by Janice Marie Ferguson
Of course, every CrossFit gym or group fitness business can lay claim to that statement in some way or another. We’re all special little snowflakes, and no one else is like us. Aren’t we cool?
There are more than 10,000 CrossFit affiliates across the world. It’s true, each one is a little bit different than the other. We each interpret “CrossFit” in our own way and through our own experiences. And as for the personal training studio, boot camp, group training gym, there’s no doubt each is as individual in personality as their owners and trainers. But, in the end, we’re all trying to sell the same thing–a fitness product that we all know can provide results. And we are all competing for our share of the fitness market.
As I peruse gym marketing posts, Web sites, and advertising material from CrossFit gyms and group training facilities in my quest to differentiate Bandit CrossFit, I find a recurring theme:
“Our coaches/trainers can teach you the proper technique!”
“At CrossFit XYZ, we focus on form before intensity!”
“We put technique FIRST at ABC Fitness!!!”
“Our CrossFit Level 2 Instructors will ensure that you are using proper technique!”
All this looks so familiar. Am I reading my own Web site? Nope. It’s just that I use the same verbiage in the hope of differentiating our gym and attracting clients who are looking for a little bit more out of their fitness. Boy, have I failed! I need to do a better job of letting the public know that we don’t just INTEND to coach our members in proper technique and form. That statement isn’t lip service. We DELIVER on that statement every day.
Education and Practice:
Our coaches have undergone an extensive 8-week minimum internship process. They continue learning through self-educational programs, webinars, seminars, and certifications covering a multitude of topics and disciplines. And since we know that a piece of paper doesn’t make a coach, we have all instructed hundreds of hours of classes and individuals to put what we learn into practice. We work together to solve problems for our clients by putting our heads together, making observations and recommendations.
All of this education and practice has helped our Bandit coaches to hone an amazing eye for movement. Not only, can our coaches “see,” but they possess an arsenal of remediation techniques and strategies to correct the root problem of any movement fault. Whether it be lack of mobility, lack of strength, or inability to activate/low kinesthetic awareness, we know how to assess and troubleshoot to find the best solution. We listen to our clients’ goals, and try to help them find solutions to meet their personal milestones. And if we can’t help our clients achieve what they want, we never have problems referring them to someone who can.
But, in the group model, providing all of those things can be difficult. I’m about to reveal the secret to the success of our Bandits–a secret that I’ve been afraid of advertising too loudly for far too long. What’s the secret? Why was I afraid? Keep reading.
The “Failing” Group Exercise Model:
For those of you who’ve been doing CrossFit for some time, you may have experienced the following CrossFit affiliate business model:
During any given class, there’s a population of people who are competent, another group who is just starting to pick up on things, and a handful of people who still don’t know a push press from a push jerk or a barbell from a kettlebell. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter how good and knowledgable your coach is, if you’re in a CrossFit class that typifies that standard business model, the more competent the members get, the less coaching those members will receive. It’s nothing personal. It’s just that these competent folks “know what they’re doing,” and the coach really has no choice but to leave them to it. This is because he spends the entire class time in triage mode, and trying to prove the famous marketing hook (one you may also have seen on my Web site): “CrossFit is infinitely scalable!” So, instead of working with everyone, the coach’s attention is focused on teaching a beginner how to clean a barbell for the first time, determining the best scaling option for the pull-up for another, and seeing if another person knows how to jump on a box safely since it’s their first time to do it.
This is hard on the coaches, hard on the members, hard on the beginners, and hard on gym owners. With the virtuosity demand that the “CrossFit” model is known for, it’s no wonder this model is failing at CrossFit gyms around the world.
1. Coaches and owners suffer from burnout.
2. Competent gym members pay good money only to get overlooked in class and receive decreased value.
3. Beginners feel like a burden, get overwhelmed by the fast pace, and their confidence begins to lack.
The Result: Owners lose coaches who are burned out, they lose beginners who need more time, and they lose competent gym members who are tired of paying to be ignored.
What is their solution? More members! How do most owners get them? Free Trials! Groupon! Free On Ramp! Reduced Membership Rates! This is especially true in markets with several gyms, and where owners feel the only way to set themselves apart is to compete on price.
But, what they aren’t realizing is that they’re simply feeding a beast that has an unquenchable thirst. The process repeats itself over and over:
1) We lure people with bargain prices and “free” services
2) We invest hundreds of hours and resources to turn them into “competent” CrossFitters
3) Then we neglect those who know what they’re doing, so we can work with the next batch of beginners who were were lured in to replace the members who got disenchanted and lost in the cycle.
This isn’t a rewarding process for anyone involved.
How is Bandit CrossFit different?
I realized this model didn’t work in my first year of business. So, for more than a year, the Bandit CrossFit business model has revolved around creating highly competent class members who have to earn their place in our group classes. I do this to protect my existing members from the vicious cycle of a business model that is happening at gyms across the country. I refuse to compete on price. But, in exchange, my experienced members don’t have to worry that our coaches are too busy spending class time with a revolving door of brand new people who require special attention in correcting poor habits, learning complex movements for the first time, and/or learning how to scale their pushups. That’s something our coaches have already done outside of class, and 90% of the time, it was done in a personal setting. Once a new CrossFitter has earned their spot in our group classes, they will be so thankful that I “protect” their investment in our gym from the beginners who follow them.
In a nutshell: Bandit CrossFit classes are training sessions with competent people. That’s how we’re different.
So, here’s what it looks like for beginners joining our gym:
New members to our gym must go through a series of one-on-one sessions before they can join our classes. At different times through the year, we may also offer Group On Ramp Sessions that last four weeks, are limited to only 6-8 participants, and we provide two coaches to work with them. Unfortunately, for price shoppers, these are not free services, and it is certainly much more costly than Planet Fitness, or the “Free On Ramp” or Groupon offer at the CrossFit gym across town.
Why haven’t I published this with conviction before?
I truly believe this model works. My members would tell you that this model works. My coaches know this model works. But, when a potential member calls me up to talk about their goals, the $180 minimum price tag for four one-hour personal training sessions can create a little tension in the conversation. They can’t understand why the CrossFit gym across town is offering a FREE On-Ramp, or why Planet Fitness can offer fitness at only $10 a month. I’m tired of being afraid of being different, though. I know this is right. And more importantly, I know we are worth it. The results and experience our members have is worth every bit of the investment. For those, who haven’t ever experienced CrossFit, that may be hard to understand. But, for those who have, if you aren’t getting the 100% devotion of your coaches inside your class time, and haven’t been equipped with the proper education to feel like a competent group class participant, then you’re not getting the best result for the money you pay. Period.
We’re not finished differentiating our services at Bandit CrossFit. The Personal On Ramp program is just the beginning. We’ve got some exciting things planned for 2016. We are moving to a 6000 square foot facility on February 1. After that, we’re moving forward with the process of creating even more value for our members with a “Coach For Life” program that will bring even more individualized fitness programs and services to all of our members. Along with the personal relationships, we’ll be offering more specialized programs and classes like weightlifting, endurance and more. I’m actually working with my first running group that is training for the Rock and Roll Marathon in New Orleans. We have plans to create a very liberal open gym time for members to work on their personal goals. This will also create opportunities for coaches to let go of their day jobs and finally realize their dream of being a full time fitness professional earning a professional wage.
When I first opened Bandit, I had two goals:
1. Help others change their lives to their greatest potential with the power of CrossFit training.
2. Help others, beside myself, to have a career helping others change their lives to their greatest potential with the power of CrossFit.
Since that time, I’ve learned that a business model that focuses on personal relationships is the best way to satisfy the first mission. Now, I’m on the road to further improve our achievement and possibilities in the realm of that first goal AND working gradually toward that second goal of having our very first professional full-time coach.
Our new prices for our new facility are on their way, in the meantime, if you have any questions about our gym, please reach out to me: [email protected]