We all know the importance of networking and building connections when you are growing your business.

But how can you leverage that network to successfully market your product for you?

Annie Davis, CMO at Legends Boxing, has tapped into their existing client base to help the company grow and franchise gyms nationwide. Member created content is now 99% of Legends’ online marketing.

Get in the ring with Annie and find out how you can get your clients to fight for you.


Mentioned in this episode:


Voiceover: This is Performance Delivered. Insider secrets for digital marketing success with Steffen Horst and Dave Antil.

Steffen Horst: Welcome to the Performance Delivered Insider Secrets for Digital Marketing Success podcast, where we talk with marketing and agency executives and learn how they build successful businesses and their personal brand. I’m your host Steffen Horst. The topic for today’s episode is the importance of networking and building connections while growing a business. Here to speak with me is Annie Davis, who is the Chief Marketing Officer at Legends Boxing, the fitness franchise focused on boxing. 

Annie oversees all aspects of marketing for the Legends Boxing franchise chain nationwide, communicates with franchisees on their local advertising, and she was hitting all KPIs on a gym and corporate level, identifies market trends and implements new marketing campaigns as needed. Prior to becoming the CMO at Legends Boxing, Annie owned her own web development and advertising agencies. Annie, welcome to the show.

Annie Davis: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be here. Well,

Steffen: Well, Annie, before we talk about today’s topic, tell our listeners a bit more about yourself. How did you get started in your career and how did you end up in marketing?

Annie: Yeah, I’m happy to. So I currently live and I’m based here in Utah and Lehi where our headquarter office is for Legends Boxing. So I grew up in Reno, Nevada, and moved to Utah a couple years after high school. And I knew that I wanted to do some sort of more creative role, but I wasn’t quite sure what and I worked for a few small businesses here in Utah, various kind of administrative roles and assistant roles and loved learning about the advertising and what and marketing overall marketing strategy that they use. 

Although I didn’t know that’s what it was called at the time. I just knew that it was so exciting. And I was so passionate about it. And I ended up working at a company for adults with disabilities. And that’s where I met my current husband. So very worth it to work there. But I ended up helping them with their marketing and just the avenues that they were taking to promote their business and gather new clients and staff. And it was really hard because they were bound by a lot of Medicaid regulations and government red tape. And so for after a while I loved it, but really want to work somewhere where I had a little bit more creative room and bandwidth. 

And fast forward a few years, and I founded my own marketing and web development agency, Davis Designs. Ran that for from 2018 until January of 2021 when it was acquired. And I was approached by the founder of Legends Boxing, Rob Scott, and he offered me a position as the Chief Marketing Officer here. And it’s just, it’s a dream come true. So I love it. It’s it’s all of the creative space that I’ve always wanted along with an incredible team here. And we just get to do a lot of really exciting projects and seeing the franchisees grow. So I love it.

Steffen: Nice. Now, how has marketing, from your perspective changed in the past few years? And where do you see it going?

Annie: Yeah, so when I started really getting my hands into marketing, and really learning, especially in the online space, but just overall, it was very, very focused on the end result and what the consumer was going to get out of it. And it was really common to see, especially in the fitness industry, which we’re in just longer term contracts, you know, 6, 12 month membership contracts, and a lot of more regulatory, clients driven aspects. And since, you know, I’d say 2018 or so when we really started getting into this space up until now, it has changed dramatically. You know, nowadays we look at on demand, there’s a lot of freedom that the consumer is really wanting, and people aren’t really wanting to be bound by contracts. 

And they’re really looking for something that’s catered specifically to them. It’s personalized, and we’ve had to really adjust a lot of the strategy that we have internally, based off of that. In addition, I would say a lot of the leads, and the prospects that we’re trying to target in our demographic have much, much shorter attention spans, for shorter windows, essentially, for us to really grab their attention with what we’re promoting. And it was really common to have one to two minute videos or long form articles online that were performing extremely well a couple years ago, and that, you know, the past few months even, I’d say the past season or two. 

I’ve noticed that there’s a big trend where people are just wanting shorter and shorter videos. Shorter and shorter bits of content and just quick to the point. They want to know what the solution is and if it’s customized for them. So, I think moving forward, we’re gonna see a lot more of that, it’s going to be a lot more personalized, a lot more dynamic, you know. One solution never fits all. But I think we’re moving much more towards customized, customized products. And we’ve seen that the content that we produce that performs the best, by far, is actually our native in gym content. 

So people are really wanting to hear, hear what Legends is about, or what you know, our company is all about, from other members, much more than what we could ever say about it. So some of our best performing ads, and best performing campaigns overall, have really been photos, video clips, little informal writings that our members have put together. And those just, they blow out of the water, anything that we have put together professionally or with a professional production team.

Steffen: So how do you use that information to grow? Obviously, I think it’s a smart idea to use sentiment feedback from members. I think, in one of our last podcast episodes, we talked about that there was one company that does webinars, and the webinar would be run by the company. But the people speaking are customers. They would answer questions for people that are interested in a product, and therefore it it’s much more much less biased feedback.

Annie: Yeah. Oh, I love that. I might have to take that idea. That’s awesome. I Yeah. So I mean, it’s changed a lot with what we’ve had to do. So even here, we’ve pivoted, you know, we have an incredible video and photo production team that we work with here, locally, and they’re, they’re just phenomenal. But we’ve had to actually switch completely, do a 180, on what we have them focus on and what we have our internal, essentially production design creative team do. So it could not be more different than what we were doing, you know, for the first four to five years in being in business. 

And so we, for awhile had, I’d say 80 to 90% of all of our online, customer facing content, all of the collateral, were professional photos, videos, professional blog articles, all of this. Very strategically, you know, put together as a lot of thought behind it. And that’s what I, you know, thought would always be performing the best. And it’s so interesting to see that over the past 12 months, like, if you looked at a chart, you would see a dramatic switch on what’s what people are leaning to. So we run analytics, you know, ongoing, but we look at them very in depth every month, every quarter, and then we have a huge deep dive we do every year. And when we did the one for 2022 and kind of came up with our overall strategy and what big changes we need to make, we ended up switching and having our in house team as long as well as a lot of our native gym content. 

So all of our members, you know pictures that they take on the in the workout themselves that are being posted on social media, and just switching it. So we use all of that for I’d say 99% of our online marketing efforts. And we have our awesome vendors and contractors that we use for the more professional shoots, they come in and do more tutorial videos for staff and training. And, you know, we have a lot of operations that go on behind the scenes with being a franchise chain. So we really just had to flip it completely on its head. 

And with that comes a lot of features and you know, processes that have to go into place to make sure that we’re always encouraging members to take content that you know, they’re getting excited that they’re on board to kind of be a part of our marketing essentially. We talk a lot about the tribe aspects that you especially here at Legends boxing, but we talk a lot about belong the tribe, you know, we’re a community and we’ve had to kind of carry that same mentality over much more so into our marketing. Because, you know, we we cannot our headquarter office or any one small building, we can’t fully broadcast what makes us unique and what that that benefit is for the consumer. 

But our members can. I would say, it really changed a lot of our online focuses in terms of what the priorities are also, like looking at Google reviews, and just online, the reputation. So reviews, pictures with people looking up on social media, we’ve had to make sure that we are actively focusing and encouraging that because those do more for the brand and our credibility and just brand awareness than then a lot of our campaigns that we used to do prior to that.

Steffen: Know, how do you approach growing a business? You obviously before you became the CMO of Legends Boxing, you had your own web dev marketing agency. Did you apply a different approach then, compared to Legends Boxing in order to grow the business?

Annie: Yeah, um, I would say it all. For me, I think everything comes down to connections, essentially. So I’m very connection and networking driven. And at the core of it, that’s kind of what has grown both of them. There, it’s very different in some aspects, you know, with being a, with Legends being a franchise, and having, you know, the both in many different areas like I, you know, there’s the pillar of membership growth, there’s the pillar of how many locations and franchisees we have. And, you know, we have our gear and apparel. So the third pillar, we have events, there’s, there’s a lot. Whereas when I had the web development agency, it was essentially just active projects. 

So it was much more simple in that aspect, when I was trying to grow Davis Designs in the beginning, but I think it just really comes down to connecting with people and, you know, consumers, and just the general, you know, my network. Essentially, the people that I talked to a lot, they could care less what I’m offering, at the end of the day, they want to know if it helps them. If it’s a solution to their need, or problem that they have. And a good good friend of mine, who owns a big call center company here, had said, you know, Annie, this is a few years ago, he said, you have to invest the time into networking. And I was early on and to, you know, the whole growing companies and my career, and I kind of didn’t understand the full importance of that at the time. 

So I think I had said something like, oh, yeah, I’m sure it’s important. I just don’t have time right now. And he said, like, no, you have to make time for that. Because there’s a metric out there that we always refer to in marketing with, it takes five to seven times for a potential customer to be exposed to your brand before they’re typically willing to take action. And he had kind of related that to new connections and meeting people. And he said, you know, if people have never heard of you, you’re not going to be first on their list to call or work with or recommend. And if they’ve, you know, even if you’ve never talked to them, and they’ve seen you around at networking events, and they know the name, it’s gonna go a long way. 

And he could not have been more, right. So Davis Designs was, for the entirety of growing it up until when it was acquired was 90 to 95% referral based. So we did a lot of marketing in the sense of person to person connection, online webinars, you know, networking groups, but it really showed that you can absolutely build a business, just with that focus of people. And we’ve applied the same sort of logic here at Legends. It’s, we obviously have a much more heavy hitting advertising aspect that we do as well with paid ads, and all of that. But at the end of the day, what really helps grow the business is people knowing that faces behind it. 

And we often talk about what we refer to as you know, the Walmart or the Amazon effect of everyone knows the company, everyone knows that name, but they don’t necessarily know who’s behind it. Like a lot of people could not tell you, the top five people at Walmart, and the executive team. And so we try really hard to make sure that we’re visible, people are feeling connected to us as people, that we’re reaching out, we’re always trying to help out other companies and other people when we need to. And it always comes back tenfold.

Steffen: Now let’s talk a little bit more about building connections of networking. How did you use that approach to grow Legends Boxing?

Annie: So in a few different ways, actually. So with memberships, I’ll talk about the memberships, and there’s the franchise locations, because they’re a bit different. With memberships, we go really hard with the referral. So we make sure we’re incentivizing members to have a reason. One to have a good experience so that they want to be sharing that with other people, you know, no recommendation is ever going to be mean as much or be as valued as one that comes from a friend or family. So we want to make sure that they’re always having a great experience that’s well above just, you know, the good enough benchmark. And then we really encourage them to refer friends and family. 

And so we’re always running contests, we’re always doing giveaways, we can structure it to where on paper, we may be losing a little bit of a profit if we’re doing these referrals, but overall, it absolutely ends up beneficial because the lifespan of a member ends up being much much longer. They stay with the gym longer, and then they’re more incentivized and statistically from what we found, the members going because have a referral are much more likely to then refer other people. We also make sure that we’re really exposing the community and everyone we can to a lot of the, what we call rock stars. 

But the people who really love representing our brands, so we try to not have a big divide between our, our executive leadership team, and you know, our member coaches and our clientele essentially, because they’re the ones who, you know, we often bring, I just brought one of our members here at our Lehi gym, to a networking event with me the other day, and they were just at the, they were so excited. And they’re gonna give you, you know, honest, unbiased unscripted opinion of, of why they’re, why they’re there. In terms of franchising, I think making connections is the number one thing that we’ve seen that has benefited the company as a whole and helped us grow. I am a huge fan of handwritten thank yous and handwritten notes. 

About five or six years ago, I read a book that I wish I could remember the name of, because I talk about it all the time. I preach about it. But it was some book by a really, incredibly successful business owner. And he had said that the best thing he ever did was to every time he’s on an airplane, he would tear a page out of like a newspaper, or a magazine or a little book, and send it to someone that he had heard of, or kind of knew of, and just say, like, Hey, I was just, you know, it’s been a while since we’ve talked, and I’ve just thinking of you. And this reminded me of you. And he said, you know, he would just kind of scribble it together, mail it as soon as he got to his hotel, and it just exploded his growth. 

And so we’ve applied that same principle. When we do corporate, our corporate executive meetings every Tuesday morning, we start by having everyone write a handwritten card to someone in their network, whether it’s, you know, someone that they’ve met, or someone that they want to thank for something, and it’s always gratitude driven. So we’re not ever just reaching out to say, like, hi, come try a workout, because that’s at the end of the day, not not going to build a valuable connection, it’s just going to be a sales pitch. 

So we try to do gratitude driven notes. And through that, we’ve had so many big opportunities come. You know, we have our a big event every year that we have here in Utah, it’s a big Executive Fight Night, and through the only people that really are involved in that are people that we have reached out to and that have made that connection with because, you know, if you’re going to get on a stage and box and fight someone, you’re going to have to have a lot of trust in the company and the trainer. 

So I think through having our whole team have that same approach with making connections. It’s really I think, shown everyone here, including our junior leadership, that that’s the that’s the way to open up conversations. Like no one, in my experience, no one’s ever upset by hearing from someone who just wants to say thank you, or, you know, say great job on this. I enjoyed your book. So that’s something that we’ve we’ve worked a lot on. Sorry, that was a really long answer on that.

Steffen: Yeah, that was some great information there. Well, Annie, how do you incentivize people that you, for example, use to talk about Legends Boxing? Or do you incentivize them at all?

Annie: Yeah, so we actually have had to try out a few different ways to really find what works. And we’ve kind of figured out it comes down twofold. One, they want to feel, everyone does, but they want to feel valued. So in the beginning, we tried to really automate it. And that was my first big one of my first big initiatives here. I was like, you know what, everyone who, you know, we see that leaves a review, or that goes out of their way to kind of market on behalf of Legends, whether we really asked them to or not, to be brand ambassadors, let’s give them you know, X amount of credit to our pro shop, which is where we have all of our, our gear and apparel that we sell. 

And, you know, they were excited, they liked it, but we didn’t really see a spike when we looked at the actual numbers. And it, it wasn’t directly seeming to incentivize or excite them to, to continue doing so. So we changed it. And we, we happen to kind of find what works on accident. I had written a couple of just handwritten thank yous to them and called a couple of them and just said, hey, like, you know, thanks for being a member. Um, you know, thanks for leaving this awesome review, I saw that you mentioned us on some other podcasts that you were doing for your company, and I just wanted to grab lunch and thank you and we saw a dramatic difference. 

So they, we realized that the feeling valued and feeling like they truly belong, and that they’re providing something that, you know, we’re actually really grateful for, has just made a tremendous difference. So we do a lot of recognition. We do still try to give away, you know, financial incentives and stuff like that, but for the most part, it’s just giving genuine, true compliments. We are a big, big believer in, Brene Brown has a quote about, you always want to catch people doing something good. Because it’s really opposite to it’s really easy to do the opposite. And so we’d go out of our way to make sure that we’re doing that. 

And I think a lot of times it catches people by surprise. That’s the goal. We don’t want it to feel like it’s an obligation or an automated response. So we try to have as many genuine, we call them micro connections, but little moments where you connect that are remembered over time as we can. And we have seen a dramatic difference in the number of people who are just without even asking them at this point, they are just out there representing our company and what we’re about.

Steffen: That’s really interesting. Now, you’ve obviously done this for a longer period of time. What are the no no’s that you discovered? So the things where you said, you know what, I should have not done this or did this, that approach didn’t yield the result that I was hoping for?

Annie: Yeah. So there’s been quite a few things that I’ve learned that work and don’t work over the years, in terms of just meeting people and making really valuable connections. When I first started going to networking events, I would often get really excited to tell people about why I was there and what I was offering and, you know, in our heads, we’re always, you know, if you’re if you’re in a good spot, you like what you do, and you like where you work, you can’t help but talk about it. 

And I’m obviously a talker, I love doing things like podcasts, and that but I had to really learn to close my mouth and just listen, because they obviously people want to talk about themselves, and they’re going to have a lot better experience, if you can just ask them a couple of questions about what they do, what their background is. And that was hard. I got some good feedback early on in my career about that. And it took a while to sink in to do more listening, active listening than talking. But I think that was that was a big moment. 

As soon as I really shifted that focus, and went in thinking, you know, how, how can I be of value to whoever I’m meeting. If I go into a big marketing, networking get together where you know, there’s 50, 60 people, I try to look out, or if I know who’s going to be there, look for a couple of people and see who I might be able to help. Who you know, would be a really good connection for them, not for me, and just learning to be I guess, more selfless and take the time to get to know them in depth and do focus on what they’re looking for has been, it’s made a dramatic difference.

Steffen: That is interesting. I mean, what you’re basically doing is you’re kind of putting your needs in the back and really building connection, not necessarily for you, but to help the group of people that are within your network to make meaningful connections. And by doing so, you kind of stay in a, you know, in mind, of the people that you communicate with. And at some point when, when the topics come up, you know, when you when you had your web development agency, we need a new website, or we need creatives, then they would think of you basically, without you having to kind of push it into their face.

Annie: Exactly, exactly. And I think as soon as I really understood that concept, it was like night and day. You know, I spent hours and hours at networking events, and online webinars. And especially during the whole Covid pandemic, you know, online, we had a lot of big symposiums that we went to and the ones that, you know, as soon as we were focusing on helping, just genuinely listening and helping others, we would leave with incredible connections and new friends every single time. And that’s what we, we still apply today.

Steffen: Now, as you’re as you’re building your network, as you’re growing your connections, it obviously becomes more and more challenging to keep up to date with everyone. Right, and to foster the relationships that you have built in the past. How do you do that? How do you approach staying on top, you know, keeping relationships fresh, and not kind of becoming someone that just, you know, collects connection, but that’s it basically.

Annie: Yeah, you know, it is hard, I’ll be honest, it’s really hard. We have something that we use internally here at our company called seven in 90, it just means seven touch points within 90 days. And it’s something that we it’s a tool that we give all of our employees as an overall kind of general guideline of how to stay in touch with people. And I’ve, I’ve, we use the same kind of strategy with the people that I’m meeting and the connections I’m making, and it’s not a very it’s not strict or structured or anything, but it’s something that I’ve just kind of put onto autopilot. So, for example, when I meet someone, if it’s at all related to business like if it’s you know a playdate mom, it’s very different. 

But it’s it all related in the business realm. I’ll send them a follow up if it whatever platform we’re on. So if it’s on LinkedIn the next day, within 24 hours, I send them a little follow up just to say, thank you. Like no advertising at all, no mentioning what I do, because if they’re interested, they can click on my profile and learn. And I just say, like, hey, thank you so much, it was so great meeting you, here’s my number, here’s my email, if you ever, ever need anything. And then within about a week or two, in my head, I’m kind of thinking who would they like to meet? Who would like what tools did they mention? What problems did they mention that I might be able to help them with? 

Because then it’s something that is coming from them. And it’s, it’s similar to what you learn in being networking groups where, you know, what’s your ask, what’s what’s, who’s the type of person that you’d like me to introduce you to. So I don’t mention that I’m thinking that I just over the next one to two weeks kind of try to go out of my way to find at least one person to introduce them to. And after that, I try to just set up at least one more touch point. So it goes on, it’s a pretty in depth thing. But I’m, I’m a little weird, probably that I have a whole structured way of keeping friends and connections. But yeah, I just try to make sure that, you know, I’m at least checking in a few times, and I’m providing them something of value. 

And if I there’s times I can’t find anything, you know, I get to meet incredibly successful people who I would have no idea how to help. And so when that happens, I just try to send them like Crumbl Cookies, or even just, you know, a handwritten thing that says, hey, you know, I’m so impressed with what you’re doing. And I’m so grateful that we got to meet. And typically after two to three times of just having a connecting moment without asking them anything, at that point, you know, we’re we have a solid friendship or relationship built. And it always comes back where if they need anything, like you said, a website or whatever, they end up coming back to me, because I’m top of mind there.

Steffen: Perfect. Well, don’t think you’re weird having a process in place, you know, we’re all busy, right? And having having processes in place helps us staying on track, keeping focused on specific tasks. So I think it’s great to have something mapped out that you can follow. And you’re not missing, missing anything, you know in building that relationship. Well, Annie, thank you for joining me on the Performance Delivered podcast and sharing your thoughts on you know how to use building connections and networking to grow businesses. If people want to want to find out more about you and Legends Boxing, how can you get in touch?

Annie: Yeah, so for me, and the best way is probably LinkedIn. So you can just find me at Annie Davis or if you want to search or the URL I think is /Annie-Davis-Utah. So you’re welcome to reach out on there. You can also email me so it’s Annie A N N I E .davis@legendsboxing.com. And if you guys, or anyone’s interested in just looking at Legends and what we do, and you could just visit our website. So legendsboxing.com And we have a lot of social media accounts as well.

Steffen: Sounds good. Well, thanks everyone for listening. If you like the Performance Delivered podcast, please subscribe to us and leave us a review on iTunes, or your favorite podcast application. If you want to find out more about Symphonic Digital, you can visit us at symphonicdigital.com or follow us on Twitter at Symphonic HQ. Thanks again and see you next time.

Voiceover: Performance Delivered is sponsored by Symphonic Digital. Discover audience focused and data driven digital marketing solutions for small and medium businesses at symphonicdigital.com