What Your Brand can Learn from CrossFit.com

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

“[W]hat makes LEGO the best in the world is how and where they begin the process. LEGO design doesn’t begin with the brick. It begins with the people who will use it.” – Bernadette Jiwa, Marketing: A Love Story

CrossFit.com used to be for me, but it’s not anymore. That’s a good thing.

In a recent interview with Box Pro, Greg Glassman said this about the recent redesign: “I’ll tell you exactly who the targets are for the website: it’s the 10-year plus Affiliate.”

There’s a lesson in here for Affiliate owners. It’s this: You get to choose the people you’re building your business for. Not only do you get to, but you should. And there’s no better place to start thinking through the ramifications of that than your website. It will always be your most important, non-human marketing asset.

Before any person walks through your doors for the first time, they’ll have checked your website. Even if they know somebody at the gym already – even if that person is their best friend who they trust with their life – they’re stopping by your website.

What they see and read when they get there is important, and not for the reasons you may want to believe.

Yes, they might be looking for your pricing, your location or your schedule. Those details should be easily accessible. But that’s not really what they’re looking for, even if they don’t fully realize it.

What they’re looking for is an answer to this question: Do I belong there?

As it relates to his website, Greg Glassman doesn’t want me to answer yes to that anymore. Because he’s made that decision, he has immense freedom to trade breadth for depth. And to paraphrase the L1 lecture, depth is where all the good stuff happens.

(A caveat: While I applaud the intent, I’m not sure yet of its accuracy. As I write this, alongside today’s WOD is posted a two-part article on elbow joints and another on “Understanding the Warburg Effect: The Metabolic Requirements of Cell Proliferation.” The day prior includes a poem by Robert Frost.

Based on a few weeks of posts, I think it’s more accurate to say the website is now intended for Affiliate owners and the medical community Glassman is still trying to convince. And maybe MFA students?)

A Pivot Toward Depth

The flip side of this pivot toward depth is the value it can now offer you, the professional Coach. Instead of having to wade through two videos about Mat Fraser and another feel-good story about somebody whose life was changed by CrossFit, just to get some real value – well done though the content was – you are now being respected as the customer. What you need is being put up front.

You don’t need to be reminded CrossFit is effective nor that the CrossFit Games are fun. Instead, you need the tools to be better so you can do your job better.

If the CrossFit website wanted to appeal to everybody, then it would need to continue considering how to attract and satisfy both the individual with no experience as well as the Affiliate owner going on 10 years.

Can you see the challenge of that, to create something that is impactful to both without being overwhelming (let alone expensive)?

As Seth Godin says, it’s far more valuable to be a meaningful specific than a wandering generality.

The CrossFit website of old was a wandering generality, trying hard to satisfy new CrossFitters, CrossFit Affiliate owners, fans of the CrossFit Games and people looking to poach workouts. It did all those things reasonably well, and almost none of them exceptionally well. It was like a movie that wanted to be funny, thrilling, menacing and a documentary all at the same time.

It’s not that anymore. The folks who complain about that fact just don’t realize it’s no longer meant for them.

With the decision to narrow the focus of their business, CrossFit has eliminated the cruft. They’ve traded the breadth of satisfying a lot of people a little bit for the depth of adding genuine value to a select population. The website now serves as a logical extension of those decisions and as a signal to you that you belong there – or in my case, that I don’t.

In other words, they’re starting to reframe what the brand of CrossFit will come to stand for and who it is meant to serve. It’s still early, and how well they execute on this evolution will be worth watching.

What Can You Take Away from This?

Regardless, you should consider what lessons you can glean from these decisions as they relate to both your own website and your own operations.

You don’t have the time, money, or resources to build a business that does everything and serves everybody. Neither does CrossFit HQ. They’re betting the farm that sustainability, profitability, and maximum impact will come when they empower Affiliate owners and when they convince the medical community to trust them. With everything else removed, they can now focus on doing those two things.

It starts with being clear about who you want to serve and how they need to be served. That means building your brand with intention. It means making hard decisions about what you’re not going to do. And it means asking yourself who belongs in your gym, then acting accordingly.

Patrick Cummings has been in the CrossFit community since 2006, when he helped start Again Faster Equipment. He’s been creating media and helping build brands since then. In recent years, he co-created and co-hosted the Chasing Excellence podcast with Ben Bergeron. He just launched a project called Functional Branding with an aim of helping Affiliates level-up their marketing. And he’s started doing some writing for Morning Chalk Up, the first essay of which you can read here.