Kevin of Quad City Strength & Conditioning explains how he uses word of mouth and social media to grow his memberships.

Peter: This is Peter from FringeSport checking in with Kevin Hutcheson. He's with Quad City Strength and Conditioning and that's in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. I've got Kevin on the line. Kevin, can you introduce yourself to our audience.

Kevin: Absolutely Peter. Thank you for the opportunity. I'm Kevin Hutcheson, Muscle Shoals, Alabama. I own Quad City Strength and Conditioning and we've been in operation since 2014. We started very small, actually in the back of a physical therapy clinic. Grew with our memberships and now we're in a nice five thousand square foot building and we're standing on our own and really enjoying it so far.

Peter: Love to hear that. 2013 starting in the back of physical therapy, can you dig in to that a little bit more? What got you started in strength and conditioning, or training or starting this?

Kevin: I went the triathlon route, when I was young, the distance. This is the complete athlete. I am absolutely the fittest I have ever been and a couple friends told me about, "Lets start with this functional stuff," and I was like, "I'm pretty fit the way I am." After trying that I realized there were some definite holes in my fitness. Through the years, I just had many, many back problems, a lot of ailments from doing miles running, the miles on the bike. I found that after doing a lot of overhead stuff, a lot of overhead squats, the presses, that actually my back was strengthened. "Oh, you don't need to squat. You don't need to deadlift." I found that the absolute opposite. It actually worked.

Peter, this is one of the things that I was sold on, if the stuff works, then why can't I spread this and propagate this. I worked at a hospital in wellness and sort of started doing these functional activities, functional exercises and started seeing a lot of success. I would guess after just doing that, I worked at the hospital almost 12 years, and after doing that I thought, "I can make a go of this on my own." Just stepped out and, like I said, started in the back of that physical therapy clinic and it just sort of exploded from there. That's one thing that we were talking about earlier, that we treat people the way we want to be treated. We also are a welcoming environment and try to make people feel as comfortable as possible.

Peter: I love that. So, lets go back to that physical therapy clinic and you had said things exploded from there. What were you doing there and why did things explode? I mean, were you doing a lot of advertising? Were you just doing right by the clients? Was it just the environment and creating word of mouth? Talk us through that a little bit.

Kevin: Yeah, I would say it was our environment and word of mouth. It was the hot thing which has continued to be hot, just to be honest. Giving people a new experience, I guess in our area, people are used to putting in earbuds and getting on the treadmill and just doing their own thing. Now their coming to us, we've got that structured plan with that environment that's conducive to doing stuff that you just don't ... Who's gonna want to do a burpee, man? I don't do burpees on my own. Unless I'm surrounded by a group of like-minded folks and then I'm gonna, "Hey, yeah. They're doing it, I'm doing it. Lets go. Lets reach this goal. Lets try to attain that." And yeah, I would say word of mouth was the big driving factor there. It would be like the first week we got teens and folks, where friends told friends and other friends told other friends. We are a very tight knit community right now. It's just exploded from there.

Peter: Awesome. Well, tell us a little bit for those of us who don't know about Muscle Shoals. What is that broader community like? How big is the city and what does that look like?

Kevin: Yeah, what we are, we're the Quad City so we're kind of four cities when you run in to one, you don't know you've left the other.

Peter: Got it.

Kevin: So we're sort of a small southern town, north west Alabama. Rural routes, and a lot of times the new stuff, if you would, the new stuff that catch on really doesn't catch on here. People are really kind of set in their ways, which is totally fine but we're making those changes in our small community. People are saying, "Hey, this is not crazy. This is not just sort of out there." They always mention the bigger cities and the larger markets but we're definitely a smaller market, being located where we are. It's neat how our community has enlarged, just reached out to others and that's really our marketing budget is very small actually, because we do such a good job just as word of mouth. Friends telling their friends. I don't think, Peter, because we're such a welcoming environment it's conducive to getting more folks in the door and getting folks healthier. Finding the functional fitness lifestyle that works for them.

Peter : Got it. So another question about that, so you had mentioned Quad City like four cities coming together and rural routes. How far do you think the average member is driving to get to your gym?

Kevin: Oh, well I've got a guy who drives about 40 miles one way.

Peter : Wow.

Kevin: I've got several folks who do that. I would love to say it's because of the great program and it's because of the great facility that we have ,but I got to tell ya, we're a couple of boxes that are really quality boxes that are around our area and they because of our community, man. They come because of the people. When they're coming in, "Hey there's Joe. Hey, there's Sally." It is so neat. I'll just sort of sit back and give that welcome and just sort of watch the community just sort of do their thing. You know they're hanging around after class is over and we're like, "Good night man." It's a good thing but we got to get these folks out of here because we got to start another class. It's that community that's sort of hanging around and hanging out, and we encourage that. That's what's really neat about our box.

Peter : I love it. So you had mentioned that you had started in 2013 in the back of a physical therapy clinic.

Kevin: Right.

Peter : How did you go about inculcating that community or growing that community feel among your members? 'Cause that doesn't happen just by itself. It's something that you have to do and you have to sell, I guess. Can you talk us through that a little bit?

Kevin: Yeah, absolutely. I go back to the word of mouth, I have sort of developed a following at the hospital, when I was there. In a small, rural community word gets out and I am not meaning to toot my own horn but sort of developing that following, word gets out and from there we started our first class. We did one evening class and we had four folks in it. Actually my boss at the time, full disclosure, I gave everybody full disclosure what I was doing and she allowed me actually to teach the class off the hospital campus and to still keep my job at the hospital. I was very fortunate because most supporters would not because it's almost a conflict of interest there, but they understand me. Again, just sort of word of mouth. I said, "Hey, do you want to try this? We can have a class going on." Our hospital is more of a rehab environment and really more structured towards getting folks healthy again, as far as surgery or a bone replacement, something like that. Kind of a different gear that we're shooting for from the CrossFit work. It's more of a high intensity class and I feel that is one of the reasons why we were able to work as well as we were.

As far as not being a conflict of interest but I know I keep going back to it, but we sort of just let this thing grow itself. I think the first year, I put together a small budget and I think my marketing budget, this is crazy, I think it was 75 dollars, just to be honest.

Peter : For a year?

Kevin: Right. I bought an ad. Yeah, I think I bought an ad in a football program in our local high school, so that was our marketing budget for the year.

Peter : So, back to that ad just really quick because you mentioned it, you think that did anything or is that more like you doing a favor for the high school?

Kevin: A little of both. I think we got our, we have the little emblem, and we got our emblem. We have like a, I guess you would kind of call it an oxymoron, small jumbotron if you would and our emblem would flash up on the screen for like three seconds. I don't know how many folks were seeing that small little flash of emblem and you'd recognize that. I think it's more of a favor.

Peter : Got it.

Kevin: My son went to the high school. I think it was more of a favor.

Peter : Got it. Now a few years in, you said you have 9500 square feet, is that right?

Kevin: Five thousand.

Peter : Oh five thousand square feet, okay cool.

Kevin: Yeah, five thousand.

Peter : Five is still very legit. What are you doing now in terms of marketing to get more people in the door?

Kevin: Yeah, well we do a lot of social media as far as Instagram, Facebook and I've got a guy who just totally does all of that. He's putting our work outs on Instagram and Facebook. We're tweeting daily and we're taking advantage of as much of that free marketing as we can. Of course we've got our signs up on our buildings now, but as far as our marketing we're just doing that. Then we're doing the advertisements. We're heavily involved in the community with local high school teams who have got our name. There's all the football games, all the basketball games. Our small brand, if you would, is being realized and is being seen there so there's some association there. You have to be honest Peter, we're hitting up Instagram, Facebook and twitter just as much as we can.

Peter : Hmm ... And do you find that's driving the clients in the door?

Kevin: Absolutely. Absolutely. We're following, I don't know if you would say what's trending, but we're following our new likes and we're able to keep up, my social media guy is really on top of things and we'll boost that now and again. Yeah, it's bringing folks in the door.

Peter : I love it. I love to hear that. So, lets go back to kind of the customer service and the feeling when people walk in. How many coaches do you have?

Kevin: I've got four.

Peter : How do you train those coaches to make sure that when John Smith comes in the door and he sees one of your coaches and he doesn't see you, that that coach is giving that warm vibe and that feeling?

Kevin: Yeah. I guess first off Peter, it's gotta be a good mix and it's gotta be a good vibe between me and the coach.

We sort of have to have that established. If we're of like beliefs and like values then already we've got some mojo going there. What I've found, that my guys are doing that. We just say, "Hey look, we're in this for them, it's really not about us." I heard a gentleman say one time, "If you just really give right about people, they'll come," and that's what we genuinely do. We try to look for those needs as they come in and we're trying to cater to that person and see those needs as they're there. Does it make a long and tiring day? Yeah, but it also makes for a customer that's going to stay with you and keep coming back. You get that retention and that's what keeps people coming back. We care, we take time, and if we run over a little bit on a class, that's okay. We're okay with that. We just want to make sure that each person is being taken care of in all aspects. We don't want to hover or just smother that person. We want to let them work, but we want to let them work in a safe and effective environment. I think that a lot of times that's why we're successful. We'll let you work man, if you're gonna hurt yourself we're gonna have to stop you, re-evaluate and then lets pick it up again.

All my coaches have a very matter of fact I'm trying to make sure they're all certified, one way or the other. When I see a good, solid, quality certification, I don't care where it's from but I want a nice quality certification. We go from there. We take as much of that outside knowledge as we can. We pool our resources together and in staff meetings, and we program and we go from there.

Peter : Awesome, I love it. So what does this look like five years out? What do you see the gym looking like and what do you see yourself doing in five years?

Kevin: Yeah, of course, you know I'm always wanting to expand. I've got room to expand. I'd like to add maybe another 2,000 square feet. We'd really like to, not necessarily specialize, but I'd like to introduce a barbell club. Possibly an endurance club, down the road for just focusing on the fast lane. Focusing on the the Olympic lifter and open those new avenues. We're really getting a lot in to the area of high schools, as far as agility work. Just working one on one with that athlete and trying to introduce more of that personal training for the athlete and that individualized training for the athlete as we go.

Peter : Got it. I love it. It's kind of interesting that you mention getting the endurance stuff back in there. So you had mentioned at the very start, at the top of the interview when we were talking, that you had really been in to the tri scene, so are you still doing that?

Kevin: I am not actually. If my back doesn't hurt, I love it. Now of course we will run. We'll do the runs but it's nothing like I was in the past.

Peter : Huh, that's really interesting to me. So, you've I guess say, fallen in love with the barbell?

Kevin: Absolutely. Isn't that crazy? Is that not insane?

Peter : Yeah.

Kevin: I have.

Peter : I came from an endurance background also, and now I'm just a big barbell guy, right.

Kevin: Oh yes, man.

Peter : I do still run a fair bit.

Kevin: It's a good mix, Peter. For me it's a good mix. Like I said, I'm not running just copious amounts of miles before but I'll throw a 5K in there just to say, "I can still do this."

Peter : I love it. Cool. Well Kevin, I think this has been pretty good. What else would you like to say for our audience?

Kevin: Again, thanks for this opportunity, man. If you guys are out there and you're tinkering with this, go man. I just say go and just let it happen. 'Cause it's going to happen if you've got that passion and you've got that drive, there's no way you can fail, man. You're going to win regardless, and Josh, thank you for this opportunity man.

Peter : I love it. So, if people want to get in touch with you, what is that the best way that you'd like people to come through?

Kevin: We're on Instagram as @QCStrengthConditioning and Facebook as well, QC Strength and Conditioning. That's the best way to get kind of a vibe and the picture of who we are.

Peter : I love it. We'll make sure to link that up and we'll get you out there. Thanks a lot Kevin, and have a great day, man.

Kevin: Right, thanks Peter. Thank you sir.


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