John of CrossFit Onion Creek talks about using newspaper ads to promote his box

Peter: Hello and good morning. This is Peter from Fringe and I am talking this morning with John Biber. John, you are with CrossFit Onion Creek, is that right?

John: Yes, sir. My wife and I, we own CrossFit Onion Creek here in Dripping Springs.

Peter: Awesome. So for our listeners, where is Dripping Springs and what kind of community is that?

John: Dripping Springs is just on the southwest side of Austin, Texas. A really cool little community, kind of small, very unique demographic actually. Everybody in this town commutes into Austin. Most people working in Austin in some sort of capacity or they work from home. And a lot of people travel, I’ve noticed, around here quite a bit. So kind of a unique demographic here as far as people go. It’s a pretty neat little town.

Peter: How does that play into your box? What kind of community do you have? Who are your clients?

John: Yeah, it’s been a little challenging trying to figure it out. We had to kind of nail down, class times particularly. Early morning class times seem to be popular for people who want to come in and get that workout in, and then head to work. I get people that travel from Wimberly or Johnson City and certain other towns around here, that come work out with us pretty early in the morning, just so that they can get it all done before they travel into Austin and go to work. It’s been pretty neat.

Peter: Got it. So are you getting a lot of professionals then? Is that pretty much who you’re catering to?

John: Absolutely. A lot of people in this town are a little bit more on the white collar side, the professional side. From bankers or loan officers, things like that, to pilots. More professional jobs. There’s not too much going on out here as far as what you would kind of call the blue collar.

Peter: Got it. And how do you build a culture for those people or just get in, get out? Do you have a lot of people who their lives revolve around the box? Or would you say you’re kind of ancillary to their lives?

John: Yeah and that’s been the challenge. We make it as fun as we can for them, that way it’s something for them to look forward to when they get there. They’re not just coming to work out and get that part of their day done with. They’re coming here to talk with friends they’ve met, or they’re coming here to talk with me, or one of my other coaches, my wife. We’re enjoying trying to get them in other aspects of their life, community-wise, because some of these people don’t have a community aspect because they travel so much—it’s business as usual. But I feel when they come into our place, it’s not business as usual. They come in here because it’s fun, and they enjoy it, and they get to work out. For some guys, it’s almost secondary.

Peter: Got it. So what do you do that makes it so fun or provides that community for your clients?

John: You know, I think I’ve been fortunate. I have a couple of good coaches and I think the main thing is, is the attitude we have day in and day out. We never ignore anybody. We never put anything on the back burner and we try to give our full attention as if it were a personal training client. We give full attention to everyone in that class, as best we can. And I think people really respond to that kind of environment. They feel welcome and invited because they know they’re going to get the best quality coaching that we can offer day in and day out. Attitude is everything when those people walk in that door and I think that’s what we provide best.

Peter: Sounds great. So let’s switch gears a little bit here. How long have you guys been open?

John: It will actually be a year here on December 11th. It’s been fantastic. We’re definitely ahead of where we planned on being, we’re definitely ahead member-wise and everything, from where we planned on being. So it’s been pretty great. We’ve had some pretty decent success so far.

Peter: Sweet. So can you tell me a little bit about startup? How did you get your first few members?

John: Well actually what happened is the space that I’m occupying right now, originally it was CrossFit Dripping Springs, was the original box there. The owners had a large change and what happened is they were bought out from another couple opening their second gym. It did not float too well for them and things did not seem to be going so well. Quite a few members had left and things like that. Things happen. So I was coaching at the time for both places essentially and I said to my wife, “I think this might be the opportunity we’re looking for. I’m really enjoying what I’m doing right now.” We made a decision, we stepped in, and we made an offer. We bought the gym and we started off with 14 members, 13 or 14 members is all it was at that time. And right now we’ve basically tripled it. We’re at 44 members right now in this first year that we’ve had. So it’s been pretty fantastic for us. We did a little bit of advertising and things like that but I think mainly what it was—and almost all those people that we have new are brand new members, almost all of them. Not too many people came back that had left from before. So I think we did a good job as far as a couple serious people and then word of mouth spread. We did run some newspaper advertisements in the local newspaper, things like that, but it just seemed to kind of organically grow a little bit more in the community and that’s exactly what we were hoping for.

Peter: Yeah, it’s definitely the best way. Let’s go back to those newspaper ads really quickly. I don’t hear about a lot of boxes doing that. Can you talk to me a little bit about those ads and how you think they were effective or not effective?

John: It’s hard to say whether they’re entirely effective. I had a couple people come in that said, “We saw your ad in the newspaper; we wanted to come in and check you out.” It all worked out very well but I’m not terribly big on online advertising or things like that. We have a Facebook page, we have a regular web page, and everybody can Google everything but there just seems—with everybody I talk to in this town, they have a newspaper. The school puts its own newspaper out. It just seems like a little bit more of a professional town, and the demographic we had, I just took a chance with newspaper and a lot of people, I just felt like, still like to sit down, have that cup of coffee, and read the newspaper. So we took that chance. We had a little bit of success with it. And it’s not terribly expensive. So we kept it going for a little while here and we’ll see how it keeps working out for us.

Peter: Awesome. Yeah, the word of mouth is something I hear from a lot of box owners who are doing it right. So are you guys doing anything to incentivise word of mouth? Do you ask clients to tell people about you?

John: Yeah, matter of fact, I particularly don’t ask clients to tell—my personality is that I’m not a very pushy kind of guy. I have an incentive for my clients if I do get a referral for them and somebody signs up but I don’t advertise it so a lot of my clients really don’t know about it. It comes as a surprise and a big thank you when I tell them, “Because you referred somebody to me, I’m going to give you your next month at half off.” They’re like, “Oh, really? Wow. Well thank you very much.” I feel it’s a loyalty kind of thing. It’s my everything to say thank you to those people who spread it by word of mouth. And that shouldn’t be something that I necessarily have to advertise for.

Peter: Awesome. I love that.

John: I want my clients to know me, that I’m a generous guy, I’m there for them. And that’s why I feel it’s not necessarily something I would have to advertise for. And I think it makes people a little more happy when it spontaneously comes out of the blue saying, “You’re going to get your next month half off because I got a good referral from you,” and I’ve had some of the biggest smiles on people’s faces from that.

Peter: I love it. Cool. Well, is there anything else you would like to add for our audience?

John: Not necessarily in particular about that kind of stuff. Just like a lot of other places, we’re always evolving, always expanding our ideas and our minds and everything. You know, always try to learn something every single day, as an owner, as a coach. Everybody that comes in that door should learn something every day. That’s what we strive for.

Peter: Awesome. John, I love that attitude. So if anyone’s interested—a client or another box owner, something like that—interested in chatting with you, is the best way to go to your website or how would you like people to get a hold of you?

John: Yeah, website is absolutely great. E-mail is perfect. We’re really responsive to e-mail, my wife and I. Sometimes phone calls get a little erratic because we have 5 kids. So when we’re not at the gym, our life is hectic. E-mail is really easy and responsive. Sometimes there’s a lot of places where we can’t talk on the phone, not that we don’t do that but e-mail is definitely the easy thing to do, because you see it in the inbox and you go, “Oh, yeah, I’ve got to reply to that,” so it’s a pretty easy way to go.

Peter: Awesome. So your website is CrossFitOnionCreek.com and you’re located in Dripping Springs, Texas, and I’m seeing a contact form there on your website. So thanks so much, John. This has been awesome.

John: Yeah. I appreciate it. Thank you so much.


Susie Sebastian
Susie Sebastian

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Susie is the Digital Marketing Specialist here at FringeSport. She's a web nerd and loves being a part of the FringeSport team!



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