How to Win in the Age of CrossFit Proliferation

There’s no reason for a quality CrossFit box to suffer due to the crowd. Simply decide your product will be unmatchable.

We have entered the Groupon age. CrossFit, once the underground rave of serious fitness enthusiasts, military, police, and fire, has come to the masses. The house fraus have come out to play with the firebreathers. This is nothing new mind you. CrossFit’s explosive growth has been an ongoing phenomenon for a number of years.

The Saturation and Fadification of CrossFit

What is relatively new is expression of frustration on the part of gym owners regarding competing boxes opening up right next door, with poor coaching and Groupon-rates, saturating the market. There are CrossFit gyms that literally now have a competing box within 200 meters.

Now, in theory, there is a never-ending supply of clients. There are seven billion people in the world and only a million or so doing CrossFit. Logic would seem to suggest that you can pick up as many clients as you need regardless of whether Larry’s Protein Smoothies ‘n CrossFit has opened in the same strip mall as you.

Still, there are CrossFit gyms that are struggling. I have heard personally from a number of boxes that being undersold by the fad side of CrossFit is hurting their business. The average consumer doesn’t know nor understand that Box A has a four-time CrossFit Games competitor as coach and owner, and that world-class coaching may be found inside that door, when Larry’s place is offering unlimited monthly beat-downs at $39.00 per month. (That’s a real number, folks.)

So what can you do to compete? You offer expert-caliber coaching and smart programming, as well as the best equipment, staff, and facilities, yet your competition is up the street giving the product away.

Compete on What You Can Control

When I began my web development business in 2004, there were approximately 100 other web design companies in Cincinnati. One of the things I quickly realized was that any of these firms could easily undersell me, offer template-based websites, and have better search engine positioning on Google. Even worse, the proliferation of some online build-your-own sites made the prospects of competing for new jobs daunting.

So, I decided to compete on the basis of the one thing I could control: customer service. I decided that my customers were not just going to be satisfied, they were going to be delighted. I made personal contact a priority, made a pact to promptly return phone calls and emails, and set out to treat every client like he or she was my one and only. I dedicated myself to making every website I built awesome.

As a result, I have been in business for ten years and am busier than ever. Many of the firms that existed when I started are gone. The moral? Compete on what you can control.

First, They Have to Find You

Growth within a CrossFit Gym is predicated on people finding you. It’s as simple as that. People start their search on Google. What most people do is enter something like: “CrossFit gyms [city-in-question].”

If you go to Google right now and type in “CrossFit gyms [your city],” does your website come up first? Does it come up at all? If not, get with your web designer as soon as possible and discuss with him or her proper search engine optimization techniques. Your designer should know enough about title tags and description tags to get your site placed on the top of your local search.

After that, you must learn how to use social media to keep your box’s website in the stream. I am not talking about posting your daily WODS. No one cares about that. Consider using Instagram, which can cross-post to Twitter and Facebook, to post a shot every day of someone doing something awesome.

Muscle ups, before-and-after shots, inspirational shots, personal records, you name it. And hashtag it with #CrossFit and your box’s name every time. These hashtags will widen the search results immensely and resultant click-throughs, which creates awareness of your box.

Once They Find You, You Need to Wow Them

By the time people have found you and they walk in the door, it’s time to wow them. As a web designer, I do this with my portfolio. What’s in yours?

As a CrossFit gym, your portfolio must consist of testimonials, before-and-after stories, and your achievements on the competition side. Whether you have a brand-new, 8,000-square-foot facility is immaterial. If I am the client, I want to know how you will get me to my goals, safely, effectively, and without injury.

Talk to me about your programs, whether it’s the fitness-based, class-style CrossFit or the individual competitor’s track. For the love of all humanity, do not tell me you make your programming up as you go or do birthday WODS. Rather, impress me with your knowledge of programming, your experience helping others achieve what I want to achieve, and your expertise in coaching. Sell me. Convince me why spending $250 at your gym is a smarter investment than spending $39 up the street.

Once You Wow Them, You Need to Keep Them

This is by far one of the hardest things for a CrossFit box to do. Why? Because the grass is always greener. There is always a new box opening and they would like to pick your low-hanging clientele fruit. It’s much easier for your competitors to poach from you than to build a clientele from scratch. So you need to build loyalty with your clients by building relationships with them.

Are you checking in with your clients regularly? Once you have their names on the dotted line do you move on or do you continue to woo them? Think of each client as a long-term relationship, rather than a one-night-stand. You’d better damn well know everyone’s name, goals, and personal records. And you better have time for even the least of your clients if they want to stop and talk to you about calluses.

Better yet, think of is this way: If someone asks one of your clients about you, what will he or she say?

Once You Keep Them, They Will Refer You

Most of your growth is and will always be by word of mouth. This means you have a vested interested in what is coming out of the mouths of every single one of your clients. If they are happy, they will sing your praises and refer their friends. Hell, they will beg their friends to join them. If they are ambivalent, they will not help you grow. If they are unhappy and leave, they will bad mouth you to potential new customers.

It’s tempting sometimes to say, “Hey, clients leave, man.” But think of every unhappy client as a grenade, just waiting to have the pin pulled. You don’t want them to explode in front of a group of people who might just be potential new clients.


There is no reason for a quality CrossFit box to suffer at the hands of the Groupon boxes. Simply decide that your product will be unmatchable. Yes, you may experience a dip while the fad runs its course. But quality service will always outlive a fad. It may mean stepping up your own game – website, SEO, intake interviews, and customer service – but your quality product will outlive the half-off sales.

Photos 1, 3, & 4 courtesy of Shutterstock.