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As a professional in the fitness industry, you’ve probably taken note of every gym, studio, and CrossFit box in your neighborhood. As the health and wellness industry continues to grow, so does the concern of market saturation. How do you stay competitive and successful in a saturated space? We asked a few of our successful Triib gym owners about competition as a fitness business owner in a growing industry.

Our speakers include Austin Malleolo, Owner of CrossFit One Nation and The HAM Plan remote programming, Head Coach at Reebok CrossFit ONE (which also offers dance, spin, and other types of fitness classes), CrossFit HQ seminar staff and Veteran Competitive CrossFit Games Athlete. As well as, Mike Burnes and PJ Massey, Co-Owners and Head Coaches at CrossFit Rail Trail which recently expanded to a 10,000 square foot facility that also offers Yoga, Zumba and Centergy. These guys all started small in CrossFit and have since grown with the fitness industry and embraced competition to expand their offerings. Their success suggests that market saturation in the fitness industry might just be an excuse–the exception and not the rule.

Challenge #1: How to compete with other gyms in the area.

The best thing you can do to stand out as a leader in the fitness industry in your community is, not so surprisingly, to focus on yourself! Put all of your energy and efforts into making sure that you are offering the best of the best. If you succeed in doing this, your gym will stand out and your reputation will uphold you against competitors. Austin suggests that members might initially come to a gym looking for fancy locker rooms, or towel service, but ultimately they stay for intangible offerings like experience and results. In a competitive market, customers will be drawn to the businesses that succeed in both product and customer experience, so don’t neglect one or the other.

Businesses that fail to stay ahead of the game will not succeed. Businesses that continue to offer the same product, year after year, without innovation, will also fail. So, how do you rise above the competition? Simple, don’t get comfortable. “Complacency breeds mediocrity” Austin warns, “You must maintain a level of productive paranoia.” In order to not only survive, but thrive, your gym must continue to grow and improve. For starters, you’ll want to create a program to develop your coaches. Austin also places an emphasis on education as a competitive edge. He suggests paying coaches more if they have more certifications, as well as covering the fee for future educational training.


Challenge #2: How to make your gym stand out in your community.

Connect with and support other local businesses and business owners in your community. A few easy ways to put yourself out there are to attend town meetings and local events. Be sure to introduce yourself and invite people to try a free class to start to grow that bond between your gym and the community. Joining forces with other small, like-minded businesses to co-host events will also grow your social network leaps and bounds. CrossFit Rail Trail recently partnered with a local brewery, Medusa Brewing Co. in their town of Hudson, MA to host a fitness social open to the community.

In addition to offering free classes for first timers, a great way to get the word out there PJ suggests is to rent your space to other local businesses or private parties for business development classes, functions, birthday parties etc. This is a double bonus, as it can be another revenue stream during off hours at your gym.

Mike even suggests encouraging your members to try different gyms in the area, as they will always come back if it’s the right fit for them. You might even consider collaborating directly with other gyms in the area. To some extent, more gyms popping up in your area means you’re creating a market for fitness. If there are more gyms, there are more people working out, and isn’t that the common goal? Instead of focusing on your piece of the pie, work together to make the pie bigger! Partner with your local gym, box or studio to host a fitness crawl, or create discounted class deals and band together to support all different types of fitness in your community.


Challenge #3: How to retain your members amidst the competition.

Austin, PJ, and Mike all agreed that to keep your members happy and stay competitive in your community, you first have to believe in your business and love what you do. It starts at the top–your passion and efforts will inspire a community to grow behind you. CrossFit Rail Trail has been successful in building their community through events. While public community events are great for networking outside of your gym, in-house, members only (or extended to friends and family) will strengthen your community bond.

Customer service and customer experience are arguably the strongest factors for customer retention. It’s the little things like checking up on members who haven’t come in for a while, to the bigger things like hosting member appreciation events, and everything in between. Every interaction you have with your members, and that they have with your coaches and your gym is an opportunity to give them the best experience around. We all know how hard it is to leave a really great community, so make sure to give your members something worth holding on to.



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About the author:

Luke Handley