Where do I begin?

The Fitness Group Class market is tough to break into and especially difficult if you don’t have the right tools in place before you begin. Even though it is a challenge, today’s marketing environment offers a lot of opportunity for a trainer to make more money than ever before. You just have to know what you need to succeed and how to apply it to your business. What follows are 5 key elements you will need in order to start your fitness boot camp program, without these 5 items it will take you longer and be exponentially more difficult to build a successful business.

1) Web Presence

Web presence isn’t just a website, recall the line in the movie the Matrix; “Your appearance now is what we call residual self image. It is the mental projection of your digital self.” Much like the movie, your web presence is the digital projection of your physical company. You have to build a strong web presence to be successful in today’s fitness market, as well as to get ranked in Google, Yahoo, and Bing, and be visible on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Periscope, or any of the other myriad social media platforms out there that you have the opportunity to utilize.

You want to build a strong online profile for your business from your website to your social media networks, they are all interconnected and support one another. To start, I would choose your domain name and then try to match that to your handle on as many social media sites as possible. For example, my company is San Diego Core Fitness, so my website is sandiegocorefitness.com, my Twitter handle is @SanDiegoCoreFit, my Periscope handle is Sandiegocorefitness, and my facebook handle is @sandiegocorefitness; you get the idea. You want to have consistency and make sure that from your domain name all the way through your social media platforms that consistency is available and possible before you choose your domain name. 

Your website gives legitimacy to your business and so you should have that well polished and established before you launch your fitness business. I recommend using a template site that is easy for you to update. I use Gutensite but Wix, WordPress or any number of other sites are just as good, go with what you feel is comfortable and projects your vision of your business. Your clients will first look for your location(s), and second, at your schedule, so make these visible, don’t bury them in sub menu’s. Your website should do everything it can to illuminate the culture and nature of your particular fitness program as well as where and when it happens.  Make it easy for clients to sign up for your programs.

Fitness programs are intimidating and your job is to not just make it less intimidating but inviting and your website is the first place people will turn to overcome any apprehensions they may have about starting a new fitness boot camp. You are attempting to demystify what a boot camp program is because most people don’t know what they are getting themselves into. Also, you should be targeting a female market if you truly want to be successful. Most group classes are overwhelmingly female in attendance and women are the dominant factor in this market when it comes to all things fitness related. Neglecting the feminine nature of the fitness marketplace is a sure way to kill your fitness business; think girl power at all times.

Once your website is up and running you will be connecting it to multiple Social Media sites. Some are important marketing arms to acquire local clients and others are great for boosting your online presence and cultivating an online only training clientele, which we will get into in another article; however, Facebook should be your first stop. Facebook helps to garner a local following and advertise to local clients. It’s target ad groups are great and you get ranked higher in Google when you have more facebook ‘likes’ and activity on your page. 

Instagram has a younger audience and is great for establishing an online business but is also helpful in keeping your site relevant in search engines and improves your overall web presence by leaps and bounds. 

Twitter, in my experience, is more of a peer-to-peer platform. I connect up with other fitness professionals on Twitter, which is great for continuing education as well as keeping your finger on the pulse of the fitness industry. It seems difficult to monetize Twitter but I would not count it out. 

Google + is a must have as it is integral to your Google ranking, as well as YouTube. I like to piece together some of my short Instagram videos into a longer video for YouTube so that potential clients can get a really good idea of what a typical boot camp looks like. 

Vimeo is not great as a social media site but is fantastic for uploading videos and sharing easily through links with potential clients without all the ads. Some website templates require that you use the embed from Vimeo or YouTube to present videos directly on your site, so it’s good to have Vimeo in your back pocket. It is always good to directly upload videos to Facebook to get more views instead of going through sites like Vimeo or YouTube.

So there you have it, your Web Presence in a nutshell. This easily lands in the top 5 for creating a successful fitness business.

Starting A Successful Boot Camp Business

2) Pricing

Pricing is tricky. Beyond our website and social media sites, we only market on GroupOn and LivingSocial. We offer 6 weeks unlimited boot camps at a single outdoor location for $20. This sounds cheap but we do get 3-5 new people a day in the off season and sometimes as many as 15 a day during the peak season. We want to cast a wide net to attract a lot of clients. Some won’t stick but at least they get a taste of a boot camp workout and if you make an effort to talk to them during the boot camp, you may convince them to stick around and then you can literally change their lives. 

Our goal isn’t to sell packages but to increase our membership base. We want to know that each month we are making the bulk of our income on recurring revenue as it is easier to keep a client than to find new ones. On our website we offer matching prices for introductory specials. The reason for the 6 weeks is that we want people to have the time to see a difference and get hooked on our brand of fitness. The first two weeks is just adapting to the workout, the second two weeks they start to see an increase in strength and cardiovascular capacity and in the final two weeks they start to see that body composition change, it’s much easier to sell someone on a membership when they’ve been through all that than after just a free boot camp session or a free week of classes. Originally I started out with 6, 12, and 18 packs but the sales cycle was just too long, some people taking as much as 6 months to get through their 18 boot camps. Stick with 4 or 6 weeks, shorten the sales cycle and be an incredible closer.

Since everyone comes in on an inexpensive intro special I like to give them half off the first month of a membership, it sort of eases them into the full price, which isn’t really that bad but it’s easier to hook them with a further discount. There’s only one scheduling and business management software out there that can do this and that is gymGO. Towards the end of their 6 weeks, gymGO sends out an In App notification as well as an email with a link to the memberships page and a coupon code for 50% off the first month of their new membership, this really helps in increasing my conversion rate.

Our memberships for boot camps are $59 for a single outdoor location, $79 for two outdoor locations and $99 for access to all of our outdoor locations as well as small group training (6 or fewer per class). Lot’s of boot camps start at $99 under contract and go up to as much as $349 as I have seen. But they only have 5 or 6 people per class. I’d rather charge less so that if our membership fluctuates by a few clients, we don’t really see that in our bottom line. If you are inexpensive like us and make an average of $75 per client per month and have 200 members, you’re doing pretty good financially. If you’re making $299 per client and you only have 20-30 clients, not so good right? You lose 5 or more of those clients and there’s no Christmas presents left under the tree.

Outdoor boot camps inherently come with a lot of space, shoot for a large client base and 20 to 30 clients per class, you got the space, use it! I like to minimize my risk with numbers as well as I feel that boot camps increase with energy when you get 12 or more people in attendance.

Let’s do the math here, my wife and I have a combined 27 hours of boot camps on our schedule (I like to tease her that I do more boot camps but in reality she really puts a ton of both physical and mental work into each one of hers). That’s 27 hours of work between 2 people with a summer membership of around 200 members at an average of $75 a member. Each member comes on average 2x’s a week, which is about $9.38 a class per client. 20 to 40 clients per class turns into a pretty good hourly rate but I try not to look at it in those terms, I just like the end-of-the-month sales figures.

3) Location, Location, Location

There’s not really much to it but it is pretty darn important. ClassPass has told us that in San Diego people drive about 3.14 miles from their home to a fitness program. We like to have 4 locations that are all within 5 miles of each other so that people will buy multiple location memberships.

That’s the numbers of it but what are you really looking for? My theory, and it has worked out well for us so far, is that you should be right smack dab in the middle of a neighborhood for your early AM boot camps and near a major highway for your evening boot camps. My reasoning is that people are likely to come in the morning if they can get back to their house in time to take a shower and get ready for work. In the evenings I like to target the commuter crowd that would rather get a killer workout in the park that they can see from their car while sitting in traffic  than sit in that traffic. 

Other things I look for are parks with unique features such as hills for hill sprints, lots of benches for incline push ups and ply box work, and well lit at night and early morning to continue my boot camps throughout the winter. There’s lots of different factors that you should consider in picking a location but always remember to make sure that it fits into the vision of the types of workouts you’d like to offer.

Create Your Bootcamp Business

4) Schedule

As I said before the first thing that people look for when they visit your website will be your locations, next, they will see what’s on your schedule. When I first opened, before I met my wife even, I held 3 boot camps in the morning, 6am, 7:15am, and 8:30am; two at lunch, 12pm and 1pm, and then 3 in the evening as well 4:30pm, 5:30pm, and 6:30pm. I did most of each of the workouts so by the time I did meet my wife I had a killer 6 pack (maybe that’s why she liked me so much). 

I recommend starting with as big a schedule as you can manage and scale it back when classes don’t seem to fill up. All my classes started out at 1 hour, now I only host 3, 1 hour classes a week all the other 24 classes are 45 minutes, which immediately filled more quickly and with more people when I added them to my schedule.

Every city is going to be different, I was surprised to find out that 9:30am was one of the most popular class times in San Diego and that Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday are the most popular days to workout. Our Tuesdays and Thursdays are the most popular and depending on the time of year, 6am is generally our most popular class time. It turns out that since those statistics were from ClassPass, their membership base was La Jolla/Pacific Beach area, lot’s of college students, service industry workers, and wealthier people with leisure time. So I don’t think there is a one size fits all, even in the same city, different neighborhoods will require different scheduling increments to be successful. 

The organization of your schedule is very important as well. I think of my schedule in horizontal and vertical terms. My 45 minute workouts are back to back so I make sure that vertically on my schedule, they compliment each other so that if someone stays for both to get an epic 90 minute workout, they are not getting a lot of the same exercises. Horizontally speaking, I want to make sure that if someone is coming to a split T/Th 6am or M/W/F 7am split, that they are getting a good compliment of workouts and not repeating the same workouts throughout the week. 

You should be hosting a minimum of 8 workouts per week at any single location, preferably 10 and generally have a unique weekend location that all of your members can attend. This is your sole business, jump into it with both feet to be successful. If you only have 6 boot camps on your whole schedule, you’ll never get to 6 figure membership base.

5) Know Your Business

Amazingly enough, most business owners don’t know their business down to the nuts and bolts and this is why they are stuck at $36,000 a year instead of breaking into the solid 6 figure realm. 

You have to know your business off the top of your head. Question: On average how often do your clients attend your classes? Answer: 2.4 times a week during the spring and summer, 1.9 times a week during the fall and winter. Question: What is the average recurring monthly revenue per member? Answer: $75. Question: What is your workout like? Answer: We have many workouts on our schedule, some are more cardio centric, others are geared more towards strength. We often utilize sand bags, plyo boxes, and suspension trainers in many of our workouts but some are strictly bodyweight. If you come 3 to 5 times a week to our boot camps, you will be getting everything you need to be in great shape without worrying about whether or not you are doing the most effective workout ever again. Boom! That’s how it’s done. 

Know your business. Know how many members you have, know what types of workouts they like and what types of workouts they need. I often tell them that if they are hating me  during the workout, that’s great because this is specifically the exercise they need, the stuff that is tough, not the stuff that they excel at. I know how much money I will have by the end of the week and by the end of the month. If I were to walk into a Harvard business class right now and was battered with question from an entire class of MBA’s I’d have an answer for them. What’s your market makeup? How much does your membership fluctuate seasonally? What is your per client margins when you’re the instructor? What’s your margins when somebody is teaching for you? How many members do you need to break even? What is your target membership to live comfortably? You should know everything at any given moment, period.

The more you know about the micro details of your business, the better you can make changes to adapt to your market, and changes will be necessary. You should know your business well enough to know when something isn’t working and when something is. Don’t stick to your guns if it isn’t getting you members. People don’t like a workout you have on the schedule because it is too strength oriented, change it! You think a time is going to be successful but you’ve put six months in and only regularly get 4 to 6 clients per class, drop it and put your efforts into what is working. Know your business well enough to know when you are putting too much effort into a failing enterprise and diminishing what you can put into the successful parts of what you are doing.

Know which social media outlets are working, curate those online communities and expand and enhance your web presence, read books by great trainers, keep up with well known strength and conditioning coaches, know your clients and know your locations...know your business inside and out!

Already by reading this article from beginning to end you have shown a commitment to furthering your education in how to create a successful boot camp. Now go out there and do it! The more trainers we have out there providing high quality boot camps the better shape the population is going to be in and maybe, just maybe, collectively we can have an impact on healthcare costs.

Thank you for reading and look for more articles from myself and the rest of our staff at San Diego Core Fitness.

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