Practice What Your Preach

Distressed LogoWe’ve all heard the phrase “practice what you preach” and when you become a parent you start thinking “wow I really need to do this”.

Well, in my career as a marketing consultant and speaker it’s typically hard to be able to say that you do this.  Most people in my profession do this for their clients and that’s about it and most have worked in 1 capacity.  One of the reasons that I’ve had success and have been able to help my clients is due to my past.  I’ve sold advertising, I owned and operated 3 large local retail businesses and now I’m in the advertising consulting world.  It helps when you have been on both sides of the advertising world, you ACTUALLY understand and live with terms that most people use as buzz words (ROI, Cash Flow, Profit, Sales, etc).  My experience from both sides is what’s helped me help local businesses market their companies better.

Well this year I got to put my preaching into practice in a new way.  In May I opened a new business with 2 partners.  We opened a CrossFit gym.  So now I get to take everything I’ve been telling my clients and do it for myself.  Oddly enough one of the intriguing parts about this new venture was being able to test out what I advise my clients to do WITH MY OWN MONEY!  It’s an interesting situation, for me I knew my plan would be the same as I’ve been telling my clients, but I often wonder/know that the ad reps pitching me wouldn’t do what they are selling. I knew that I would have fun with this since CrossFit had become one of my passions in life.  Plus the fact that my ONLY responsibility as a partner was to market the gym (or box as we call it in the CrossFit lingo).

So to understand what I’m saying with regards to “practicing what I preach” below is a list of items that I talk about in my marketing seminars and to my clients.  After that are some of the results

1.  You must own and manage your customer data.  You need to have a way to communicate with every prospect and customer that you meet.  If you can’t handle this task, then you might as well not do any other marketing because you’ll just burn through leads and customers every week you’re open.  Everywhere a customer comes in contact with you needs to have tools in place to gather their info.  In our case our website, Facebook & gym waiver all do this job and in under 4 months have helped us build a very targeted database of 500+ people.

2.  Before you think about mass media, make sure your grass roots marketing bases are covered.  When I say grass roots marketing I’m talking about FREE marketing.  A guy holding a sign on the street, yard signs, handing out fliers, networking, email marketing, social media marketing,etc.   I have a saying, “advertising is easy, marketing is hard.”  What do I mean by this?  I mean that it’s easy write a check for an advertisement, but it takes effort to market your business.  It takes effort to stand on a corner with a sign, to go to ALL of your neighboring businesses and introduce yourself, to go to networking events, etc.  Once you’re doing a great job at grass roots marketing, then you can look at advertising.

3. If you can find a narrow target, go after it. I’m amazed by the # of businesses that have the ability to focus on very specific audiences but don’t.  In our case the #1 audience for us is people who are currently doing CrossFit and their friends.  Plus we focused on people doing the mud runs and obstacle course races since they are a very similar type of athlete.  We targeted these people through Facebook ads that linked to a promotion to win a 3 month membership.  In order to register you had to like our page and give us your name and email.  This helped us grow our Facebook page 500 fans in under 1 month, a task that a few other gyms hadn’t reached yet in 1 year!  It also grew our email list with a very targeted audience.

4.  Create your own radio station is a term I use frequently.  Meaning, gather as much customer info and following as you can.  In CrossFit you get many people stopping in to do a workout and inquiring online.  Both of our online systems require an email to sign-up for a trial and our waiver has an email address area that’s mandatory.  This helped us build our “radio station” with top notch prospects.  This is somewhat repetitive to #1, it’s THAT IMPORTANT!

5.Deal websites – Groupon, Living Social, Cincy Savers, etc.  There are many of these sites out there and if used properly they are great customer aquisition tools.  Many business owners cringe at the thought of selling their product at a 50% reduced rate to their customers, and a 75% reduced rate to the business.  BUT you must look at this in a different manner.  In our case we had a very little advertising budget when we started, so doing a deal with Living Social was perfect.  It gave us access to a large audience with no up-front cost.  YOU MUST look at the discount off your retail pricing as your ad cost.  I look at it this way. I can spend $10,000 on a radio ad that I think will work but I’m not 100% sure, or I can do an offer on a “deal site” where I forgo $10,000 in profits for a few hundred customers that I know are coming through my doors.  Done correctly, with the right offer and frequency an offer on a “deal site” can be HUGE for your business.

6.  Targeted Mass Media – Everyone thinks TV or Cable is expensive or a waste of money.  I look at it as a great opportunity to reach a very targeted audience.  In our case the CrossFit Games are broadcast on ESPN and ESPN2 on a weekly basis.  These are reruns of the prior year’s event. We don’t have much advertising money as I’ve mentioned already, but we can spare a few hundred dollars to be on a program that has an ultra-targeted audience.  Let’s face it, if you’re watching CrossFit on a Sunday night you are more than likely a CrossFitter.  It’s no different than golf, bowling, car customizing, etc.  The people watching these programs are your customers.  Many advertising people slam programming like this due to it’s “small audience.”  I would rather talk to 100 people that are my exact target than have an ad on CSI New York where 200,000 people are watching but very few are my customers.

7.  Events – If you’re in the golf business and you’re not at EVERY golf league in town, YOU’RE CRAZY!  If you customize cars and you’re not at the weekend races, YOU’RE CRAZY!  If you have a place to get in front of your exact customers or have the ability to get them to you THEN DO IT!  In our instance CrossFit Competitions are huge.  So on our very 1st day we opened up we had an event.  Since then we’ve had 2 others and our 3rd big event is a few weeks away.

8.  Branded Apparel – Let your loyal customers tell everyone for you.  It’s not that hard or expensive but I’m constantly amazed by the number of businesses I run into who are not putting their brand out in the public with items like T-Shirts.

9.  Cross Promotions – Everyone has non-competitive businesses in your area who share very similar customers.  In our case this is GNC Nutrition Stores & The Running Spot.  Do events and marketing for each other.  It’s a great way to introduce your customers to someone who can help them and vice versa.

How did our plan work?  Our goal was for us to hit 40 members by October 1st, we hit 100 a week before that date!  We are 8 months ahead of schedule on our membership size.  How did we apply these? Some of the answers are above, but here’s a more detailed look and some stats.  

1.  Like I mentioned above.  He have tools in every place possible to collect data.  On our website there are call’s to action to sign up for a Free Trial in numerous places.  Our Facebook has a sign-up tool and we gather the information for every guest that works out with us or comes to an event.  How’s this worked?  Currently our email list is around 550.

2. Yard signs have been a HUGE help.  We have 10 yard signs that we put out around the area to direct traffic our way.  The #1 comment I hear when I ask new members and prospects how they heard about us is “the yard signs”.  We also have a sign that has been used by high school students to stand on Dixie Highway directing passer-byes to come up for a free workout. We’ve made a concerted effort to be at most of the areas CrossFit events with our shirts on and actually compete in the events to get us added exposure.  Last but not least we use Facebook daily and send out weekly emails to our members and bi-weekly to our entire email list.  In fact, our emails consistently get double to triple the industry average open and click through rate, so it’s working!

3.  Facebook ads was awesome for us.  I focused on keywords that were either CrossFit, Endurance Races or Obstacle Course Runs.  We grew our Facebook fan count to 500+ within 1 month. We also had campaigns on Facebook focused towards friends of our current fans.  WHY?  Well in CrossFit it’s pretty common to talk about it A LOT on Facebook.  And your friends see a big change in your physical appearance so they become curious by what you’re doing.  Facebook ads focused at friends of your pages’ fans are a great way to capitalize on this.  Our page interaction is huge and continues to thrive.  Our original goal was to have 10 members in June.  We got 14 the 1st week!  We ended June with 50 members…WOW!

5.  We did an offer on Living Social in August.  Our goal was to get open for a few months and then use this as our 2nd push.  We knew that June would be a big month for us after it got started off so fast.  I wanted to use July to slow our growth, make sure we were taking care of our current members and fix any issues.  Then once we got through July the goal was to hit another spike with the help of a deal on Living Social.  We ended up selling 28 deals on Living Social and another 15 from people who saw it and came directly to us.  This surge in activity helped us grow at a huge page in August and September.  We hit 100 members towards the end of September, 8 months ahead of time 🙂


6.  This was a great test.  I have a few clients that I’ve been trying to convince to use cable advertising to reach a targeted audience for a low budget and they won’t listen.  This was my chance to test this.  We bought 1 program, The CrossFit Games on ESPN and ESPN2 and we spent VERY LITTLE MONEY doing this with Time Warner Cable.  My ONLY goal of these ads were branding.  I knew that the majority of people watching would be people currently doing CrossFit in Northern Kentucky.  I wanted them to see who the best CrossFit Box was and make an impression.  We shot a commercial and got their attention.  I wanted members to say “WOW that’s my box” and members of other gyms to say “WOW that’s awesome, why don’t we do that!”  The picture on the right is from a new member to CrossFit The Tracks (that’s our gym) and this is his post on Facebook.  This is the exact reaction I was looking for.

7.  Events are a big part of CrossFit.  Competitions are happening every weekend.  We’ve hosted 3  so far and a 4th coming up.  These have brought in over 500 guests to our place and helped showcase our facility.  We’ve also participated in 10+ events offsite, helping drive name recognition.

8.  There are MANY variations already and a day doesn’t go by that I don’t see members sporting their CFTT shirts around our box and around town.

9. We are working with the partners mentioned above to help get our brand in front of their customers and vice versa.

Last but not least, WEBSITE TRAFFIC!  Everything that I’ve listed has promoted our website in some manner.  Here are some stats from our website over the past 4 months: 3,071 unique visitors, 14,769 page views, 50% are new visitors & 2:28 average time on site.  I manage many other websites and for a company that has spent as little as we have, these stats are impressive.

In closing, don’t be afraid to practice what you preach 🙂

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