining a good presence is important.  It is possible to spend advertising dollars on Facebook by Boosting posts.  It's not a bad idea as long as it is done very frugally and targeted correctly.   I saw a Facebook "Sponsored" post [the kind you pay money for] for a CrossFit® Gym more than 150 miles from me.  If you do decide to boost a post or photo to get some local attention, make sure it is targeted locally.  That will make the best use of your money.

Apparel - Making branded gym apparel is super smart and is definitely the norm.  Your clients are going to need gym apparel and why not let them buy it from you than from someone else.  One thing I'd like to see more gyms doing is to put their location somewhere on the shirt.  A physical address isn't important, but listing the city/state is.  If one of your members is grocery shopping on a Saturday morning while wearing your shirt, imagine how much more effective having the location of your gym on the shirt is.  You are spending the money on apparel anyway, adding one line with your location costs you nothing extra but solidifies where you are.  And if you are in a large urban area, put something else of note so folks know your whereabouts.  It's that one little extra thing you can do to help people remember you.

Sponsor Something Local - most people love to support local small business.  But they will never support you if they don't know about you.  Go sign up for a table at a local 5K race.  Most small towns won't ask for more than $50-$100 for a table.  And while you are there, please have something fun.  Maybe stay away from Muscle Up Competitions and move more into having Lollipop Trees there.  I know, pushing candy isn't your thing.  But here's what works...getting the kids interested in what you are doing brings Moms & Dads over.  If you don't want to give away candy, make a carnival game that's fitness oriented.  Keep it light and fun.  If people are having fun at your tent, then good things follow.

Don't Be The Amazing but Dirty Pizza Shop - There's a local pizza shop that makes amazing pizza.  But I no longer take my family there and I'm vocal about it if someone should ask.  Why don't we go there any more?  It's dirty.  Really dirty.  The door to the bathroom, the floors, the tables...I have seriously considered cleaning the place myself.  The bad news is that I really love that pizza.  But I just can't get past the grime.  No, you aren't running a restaurant, I know.  And it's much easier said than done to clean the gym especially after a 14 hour day.  But you'll never hear someone being negative about how clean your gym is.  If it helps to break it up into a little bit every day then great.  And you can always hire it done, too.

Get Out the Notebook - Go out and buy a $1 Hand Notebook at the local Target Store and write down on each page one of the things you are doing to market your gym.  Maybe it's Apparel, Facebook, Twitter, the 5K Race you Sponsored, or Member Referrals...  Each time you meet a new client or someone calls in, be sure to ask them how they heard about you and what brought them in.  Keep that notebook right on top of your desk so it's always on your mind and always handy.  When someone tells you how they found you, write that down.  At the end of every quarter, review your book to see what is working and what didn't.  Concentrate your time and funds on the stuff that brings people through your door.