People lead very different lives based on where they are located geographically. Those in New York City would live a much faster pace lifestyle than someone in a small town. People flock to certain pockets of the country where a career is more likely to be found; those who love water can be found up and down the coasts; and in Denver, Colorado, people come for mainly the mountains.
Will Gordon moved to Denver for this exact reason. Having been an avid mountain climber for many years, it seemed like the perfect fit. Gordon was also active in CrossFit and his move had him seeking out a gym to workout in. After sitting down with his close friend Matt, they determined it didn’t make any sense that they both had multiple memberships to climbing gyms and CrossFit Boxes. Why was there no combination of the two in Denver where most people were heavily interested in the sport of climbing?
“We were consumers in our own market which led us to realize the CrossFit market is quite saturated right now,” said Gordon. “Gone are the days of slapping CrossFit on a sign on a building and having so many people inside you didn’t know what to do. We quickly realized people needed a space where they could do both CrossFit and climb, the same way the two of us needed it.”
Thus, Mountain Strong Denver was born. It’s a two-in-one climbing facility and CrossFit gym created specifically with the Denver market in mind. From layout to marketing to programming, the gym caters to its specific demographic’s wants.
Co-owners Carol Beliveau and Jesse Hilmandolar of CrossFit Blacksburg in Virginia are also working to cater to their specific market. After seeing the gym had a large membership of 45-plus members, Beliveau explained they created a program marketed to that specific age demographic called SilverFit.
“We realized pretty quickly there was a need for a fitness program for the older age demographic in Blacksburg,” said Beliveau. “If no one else is meeting a specific need in your area, that is the perfect place for you to come in and cater to a specific population. It helps everyone out who is involved.”
But it takes more than a ‘build it and they will come’ mentality to get these unique programs or specialized businesses off the ground. With a narrow demographic comes specific marketing strategies.
For Mountain Strong Denver, they did what most climbers would do to spread the word: climb a mountain.
“When we first opened, we dropped coupons to our gym around frequented climbing areas,” said Gordon. “We would put them under rocks at the top of a popular route we knew a lot of climbing traffic would see. We gained a lot of notoriety that way, because people realized we weren’t just advertising ourselves as a climbing gym, we were living the lifestyle as well.”
Once you get members in your door specific to the market you are aspiring to reach, the work doesn’t stop there. Programming is unique to each demographic as well, so it’s important you have Coaches who understand that and are ready to create workouts as such and not just generalize CrossFit.
“We do things differently here with our SilverFit program; we’re not just handing out workouts and hoping everybody survives. It’s very foundational and we get everyone started in specific ways,” said Beliveau. “If an athlete has heart issues, I need to know what that means so I can monitor them. People don’t want to reveal to you their health issues because it’s hard for them. That’s why I like conversations with the older athletes because we get to talk about the past where things could come out that are detrimental to their training.”
The same strategy is in place at Mountain Strong Denver, too. Since most members come to the gym to work on CrossFit and climbing, Gordon is sure to keep that in mind when creating the programming. He creates a workout for those more dedicated to climbing and a separate workout for those specifically there for CrossFit. The two intermix some and members are welcome to do either workout.
“Our climbers don’t need to be spending their time learning the skill of double unders. They need to be spending time learning the skill of finger locks on the climbing wall,” said Gordon. “I can get the same stimulus by having climbers do SkiErg sprints followed by getting right on the wall. The structure between the two programmed workouts will be the same and the time will be the same; we just change some of the focal points.”
Also, most residents of the Denver area use their weekends to travel or go on outdoor adventures, which has played a huge role in the strategy behind Mountain Strong Denver’s weekly class schedule. Gordon explained the gym is pretty empty on Fridays and Saturdays as members are out on hikes in the summer or skiing in the winter.
“I want our average members to be ready for the unknown and unknowable, but I also want them to never turn down a trip, and also to beat down their friends on that hike,” said Gordon. “My mindset is Mondays are more of a sweat and get moving day. I ease into it. Then, the bulk of the training is Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. Friday, I try to incorporate something that is fun to hook those still in town into the gym. Things like sleds, interval sprints, tire flips and climbing laps on our wall are used to entice people quite often.”
Most importantly, when trying to cater to your area and demographic you must know who the people are who live there. Learn the ins and outs of potential members’ lifestyles, and then cater your offerings to match their needs.
“Think about the people in your area,” said Gordon. “Who is there? What are they doing? Check out the cars they drive, where they live. Do they look stressed, are they relaxed? Do they look like a person who would walk in your gym and hand you their credit card? The Denver market made it easy for me; it was a match made in heaven.”