In the CrossFit world, the word ‘Marketing’ is almost considered a dirty word. Many boxes believe that the best way to grow a successful business is by focusing on their coaching and delivery of the CrossFit training method.
And you know what?… They’re exactly right.
The best form of marketing
There is no better form of marketing than having a kick-arse box. It is the best way to grow a successful business, but this should not be your sole focus. Relying solely on the program delivery can be a long, tedious and challenging process and can prove to be the best way to stunt the growth of your box. It’s not to say that you won’t get there in the end, but it is just going to take a whole lot longer and be a whole lot harder than it needs to.
As you would know, CrossFit is continually increasing in popularity. There are more and more boxes popping up each and every month. With this in mind, consider this; a new CrossFit box opens up just down the street from you. They too focus incredibly heavily on delivering coaching virtuosity (offering incredible coaching sessions). But aside from being great coaches, they’ve also got a great focus on getting their marketing message out there. Which box do you think will flourish and which will wither in the coming year?
Branding versus Direct Response Marketing
There’s no denying that marketing is one of the essential ingredients for accelerating the success of a CrossFit box. However, what sort of marketing should you do and how should you go about it?
CrossFit is a unique product. It is revolutionising the way the fitness industry operates. But being such a new player with an incredibly unique approach creates a lot of challenges for those wanting to use the traditional marketing approaches that other fitness businesses use.
In understanding how best to market your CrossFit box, you first need to understand the difference between ‘Branding’ marketing versus ‘Direct response’ marketing.
Branding marketing is marketing that relies on having a strong image or brand. It needs to be an image that creates a sense of familiarity with the market place. The best examples of this include the golden arches of McDonalds and the red and white logo of Coca-Cola. With a strong brand, market place domination can be achieved. However, to get to this stage it takes a lot of time and an incredible amount of money to saturate the market place.
Direct response marketing is a more personalised approach to marketing. It focuses a lot less on market saturation, but rather targets segments of the market place (you’ll hear the word ‘niches’ in a lot of direct response marketing circles) promoting the benefits of this product. Direct response marketing highlights how a program or product can solve a specific problem of their target audience. The downside to this marketing is that it is difficult to nail and takes time to test and measure what works and will never give as big a return as having a strong brand.
Think of ‘Branding’ marketing to be the M-16 (machine gun) of the marketing world in which you run in to the forest spraying fire everywhere in the hope of hitting a target, while ‘Direct response’ is more of the sniper approach of one shot, one kill
What is the best marketing method for CrossFit?
Well this is the really interesting question.
If you ask any ‘Globo’ gym, they will tell you without exception that having a strong brand such as ‘Golds’, ‘Fitness First’, ‘24-hour Fitness’ or ‘Fernwood’ is critical. On the flip side, if you ask any highly successful, non-franchised small fitness business, they will tell you that it is all about the direct response.
So what do we do as CrossFit Affiliate owners?
Well unlike any other fitness business, CrossFit Affiliate owners are in the unique position in which you need to do both.
Let’s take a quick look at why…
CrossFit is not a franchise and affiliate owners aren’t restricted to operating a particular way or paying ongoing royalties (keep in mind, the affiliate fee is not a royalty). But what CrossFit does have and is continuing to develop further and further is a brand. The World CrossFit Games, ESPN coverage and Reebok sponsorship have all driven an ever increasing CrossFit brand awareness from within the fitness market place and this is only going to continue. And what this means is that when done correctly, you can simply piggy back your CrossFit affiliate branding on the back of the CrossFit Inc brand as 99% of the branding work has been done for you.
Now with direct response marketing, there is no getting away from the fact that this is by far the most economical approach for small businesses. It is just too cost-effective not to do. And for this reason, much like many other small independent fitness businesses, direct response marketing is going to be critical for the business growth. Despite all of the great work that the CrossFit brand is doing, there is still and will continue to be gaps between what people know about CrossFit from what they see on TV and read about in the newspapers, versus how CrossFit can help them with their own health and fitness problems.
Developing your marketing calendar
When it comes time to develop your marketing calendar, be sure to consider the branding opportunities created from CrossFit Inc with the World CrossFit Games and capitalise on the market place saturation that this gives. Remember to piggy-back from their media exposure as it will significantly increase the ‘Return-On-Investment’ (ROI) of your marketing.
Similarly, use the direct response marketing approach as your ongoing marketing system to keep driving a steady stream of new members in to your business. At any one time, you will want a minimum of four direct response marketing rods in the pond. Try to include a combination of around four to six externally driven promotions that have been re-packaged and keeps fresh the benefits for people choosing to use your services each year, as well using around 12 internally driven promotions that leverage off of your referrals and your joint venture relationships with other businesses.
The traditional approach to marketing a CrossFit affiliate just doesn’t work. So don’t mimic what you see other fitness businesses do – the exclusive approach to branding or direct response marketing will result in a much lower ROI than had you implemented blended approach of branding and direct response marketing approach. As a CrossFit owner, you need to think of your marketing efforts to now be like a sniper that has an M-16, as you get the best of both worlds.
Who has found that the increasing prominence of the World CrossFit Games has impacted on the number of enquiries in to your box? And has anyone tried to leverage off the games and if so, how?