Episode 112 – Where Should Your Focus Be?

I still do between 5 and 15 free calls every week with gym owners. I’ve been doing that for over 5 years.

Over that time, the quality of questions has gone up, and the number of panicked “going-out-of-business tomorrow” calls have declined. I’m pretty grateful for that. It makes the thousands of blog posts, videos and books worthwhile. So congrats, gym family! We’re doing SO much better!

In the last six months, our educational content–including this podcast–has really focused on getting gyms to the next level: freeing up the owners’ time, creating passive revenue and paying themselves more. But what many current callers really need is FOCUS: they’re trying to do everything for everyone all the time, and really getting nothing done as a result.

Markets are different, depending on the age of your box, and your city’s exposure to CrossFit. Competition between boxes (and between gyms) is different. Every single gym requires a different strategy. And while most gym owners understand they’re not the same as anyone else, they don’t know how to play to their strengths, or avoid doing worthless work.

For example, many OG gyms–the first CrossFit gym in a major city, for example–used to brag about achieving success without “any marketing whatsoever.” Unfortunately, many of them are now gone, or struggling. As the market around them matured, and their target audience changed, their tactic of “wait for people to find me” just stopped working.

Let’s say you were the first CrossFit gym in Capital City (I’m making up a name to keep it anonymous, because I can name a specific example in every major city, and I don’t want the owners to think I’m picking on them). You opened your doors in 2006 or 2007. Slowly, a band of outcasts and rogues started showing up. These were the early adopters. They were evangelists. They would have posted pictures of their torn palms if they had Facebook accounts back then. But they WOULD bore their friends to death talking about CrossFit.
Then they left: do do a Ragnar race, or open their own box and try to qualify for the Games.

They, in turn, attracted the Early Adopters: the folks who wanted to be like them. These were the torn-palm pics (“see how hardcore I am, daddy? Just like YOU!!!”) These were the first to popularize CrossFit on Facebook. They were quiet evangelists, but they drew a lot of people with their crazy posts about doing Fran-Murph on Sunday.

But meanwhile, the OG gym owner wondered why his trickle of newcomers was slowing down. Maybe he read Nicki Violetti’s original article about OnRamp in the Performance Menu, and thought “Gee, I should do OnRamp” but was paralyzed by other business advice. So he gave every coach a share of the gym and went back to his firefighting job. Then he blamed the coaches when sales didn’t go up.

Meanwhile, the Early Majority clients began to flood into the newer gyms. For a little while, hanging a sign on a wall was more than enough to draw people in. I remember my friends Luke and Bree getting ready to open. They had a bright red rig. People could see it through the front window. Passersby would bang on the window and ask, “Are you doing CrossFit in there?” They opened with 63 clients on the first day, if memory serves (that was 2014.)

And then the story played out again, into the third wave…

Every city, every box, is at a different point in their lifecycle. Some places in Europe are still attracting early adopters. Some places in Southern California are fighting over the laggards. And everyone is trying to stay on top of the curve, because there’s still PLENTY of opportunity. CrossFit is still growing. But the guy who showed up in 2006, bought his Infidel t-shirt online, followed the CrossFit Greyskull and Couch Thread sagas closely, and camped overnight at the Ranch–he’s long gone.

Chris Cooper delivers the best of the business world on Two-Brain Radio every Thursday.

On Monday, Two-Brain Radio presents marketing tips and success stories, and Sean Woodland has great stories from the community on Wednesdays.

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