In 2000, a global phenomenon was founded by Greg Glassman in the form of CrossFit. Since, the brand has grown to 13,000 locations, or affiliates, worldwide.
And one thing in particular can be attributed to its global success: community.
“CrossFit was born and bred on community,” said Heather Hartmann, the editor of Box Pro Magazine. “That’s how it grew into a global phenomenon — people who loved CrossFit told their friends and family. It spread by rapid fire word-of-mouth, and more often than not still does to this day.”
With this in mind, following are a number of lessons on community and beyond that clubs can learn from CrossFit gyms, which can be applied to any multi-purpose facility or studio.
The majority of gyms know a member’s first 90 days are key. If you can get them ingrained into the gym community during that time, the chances of them staying a long-term customer increases. And CrossFit gyms excel at onboarding members quickly, establishing immediate connections between staff and other like-minded members.
“You’ll see that CrossFit gyms connect members instantly with coaches or even the owner; usually, you can’t join a gym unless you’ve sat down and talked to the owner,” said Hartmann. “So, off the bat you know what he or she stands for, and you can tell whether he or she cares.”
Then it comes down to the staff to continue to foster that relationship, explained Hartmann. “As a coach at a CrossFit gym, I introduce any new members in my class and try to connect them with long-time athletes,” she said. “If you get a member a ‘gym wife’ or ‘gym husband,’ they will often stay hooked. My workout partner has kept me consistent over the years, and I her. We wouldn’t be as dedicated today if we didn’t have someone keeping us in check.”
As a result, Hartmann suggested gym operators find a way to ingrain accountability into the onboarding experience for new members. “I would say for every new member, it would be wise to give them an accountability coach for the first six weeks or do a member-to-member partner program,” she advised. “Connecting your newest additions with urgency and providing the best environment possible for community to grow would be huge.”
According to Hartmann, many CrossFit gyms excel at finding their niche — the differentiating factors that make them stand out from other CrossFit gyms. As a result, they’re able to identify a unique selling proposition, and ultimately market to those who would be a natural fit to their “tribe.”
“CrossFit gyms are very aware that each CrossFit gym’s community differs from the one next door,” explained Hartmann. “And they don’t try to replicate that. Each gym is made of different people, has a different leader, has different coaches. That is the same with any gym – your community is uniquely your own. Events or workouts that flourish in one gym might not work so great in yours. CrossFit gyms own that for the most part.”
A final area that many CrossFit gyms excel in is providing customers with results. If you can make a lasting impact on someone’s personal transformation — physically or mentally, or both — they’re much more likely to be committed to your gym for the long-haul.
“My gym community has changed my life in so many ways,” said Hartmann. “I’ve seen a physical transformation that has allowed me to do things in life I never could have done — hike for seven days through the mountains of Peru is just one example. I’ve seen a mental transformation and can endure a lot more. I’ve seen a spiritual and emotional transformation as well, deepening my relationship with God and allowing me to connect better with people, helping me in my career and daily life.”
But most importantly, CrossFit has given her a place to call a second home. “I am not from Louisville, Kentucky, originally, so my gym has given me a family,” explained Hartmann. “I have made friends who I consider basically blood relations. It’s opened the door to a church I love.”
This is something for all gyms to strive for, in the pursuit of creating environments where members can not only workout, but also find support.
“I know I can call on my gym community and they would come help, whatever the need,” continued Hartmann. “I know the gym owner personally and I know he really, really cares. I’ve learned so much and grown so much; I am who I am today because I found my gym. And it all started because I met a few good people who showed me I was safe and cared for; after that, I was sold and it’s been almost five years.”
Rachel Zabonick is editor-in-chief of Club Solutions Magazine. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.