When BootCampSF held its first outdoor training sessions in 2001, the idea of paying for six weeks of fitness classes in small groups was a novel alternative to a gym membership. In the years since, boot camp fitness programs have proliferated, particularly in the Bay Area, with its mild year-round weather. Today, the boot camp teaching model, with a short-term commitment, tailored instruction, and committed students, has gone viral. Businesses and organizations offer boot camps for everything from coding and cooking to ballet and Buddhism.
We spoke to Catherine Wohlwend, managing partner of BootCampSF, about the massive marketing appeal of boot camps. Here are five reasons that service businesses seeking to attract loyal, repeat students — that is, customers — have gravitated to this model as a way to market their services:
1. Fast Results
“Six weeks is the shortest amount of time that you can see the most significant amount of change,” says Wohlwend. A tangible result is the best way to generate loyalty. She adds, “Most of our business is repeat people.” While boot camps for different subjects vary in length, they share a structure of short-term, intensive instruction — with quick results.
2. Small Commitment
“It’s nice for people to bite off a chunk of time and commit to it,” Wohlwend says. Six weeks of serious training is a less daunting prospect than a yearlong contract at a gym or a semester of classes. The ability to commit fully for short sessions contributes to the positive results that keep students coming back.
Wohlwend says she often hears people saying that know what they should be doing to stay fit, but they want someone to tell them. “They’re seeing the same trainer every day,” she says. “That trainer gets to know them. They know when to push them and when to pull back.”
4. Personalized Programs
BootCampSF matches students with groups of similar ability level, so everyone is challenged, but no one gets left behind. “There’s a lot of exercise science and group spirit and camaraderie behind the groups,” Wohlwend says. Small class sizes (between five and 12 students per trainer at BootCampSF) give trainers the opportunity to tailor workouts that work well for individual students.
“I think that the reason it appeals to people more than anything is the group environment,” says Wohlwend. “You’re with the same people every day.” She says students don’t necessarily sign up for their first class because of the camaraderie, but that is what keeps them coming back. The support of the group motivates students to keep showing up. “You’re in this together, part of a team,” she adds.
BootCampSF has seen its business expand substantially over the years, from offering individual classes in local parks to providing employee fitness programs on corporate campuses. “There’s more of an awareness of wanting to work out in a hard-core way,” Wohlwend says.
Today, that desire for intense training with discernible results extends beyond the realm of fitness into almost any field where there is an opportunity for extended learning. Knitting boot camp, anyone?