#012: How to Run a 6-Week Challenge w/ Tyler Sullivan

#012: How to Run a 6-Week Challenge w/ Tyler Sullivan

This week on Gymwright LIVE, we interview Tyler Sullivan, four-time regional athlete, TV show fitness trainer, and owner of Badger CrossFit in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He’s also a business coach with us here at Gymwright, where he works with 70 other gym owners all over the world to get the best results for their boxes. He’s here to walk us through how to run a successful 6-Week Challenge at our gyms. 


This show was recorded live on The Network on Friday, December 29, 2017. 

Now, maybe you’ve tried implementing challenges like the New You Challenge and didn’t see the “new” that everyone was looking for. You may have even done a 6-week challenge of your own in the past, with less than stellar results. In this week’s episode, Tyler breaks down how to succeed where past challenges didn’t, and how to organically offer this in your own gym as a secondary perk to the other benefits your tribe can enjoy.


Use the links below to skip to the info you want to know:


6-week challenge


2:45 Why do a 6-week challenge at your gym?

The 6-Week Challenge is a mutually beneficial system for most gyms. It’s not only good for your members, it’s great for your gym’s growth. During the promotion, you can appeal to people who aren’t necessarily into functional fitness, but are curious after hearing about results./ So often, people who would be great candidates for a functional fitness box membership get in their own way because of their fear that high-intensity functional-fitness isn’t something they’re capable of doing.

As you probably know, there’s a huge misconception in popular culture about what our primary form of fitnss is about and who it’s for. There’s a lower barrier for entry to sign up for a temporary 6-Week Challenge than for a membership contract, and it’s a long enough commitment for them to see that yes, this is something they’re capable of.

Once they’re in the door, you make then fall in love with what you do. Before you know it, you’ve got them for the long haul.

Unlike with most of the world’s sly schemes, this is one you can feel really good about. Your gym is healthier because you have new recruits, and your new recruits are healthier for having joined your gym. This is a relationship-building exercise and trust-building opportunity that can benefit both gym owner and the functional fitness newbie. The place that we as gym owners can have the most impact probably isn’t with seasoned athletes, but with the people who are brand new to fitness. They’ll see the most noticeable physical results of our clients, and it will have the most positive overall impact on their lives, their families, and so on.

Tyler usually does this challenge quarterly, which we cosign as being the right frequency to see results. We sometimes see challenges fail for gym owners when they do too few of them too close together (for example, doing two 6-week challenges back-to-back, and then none for the rest of the year.) If you do it any more frequently than every three months, you tap the well dry. And if you do it any fewer than four times a year, you lose the ability to refine as you go.

Another benefit of the 6-week challenge is its cost effectiveness; it’s an overlooked example of bulk selling. Tyler’s 6-week challenges tend to sell out pretty quickly these days, but traditionally,  he’s seen the average number of 23–30 members per recruitment. So, if you’re normally signing 5–10 new members a month (which is a healthy net gain), and you add an additional 25 members every financial quarter, you’ve more than doubled your growth for the year. It’s a massive opportunity you shouldn’t pass up as a box owner, and pays in dividends.

Tyler reminds us that this isn’t just a way of bringing in people or making revenue – this is a six-week long sales process. This is great opportunity to get leads in, show them the value of not only your challenge, but also your overall program, and then, and convert on this. You’re going to work your butt off with them, and they’re going to work their butts off for you. You’re working on building meaningful relationships with each and every person in there, and exceeding their expectations.


9:25 Branding Your Program

Give it a personality. Brand it by season, like New Year’s Jumpstart Challenge or the Fitness Accelerator Program. Putting design work and brand into it goes a long way. Since you’re trying to show what you’re doing with the challenge, you can market it accordingly.

For example, Tyler utilizes the theme of a bootcamp, and creates logos, language, and branding that matches with the general idea of that. People already know what a “bootcamp” is, and using a familiar word means that you don’t have to put your marketing energy into educating your potential audience on the front end about what it even is that you’re offering.

It can be whatever you want it to be so it can be the best program for them, and that’s based on the training principles you value at your gym.

12:28 Pricing and Packaging

This challenge doesn’t have to be that profitable on its own, because more than anything, it’s a marketing effort. So while you don’t need to build it in a way that will make you rich, you do want to make it as cost-effective as possible. Don’t forget to factor in your advertising costs — those Facebook ads can add up.

Make sure the program’s price is reflective of its value. Though this is promotional, if the program is offered for a bargain-basement price, there will inevitably be sticker-shock when you try to move that satisfied client over to your evergreen membership offerings. If you have a lower-value program, you can have a lower offer. If the offer is paired with something of higher value like individual consultation, one-on-one life coaching, or a nutritional program, make sure the price reflects it. Remember, you’re adding a ton of value to your offer.

We recommend keeping your challenge at 1½ times your lowest monthly membership cost, so it costs as least as much as your day-to-day programming. By the time you add in all the extras of the promotion, it’s still a great value, and this pricing maintains a good perception of value for your regular membership.

Tyler recommends offering an option to put money down in advance to reserve each spot – such as $49 with a charge of the remaining balance on day one. This makes new recruits feel like they had some skin in the game.

And of course, don’t forget to get your newbie pumped. Get them excited by calling them right after they sign up, building a relationship, and taking the time to make sure they’re onboard. It doesn’t need to be a giant intake questionnaire. Just get them pumped and let them know how kick-ass your program is.

Make sure you’re not skimping on the relationship-building just because people are signing up in bulk. You can find other places to be efficient when bringing on a lot of people at once, but building a relationship with your new clients isn’t it.

6-week challenge


21:46 Marketing and Advertising

Tyler’s successfully run many marketing and advertising programs independently, and found that in order to achieve success, it’s not about focusing on what your box is selling, but instead about marketing how your box offers solutions. If you advertise your challenge with this in mind, the marketing program falls into place more organically and naturally, and can be more appealing to leads.

But don’t expect to just run one ad and magically gain leads – it’s a slow burn that requires a process of several ads that build over time. Make your ads accessible, entertaining, and informative – and video posts are a great way of achieving your advertising goals. In the weeks that you’re building your campaign, remember to focus on lower complexity topics, because you’re appealing to those not familiar with the functional fitness world.

Have a strategy for social media, web content, and email marketing that will warm up your crowds and lead them up to signup.

6-week challenge


27:00 Programming

Remember, many of the recruits you’re pulling in are new to the world of functional fitness. It’s important to offer and deliver a simple yet functional workout. It’s about trying to teach them and build value about what works. A movement pattern can be covered with simple, non-intimidating jargon, so once the 6-Week Challenge is completed, the members can easily transition into regular classes.

Even though these are introductory classes, make sure you don’t name them the “beginner’s course” or give the impression of a “baby workout.” Label these with an innocuous title, such as “Level 1” or “Workout A” to encourage newbies to continue with the programs. You don’t want them to feel condescended to about entry-level workouts. They shouldn’t start their experience with you feeling guilty about their abilities or unchallenged in how they perform.

6-week challenge


32:50 Staffing

When implementing your challenge, remember to keep your coaching staff relatively large, rotating if necessary, in order to keep staff on-hand and to facilitate the conversion process.

6-week challenge


33:45 Client Engagement Steps

The most important part of the challenge program is to engage clients and creating a tribe for it. This trumps the programming itself in a lot of ways, because this is where clients feel welcomed and a part of the family, and when that happens, you’ve got members for life.

In order to ensure this, Tyler has a set of simple steps to follow:

  1. Create a Facebook group solely for the challenge group
  2. Post daily content, engaging clients with questions
  3. Formulate a 6-week strategy with the internal postings on Facebook – for example, week 1-2 could focus on motivation, week 3-4 on nutrition, week 5-6 on goals and next steps
  4. Remember to email content one to two times per week, then recap the week and lay groundwork for the following week
  5. Offer a nutrition component – for example, sharing a recipe on Facebook that is a good way to create immediate, tribe-like engagement with your group.

6-week challenge


40:30 Building Perceived Value

It’s important to stress to your leads the true depth of the value of what they’re signing up for. In order to do this, you need to show them that your box reflects your values and displays what you stand for. Help them fully understand the perks of your challenge program, give them a rundown of your structure, and answer all their questions.

Make sure that by the end of the first week, they have the opportunity to see some success.

Tyler’s gym integrates a 5-week nutrition challenge within the bootcamp 6-week challenge, offering an addition level of support and benefit to those registering. His gym also offers two sessions of life coaching with the program — one at week two or three, and another at week five or six.

His program includes a bring-a-friend day, which adds a level of community with their existing friends while potentially giving you more prospects. These clients are eager to share and show off what they’ve learned with someone who “knew them when.” And when the friends do come in, make sure that your next 6-week challenge is already on the calendar, so you have something to point these friends to when they’re interested.

It’s important to remember asking yourself, “How do I add value to their lives?” This can help you build a theme for each week and to create an overall direction for your challenge.

Make sure that you do these program sessions at your peak times, or as close to as possible, in order to make sure attendance stays high. But be aware of what equipment needs you have for the time slot — You don’t want to learn once everyone shows up that the kettlebells are all already being used in the group class during your selected time slot.

6-week challenge


51:00 Positioning Retail

This is a huge opportunity for you to position your retail the same way you would at an onramp program. When you give your basic nutrition information and the Q&A, make sure you make a note of supplements you believe in (and steer them away from the garbage they might find elsewhere). If you have those clean supplements in your retail shop, do a sampling then. Not only will it increase your retail sales, it gives your clients the feeling of being an invested insider, and therefore more likely to stick with it.

6-week challenge


53:16 Teeing up the Conversion to Your Evergreen Program

This is the sales component of the 6-week challenge. For Tyler at Badger, the process is a start-to-finish effort, beginning as soon as the challenge is reserved with an introductory phone call with information about the enrollment day, and a discussion regarding the new client’s goals.

From the moment that a new client makes a purchase decision, it’s a high-touchpoint type service. This is about opening the door and getting to know the client throughout the process, and in turn, they have a clear idea of their goals. Tyler stresses at week four or five to personally reaching out to each person – whether it’s personal meeting or a phone call. However it happens, ensure that there’s a one-on-one, 15-minute discussion about the pros and cons of that particular client’s progress throughout the challenge and where you see them.

At this point, about 90% of new clients who have completed the challenge role into conversion into an evergreen class – this might be through sweetening the deal, such as offering the first two or three nutrition classes for free, several free sessions of that new client’s favorite program, or offer one complimentary month in a yearly contract.

A good way to do this is to offer some of what they’ve paid to participate in the program as a “credit” towards further participation. Make sure you set this up before the program ends. It’s easier to keep them in your gym than to bring them back once they leave.

1:05:25 Q&A

Question: How do I set goals for a new group of challenge participants?

Answer: This viewer noted that he’d already downloaded Tyler’s S.M.A.R.T. Goal Setting sheet, which he uses with all his clients. Excellent start! For some groups, Tyler also does a Facebook Live to talk about their goals. Usually for bootcamps, he finds that you spend enough time with each participant to have goal-setting conversations and check-ins face-to-face.

Part of the conversation should involve mental imagery to think about a future state that they want to achieve, and then taking them through “how do we get there?”

Question: What about “free” challenges?

Answer: These tend to be a marketing bait-and-switch, as we’ve seen them in the fitness world, where the ad will run for a free program, but there are hidden associated costs when the prospect signs up. Or worse, the “free” thing never existed, but when the prospect shows up, they’re told the free thing is sold out but there’s plenty of this un-free program available. It’s not cool. We’re here to to build meaningful relationships… And there’s no better way to start building a meaningful relationship that with a bait-and-switch, right? Best to keep the marketing transparent.

Question: Is there risk in signups seeing classes in progress that are far beyond their current level?

Answer: Potentially. Have an enrollment day on on a Sunday and make it an event. Let people know that “you may see other people in classes, and don’t worry if it looks like stuff you’re not ready for; we’ have classes at all kinds of levels and skills here, and we’re gonna keep the bootcamp at a level that’s a fun, achievable, great workout. We’re always going to do what’s appropriate for you.” Let them know, too, that the people they see doing mega-impressive stuff, though it may seem intimidating, “the majority of our clients were brand new to fitness when they started with us,” and let them know that they’re not really that far off from being able to do the awesome stuff, too.

Question: What’s the best way to market on social?

Answer: Show things that are achievable and relatable for the types of people you’re trying to attract. Avoid things that are scary to people who are newer. You want to create a road map for them to their success.

Thanks for being with us today! If you have any questions on today’s content, be sure to tag us in the comments on The Network. You can tag Markus or Tyler any time, and we’ll answer the questions there for as long as you’re asking them.



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Jessica Depatie About the author

Jessica is the marketing maven here at Gymwright. She's a business consultant and holistic marketer for fitness businesses. She specializes in the decision-making psychology of what makes everyday people want to optimize themselves. She dives deep into how people seek out growth in the pursuit of living happier and healthier.

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