The fitness business is dramatically different these days, and the operation of a CrossFit gym has changed greatly in a short period of time. When we opened in 2009, we basically had to spread our message door-to-door, trying to convince people to try out this new fitness program which didn’t involve machines and left you lying on the floor afterwards. Now in 2016, CrossFit is on ESPN, there’s 67 boxes in your city, the globo-gyms are copying the group class business plan and each Box has a different taste and feel. It’s hard to feel like you are different. And because of CrossFit’s ubiquity, professionalism is becoming more and more important for differentiating oneself in the local fitness market. I believe two important ways to differentiate yourself are to know your community and frequently give them content.
Because of the many fitness realms, we feel it’s more important than ever to have a firm grasp of who you are and cater to your specific fitness community. Maybe your community likes drinking parties. Maybe your community likes doing 5k runs. Maybe your community likes prayer groups. Give them what they want, but only if it’s true to you. If we tried to start a prayer group, I’m pretty sure we’d be laughed out of the building. But a community event centered on something called the “Beer Mile” involving four 12-ounce beers and four 400-meter laps? That’s up our alley, and the resulting highlight video on YouTube is gaining additional views.
The next lesson is one I picked up from Matt Sharp at CrossFit Maximus and Causely/Sweat Angels. Start creating content. Even if you’re not very good at it at first and don’t know where to begin, just start doing it. Talk about what you love, and if one person finds that interesting, then you’ve got something. But, talk about what you love because that topic is likely to have some depth; without depth, it can’t convey value. CrossFit is based on the general competency, or surface-level knowledge, of 10 physical skills. However, good content is based on depth, as in specificity of knowledge. Luckily, you get to choose that specificity.
Now, our gym still struggles determining how to spread content that we believe expresses our passions and our goal of style that is both laid back yet intelligent, but we recognize its importance. That’s why I’m telling you that you should do the same.
When you decide to more frequently publish content, you have to be comfortable knowing that you’re going to mess up. Your content will be off sometimes and bad other times. But if you keep at it, you’ll find your voice. As long as you’re not telling people inaccurate information regarding fitness, then you should find that people begin to look to you as a leader. Maybe Jim Wendler isn’t knocking down your door to hear your thoughts on strength training, but someone might be.
The one caveat to this topic of giving people what they want is that you have to be able to separate your business self from the party/charity/prayer-group self. Or whatever version of you out there. As a business owner, you should be tracking metrics like your average revenue per client, monthly and yearly retention rates, client acquisition cost, etc. to make sure you’re running a professional establishment. You run a business after all, so you must keep your house in check. Business Slater and Fun Slater are different people. Just ask the Derby City community.