Tribalism is a buzzword you hear a lot these days. It refers to people wanting to belong to a likeminded group. Tribes share common beliefs, rituals, emotions, etc. while united around a common foundation. It’s been the subject of intense scrutiny by marketers and something I’ve studied for years.
It can take many forms. Whether it’s Fortnite or CrossFit, people want to be part of, and surrounded by, members of their tribe in the virtual or physical worlds.
My company, Impact Wrap, has been fortunate to work with over 100 gyms around the U.S. and world. Our platform converts heavy bags into smart devices that score workouts in real time and documents fitness progress.
Interacting with these gym communities has exposed me to a variety of business models, owners, staff and members. I’ve seen how the successful gym owners embrace tribalism, and how the unsuccessful don’t grasp its power (or are ignorant to its nuisances).
The power of the tribe became quite apparent after a recent survey of our customers, particularly fitness kickboxing and boxing clubs.
In this survey, I received widely varied reviews of our platform, and it was, frankly, a bit disconcerting given all that I have put into my bootstrapped startup.
There were owners that absolutely loved it and raved about how it has helped grow their businesses. And, then there were those that thought it was “okay” but didn’t provide the growth benefits they were hoping for. “Why the difference?” I wondered.
Diving deeper into the data, one common thread appeared: The gyms that had all their bags connected to Impact Wrap were rewarded with higher retention, engagement, motivation with current members, and grew their new member base. That translated into real dollars.
The gyms that only had a subset of their bags hooked up, like eight out of 30 or 16 out of 50, saw a minimal lift for their business. The members that worked out on the connected bags were excited and engaged but many others shunned the smart bags and “didn’t want to know,” as we discovered unexpectedly.
Customers like Fly Kickbox in Colorado, MaxBox in Michigan, Title Boxing Club in Philadelphia and BE THE KO in Portugal, among many others, were leading the tribal wave of fitness technology for the heavy bag. They are all in, and every member measures their workouts. No one “didn’t want to know” or cancelled their memberships because of the technology. It was quite the opposite effect. Their businesses have grown and even broken records.
You don’t have to look any further than SoulCycle or Orangetheory to see how technology-based tribalism can be successful. Every member is all-in. You won’t find some members using the technology or some not. That’s not an accident.
Of course, we want to sell more product but, ultimately, we want our customers to succeed. Their success helps breed our success.
With that said, when I took an honest, unbiased assessment of classes where part of the class measures their workouts and the other part doesn’t, tribalism was still there. However, in these cases, the class had created two tribes: the haves and have nots.
The classes did not share the same goal of measurable, quantifiable improvement. It wasn’t about competing with others or seeing who was the top dog, it was about a shared experience that brought them together.
When I interviewed many members after these all-in and two-tribe classes, there was a striking difference. While the all-in classes had unified feedback, the two-tribe workouts resulted in mixed expectation and reactions. The owners of most of those gyms couldn’t understand why. Sorting through our qualitative and quantitative analysis lead me to the conclusion that the tribes had split, and were at odds with each other.
At Fly Kickbox, they created the 100 Club and MaxBox came up with the Century Club to mark members reaching 100,000 points. It’s a goal for new and existing members and a proud achievement. Finding out about these “clubs” was a pleasant surprise for me as I never gave them that direction. It shows how the owners understand how to build a strong tribe.
Whatever tool you use to help grow your business, it’s imperative to constantly evaluate how you are creating and cultivating a single tribe.
If you are vested in the success of your company, seeing the forest for the trees is an important skill set. Surveys, data and interviews can shed light on opportunities for success.
With proper care, your tribe will be the foundation for many years of growth.-30-
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