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Play the Long Game

This week's guest post is by Jason Fernandez of CrossFit Rife. Jason has been around long enough to see, hear, and experience it all when it comes to running and owning an affiliate. Check out the post below for some hard fought wisdom!

In Simon Sinek’s new book, The Infinite Game, he discusses the perils of short term thinking and trying to “win” vs playing the long game with the only objective being to “stay in the game”. 

Which one of those mindsets do you bring to your brand apparel?

This begs the questions we should ask ourselves about our brand:
Do you like people associating with your brand?   
Does it make you happy to see a gym full of folks wearing your logo? 
Do you want that to happen without being painful to you or your staff??

Then stop trying to sell 100 T-Shirts when you have 133 members!!!!!

Just so we can talk objectively selling to 50% of your member base would be incredible.  100/133 is 75%.  That is not realistic

You know what is??  30%  And even that is high.

As gym owners we get upset because we don’t know anything about retail, but we do know it is a profitable market.  So, we force the issue.  We put all our hopes and dreams on that one sale, that one design, that one color.  None of which were tested, polled or requested.

This is the definition of foolishness.  And it’s short sighted.

Play the long game.  The long game is to have 80-95% of the member base to have at least one item with your logo on it. 

This means we have to think in much longer time periods.  Not months, YEARS!  This is going to be potentially dozens of designs.

But it will happen, with patience.   People are picky.  They might like the design, but not the color or the color and not the design.  Or they like the design but prefer it on the front and not the back, or they think it would have been better on a hoodie not a T-Shirt.  Then you did put it on a hoodie, but they wanted a pull over and you ordered zip ups. 

I didn’t do well in college, but I know my odds based on all of those personal preferences aren’t anything I would bet on in Vegas.

We have done dozens of designs over the years.  Some were a hit some weren’t.  Some did great, and I hated them.  Who would have thought?

If we want to sell hundreds of shirts, we have to be ok with doing that in smaller increments and multiple designs.  The more the better.  People are picky but most of them like variety. 

We’ve been doing 3-6 shirts a year for the past 3+years.  We have done so many designs that sometimes people walk in with a shirt I forgot we sold.  Cool! 

Smaller orders create novelty.  It gives us more opportunity to appeal to the entire community and lets them know that we will get to them because we are creating another design soon.
All the while we are putting more apparel on our members, creating association with the brand, loyalty from our members and pride in what we do.

Doesn’t sound half bad. 


Online Store Gameplan

Note: the information below is confidential proprietary information developed exclusively by Forever Fierce. The information below is not to be shared, copied, or distributed unless you receive written authorization to do so. 

Selling physical products online is very difficult. The distractions of online ads and social media are very real. We all jump on our phones with one objective only to find ourselves down an unrelated rabbit hole- a text message that requires a response, an instagram rabbit hole, or "breaking news" that we must check out. Your clients experience the same issues once we decide to shop online.

The reason why apparel is such a foundational component of the affiliate experience is that it truly anchors members to your gym. It is one thing to say I belong to a gym. It is a different thing when you are wearing the shirt to the grocery store and it is part of your wardrobe.

The gyms that sell the most apparel sell it face to face. We have worked with thousands of gyms at this point and the data is very clear on this. The online store options you see look cool. They make sense in theory. But in reality, they don't work. Gyms that sell shirts online sell about 30% than what they would sell face to face. It is a trade off convenience for the owner in terms of organization and variety but it is detrimental to the overall community because people simply don't like to buy local products online.

If you absolutely must offer the web store option here is our go to guide for giving you the best chance to learn from other's past mistakes and how to overcome some of the challenges owners face when selling physical products online.

  1. The minimum order is 24 pieces. There are no exceptions to this. If you only hit 17 items sold, we expect you to order 7 extra to meet the minimum. We do not charge any fees associated with the online store offer. In actuality, we do not charge you any fees. So, if you start an order, we expect you to finish it. For no obligation up until this point, we feel it is a fair way to handle things. We reserve the right to change minimum requirements on future orders. 

  2. Lock in. The online store option is not a "set it and forget it!" tool. It is a tool that requires a herculean effort every day to generate sales. So, when you're offering an online store, your only priority should be promoting and pushing that product. Make sure your staff understand how to buy something. Make sure you've purchased an item yourself so you can get a feel for the check out process.

  3. Limit the options. You do not need 3 different tanks, 5 different tee colors, and 2 different long sleeve options. We have discussed this before. You are taking a bunch of great ideas and trying to offer too much. Most folks only have a budget for one new gym item a month. As much as clients ask for different colors and styles, if you offer too much in one offering, you won't reach anyone. Offering too many options is "paralyzing" and there are plenty of examples of this phenomenon across various industries and studies. Just google choice paralysis. If you must offer some variety, I would recommend 1 tee and tank style in 2 colors. That would be 4 options for people...and even that feels like too much.

  4. Promote it. A single facebook and instagram post is not promoting or marketing your preorder. Chances are your members did not see that post. Between the newsfeed and timeline algorithms and all of the other micro changes to social media platforms, it is becoming less and less common that business posts find their way organically into their clients social media lives. You need to advertise through all channels: email, printed signs in the restrooms/locker rooms/changing rooms, announcements before AND after class, text messages, whatever you have in your arsenal for contacting people, you need to utilize it. We came up with a system for doing the marketing for you. You need at least one social media post for every day you are leaving the preorder window open. You can check out those messages here:


  5. Samples. Make sure you have sizing samples at the front desk so your members have an opportunity to get the right size. Unfortunately, sizing is not universal. A large tee may not fit like a large hoodie. We provide free samples to clients to ensure everyone gets the right fit. Again, free means free. There is no cost to you for this.

  6. Be prepared for less sales. I have many examples of gyms barely selling 24 items online. When we switch to a paper and pencil sign up form, the sales easily cross the 50 piece mark and sometimes even the 75 piece mark.

  7. Purchase some extras to have on hand. People procrastinate. Stuff happens. People forget to order. I would recommend 6-12 extra items per project to have on hand. This is a manageable amount of inventory.