Love it or hate it, marketing is a necessary tool in your kit for being a successful CrossFit affiliate. It’s imperative for success in all verticals, so you might as well get used to it and begin to research your target market. Here’s the thing: you can’t appeal to everyone. It’s impossible, so why even try?
You need to focus on one specific niche, and eventually maybe a few small niches, and cultivate your audience and members from there. CrossFit is all about being open to all walks of life to create an inclusive environment, but that doesn’t mean everyone is going to enjoy your particular brand or “flavor” of the fitness world.
Target specific demographics. Use statistics. Draft plans, and make sure you know who you’re selling to. Don’t worry; we’re about to help you figure it all out.
Start With Statistics and White Papers
One of the most powerful tools in all of marketing is white papers and evidence-backed statistics. If you can bring real, actionable data in front of people, you can persuade them. It’s a mighty tool in any marketer’s arsenal, which is why it must be used appropriately and with good intent.
In the AIDA format that many publications use to create magnetic content, publishers use statistics to create trust with an audience. It stands for attention, interest, desire, and action.
If you can bring something new to a person's attention and attract them with that information, it interests them. Desire then stems from interest as they learn, and action is where your content and marketing material convince the prospective client in question to officially join your gym.
Begin by getting evidence, statistics, and data-driven facts to support any claims you put behind your marketing. If your niche is specifically to help disabled persons improve their strength and their lives, choose a statistic that empathetically affects them, and so on.
Mark Your Short-Term and Long-Term Objectives
We talk in-depth about setting goals later on. You need short-term goals that you can hit within a few months to under a year and long-term goals that deal with the overall growth and prestige of your gym and brand.
Your short-term goal may be to hit $10K MRR, but your long-term goal might be 1,000 members and a bigger gym.
If you start out with an enormous goal that takes years to reach and there’s no point to celebrate accomplishments between now and then, you’re going to feel burnout. Mark small achievements that show growth, and let yourself enjoy success in the meantime.
Perform Local Area Demographic Research
Look for race, gender, and the average age in your area. People rightfully want to see themselves represented in marketing materials. If you’re in an area with a heavy demographic of Asian-American citizens, marketing material featuring caucasian gym members isn't likely to do as well.
Represent your community and local demographic in your marketing content. This is both powerful for marketing and critical to show your core values of inclusivity as a CrossFit affiliate.
Local research will show you different habits, experiences, and help you understand the community you’re trying to serve with your gym. Understand your demographic and what they want before you try to understand the median income level.
Determine Local Median Income
Median income directly relates to your marketing. People in different income brackets often have different habits, and will respond differently to different marketing material. This is what you need to know.
- Higher Income Means Higher Rates: If you move into an area with a high median income, and you’re charging $16 per month for your membership, you’re leaving money on the table. Your rent, costs, and in some cases wage will reflect the local median income to some extent. Make sure you charge accordingly and provide the necessary amount of value to justify the price.
- People Have More Time on Their Hands: A higher median income generally comes with less working hours, so people will have the time to devote to working on themselves. They’re actually more likely to be fit as a result, or at least practice a healthy fitness regimen. They’re not working 80 hours a week just to make ends meet.
- Aesthetics Need to Match: Lower-income areas don’t have the highest expectation for the appearance of their local gym. It should still look professional and respectable, but you don’t have to hire an interior designer just to make it match the way other local shops look. It’s harder to stand out in higher median income areas.
Pay Users to Fill Out Surveys in Your Local Area
Survey information can be useful, but it has to come in bulk. It’s easy to find survey data about a niche, but it’s always broad and sometimes international. You’re in one city, you have one gym, so you need data from the people you plan to service. This is what you can do.
- Pay People for Surveys: Get a permit to set up a sidewalk stand, or talk to a local supermarket and pay them to set up a stand outside the doors. Find a place where there’s a lot of traffic, and set up a sign that says you pay people cash for them to fill out a survey. You can filter these out by setting up a prerequisite for people to even take the survey in the first place, something like, “Hi, we’re offering to pay for a survey if you’re someone who’s been actively pursuing fitness and lifestyle changes within the last 6 month,” that way you don’t just have random people who clearly have no interest in fitness getting money from you.
- Use Online Survey Networks: You can use survey networks and pay them for results and data. There are websites that help people earn money by filling out surveys, and they will feature local results. This takes some time to set up, and you won’t need a campaign for more than a few months, but it can help as a part of your marketing research.
- Alternative Payment: Ask a brief 3-7 question survey on your website, and offer a free digital reward for it. This could be a nutrition plan, at-home workout routine with dumbbells and exercise bands, or whatever. Just give value and you’ll get answers. The digital goods won’t cost you overhead, so it doesn’t matter who fills out the survey. You can construct it to filter out certain results based on their selections if they don’t fit the target market and utilize some or most of the survey results without any cost to you.
- Collect Email Addresses: As an opt-in, you can request email addresses from those who fill out surveys. Email newsletters are some of the most powerful, high ROI channels that you’ll ever use. It’s a platform where nobody can take away your traffic. There’s no algorithm update that buries you under other leads. Just make sure it’s optional.
Surveys are powerful, but be warned: in the age of digital privacy, people want to know what happens to their data. Make it anonymous with the option to collect email addresses as an opt-in, but don’t make it mandatory. Be transparent with what you do with the data.
Gauge Interest on Social Media
Social media can be a difficult beast to tame. You’re competing with algorithms, even for local results, and those algorithms can change all the time. Because of this you’ll want to create what’s called evergreen social media content.
That means that if someone comes across it six months after it’s posted, it still holds relevance. Don’t just do trendy content to gauge social media interest and reactions.
Here’s one key piece of advice for being successful on any social media platform: results are sexy, but processes are not. If you have the ability and permission to, show the results of people who work out in your gym. Take photos of classes while they’re in session. Show people what they can do with your gym and how it can benefit them. That’s how you get engagement and leads on social media.
Interview Local Personal Trainers for More Information
The best marketing research you could possibly hope for is to interview local trainers. Contact independent local trainers, maybe people who run their own studios, and ask if you can pay them for their time. Conduct an interview, record it, and take notes.
The thing is, if you base your marketing research off of one single interview, you’ll have a very narrow scope. Try to conduct as many interviews as possible in a short amount of time so you can compare notes between every interview for your marketing plan. Here are some things to keep in mind.
- Every Trainer is Different: There’s a unique style and training method that every instructor uses, and it’s going to be different from the last instructor you talked to. They all have their own approach, so that’s the part you have to take with a grain of salt.
- Seek Local Over General: If you paid for 30 minutes of a trainer’s time, you have to make the most of it. Ask questions that pertain to your local demographic so you can actively apply this information to your marketing efforts. Their general information is fairly useless if they’re just talking about an unspecified broad audience.
- Make Connections: Yes, you’re paying for their time, but you can still use this opportunity to network. What if their solo studio doesn’t do that well in the future and they need a job? What if their solo studio does amazing and they need to rent a bigger space, i.e. part of your gym? There are a lot of networking options that appear when you break common ground with trainers.
Use the Nine-Step Affinity Marketing Plan
Marketing can best be broken down into a nine-step plan that you can use in just about any industry. You can alter this as you see fit, but there’s a reason that this formula has been around for so long and has been so versatile to numerous industries. If nothing else, view this as the foundation that businesses begin their marketing on and understand where the value is here.
1. Goals and Measurements
What’s a plan without goals? A dream. You have to begin by setting goals, because your entire plan will be centered around achieving those goals.
Define more than one goal. Is there a revenue threshold you want to hit? That’s pretty common. What about community impact? Do you want to offer a specific number of classes or a type of class that other gyms don’t offer, but you need to build up the space and equipment first?
Be specific and outline a handful of goals you wish to hit within the next few years. This gives you a jumping off point so that you can actually figure out how to get to your goals.
Now figure out how you'll measure success. Money will come, but what about customer satisfaction? What goal is healthy for the business besides just keeping the lights on? Strive for that, and the money will come.
2. Choosing Your Niche (and Sticking to it)
You’re a CrossFit gym right now. There’s nothing in the affiliate rules that say you can’t open across the street from another CrossFit gym. There’s literally nothing preventing it.
If that were to happen, what’s your unique selling point? Which niche are you serving? You and that gym are both serving CrossFit athletes, but what specific subset of CrossFit affiliates?
One gym may thrive by focusing on bodybuilding mixed with CrossFit, while another may be centered towards helping you improve athletic performance for sports, like track and field.
Your gym could be the most disability-accessible CrossFit gym in the city—whatever it is, find a niche, serve it, and in return it will serve you back.
3. Determine Your Target Market
Once you know your niche, you’ll know who to market to. If you’re dead set on having a niche of bodybuilders, you know your target market isn’t going to be thrilled with entire rows of treadmills.
You’re more likely to find a cross-market with other bodybuilder-specific niche groups. You’d do better marketing to people searching for bulking supplements and nutrition plans centered around muscle gain than you would with someone who wants to run a 5K next month.
Your target market has relevant interests that you can target and draw in interest with. Use that to your advantage.
4. Establish Branding
Branding is when you give a specific purpose and identity to your business. Without a brand, you’re just another company. There’s nothing special about an apparel brand like Supreme, but they’ve become one of the most successful modern fashion lines. Anyone could make those clothes and a similar logo, but it’s all about branding.
Don’t just open a gym—open a physical improvement center that promises to not waste anyone’s time. Your brand could even be all about convenience if you have a location that’s perfectly off the train and bus routes in a bustling city.
Find out what makes you unique, and apply it to your branding. Tie it into your goals and vision statement, and you’ll do well.
5. Mission Statement and Vision Statement
Your mission statement is what you promise to your prospective clients. Your vision statement is where you’re going to take them. The mission is about now and is a constant practice, while the vision talks about where the gym is going in the near future.
So where are you going to take your gym and its members? Is your vision to become the biggest gym in the city while still having a down-to-earth atmosphere? Find your vision of where you want to be, and you’ll be able to bring your members along for the ride.
Remember that with both a mission statement and a vision statement, you’ll be able to use that information in your marketing material. It’s important to establish them to the point that you can recite them both from memory; they’ll be the core of your business.
6. Build a Website
Now that you have a plan and you know who you want to market to, it’s time to start actively marketing. The planning stage is turning into the action stage.
Your website is your ultimate magnet for new clients, and if done properly, you don’t have to pay for ads to bring in traffic.
Create a website that shows photos of your facility, lists your trainers, has pricing information, and a virtual tour of the gym. Basically, if someone goes to your website, they should have no questions about what your gym stands for and what it offers.
You can use your gym as a lead generation magnet as well, bringing in traffic from basic search queries and local searches. Create content for your website and optimize it using SEO to bring in organic traffic that leads to new members and brand awareness.
7. Create Systems to Simplify Your Marketing
Marketing can be tricky, but once you break past the barriers you can create a system and use it to simplify the process. While marketing changes a lot, fitness doesn’t—people who are serious about getting fit in their preferred method will be more receptive to fitness marketing.
Even when the fitness industry is “revolutionized” from time to time, at the end of the day you have to put in hard work no matter what method you use in order to get results. It’s a consistent principle, so you can make a marketing system that reflects that.
Systems include specific channels you use to distribute your marketing material. These can be social, your website, direct response advertising in the mail, billboards, and so on. Find out which marketing methods work best for you, and ride that wave.
8. Effective and Consistent Communication
Communication is important, and in the realm of social media, engagement is everything. If you engage with people who comment on your posts or ask you questions, you’re more likely to build a positive image of your brand for them, and for the 99% of people on social media platforms that lurk without posting anything.
If you get the opportunity to engage with someone through your marketing material, do it. That’s about as much of a qualified lead as you’re going to get. They’ve opened up a dialogue, which makes it much easier for you to talk to them, find their pain points, and promote a plan to convert them into a member. Marketing without engagement is wasted money.
9. Generate Leads and Make Sales
A lead magnet or lead generation platform could be your website or a Facebook page. You’ll quickly find which channels resonate the most with your audience, and those will become lead magnets to convert an audience into paying customers and members.
You want to focus your efforts on a method where your audience is already spending their time. Whether they’re a social media channel, your website, forums, or it could even be your email newsletter—whatever it is, if it generates leads, spend your time and effort on that channel to make all your marketing efforts worthwhile.
Start With the Market
Begin with your market research, identify your target market, and get your brand in front of that audience as often as possible. It all starts with marketing, otherwise you’re going to open your doors and not be noticed by many unless they happen to be walking by. Market aggressively right from day one.
Marketing is an ongoing effort. You don’t just get to stop once you’re identified and marketed to your target audience. There’s further investigation that can be done, more marketing channels to try, and data to be tracked. Get started with marketing right from day one.