The Blind Spot in CrossFit

shutterstock_225742819Matt Sharp, the co-owner and operator of CrossFit Maximus, first said that retention was the blind spot in the CrossFit industry. But, then he changed his tune, and adjusted the blind spot to nutrition. However, the reality is that Sharp truly believes they all work together to maintain his client base.

“On top of our core values it says, ‘Be the best part of the member’s day,’” explained Sharp. “I think we kind of base everything off of that. The community will take care of itself and the retention will take care of itself.”

Focusing on the client more and more is a constant struggle for Sharp and his team, one that they are continually trying to improve. Now they are developing a system of “Red Flag Accounts,” or people that haven’t been into the gym or attended a class in a while.

“We have a manager that’s assigned to call those people and follow up with those people,” said Sharp. “I’ve seen some gyms that will send a postcard. If you haven’t been in in three weeks, they’ll send you a postcard. Most owners don’t understand that it’s cheaper to keep somebody than it is to recruit a new person. If you can hold on to who you have, sell more things to them, get them to bring a friend, that’s better than going out trying to get someone in a parking lot.”

During classes at Maximus, Sharp pushes his Coaches to ensure that everyone gets attention. “If you just show up, workout and leave, then you there is no anchor connection for you at that gym,” said Sharp. “Some of the biggest things we’ve done that drive community is fun warm ups. Team workouts and fun warm ups are a way for people to interact with one another. At the end of the day you get to know the other members and start to form a connection.”

Another retention tool that is simple but may not have been thought of is the Maximus Facebook Group. This isn’t a Facebook Page, like almost all Boxes have at this point in time. Instead, alongside the Facebook Page, the members have a Facebook Group. “Once you become a member you get put in there,” said Sharp. “That’s where you really get the, ‘we’re going to watch Monday Night Football, anyone in,’ things like that. Things that you wouldn’t want on your public Facebook page. Not that they’d get notified of that stuff anyway.”

The Facebook Group also allows the members to foster conversations with Coaches outside the class. They are able to ask questions and converse with one another, doing even more to galvanize the community and foster competition, all while outside the gym.

“We try to really connect the new people in our on-ramp program,” explained Sharp. “It’s kind of like the military, those guys remember every body they went through boot camp with. If you can drive connections in that on-ramp program, that’s going to keep the people that are in danger of leaving, that’s going to keep them there. If they are connected to 10 or 15 other people in their on-ramp program that have the same needs, care about the same things, feel about the same things like, ‘holy crap what did we get ourselves into, I’m trying to lose weight, are you?’ And then when they try to quit, there are 15 other people to keep them from quitting.”

Sharp said throwing a person into a class is a lot like throwing a freshman in with a bunch of seniors: They don’t have a ton in common and they may not be able to build that connection. In reality, the best thing a Box can do to improve retention from the very beginning is follow Sharp’s four basic tips:

  1. Love the members. Identify why they’re there and get to know them as much as possible.
  2. Community Events. Not only do these need to be community WODs where members can bring friends, but it’s also important to have non-workout community building events, such as watching football or enjoying a tailgate.
  3. Having an amazing class. According to Sharp your classes have to be outstanding. When they look for new Coaches, they only hire people that can keep up a level of enjoyment with the members. As he said, the best part of the member’s day should be at your gym.
  4. Supplementary Programs. Some Boxes and Affiliates may not agree, but for Sharp and Maximus it makes total sense. Provide your members with another reason to come to your gym other than just CrossFit. Sure, CrossFit can be number one, but you would rather if your members got bored to have another class for them to do at your Box than have them leave you for something else and possibly never return.

Tyler Montgomery
Tyler is a former editor of Box Pro Magazine.