Our Varsity program at Catalyst used to have 11 teen girls and only one boy.

 

One time, I pulled him aside and said, “Hey man, it’s totally fine to invite some of your male friends to this group if you want.”

 

He replied: “Why in hell would I want to do that?”

 

I laughed. He was trying to exclude competition, and I didn’t realize it.

 

Most gym owners are excluding clients and don’t realize it.

 

Even worse, they’re probably blocking out the BEST POSSIBLE CLIENTS they could have.

 

I’m going to tell you exactly what the problem is. But first, here’s the path a client takes to find their way to you. Please note that at ANY point, they could take any action, or even NO action.

  1. “I’m too fat.”
  2. “I am going to lose weight.”
  3. “Should I go on a diet, or start exercising?”
  4. “If I exercise, should I just start jogging, or join a gym?”
  5. “Should I just join the cheapest gym in case I don’t like it?”
  6. “Should I get a personal trainer? Or a class?”
  7. “Will I lose weight faster with Pilates, Barre, CrossFit, or a bootcamp?”
  8. “Which one is the easiest?”
  9. “If I pick CrossFit, which gym should I attend?”

—-and I’ll interrupt there. Because THIS is where a lot of gym owners blow it.

 

I’ve written extensively on your intake process, the first impression on your website has to make, and avoiding the appearance of selling a commodity. I won’t cover those again.

 

Instead, I’m going to mention the signals you’re sending to your target audience.

 

When I opened, I thought I was my target audience: the 25-year-old “grinder” who wanted intensity in their life, who didn’t care about clean bathrooms or diet, who wanted to wear old t-shirts with obscure slogans and black skulls. I was flying a black flag. I was counterculture on purpose–and that made me counterCLIENT.

 

There were a few others like me, of course. But they were all doing shift work, or had budget restrictions, or were overconfident in their abilities. They didn’t want coaching; they just wanted heavy weights and aggressive rap.

 

Meanwhile, my Personal Training studio attracted professionals aged 35-to-55, who never had a problem with my rates. We wore collared shirts and played Top 40 music and combed our hair before a session.

 

I’d work the morning at the Personal Training studio, and then all night at my CrossFit gym. None of my clients from the former followed me; I didn’t understand why.

 

When I combined both gyms, I lost a bunch of amazing Personal Training clients. Some of them, long-term seed clients, told me that my new bathrooms were dirty, and they didn’t appreciate the music or swearing at my new gym.

 

I started to see the light, but it was too late; I lost some long-term, excellent clients, who I NOW realize were my target group all along.

 

We, as humans, are wired to find belonging. We seek tribes and packs of people LIKE us so we won’t be excluded. If I walked into a biker bar today, I’d immediately know that I didn’t fit in, and leave quickly. The same would be true if I walked into a ballet recital.

 

If an excellent potential client finds their way through that maze of questions above, and finds YOU, will they turn back when they hear the gangster rap in the parking lot?

 

Will they come back after the seventh F-bomb? Will they quit after the ninth?

 

You might wear your hat backward every day. That’s cool with me. But it might not scream “health care professional” to someone over 30.

 

Your shirts might be the envy of other box owners. Great. But if a prospective weight loss client sees your “fuck shit up” t-shirt on their first visit, they might head to Planet Fitness.

 

If you spout your views about religion or politics on social media, I understand–but more than 50% of your audience won’t.

 

I’m not telling you to be pablum. I’m telling you to be thoughtful and considerate.

 

People in your city might not be scared of CrossFit; they might just be scared of YOU. Or your gym.

 

I have a huge inventory of unsold t-shirts with Mark Twight quotes on them, and a boatload of regrets about clients I’ve lost but shouldn’t have. Their schedules didn’t change at work; they didn’t reconsider their budget. I simply excluded them by doing things an expert wouldn’t do.

 

Remember: it’s better to be the only person overdressed than the only person underdressed.

 

It doesn’t hurt to be the most polite person in the room.

 

And if you want to serve highly-educated people, check your spelling on Facebook.