We teach Affinity Marketing, which is the overarching practice of focusing on your best clients, and making new connections through the “Help First” strategy.
That means we don’t usually focus on lead generation or social media advertising, because there are WAY too many easier opportunities to get new clients. People who find your brand online are usually unqualified “cold” leads who are nowhere near ready to sign up for a long-term service. They might not be able to afford a premium service like CrossFit. They might live too far away, or be too busy, or prefer to do Barre in the basement.
But sometimes, we DO tell gym owners to run a six-week challenge.
We’re a mentorship practice, so we don’t have to stick to a script. Sometimes a gym simply needs some new faces. Sometimes the owner needs a short-term win, even if it’s not a good long-term strategy. And sometimes an owner would simply not worry about their marketing.
Tommy Hackenbruck shared his six-week challenge (the New-You Challenge) on our podcast nearly two years ago. Many of the others are copies, so I’ll use NYC as an example.
Here’s how to do it best, what to avoid, and what to focus on:
First, your focus should be on the long tail.
Online challenges are often good at generating leads. Most of these are cold leads–they’re uneducated, unqualified, but curious. It’s hard to convert them to long-term clients, in my experience. But the real value of the challenge is to start a conversation, not convert cold leads into sales.
If a person clicks through the ad, reads the landing page, fills in the form…and then suddenly goes dark, it doesn’t mean they’re disinterested. It doesn’t mean they’re scared. It just means they can’t sign up right now. They might not see how your service can solve their problem. They might not yet know they HAVE a problem. Their credit card could be outside in their car. The baby might be crying. The phone might be ringing…just because they don’t sign up NOW doesn’t mean they won’t sign up EVER.
Adding 100 leads to your email list is valuable, if you know what to do next.
Second, aim for a 40% retention rate after the challenge.
This seems to be the “gold standard” when leads are filtered properly. This number sounds low, but many challenges produce retention rates that are far lower. This has a lot to do with the quality of leads that are brought in; the price of the challenge; and the transition “after the challenge.
The gyms with the highest retention rates consistently do goal reviews with every client individually, integrate the new clients into their community after a few weeks (not too early) and have a “next step” set up from day one.
Third, plan your calendar in advance.
Back-to-back challenges can be a downward spiral. Have you heard this: “I’m basically using the challenge as my intake process now…” ?
It’s a trap. Don’t do it. A challenge might kickstart your marketing and sales process; it might bridge a short-term cash flow gap. But if it replaces the things that will make you successful in the long-term, you’re building fragility into your business.
A good “challenge” strategy is to plan 2-3 per year during your normal dips (August and March, for me.) Then follow the challenge with a deep email marketing campaign, and roll on your Affinity Marketing plan in the meantime to keep up your momentum.
Cold leads naturally have a higher turnover rate for a variety of reasons. Maybe they can’t afford your service long-term; maybe they just like trying new things; maybe they just got out of jail. They take awhile to warm up before they’ll become great clients. But nothing draws a crowd like a crowd does: if you’re struggling to fill a midnight class, a challenge might just do it.