There’s a misconception that when you don the CrossFit name and branding material in your title, on your website, or in your gym, that you’ve sold out. CrossFit is a tool that can help you build up your own brand; it’s not a franchise.
So how can you use the leverage that CrossFit benefits you with and turn your gym into a personal brand? There’s a lot that you need to know, so we’re going to try and make it as digestible as possible and shoot down a list of questions that you can ask yourself, and why they’re so important for building a brand.
Why is Brand Building Important?
Building a brand beyond the CrossFit portion of your name is imperative for a multitude of reasons.
- You Must Evolve: Trends change, businesses die, but your brand can transcend through it all. Let’s say that CrossFit dissolves. What happens to your business? If you drop CrossFit from the name, you have to be able to stand on your own and evolve with the times.
- Shifting Customer Demands: Ever heard of a rebrand? This typically happens when a brand is associated with a specific era that’s come to an end, or nostalgia that doesn’t serve current market demand. Your brand is what saves you in this case.
- Reputation: Your brand name is your reputation. Every action you take under your brand is immediately reflective of it. When you build a brand, you create a name or a phrase that is immediately recognizable by a person, and that recognition brings forth a feeling.
Building Your Brand
To build your brand, you have to ask yourself (more than) a few questions to establish your goals, your guidelines, and your best practices. Start here, and when you reach the end of the list, you’ll have a good idea of how you want your brand to be represented, and what you want it to mean to people.
Who is Your Ideal Member?
It’s not as simple as saying “People who enjoy CrossFit” and calling it a day. What does your brand offer that others don’t? What feelings will that evoke in your ideal customer? You can’t service every one or make everyone happy, so determine which custom archetypes you can make happy and work on meeting their needs. Find out what they’re willing to pay, what they expect, and then overdeliver on it.
What Pain Points Are You Looking to Solve?
In order to serve your customers, you need to know what pain points they face. A gym is a solution to a problem, so what is that problem? You can find out by building buyer personas, surveying, and building data to find out what the common reason is that people choose your gym.
Your members actually need you because of that existing pain point that they can’t or won’t solve on their own. In some cases, it can be something simple like more parking, being closer to their home, or having a great location near work. Or it could be the class types you offer, the frequency of classes each day, and other seemingly simple things like this. Find out, and double down on solving those pain points.
What is Your Personality?
Who are you? Not as a brand leader or business owner, but who are you? That’s going to play a major factor in what kind of clientele you attract to your gym. Being well-established, emotionally stable, kind, caring, and being a larger-than-life person that commands attention will greatly play into your business’ success.
Who is Your Competition?
This is where competitive analysis comes into play. Who are your direct competitors, what are they offering, and how can you beat them? How does your brand differ from theirs? You can’t earn all of their customers, because people are going to resonate with different brands in a different way, but you can identify their weaknesses and ante up your own strengths to cover those weaknesses.
If they have a weak brand voice, make yours louder. If their digital presence is lacking, be front and center when users search for local gyms. Find out where they lack, because if you focus on trying to beat their strengths, you output a lot of energy for what could be minimal gains. Identify, analyze, and pick up the slack where they simply aren’t.
How Do You Make Your Members Feel?
Customer satisfaction is imperative. It’s reported that up to 80% of customers will leave a subscription or membership model after a single bad experience. That’s a lot of weight on your shoulders, but it’s important to know. If you make your members feel the best that they possibly can, there will be more understanding and forgiveness when there are inevitably issues that pop up from time to time in your gym. If you make them feel their best, customer retention won’t even be a problem.
How Are You Different?
What does your brand offer that other brands don’t? Why is your gym unique and separate from that gym down the street? Again, this is where your brand comes into play. Your brand separates you from your competitors. You could be different simply by approaching customer service in a much more dynamic and different way, making your members feel their best and giving them a reason to come back.
Or, you could have amenities that other gyms just simply can’t afford or don’t have, like rock climbing walls and outdoor gym sections for the summer months. Whatever the case is, be different, solve problems, and your brand will evolve on its own into something that people like, know, and trust.
Why Do Clients Trust Us?
This is a slippery slope. A lot of business owners and entrepreneurs can get this wrong, and then accidentally betray the trust of their audience, so be careful. You can conduct member interviews, collect information on surveys, and ask your employees what they like about working at your gym (this snowballs into the client experience). What is it about you and your brand that people inherently trust? Use communication, marketing, and customer experience to build trust so that your clients know they’re making the right choice.
What’s Your Story?
Storytelling and marketing are the perfect marriage. If you want to market anything, turn it into a story. Whether it’s about you and how you built a business from nothing, or how your vision of a brand challenged the grain and stood out to be different, people will eat it up. A faceless business with no story isn’t going to garner the same attraction, respect, and trust that a brand with a story will.
This is the perfect time to align your story with your client’s pain points. If your story speaks to their pain points, they won’t feel alone, they will resonate with your message, and it’s a short sales funnel from there to get them as members to your gym.
Five Words That Describe You
This is where things get introspective. This is about you and how it affects your brand. What are five words that you would genuinely use to describe yourself? This is a great time to find out what drove you to make this business in the first place, the passion behind your goals, and everything in between.
Be introspective and be honest. Find the values that brought you to make this business, and if you’re instilling them in this gym or not. This might be the longest amount of time you spend writing just five words, but it’s important.
What’s Wrong With Your Brand Identity?
No brand is perfect. You’ll put money, time, and sweat equity into building your brand, but it will never go 100% as planned. That’s just the reality of it. So when that happens, write down a list of what’s wrong with your brand, and do a risk assessment.
Is your existing brand poorly defined? Is it changing gym culture? There are a lot of questions you can ask yourself, but be honest with how your brand is faring. In the beginning, there are going to be more problems while you get the business side of things down pat. There’s always something to work on.
Which Brands Do You Admire?
We all had heroes growing up. In business, we have brands and personalities we admire, so what is it for you? Is there a business persona, a company, or a brand that you just really identify with? This is the perfect place to start while you define whether or not you’re on the right path with your own brand. Find who you admire, what they do, and strive to emulate the same effect, but of course in your brand’s own unique way.
How Can You Simplify Your Brand Identity?
Branding is complicated, requires a lot of steps, and has to appear as simple as possible to the public. It’s like an iceberg effect, except in this instance, it’s like there’s only 1% above the water. All the steps and effort that go into branding are almost invisible to the public, which is exactly how it should be.
Find a way to take everything you’ve done, and condense it down into an easy-to-swallow, ultimately digestible brand message, mission statement, and appeal. Simplify all of your mission statements, everything you stand for, and put it into as few words as possible. It’s not an easy task to do, but that’s what we have copywriters for.
How Do You Test Brand Perception?
How is your brand being perceived by people? What would someone walking in off the street think? This is a simple step. Get your closest friends, family members, and if possible a few random people, and ask them questions one by one about your brand as a whole, from the design down to the message. Their initial gut reaction is all you need to know if it’s working or not.
What’s Your Member’s Language?
Your prospective members search for very specific terms whether it’s online, or in display ads in windows and on bus benches. Your member language will pertain to the services you offer. Think about Gold’s Gym and the clients that they service. Immediately, you’re thinking of a mostly male clientele, already bulked up, and likely career bodybuilders.
Gold’s Gym isn’t speaking the language of the single mother who’s trying to fit in two CrossFit classes per week while her little one is at Gymboree. It’s an entirely different appeal to an entirely different type of clientele. Figure out who you’re trying to speak to before you try to speak to them.
How Does Your Logo Communicate Your Brand?
There’s a reason that a lot of gym logos follow similar structure with image shapes, text design, boldness, and other attributes. It’s the same reason that sports teams have similar design schemes to their logos as well. It helps the user immediately identify what you are.
What does your logo look like right now? Does it convey the right image about your brand? Is it something that people will recognize as unique, but still know who you are? Your logo can say a lot about your brand.
What’s Your Font?
Font matters. You’ll notice specific bold fonts in most gym logos, but the great thing is, you can do what you want here. If you want to be unique, you can either commission a custom font style with similarities to major fitness logo fonts, or go on to something else entirely. You can either innovate, or make something unique that’s still recognizable as a fitness brand from a distance. It’s up to you, but the font type you choose can affect whether you’re seen as bold and strong, or fashionable and elegant. Choose wisely.
What Are Your Brand Colors?
We associate colors with emotions. We say you look blue when you’re feeling sad, or you’re bright red when you’re embarrassed (or angry). It’s just what we do. So what do the colors of your gym say about your brand and the atmosphere? It’s a pretty important aspect that can’t be overlooked.
If you want a powerful gym, opt for a red color scheme. Courage is presented by orange, happiness by yellow, and so on. Just make sure your color scheme in your logo and branding match what you’re trying to do
How Do You Interact With Members?
This is a major influence with how you create your brand. What type of interactions do you like to have with your members, and how does it impact them during their workouts? What does it say about how they act, behave, and feel while they’re at the gym?
Do you inject humor, or are you straight to the point about what you want to say to them? Is it a fun atmosphere, or cut-and-dry? It’s important to interact with people pleasantly, but to not go out of your way to act differently. People can tell when you’re being genuine or not.
How Can You Streamline Visuals?
Streamlining visuals means making digital and direct response material that shows your colors, logo, message, mission statement, and brings viewers on an immediate brand-defining experience within the first two seconds of looking at it.
This sounds intense, but once you have the right colors, fonts, and material, your streamlined visuals will be a branding force to be reckoned with.
What Does Your Voice Sound Like?
Your personal voice matters. It’s the voice people are going to hear the most while they’re out on the floor and training. Are you conversational, professional, authoritative, or humorous when you speak? What does that say about the mood you’re trying to create in the gym?
Your voice is part of your brand, whether you like it or not. It should reflect your brand mission, how you relay information, and essentially come together as the core of your complete branding strategy. You have to sound the part if you’re going to build a genuine audience around your brand.
Branding guidelines from CrossFit’s Affiliate Playbook state that you should include the following in developing your brand:
- What is CrossFit?
- Affiliate’s mission
- Design principles
- CrossFit logos: Correct and incorrect usage
- Affiliate’s main and accent colors
- Writing for affiliate
- Design for products
These are all very standard in establishing any brand. The color scheme, font, and the way you take photos (right on down to the color filter of the photos) can all play on your brand.
Branding Done the Right Way
Ask yourself the right questions, find the right solutions, and you’ll be able to identify your own brand before you try it on anyone else. This is how you develop your brand, almost like a prototype, and refine it into what you want it to be. Remember: your name may be under CrossFit on the sign, but the gym wouldn’t exist without you.