Building a Community in Your CrossFit Affiliate the Right Way

Your CrossFit community is important and deserves your time and dedication - this is how you build a community around your efforts the right way.

Sam Karoll
August 26, 2022
Building a Community in Your CrossFit Affiliate the Right Way
Your CrossFit community is important and deserves your time and dedication - this is how you build a community around your efforts the right way.

Your CrossFit community may be a group of paying athletes, but they’re also a niche group of people that share the same (or similar) interests. In a city of a million people, there’s nothing else like the one small community you build in your CrossFit affiliate gym. That’s why it’s so important to hone in on what makes community-building so important.

Beyond benefiting your gym, it creates a place that people want to visit and be a part of, which is the best marketing that you’re ever going to get. We’re going to talk about the best ways to build a community, how it works, and what the long-term effects are for building a quality community as early as possible. Let’s get into it.

Put Community at the Core of Everything You Do


Your community is everything. Without a solid community, you simply can’t survive as a business. Your community is made up of your most valued customers that bring a lot to the table. If you have a small, dedicated audience/community for your brand, the world’s your oyster. Your core community will:

  • Provide Word-of-Mouth Referrals: What’s better than word-of-mouth marketing? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. It’s powerful, it’s free, and it’s a signal that you’re doing something right. When a company can make a user/client feel so excited about them that they’re essentially marketing for the gym in their free time, you’ve done something powerful.
  • Add Value to the Atmosphere and Culture: Good gym patrons that are kind, respectful, and happy with the service will always make the culture better. Eventually, you’ll all know each other by first name and have brief chats or make comments to one another. The newcomer who’s on a one-day trial in your gym hears that, and it lets them know that they’re in good company. Your gym culture and core community can help you get sales that you’ll never know about, which only adds more valuable members to your community and strengthens your gym.
  • Help Lead Change: Your gym will evolve and adapt with time, just as any good business would. The difference is that you don’t know what’s best for your gym until you understand how your core community views it. What if there’s a feature you’re personally dead-set on, and it turns out it’s the least liked part of your business? Data-driven results are great and all, but it’s also good to understand how your community views your gym. It can lead to change that improves your business.

Let’s look at some more ways you can put your community at the core of everything you do and strengthen this part of your gym.

Encourage Clients to Bring in Friends or Family for a Free One-Day Pass

We talked about word-of-mouth marketing and how powerful it is. This is how you make it an active marketing campaign: you ask your community members to bring in a family member or friend that would be interested in fitness.

Offer them a one-day pass to bring along anyone they want, and credit it to their account so they don’t have to physically bring something in to verify the free class or day at the gym. It’s a free trial with a qualified referral, which greatly increases your chances of gaining a new member.

This should be used strategically. Consider the following before you begin a campaign like this:

  • Slow Periods: More members during traditionally slow periods of the year helps stabilize your business. It’s difficult to bring in new business during these points, so much so that we have to actually account for them in our annual financial planning. These promotions will help pad these times, plus with a slightly less filled gym, new members may feel less intimidated and be more likely to stay.
  • Capacity: Before you send out twenty different offers, make sure you have an average capacity to account for all these people coming in on the same day. Do you have enough staff ready to help all these people? Should you plan to only send out five or ten of these “coupons” per week to continually bring an influx of new prospective members in?
  • Staff Accordingly: Planning these strategic periods of the year means you might run into some really busy days, and it’s a chance for you to make a first impression with tons of different prospective clients. Make sure there’s enough staff readily available so new members don’t have to wait at the desk for ten minutes before they even have the opportunity to sign up in the first place.

Host Community-Building Events With Incentives for Clients

Community-building events help to bring your clients together, build your gym culture, make your gym a friendlier place, and train staff in leadership all at the same time. They’re powerful events, but they require coordination and effort. This is what you need to know.

  • Saturday Morning Workouts: Do you have access to an outside area that you can use? Perhaps a field behind your gym? If you do, it could be a great idea to host a big outdoor warm-up class on Saturday mornings. Make it light, simple, and free for any gym member to join without paying for a class. This can get them warmed up for their regular workout, or prepare them before they go into a class.
  • Group Run: Small gym? Cardio equipment takes up a lot of room, so what if you had less equipment and instead, you did a group run every single day? This can give gym patrons a chance to meet others just like them, while also getting in some major cardio and being led through a nice outdoor environment.
  • Sponsored Charity Events: Nothing brings people together like helping other people. Consider talking to local businesses about sponsoring an event. Put a limit on how much time an individual can spend, but offer to give $1 for every 15 minutes that someone works out in your gym. Maybe make it a free day to attract new clients as well. It’s up to your interpretation.

Openly Discuss Your Community Goals With Your Clients

Do your clients know what your gym goals are? They should. You don’t have to get in their face about it, but it should be known to your gym patrons. This way they can understand when to expect changes in your gym.

Are your goals centered around the local community and making it a better place? Do you want to become an all-around gym that includes rock climbing walls, swimming, and more? If your gym patrons know where you’re going, it’s much easier to decide whether they want to hop on for the ride or not.

Lead by Example

You’re the one leading your gym to success, like the captain of a ship. When you lead, others will follow, so you want to make sure you’re leading in a way that helps them even when you’re not around. These are some of the ways you can lead your community and your staff with great examples and become a better leader.

Be Active in Your Community

You’re the owner. You do a lot of behind-the-scenes tasks for your gym, whether it’s balancing the budget, talking to your legal team, designing new uniforms, or just running day-to-day operations.

However, it’s important that you’re also seen by your community. Walk the gym, talk to your gym patrons if they’re not engaged in an activity, and be friendly with others.

This helps strengthen the bonds you’ll build with your core community. When you can walk the gym one day and see tons of familiar faces that have been around for a while, you know you’ve built something long-lasting that stands out from other gyms, if only to your specific community.

Stay Consistent With Your Mission Statement and Vision Statement

When you outline your vision statement of where you want your gym to go, it’s important to stick to them. Your mission statement and vision statement are a big focus when you start your gym, but they can quickly fall by the wayside as time goes on if you aren’t careful.

Keep those values close to you. Don’t let them go, otherwise your gym patrons will be able to tell. What if your mission statement was the reason they signed up in the first place? They could go anywhere to use a treadmill or take a class, but what if your mission statement is the secret ingredient that keeps people coming back for more?

You should talk about your mission and vision statements when you tour your gym with prospective new clients. This is the perfect opportunity to incorporate it into how you run your gym.

Call Everyone by Their Name

There’s immense power in calling someone by their name. We all want attention, even subconsciously, but especially while having a conversation with someone. Call someone by their name, and you show them that you’re giving them your attention.

Beyond that, it implies a personal connection. You can call anyone sir or miss, but because that’s a broad term that we’ve come to learn as just being polite, it’s not as powerful.

Here’s the amazing thing: you can still get points by calling them by name even if it’s the wrong name. There’s no shame in saying “It’s Rick, right?” when you talk to them. They can either correct you or they’ll be happy that you remembered their name. You’re in a position to say “I thought so. I meet a lot of amazing people and sometimes it’s hard to keep track, you know?”—and boom, just like that, you’ve incorporated a complement while also either getting their name right or being rightfully corrected. Either way, the personal connection effort is there.

Empathize by Talking About Personal Failure

Nobody likes the guy or girl who makes it appear that they’re perfect and immune to making mistakes. Failure builds character because it shows that you’re not afraid to try something new, and you’re not afraid to apply effort.

Everyone fails. Admitting your failures helps you connect with others because it’s something that everyone can relate to. Approach the situation without fear of embarrassment or ridicule by talking about your mistakes or failures, and you’ll empower others by doing so, just like a true leader does.

Continually Learn About Building Better Culture

A lot of gym culture comes down to human psychology. While humans don’t change much, society does, and we react accordingly.

Pay attention to psychology trends and stay up-to-date on industry information. Find out what others are doing to provide genuine value to their clients, and consider doing the same.

Pay attention to trends, ways that you can market your gym, and how it all ties into the way that people feel about your overall gym experience. Always experiment and find out new ways to improve your gym.

Be Approachable to Everyone

While walking around the gym and doing your rounds, make sure anyone can approach you. Don’t be closed-off or in too much of a hurry to get off the floor.

When you remain open to everyone and clients, staff, or trainers know that they can approach you, everything is easier. You’ll be the first one to know about problems, hear feedback, and your entire business will benefit from it.

Only You Can Walk the Walk

It’s your gym, your community, and without your mission and vision, they wouldn’t exist within this group. Remember that you run the show, so lead by example and treat others the way that you want to be treated, and the way that you want them to treat each other. Make no room for hate or judgment in your CrossFit community, and it will remain a positive environment and a force for good within your business.

Sam Karoll

Sam is our Community Manager for PushPress. He also owns and operates Xplore Nutrition, a personalized nutrition coaching service designed "for your lifestyle and goals by a Coach who's always available."

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