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Old 08-27-2013, 08:29 AM   #1
Jesse Arkebauer
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Location: Bangor  ME
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Question Marketing to Students/"College Town" Affiliate

Hello All,

Long time lurker, first timer poster. Go big or go home, right?

I am in the planning stages of opening an affiliate, and am just curious about those of you who operate your box in a college town/college community, with students as your target market, and others (first responders, middle-aged, etc.) as your secondary market.

First, some numbers so you understand my thought process -

The town I am planning on opening in has a population of around 10,000 people, with over 50% of that population coming from the 18-24 age group. Those population numbers triple to over 30,000 when college is in session. There is 1 other box in a neighboring city (~12 miles away) of 30,000 people.

My initial plan was to target to the usual CrossFit demographic - health minded individuals, those in their middle years (soccer moms and dads), and first responders. Basically the demographics who NEED the level of health and athleticism that CrossFit offers due to their profession, or those who WANT and can AFFORD to pay for CrossFit, and have the student population be secondary.

Looking at the standard CrossFit demographic's population numbers in this town, only ~25% of the population is between 25-64 years old (which is appx. 2500 people in a town of 10K), where as the native population between 18-24 is over 50% (or 5k) + 20k more heads during the school year.

I've done some research on the board, and most of the topics on this subject are either dated or include uneducated/uninformed assumptions.

The biggest objection to college students doing CrossFit is cost. Most college/university students are broke. But...

Now with the growth of CrossFit over the last 2-3 years, and more and more of the general population seeing the value of CrossFit, and being willing to pay for a CrossFit membership, I would assume more college students are also seeing the value, and buying into CrossFit. In essence, my assumption here is there are already likely a decent handful of College students at this University, who do CrossFit in their home town, who would like to continue training in that capacity when they go away for the school year. Instead, they get a rec center membership, and are forced back to the treadmill and days of "chest/back bis/tris."

What are your thoughts on opening a box in a town with this demographic? Who has done it, and made it work? Have you seen other boxes attempt it and fail? What would you think are the major pitfalls?

Thanks!

-Jesse
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Old 08-27-2013, 10:52 AM   #2
Greg Keeter
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Re: Marketing to Students/"College Town" Affiliate

Almost 5 years in Tallahassee. Here's some thoughts:

Very price sensitive.
Make sure you have very clear terms.
I suggest you automate payments and don't take cash, otherwise you won't get paid.
Find a way to take payment for the whole semester. Give certificates work pretty good.
Give an incentive for more than one to join at the same time.
College women are generally better clients than college men.
Always charge for the Foundations/Onramp/Elements. It may be the only time you see them.
Prepare to be bombarded with attempts at bartering.
Have strong rules that you enforce.
Summer isn't as bad as it might seem but the business is very cyclic.

Finally:
Not the best clients. They have little money and some are very unreliable.
That said some are really really good, even the best. But you'll probably only find them in their senior year.
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Old 08-27-2013, 10:55 AM   #3
Brian Strump
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Re: Marketing to Students/"College Town" Affiliate

My 2c. Find somewhere else.

I would not want the majority of the population nearby my affiliate to be poor college kids, whom have access to a free gym; CrossFit or not.
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Old 08-27-2013, 12:56 PM   #4
Lance Einerson
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Re: Marketing to Students/"College Town" Affiliate

I'm in the same position but I've been doing a lot of research and there has been a massive amount of interest from groups that I hadn't considered before. Such as holistic health groups and things like that. Also for the college here there is a Facebook page for all the crossfitters that are students. I just put some polls up to test the waters. Doing stuff like that and just being out talking to people has given me a huge insight to how this will work in my town. That's just my 2 bits though
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Old 08-27-2013, 02:07 PM   #5
Jesse Arkebauer
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Re: Marketing to Students/"College Town" Affiliate

Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg Keeter View Post
Almost 5 years in Tallahassee. Here's some thoughts:

Very price sensitive.
Make sure you have very clear terms.
I suggest you automate payments and don't take cash, otherwise you won't get paid.
Find a way to take payment for the whole semester. Give certificates work pretty good.
Give an incentive for more than one to join at the same time.
College women are generally better clients than college men.
Always charge for the Foundations/Onramp/Elements. It may be the only time you see them.
Prepare to be bombarded with attempts at bartering.
Have strong rules that you enforce.
Summer isn't as bad as it might seem but the business is very cyclic.

Finally:
Not the best clients. They have little money and some are very unreliable.
That said some are really really good, even the best. But you'll probably only find them in their senior year.
Thanks Greg. Those are some good points I hadn't thought of before regarding the overall unreliability of most college students. I think the way to go is either require payment up front on a semester basis for a set rate, or sign a contract for the school year and pay monthly, autopay, with a slightly higher rate, and early cancellation penalty.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian Strump View Post
My 2c. Find somewhere else.

I would not want the majority of the population nearby my affiliate to be poor college kids, whom have access to a free gym; CrossFit or not.
Brian, the community is very health concious (farmers market, healthy restaurants), active, and supportive of small businesses. There are 2 smaller neighboring towns within a 5 mile radius that we could draw members from as well, which would add another 10,000 people to our target market.

We may be better suited to stick with the original plan of marketing to the -more- typical CrossFit demographic, and any student memberships would just be bonus.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lance Einerson View Post
I'm in the same position but I've been doing a lot of research and there has been a massive amount of interest from groups that I hadn't considered before. Such as holistic health groups and things like that. Also for the college here there is a Facebook page for all the crossfitters that are students. I just put some polls up to test the waters. Doing stuff like that and just being out talking to people has given me a huge insight to how this will work in my town. That's just my 2 bits though
Lance, thanks for the feedback. My business partner and I have been trying to think of ways we can generate buzz, and do some not-so-typical market research to gauge interest in the community. When you say "just being out talking to people," what are you referring to exactly? Just looking to pick your brain a little more on the subject, as there are many different ways one can get out and "talk to people."

Last edited by Jesse Arkebauer; 08-27-2013 at 02:08 PM.. Reason: Add detail
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Old 08-27-2013, 03:39 PM   #6
Brendan McNamar
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Re: Marketing to Students/"College Town" Affiliate

I would offer a different point of view.

Have a business plan based on regular CrossFit demographics and treat the college kids as bonus income.

If your space and cost are correct for a small town then you will be OK with or without the college kids.

I wouldn't quit my day job, bet the business and/or family savings on being able to raise significant income from the kids but I also wouldn't rule it out.

I now have two high school girls in my regular classes and get phone calls all the time about younger people. CrossFit and copy cat gyms are spreading the message you don't have to be fat and out of shape. There are a lot of very young people who need our help. Figuring out how to market and correct price points will not be easy but it can be done.
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Old 08-29-2013, 08:01 AM   #7
Michael Wuest
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Re: Marketing to Students/"College Town" Affiliate

Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg Keeter View Post
Almost 5 years in Tallahassee. Here's some thoughts:

Very price sensitive.
Make sure you have very clear terms.
I suggest you automate payments and don't take cash, otherwise you won't get paid.
Find a way to take payment for the whole semester. Give certificates work pretty good.
Give an incentive for more than one to join at the same time.
College women are generally better clients than college men.
Always charge for the Foundations/Onramp/Elements. It may be the only time you see them.
Prepare to be bombarded with attempts at bartering.
Have strong rules that you enforce.
Summer isn't as bad as it might seem but the business is very cyclic.

Finally:
Not the best clients. They have little money and some are very unreliable.
That said some are really really good, even the best. But you'll probably only find them in their senior year.
This is the best advice I've seen on this board and he's exactly right. I'm in Columbia, MO where we have a 110,000 population and an additional 30,000 students. We view our students as additional income and we love having them at the box. They really contribute to the atmosphere and they are super fun. Of our total membership, approximately 20% is from the college population. We've had many of those from the start of the summer.

The other awesome thing we've done is working with one of the sororities and we did a CrossFit team building exercise on the QUAD at the university. Talk about exposure. We worked with 30+ girls and had an absolute blast. Converted a few of those to paying members. :P There's so much opportunity with college students.

If you're interested, I'd be happy to share more of my experience via phone. Shoot me an email. mike@crossfitcomo.com

Best,

Mike
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