Are you paying boutique prices for standard service?

From The Archives - I’m going back through the old blog and reposting some of the best articles.

Since as early as 2009 Starbucks has been opening fake independent coffee shops. I personally have nothing against Starbucks, but I know some people do not like the big evil corporate nature of the company. The reason Starbucks is so successful is consistency. Wherever you go you'll get the same brew. People don't want to risk getting a bad cup of coffee at Joe's Coffee Shack down the street, so they go with what they know. But, they may missing out on what could be a much better experience. Starbucks also has the economy of scale, so even though they're expensive, they're still cheaper for the same quality as you would get at the independent coffee next door.

Whether it's to do market research or to capture the independent coffee shop die-hards, Starbucks has chosen to remove their branding and open coffee shops that look independent. They can sell their same coffee at a higher independent coffee shop price and the customers don't know any better.

I'm seeing the same thing in the fitness industry. In the last ten years or so there has been an explosion of small independent gyms as a reaction to the large chains (like 24-Hour Fitness). A large gym chain needs to cater to the lowest common denominator, they need to give you a consistent product at a cheap price. They're unable to provide you with the experience that works best for you - to survive they need to provide a mediocre service that works okay for the most people. Small gyms give you the option to find what works best for you.

We're a strength-focused gym with our roots in Olympic weightlifting. If you want to get strong or get the best weightlifting instruction in the area, you should come to us. I know of about a half dozen other small local gyms that would be better for you if you wanted something else. The key is that you have optionality, so you can find what works for you. If it were all chain gyms everywhere, you'd get the same milquetoast experience no matter where you went. The optionality is great for you, and it is great for the industry as a whole. But it's really hard on the individual gyms. We don't have the economies of scale, so we have to necessarily be more expensive and we cater to a smaller market.

I'm proud of the product we offer, what you see is the best of what Mike, Amy, Randy, and Jordan come up with. You know the people who are writing your programming, you know our philosophies because you read ourwords here. You know when you come in exactly what you're getting. The trouble is that the rest of the small gym industry is insidiously transforming into fake independent coffee shops.

There are a number of companies out there that produce entire "gym systems" for the small gym owner. It's not just websites, it's programming, it's content, it's all of the marketing. Basically, you're getting the lowest common denominator experience that is fake customized for you. I get pitches like this all the time: "All you do is fill out a few questionnaires and our copywriters are off and running writing every single line of copy that appears on your website. That includes all of the lead gen assets (eBooks), your coach’s bios, everything!"

Do you want to pay a premium for a small gym membership when you're getting the same bland product that's going to all the other small gyms? Or do you want to train at a place with a consistent philosophy that fits your goals? At least with us, you know exactly what you're getting. Can you even tell that your small gym is really providing you a personalized experience, or just maybe, are you getting re-branded messaging from someone hundreds of miles away?

Michael Deskevich