First Impressions

Brands, like people, have but one chance to make a first impression.

→ Scott Bedbury, A New Brand World

Here is perhaps the biggest challenge facing your affiliate: It's more than likely you will not influence a person's first impression of your gym.

That first impression might come, instead, from rumor or misperception, from some Instagram post somebody scrolled past that one time, from a cousin's firsthand experience with an affiliate 3,000 miles away from yours.

A person might stumble across a hundred impressions they'll mentally label as "CrossFit" before they consider your gym.

Once a mind is made up, it's hard to change it.

Hard, but not impossible.

The unlock is to recognize you're not in the position to convince strangers. You do not have enough trust with them to overcome these piecemeal preconceptions. But you know who does?

Your current members.

They're the only ones in a position to change a mind because they're the only ones who have enough trust (with their sister, their co-worker, their neighbor) to have earned the right to try.

All word-of-mouth marketing comes down to this simple equation:

You trust me + I trust them = You can trust them

Overwhelming your current members with excellence takes longer & is scarier than boosting an Instagram post or throwing money at the Google machine.

But for everything these tech giants have going for them, the one thing they lack is the only thing you need:

Enough trust to shake free a mind from whatever impressions they've concocted of what you do & who you exist to serve.

If you're looking for a marketing strategy, here it is:

Grow your people & trust that they'll grow you right back.

Patrick Cummings
Unconscious Signaling

Having worked in advertising for 25 years, usually for large companies with big budgets, it still fascinates me how great an effect unconscious signaling can have on the fortunes of a small business.

→ Rory Sutherland, Alchemy

“Unconscious signaling” is a fancy way of saying: Those things that send us a message without our being overtly aware that we are receiving a message.

It happens all around us every single day. These messages are sent & received at light speed - too fast for us to notice, but not too fast for us to feel.

Coach Glassman’s famous adage of, “Show me your bathroom & I’ll show you how much you care about your business,” is in many ways a nod toward unconscious signaling.

Few people walk into a messy bathroom that smells faintly of mildew & dirty towels & make a direct assumption about how much the owners care about the business in the macro. Instead, most think: “This bathroom stinks & I want to get out as quickly as possible.”

But thinking & feeling are two different processes. While we’d like to believe the rationality of the former drives us, it’s rarely the case. (I love this quote by Jonathan Haidt: “The conscious mind thinks it’s the Oval Office, when in reality it’s the press office.”)

So, how do we feel in a bathroom that seems forgotten? We feel rushed, maybe. We feel unclean (ironically). We feel exposed, since discomfort triggers our cavemen brains to look for danger.

If you were running a coffee shop or a bookstore, you could be sending a whole litany of unconscious signals that might be unnecessarily inhibiting your walk-in traffic. Maybe the lighting inside is so dim the place always looks closed, or perhaps it’s unclear if there’s enough parking to accommodate you.

As a gym, I contend that the first place you want to look for where you’re sending these kinds of signals is your website. A simple exercise:

Take a look at the homepage of your site, ignoring all the words for now. Just focus on the images.

What do they say about the gym you are running? What do they say about the kinds of people you exist to serve? What do they say about your level of professionalism?

People on your website don’t study your photography, but the images do make them feel something. What messages are they receiving? Are they the ones you want them to be receiving?

WebsitePatrick Cummings
Network Effect

[The] network effect is at the heart of every mass movement and every successful culture change. It happens when remarkable is designed right into the story of your change, and more important, when the product or service works better when I use it with others.

→ Seth Godin, This is Marketing

What the strength & conditioning purists don’t understand about CrossFit gyms is this:

You don’t change the culture one client at a time.

In the short-run, it might be easier & marginally more profitable. But in the long-run, you’ve changed little besides a number on a spreadsheet.

It’s a question of values.

The purists value the micro, where their client gets the kind of targeted attention they believe essential.

The CrossFit gym values the macro, where communities & families get healthier together.

Neither is wrong. But it’s important to remember that where values differ, decisions differ.

The CrossFit affiliate community has never been about the individual, but about the collective. About one gym being connected to another gym, regardless of time zone or zip code. About linking the member of one gym to a stranger at some distant affiliate through a common set of beliefs & experiences.

That’s why CrossFit has been so successful. It’s why it will continue to be successful, so long as gyms don’t forget that they didn’t get hooked by the prospect of changing one client, one session at a time. They got hooked because they wanted to do something grander & to be part of something far more ambitious.

They wanted to change the culture - something that has only ever been done by a large group of people all headed in the same direction, together.

ValuesPatrick Cummings