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COVID-19 Lockdown Attracting Unlikely New CrossFit Clients

April 20, 2020 by
Credit: @adroitcrossfit
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A couple of months ago, affiliate owners around the world were playing two games: the client acquisition game, and the client retention game.

Then COVID-19 happened: The referee blew the whistle, changed the rules, took away the nets and the balls, and everyone was left playing just one game: Client retention. And it instantly became a whole lot harder to win that game.

While client retention has been the primary focus for most affiliate owners in recent days, others say they have continued to bring on new clients and generate new revenue streams, namely by bringing on people who have always been too scared or intimidated to step foot in a CrossFit gym.

Attracting the scared: Although Josh Lehew, the owner of CrossFit Soda City in Columbia, S.C. did lose some members originally, he has since added six new clients, all referrals from existing members, who have been following his at-home program.

  • “We’ve had people that have been doing the home workouts with friends, family, neighbors, or some that ran across our page (and were too) scared to try CrossFit, but have enjoyed the change-up from their normal routine,” Lehew said.
  • “With our agreement with our landlord, and no longer having a lot of overhead expenses, we will actually end up with a more profitable month (in April) than projected.”

Brianna Lamb, a coach at OPEX Revival in San Rafael, CA has had a similar experience to Lehew. She has picked up five new clients since their physical location closed in March. Lamb sees a huge opportunity right now to attract new people, especially those who have been too intimidated to go to the gym.

  • “There’s a huge opportunity…to attract people—people who were scared of the gym and of looking stupid because they don’t know what they’re doing—to workout right now,” Lamb said.

On top of this, there are thousands of people who have lost their training facility, but still want to get fit, she added. They are ripe for the picking.

Same deal in Virginia: Ashley Barnett Mitchell, the owner of Adroit CrossFit in Norfolk, Va. is another affiliate owner who has added five new members to her roster since shutting her gym.

In her case, three were previous members who had moved away to various other areas of the world and have returned to participate in her Zoom classes. The two others are brand new members — the parents of an existing member.

  • “They felt like it was a good place to start CrossFit from the comfort of their home, and fully plan on coming to classes once we’re back open,” Mitchell said.

The appetite for fitness is sound: Though affiliates have inevitably lost members and have real financial worries, if there’s a silver lining, it might just be that the demand for fitness, and for CrossFit specifically, doesn’t appear to be lost.

Jeremy Reither is the co-creator of WODwell, a searchable CrossFit benchmark workout archive created by the community.

  • “Millions use WODwell to discover those WODs and use them for workout ideas and programming inspiration,” Reither explained.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the number of people referring to WODwell’s workouts has dramatically increased, Reither said.

  • “We have seen a sustained surge — 100 to 150 percent more than normal traffic — to our website since March 14,” he said, adding that 35,000 to 40,000 people have been visiting WodWell.com per day. Their Instagram presence has also increased from 8,000-10,000 profile visits per day to 30,000.

On a personal level, like Lehew, Lamb and Mitchell, Reither said he knows people who have come into the CrossFit fold in the last month only because they were able to do so in the comfort of their own home.

  • “I personally know at least five friends and acquaintances, who would not have previously stepped foot in a box, join me and my wife for some virtual workouts. Sometimes, a spouse will join their significant other because they’re working out in their  living room, so why not?…Sometimes (I have invited) a friend who lives on the other side of the country to join me in a workout,” he said.
  • [The] point is, I think CrossFit is suddenly accessible to a whole new group of people due to COVID-19. My hope is this could lead to new interest in working out in a box, which could be good for the viability of local gyms when they do re-open.”

Reither offered these two tips for affiliate owners looking to increase their reach and attract new clients during this time:

  • Stay active on social media: “Let your network know that you offer remote coaching, and that even if your physical gym is closed, you offer group and even one-on-one coaching. Don’t just post it once. Post it every day. Let people know how your business has evolved to meet their needs.”
  • Offer individual coaching: “I think coaches who offer individualized remote coaching are well-positioned, not only to keep existing clients, but also to earn new ones during this time.”

Contact old members: A handful of affiliate owners said they have success bringing back old clients by reaching out to their entire database of former members, simply to plant a seed about the service they’re currently offering.

  • “I emailed my list…they were at home and don’t have equipment and believed that was a limitation. Then I offered them a free week (of Zoom classes). Then on day six, I sent out an offer to continue,” said CrossFit London owner Dave Henry.

His efforts have managed to attract three new members so far.

Explore new avenues: Other affiliate owners are thinking outside the box, offering their service to new types of groups who might benefit.

Element CrossFit owner Alex Cibiri, for example, is in the process of finalizing a corporate wellness deal that will provide remote classes for the company’s employees for the next four to eight weeks. He’s also securing a deal with two High Schools to run remote physical education classes via Zoom.

Cibiri said the key is to spend some time making your Zoom class production level high.

  • “The corporate (people) and the school care about helping their employees and students, but, of course, they also care about what it looks like,” he said.

Laying the groundwork for the future: Tino Hildebrant, the owner of CrossFit Virage in Hamburg, Germany,  has lost just one member since closing his doors, and has been focusing on generating new leads for the future.

Hildebrant has been offering daily workouts via his app “free for everybody,” he said. He has also extended a 14-day  trial for any new prospects once he re-opens.

  • “I am inviting people to like my page, or download my app, and follow the workouts, nutrition and mobility tips for free as long as the gym is closed,” Hildebrant said. “I have been using this crisis to spread my name and box around.”

It is starting to pay off. Since Hildebrant closed his gym, the number of members in his booking app have increased from 43 to 82, and he is starting to have people trickle in requesting to sign-up once he re-opens.

To affiliate owners everywhere, as Cibiri put it: “Now is not the time to rest.”

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