What Can CrossFit Teach You About Growing Your Business?

It is hard not to notice the phenomenal growth of CrossFit, the international fitness movement that has taken the world by storm as of late. If you’re not familiar, CrossFit is a global network of independent gyms (called affiliates) that focuses on group exercise. You’ve likely seen these gyms (referred to as boxes because of their raw nature and simplicity) in different cities and neighborhoods. Orlando alone has seven or eight CrossFit locations. The concept is growing like a weed across the globe.

If you ask anyone why they like CrossFit, they usually say that the alternating nature of the workouts (the sessions tend to focus on variety and muscle confusion) keeps things interesting. There is often a competitive component as well, which adds something. But the element you hear most about is camaraderie and community. CrossFit effectively combines exercise with teamwork in order to foster something unique. Naturally, the community component spills over online with social media. Most CrossFit affiliates leverage Facebook to bolster the community component, taking advantage of the network effect.

Why does this matter to me?

As a business, CrossFit has exploded. Recently, CrossFit and its founder Greg Glassman were profiled on 60 Minutes in a piece entitled ‘The King of CrossFit.” The 60 Minutes segment was interesting in many respects, but the biggest take-away for me was the part about CrossFit’s use of content marketing: creating and publishing brand-related content in an effort to inform or influence instead of advertising or selling.

Founder of Cross Fit

CrossFit Founder Greg Glassman in a recent 60 Minutes segment and referenced content marketing.

Reporter Sharyn Alfonsi was particularly interested in Glassman’s use of of giving away free online video to users to help them learn more about fitness. CrossFit has a “media office” in Silicon Valley whose primary purpose is to create and distribute free educational content to affiliates and participants.  

Baffled by the thought of “giving away” educational content that participants should seemingly pay to receive, Alfonsi posed the following question to Glassman: “How does that make sense?” After all, why wouldn’t customers just perform the exercises on their own at home (for free) instead of visiting the gym and paying for them?

Glassman’s simple yet profound answer was, “it didn’t until we did it. The more video we give away, the more money we make.” That statement bears repeating: “the more video we give away, the more money we make.”

Cross Fit-Videos

The CrossFit website features a ton of free videos and instruction guides for users to learn how to get in better shape.

Why does this work?

It does seem counter-intuitive for this to actually work, but it does. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. Providing all of these videos positions CrossFit as knowledgeable experts, thereby enhancing the brand.
  2. Incorporating updated video and content helps to keep the CrossFit website fresh and dynamic.  This gives users a reason to return to the site frequently.
  3. Online videos are great for sharing on social media to keep users engaged and involved in the community.
  4. Fresh content (especially video) helps users find the website on Google and other search engines.
  5. Consuming and sharing the video is essentially free advertising for CrossFit. True, there is a cost to creating video, but the media cost is next to nothing compared to running television ads.

How can I put this idea to work for my business?

With a little effort and creativity, any business can put this lesson to work. Here are a few simple steps you can take to use content like CrossFit does:

  1. Let go of the fear that publishing content is going to (a) make customers steal your advice and not pay you or (b) give your competitors your playbook. While there may be some of either, the benefits will far outweigh the costs
  2. Think about what specific areas you know something about and publish. That means write, draw, film, animate and/or photograph your expertise in action.  
  3. Solve your customer problems with your content. If you are not sure of topics to use as the subject of your publishing, start with the questions your customers ask you. It’s a great place to begin.
  4. Be consistent and patient. This approach takes time, so don’t expect results overnight. Give it 4-6 months of consistent publishing and sharing. With a little patience, you’ll start to experience the snowball effect. Content that you created months earlier will begin to produce results far into the future.

In the end, remember that your customers’ eyeballs are on social media. If you want to reach them, you need to be there. And if you want to make a good impression, your content ought to be strong. Creating content that helps customers learn and/or solve problems is your ticket to building a relationship with them.