August 3, 2009
CrossFit La Verne (CA) "heads" out on vacation . . .
What do you need more of? Affiliate business advice? Motivational words? In-depth looks at successful affiliates and what makes them tick? Post your opinion in Comments and tell us what you'd like to see.
Robert Bixby (who works out at CrossFit Santa Cruz Central
and CrossFit North Santa Cruz
) offers some advice to help grow your affiliate . . .
CrossFit Marketing and Sales: The Free Introductory Workout
by Robert Bixby
Ok, this sounds funny. But for a number of CrossFit gyms I've been to, this should be a mandatory certification. Trainers set up their own gyms out of the love for the work, their own passion and commitment. Some of them have outgoing personalities that naturally draw others in. Many more are not so fortunate. I've seen some excellent trainers whom I'm concerned won't be able to stay in business. You should definitely take the marketing and sales process for the gym as seriously as you do your own personal training and certifications.
First, what sales is not:
1. Sales is not talking someone into something they don't want to do.
2. Sales is not evil.
3. Sales does not make people hate you.
What sales is:
1. Sales is an invitation to another to show them an opportunity.
2. Sales is demonstrating and explaining how something can improve a person's
quality of life or well being.
3. Sales is the art of making something become so clear to another person that
enrollment is just the next natural step.
Many CrossFits have a free, introductory session once a week. The ones that don't should. Yet it's an opportunity for the gym that doesn't seem to be utilized to its full potential. Here's what's important to realize: New people coming to this session are there for a reason. They want to improve their lives. They are also frequently nervous and intimidated. I've been going to CrossFit for years and still get intimidated by the 20's and 30's who just slay the workouts. So here are a few strong recommendations for the free session:
1. Welcoming people. Every single new person should be personally greeted by a trainer. Their friend should be thanked for bringing them. Questions to ask:
a. What do you want to get out of CrossFit?
b. Do you have the time to commit to a program?
c. Would you get excited about being able to do things physically that you
can't do now?
2. Welcoming new people is a great opportunity to begin to slot people with specialized trainers. You may have someone who specializes in the Zone, running, masters groups, etc.
3. Sign in. Assuming that every person signs a release, ask them how you can contact them--phone or email or both.
4. The opening talk is important. Some history about Coach Glassman and how he started CrossFit is inspiring. How did you start your gym? What is your workout philosophy?
5. Demo, demo, demo. Encourage. This is a normal part of CrossFit and something we all love about it. The sense of community and mutual encouragement. People aren't going to instinctively know this, but they can see it in the first session.
6. Who is at the free session? If you have gym regulars without a guest, is this supporting the new folks? Maybe, but stay aware of the intimidation factor.
7. The close. This is extremely important. After the workout, bring everyone together. Ask people to share how the workout was for them. This is a huge opportunity to have people talk a little about their concerns, etc. If one person says, "This is really tough, I'm not sure I can do it..." it is a terrific opening for others thinking the same thing. The first week I started CrossFit I jumped right into classes. We went through some rounds and then went out on a run. At the end of the workout, I asked Tony Budding if anyone ever went out on a run and
just never came back (because of course this was what I was thinking of doing!) Tony laughed and said "Yes!" That was a huge moment for me. It was OK to struggle with it, to think you can't do it, to want to quit, but to just keep going anyway.
8. The invitation. This is the hardest thing for people. I did classes for several years and then one day Brendan Gilliam walked up to me and said, "You know, you'd get a lot out of some personal sessions. Would you like to do some personal training with me?" Such a simple question, so hard for people to ask. So every guest should be talked to before they leave one on one if possible. Questions:
a. How was your workout?
b. What do you think you could get out of CrossFit?
c. Would you like to sign up for training?
d. Be prepared. If they shock you and want to sign up, do you have all the trainers' schedules? Can you book them in right then and there? Do it when they are ready, don't promise to call them back.
9. The follow up call. Yes, I can feel your skin begin to crawl. Relax. This is like a muscle, use it and it will get stronger. Within four days of the session, call every new person that didn't sign up. Sample questions:
a. How are you feeling? (Prepare to laugh)
b. How did you like the workout?
c. Do you think CrossFit could help you?
d. We would love to have you join us.
10.Trainers at the event. I strongly recommend that every single trainer who works at the gym be at the class. This will provide more personal attention for each new person and will help make people more comfortable with the process.
I have had people express their frustration to me about bringing their friends to free sessions. I've heard a range of complaints including: No one talked to them; no one asked if they wanted to sign up; everyone just stood around and my friend didn't know what to do; no one told them what CrossFit is. You need to understand that the people who attend your gym are putting their trust in you when they bring their friends. They want to know that their friends will be taken care.
11. Statistics!!! We love stats. We put everyone's numbers up every day so that everyone can see. It helps us improve. Guess what? Here's another stat opportunity. How many new people attend your orientation each week? Of that group, how many sign up that day? Within the next week? What are those statistics for the different trainers? Obviously if Phil leads the class and 10% of the attendees sign up, but when Diane leads 60% sign up, we need to work with Phil a little bit. Posted by Lisbeth at August 3, 2009 12:05 AM
Why is all of this so important? CrossFit is clearly viral and new people being brought to the gym is our most important and least expensive way to grow and sustain our gyms financially. This is a golden opportunity that should not be squandered. It should be paid attention to as seriously as we take our form and our workout statistics.
We offer 3 free days of "Share the Pain" right before the beginning of our next Elements program. This post is golden material to help demonstrate our desire to help all newcomers. Thank you! I will be putting a copy of this post into our trainers mail boxes tomorrow!
more sleep...definitely more sleep
great question Lisbeth,
I would love to hear more about all aspects of other affliates operations with special attention paid to some of the more sucessful boxes. Maybe Sevan or Jon Gilson's crew can go around and film.covering everthing from design to ,equipment choices to pricing strategy. Thanks!
I'd like to see more videos from affiliates, particularly on coaching. We all talk about what a great trainer/coach is, but I'd love to SEE how they are doing it around the world. You know, pick up some visual tips.
BTW, reading articles on the a-blog is wonderful, but condensing 600+ words into a 2-minute video is better!
Love the post today about marketing and sales. That is something that I can actually start to use immediately.
As the others before me have said, more on operations and systems, as well as coaching examples. I'm attending a level 2 cert in the fall, and I'd love to see different trainers at successful affiliates teach the moves to new clients.
Excellent blog post today Lisbeth!
Great article. Thanks for posting it Lisbeth and writing it Robert.
It seems to me that this A-blog is becoming the information resource for affiliates, but the real issue is being able to digest and assimilate the vast quantity of information.
I read great stuff everyday on how to better run my affiliate, but the real trick is finding the time between classes and training and maintenance to implement some of these great ideas. I'm sure over time much of it will seep into my daily routine. It just seems overwhelming....and this is the second affiliate I've opened. :) I think a lot of what I learned the first time around is making it into my routine, but there is still much much much more work to be done.
I'm just thankful that Lisbeth and the rest of the community is out there supporting us and each other.
Lots of great advice today. It has got me thinking about changing some things around in my new box (open just one month). I'm working on a system for newbies (currently trying to implement the On Ramp program) but it's rather difficult being the only trainer at my box. I'd love to hear what others use as a WOD for "newbies" during the free intro...I have been using WOD #1 from On Ramp (squat/pushup/body row)....
I liked the video a few weeks back featuring Jeremy Theil discussing payment plans and scheduling of WOD times. I would love to see more discussion/videos from other affiliates about how they organize their classes or the lack of.
I've seen affiliates operate in two generally different ways:
1) Class Model: Class starts on time at 5:30am, begins with an organized group warmup, continues with a skill, about a half-hour in the WOD begins, class ends with some more skill work if there is time. Examples: Potomac CrossFit, Albany CrossFit, Underground Fitness NKY.
2) Open Gym Model: Hours are posted, but people wander in when they wish. Warmup is on your own, the coaches take brief 1-on-1 personal coaching when requested or needed during or after the warmup. Once a few people are warmed up, an impromptu WOD begins. Examples: Primal Fitness, CrossFit Nasti, CrossFit Monterey.
Both seem to work for their clients. I much prefer (coaching and being an athlete) the first choice, but different affiliates get good responses from their athletes, which is great. More discussion on the differences or pros/cons of the structuring of the affiliates would be very fun to read and talk about.
We have just started an On-Ramp program at CFNKY and besides that lack of attendees (only 3 for 2 class times!!!) it's going great. Robb & Nicki's On-Ramp program is so great!
However, when people show up just to try out CrossFit, we usually have 1 trainer teach a normal class and have the other coach the athlete through this WOD:
It's our baseline WOD for all newcomers to see what they've got.
A document dump would be great. One compiled location for various examples of waivers...business plans...lease agreements...etc.
I would appreciate more in-depth looks at successful affiliates.
In particular, I think it would be great to learn about stages of their business. For example, several boxes are successfully running on a model that would not work for a solo trainer just opening an affiliate. Bridging the gap is likely the most challenging part.
I would love to see a series of articles about a generic "sample" affiliate. Hopefully authored/edited by a group of successful affiliate owners that have gone through all the stages. These are the things that I would LOVE to see covered (following is not intended to be a final outline, just a starting place).
PREAMBLE: Opening an affiliate as a solo trainer (find space, negotiate lease, purchase equipment, website up and open the doors).
CHAPTER 1: After a few months, membership is slowly growing and free time is becoming scarce (developing/tweaking initial systems, scheduling, changes in personal life, etc.).
CHAPTER 2: Pass break even on Rent/CAMS, start looking to grow more aggressively (what to do with profits, further tweaking systems, adding additional trainers/classes, managing the transition from 1 trainer to several, etc.).
CHAPTER 3: Maturing the business (improving retention, regular marketing, special events, working with teams or special populations, managing multiple trainers).
CHAPTER 4: Expanding, relocating, dissolving the business (new location, adding additional space, moving to a new city, selling or dissolving an affiliate).
For example...Preamble might start with "CrossFit ABC just signed a 12 month lease for a 1,500 square feet unit. Monthly rent and CAMS are going to run us $1,250. We bought a $1mm/2mm insurance policy and bought into the RRG. Spent $5,000 on new equipment and have enough so that if we have 5 people in a class, they all can have their own gear...more and they'll have to share. It's just me, Brock Trainwell and I can't wait for my first class to open tomorrow!"
Chapter 1, "I'm running on fumes doing all these free 1on1 introductions through out the day, but we're adding people slowly but steadily. Our unlimited rate is $100/month with no annual contracts. Right now I offer two morning classes and four classes each afternoon, but only the 5:00PM one regularly gets more than 3 people. I love it, but I need some help..."
Here is where people could chime in on the message board with next steps, helpful tips, or anecdotal advice.
Chapter 2: "Brock here. On the advice of CrossFit DEF and CrossFit XYZ I implemented an Elements Class so I wasn't doing as many 1on1 classes. I also scaled back to two morning and two afternoon classes, but added a free Saturday class for newbies. Also, one of my clients seems interested in becoming a trainer, and I could use the help. Last month I made $3,000 in gross revenue, but I haven't paid myself a salary in the last 3 months and things are getting tight. I could use some helpful advice..."
I think is would be cool to have a sort of group business case study. Anyone agree??
Re comment 10- just what the doctor ordered
Re comment 11- I love the Idea. Just this past week I reached out to a Crossfit Vet for advice. I just took my Cert in April. Got my first client in June that I started training after work in the park. Through In the last month I have increased to 17 clients paying $50 bi-weekly with no contract. A minimal amount of equiment that I can carry in my family sedan. I teach a 5:15pm class and a 7:00pm class. With a free class Saturday mornings. What do I do next is the question I go to sleep with every night???
RE #8, 10, 11. I agree.
I would like to see how other successful affiliates have built a mature business, how they overcame growing pains (systems, growing client base, moving into/out of a box/space, taking on help, compensating help) how others have implemented a on-ramp or beginners program.
And on that note, we introduced a Foundations program 2 months ago and it's going well. We have lots of people that are new to CrossFit and this is a great way to get them scaled into the regular class. My biggest challenge is people who miss classes and have to schedule make ups. Could just be the summer months, but I am thinking about changing the format to a shorter one that covers the basics and scaling the new comers on WOD's once they complete. Anyone have advice or input? Email me paul at crossfitqueensny dot com.
And...#6, yes, this is a great resource and it is very overwhelming to integrate into a daily routine, and I'm very grateful the A-blog exists. Thank Lisabeth.
Thanks for the info!
I'd love to get more on the business side of being an affiliate: negotiating a lease, membership agreements, waiver forms, and especially hiring (paying?) trainers and training them.
Thanks again for all of the great information so far. Keep it coming!
If it's like anything else in the legal world, I'd bet a lot of that stuff is State specific, that is, you can do certain things in Cali, that you can't in WA, and vice versa. So state to state docs, great. That said, there's nothing wrong with comparing a couple leases. And frankly, if you sign a lease that someone knowlegeable in the leasing industry didn't look over, you're basically ingnoring how the terms would work in or against your behalf.
And if you form up as a C corp I shall say good DAY to you sir.
I am seriously thinking of leaving my contract at a local high school as the Strength & Conditioning Coach to work out of my 530 square foot garage as an affiliate. I would love to see a profile on those who are on the opposite side of the large CF boxes. There are many who run out of their garage, and I spend many hours searching their sites for info...that would be a great tool.
I would like to see more ideas on how affiliates are marketing their boxes with very little budget. Do you rely on word of mouth or try to get out more in the community?
I agree with number 16. More on garage gym affiliates.
All of the above.
training advice is great, but there's a lot of that on the journal.
In depth looks at successful affiliates from the entire spectrum would be helpful (garage to 10,000 sq. ft. box). including the nitty gritty stuff that isn't the exciting part of opening a box.
There is more than one way to run a box and all the different ideas can help current, prospective and future affiliates grow.
These posts seem to spur the most discussion. I like when I can learn as much from the comments as the posted material. Thank Lisbeth.
As a prospective affilliate head later this month, I'd appreciate any, ANY advice from the many that have come before me that may not be that obvious to the novice practitioners such as myself.
Great post Lisbeth! Keep it coming.
As an aside, we signed a lease today for an 1800+SF space. Excited, nervous, giddy all at once. Now comes the cleaning ...
Ditto. Ditto. Ditto...to more than a few of the above posts. I'm actually a corporate professional who was turned onto CF in Sept 2008. I AM addicted and often consider the possibilty of owning my own affiliate at some point in the future (I"m currently among the unemployed and need to get back to a cash-safe position first). However, I would pursue this as a part-time venture.
Like several others above, I want to know more about the business side of setting up and managing an affiliate. A rock hard analytic, I'd love to hear from/talk with owners who either left a corporate job to do this full-time OR who maintain a nearly full-time job and do this in the evenings and on weekends. Lots of questions...many I'm sure I haven't yet thought of.
Lots of good stuff here. Thanks for the input -- and keep it coming. Together, we are all so much stronger -- and smarter! Coach Glassman once said something to the effect of "A group of dedicated trainers can create so much more than one person ever could" -- and I think that same idea holds true here. A group of dedicated affiliate owners who share and grow together -- well, that's a force to be reckoned with.
Keep the ideas coming. We're working on a lot of projects, so it might take a while between concept and implementation (and some may not be implemented, for various reasons, of course), but we're always listening. The affiliates are at the heart of everything we do.
Great post Lisbeth! I love it! I would love to see more posts like this on here. And the idea of sending out a film crew to observe successful businesses operating would be valuable. We got lucky with some of our first members being very outgoing. So when new people started, our athletes just went right up and introduced themselves to the newer members. This has had a great snowball effect on our entire community as we've grown.
We are about to have all of our requirements for our box and I really appreciate this topic. Great reponses from alot of people.
I really like the free publicity angle. We are currently getting our name out into the public with our "Fitness Stimulus Package" We are doing a 7 week free series of Saturday morning workouts at different locations in our city. We also give a handout with 2 WODS to be done on their own...simple fundamental exercises where mechanics are usually known, no skill or technique based exercises. We have received free airtime on our local radio station and I am working on some free TV time too. It amazed me how they are really looking for human interest stories and have trouble filling the spots sometimes. The event or series has to be free but it really gets the word out. In the two Saturdays we have run class we have had over 40 show in total.
I also just got through speaking to 2 crews (about 30 firefighters) of firefighters in town with 5 more presentations planned, the goal is to invite them out to the free workouts. I also just found out that the city will pay a % of their gym membership if they attend 8x per month and can document it (not sure of that process) but I will get the info and post it. So 180 firefighters over 3 days will learn about CrossFit in my hometown and it all came about by me stopping in and asking for the firefighter in charge of the physical training. They were holding a mandatory medical training and they gave me a 15 minutes at the beginning(they said 15 but I took a half hour and they were ok with it) I put together a short powerpoint with FilFest "Evolution" video and the Firefighter Fran video along with maybe 7 other slides...it was well received but I won't know the result of the conversion for a few weeks but will keep you posted on the success. The info about the city was well worth the time spent...if anyone wants the ppt I will send it to you...email me at email@example.com
What an awesome post. Really useful info. I would also love to see a document cache and maybe a listing of "Best Practices" that really successful affiliates have found - and on the other hand - Mistakes not to make again! That might be even more useful. Free Publicity, and community building tips are always awesome as well.
On a side note: Nice pic CF Laverne =)
Really great post!
Thanks Adam! Hope all is well!!
I got my level one cert in june and i've been reading journals and watching videos constantly.....my biggest problem....fear- i keep thinking i have to get better times, read more journals, watch more videos before i teach, etc. as much as i want to start a box i'd like to do it with a partner....it would be great if i could hook up with a likeminded crossfitter in my area.
so..attn anyone in the state of delaware interested in starting a box...contact me...NOW!