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Ask The Experts - Answers


December 2017


This holiday promotion goes a long way.

You make up a gift certificate to give to the parents of your youth students. The one I used offered the parents a free course. Place the gift certificate in a Christmas or Holiday card. I offered parents a choice from a variety of courses/activities.

For example, I would have courses for self-defense, weight loss, flexibility, physical fitness, etc… You should add as many options as you can come up with. You want to list an option that will appeal to their needs and wants. What buzz word will bring them to action? It doesn’t matter since your goal is just to get them on your floor. I found that if a parent used the gift certificate, they were 90% more likely to sign up for continued instruction. This promotion has always gotten me new students.

It has an additional side benefit. Even if a parent chose not to use the gift certificate, they were still very appreciative. I can’t tell you how many came up to me and thanked me for being so thoughtful. It let them know I cared about them.

You should take every opportunity you can, to demonstrate to parents that you appreciate them. It really helps your student retention.

I wish you merry Christmas and happy holidays.


November 2017


Christmas and Holiday Profit


You need to get your Christmas marketing together now! Here are two options that have been very profitable for me in the past. They work every time. This is the time of year where people spend money and if you plan right they will spend it with you.

This works every year!

Click here to listen to a 2 ½ minute audio with some helpful tips on this.


November 2017



October 2017


Halloween promotion that works.


This is another easy and free promotion that should get you new students ever year. It is so simple and it has worked every time for me. You need to print out guest passes on orange stock with black print. I like to add a Halloween design on it.

This is how you get these guest passes distributed for free (read more here)

I put the guest passes into bundles and give them to my students and parents of students. I ask that they pass out a guest pass with the candy they give out for Halloween. This could give you 100’s of views. You can’t ask for much more. 100’s of impressions for only the small cost of printing. Please take advantage of this. Free impressions don’t come around every day.

Another fun event that can get you new students. Host a “Bring a Friend’ Halloween party. Host a Halloween party where your students are encouraged to bring a friend to the party. Make sure this is a very fun party. I almost always get a bunch of kids to attend trials from contacting them through this party. Most the friends that attend should do a trial program for you. This is a fun event while you should gain more students.

Halloween is a great time to promote your school for very little cost. You need to take advantage of this. Getting new students takes effort.

Good luck with your school.


September 2017


I have a friend, and she has around 900 students. I noticed a huge increase in the amount of students she has, almost 280 more, just since last year. So, intrigued, I went to visit her, and when I arrived, she gave me a tour of her school, and it looked real nice, a great facility. So after the tour I asked her what the main reason was that she gained so many students in that short period of time. Well of course, there were all the usual reasons, like good marketing, but her marketing hadn’t really changed, no, the thing that had the biggest impact and the real reason for the large and quick growth, was the way she did her introductory classes. Her method is very exciting, and I am going to tell you about her intros and why they are so successful.

She uses a 3 class introduction to her school. The first thing I noticed was that she had an assistant. Having an assistant is great, and it is very important for introductory lessons because it can take a lot of the stress off of you. Having an assistant frees your time to make a good impression by mingling with the parents. You can either hire an assistant or have a volunteer from one of your older classes.

Another thing you want to do is teach your intros very near to where you have the parents sit. A parent who is making a decision whether or not to join your school wants to hear exactly what you say. They need information to make a decision. The words that you say and the actions you have their child perform need to be well thought out. You don’t just show up to class and wing it. Every word spoken and all actions called out should be positive and designed to show the parent what a positive teacher you are and that their child will flourish at your school. To reinforce this issue, my friend has a school motto that the kids would have to learn and be able to repeat. It has all the good stuff relating to respect, discipline, dedication and such. It wasn’t long but got the message to the parents about what she stands for. You could see the parents light up when their child repeated these encouraging words.

On day 3, they would do something very unique, they would test the kids for their white belt. This didn’t take very long, all they would do is execute a block and a punch, maybe a kick too, plus they had to recite the all-important motto. At the end of this testing they created incredible excitement. Everyone stood and clapped. You should see the sheer joy in the kids and the parent’s eye. Then she stood next to each child and took a picture with the child holding their new white bel. The picture went up on a special board. After watching all this I can see why she is so successful. Wow!

You have to specify to the parents that day 3 is going to be a very important day and special for their child, because the white belt is their kid’s first big step. This is important because it usually gets both parents there, so you don’t get “I have to check with my spouse” when you ask them to sign up their kid for your classes. This is such a fun and exciting day for both the parents and the child it is rare for them not to sign up.

This is definitely something to think about. Give it a try. Good luck with your school.


August 2017


Back to School



It is back to school season. You need to be ready because this is the time of the year that parents choose to put their kids in something new. You want to make sure that they know you exist and that you are the best option for their children. I know a lot of you do not have a large marketing and advertising budget, but if you do have some money use it now, it’s a great time to do so.

Something that is working very well is Facebook marketing. I would look into making a good Facebook page for your business. Put up pictures and write about what these kids can really get out of martial arts besides just exercise. Make sure to tweak your page to make it very clear how effective your program is for kids. Show pictures of promotions or pictures of what these students are achieving. It is worth using marketing money on Facebook.

This would also be a great time to consider what has worked for you in the past in terms of advertising and apply it at this time. Track exactly how much money is being spent on advertising and whether or not that money made students sign and how many actually come in through the door.

A low cost method is to have volunteers from your school help pass out flyers in local neighborhoods. It’s a great and low-cost way to get your name out in the community. Afterword you could at the end of the day throw a small party for your volunteers to thank them for their help.

If you are not already connected to elementary schools, it is so important to make sure that you get connected. You can you network with these schools by volunteering to do things like anti-bullying seminars. You can meet with the PTA at the school and tell them you are a community service based school and that you can help volunteer for them, like putting on demonstrations for fundraisers for instance or whatever else they need. One of the things we do at our martial arts schools is we helped local elementary schools by volunteering on the first day to guide parents and assist in the parking area. Due to our help, the elementary schools in our area love us and give us the ability to gain new students from their school. This has helped us become very successful and it is key to gaining more students.

It is also a great time of the year to run a “Bring a Friend” (Referral) program. The timing is great because parents are looking for programs for their kids so this would be a great point to have your students tell their friends about it. If you want to learn how to run a successful bring a friend program you can refer to a previous article in “Ask the Experts” column (see below).

This definitely the time a year to get out there and make things happen. Good Luck to your school.


July 2017


I Have To Think About It.

I remember when I first started off with my own school, I sometimes had a hard time getting people to sign up as a student. I didn’t have a problem getting people to come in for appointments or running a good introductory class, but always had a problem when I finally got them into the office and asked them to sign up. I was usually met with “I have to think about this.” This perplexed me, as I offered an excellent introductory class. I researched my sales training books and found the 3 main reasons that they would not agree to sign on the spot.

The first reason is, you didn’t really answer their questions. These people will have questions every time. Maybe about price, maybe about contracts and schedules, or maybe even about billing. Questions are very important, and dodging them is a terrible idea which can be a complete deal breaker, same with answering incorrectly. You must answer questions with correct and easy to understand answers. Don’t mess that up. A thing I found funny is that some will have questions and not ask them. I like to make sure prospects understand all the information I want them to have by asking questions. For example, I will ask them what days work best for them. This is to see if they understand their training day choices. You get the drift.

Another reason could be, you did not succeed in quelling their concerns. As with starting anything new, this person will be unsure. People fear the unknown. So make sure to address a person’s voiced concerns and potential concerns that have not been voiced. A good way to quell these concerns is the risk reversal technique, where you convince a person that the risk of something is on you, not them. This technique is used a lot in marketing, and is very useful. It’s all about how you are able to communicate this risk, if you cannot, then it’ll be harder to get them to sign up. A good question to ask is what concerns they may have about training. Do they fear getting hurt? Do they feel they will learn too slowly? And so on… Say a prospect has fears of learning to slow and looking bad. You can reverse the risk by telling them that the speed at which they learn falls upon your teaching staff. My team and I are experts in teaching new students. Your coordination is farther along than you think. You will have no problem picking up what we want you to learn. Ask questions to investigate if the prospect has any fears or concerns.

The last reason is that you improperly conveyed the value of what you’re doing. If you can’t convince the potential student that the instruction you are giving is equal or greater in value than what they are paying, they most likely will not sign up. You can’t do this convincing from an office, that’s why you need a great introductory class that will convince them to sign up and pay you, because if the intro class is bad, then you probably won’t be able to change their mind.


June 2017


Don’t waste your time or money promoting your school.

Most schools, at the very least, waste a large portion of their time and money while promoting their school. There are two extremely important factors that you must be in control of. Until you are, don’t start any promotions. Interested prospects will only look into your school one time. So if they don’t like what they find they won’t contact you and most likely nor will they in the future.

Factor 1: “Stack the Deck”

Factor 2: “Catch the Ball”

Stack the Deck – Tara did it! She ran a successful promotion that attracted the attention of 39 prospective students. Good job. Unfortunately, she has no idea that the promotion worked. The phone didn’t ring, no appointments on the website and only one person walked in the door. She thought the promotion was a failure. When in reality, 39 prospections from the time and money Tara invested was a great return. What went wrong?

Catch the Ball – Let’s say Tara did “Stack the Deck” correctly and now she has many prospects who want to make contact with her school. Tara took my advice and tracked all the contact to her school. This time Tara knows that the promotion was a success. She was very excited about the results of her new promotion idea. Unfortunately, her excitement was short lived. She only ended up converting one prospect. Gaining one student was a poor return on Tara’s investment. What went wrong?

Click here to listen for this topic.


May 2017


Make your middle belt students better while increasing your retention and new signups.

Many years ago, out of necessity, I discovered a way to increase new student signups and school retention. In my early years it was just me doing all the different jobs my school needed. I ran from one thing to the next while losing students and having prospects leave before I could get to them. There were just too many things to take care of and too little time.

As most of you know starting a martial arts school on your own is a difficult task. There are more jobs to do than you have time to get to. I am very lucky, I am a good multi-tasker. Even with this skill I couldn’t keep up with everything that needed to get done. I needed to make a new plan and I needed to make fast.

I figured out that I needed the most help with my beginner classes. These are the most critical. You have new students and new parents and they need attention. I have lost many prospective students because I couldn’t find the time to get to them. I would teach good classes but then so many people came up after class asking questions that the prospects would leave before I could get a chance to talk to them or their parents. Plus, I had no time to survey the parents of my new students. You have to make sure the parents feel that their goals for their children are being met. This is a very important step that many instructors fail to do. I lost as many students and prospects as I signed up.

I started using my middle belts to help me. I have them run my beginner class through basics. This frees me up to meet with parents. I find out if they feel their child is on track. This is very important for good retention. I also had time to meet with prospective parents. I ended up closing more new students than ever before. It is very important to understand that I used my middle belts to take over class when I needed the time. I taught as much as possible. Parents and new adult belts wanted me. I understand that teaching beginners is sometimes boring but extremely necessary because I taught the best and most fun classes. Retention-Retention-Retention. You spend so much time and money getting new students you want to do what is necessary to keep them. Too many instructors pawn off the beginner classes to other instructors that don’t do as good a job as they do. Make sure if you give up teaching beginners that the instructor you use is your best retention and closing instructor.

Bonus. By using my middle belts to assist me I noticed that they became much better in their own techniques. Teaching made them think more about your own motions. The increase in their confidence was outstanding. The increased responsibility made them feel so much better about themselves. My retention level for my middle belts increased substantially. Assisting instructor is now in my middle belt requirements. I couldn’t be any happier with the all the positive benefits this had brought to my school program.

Good luck with your school!


April 2017


I can’t talk about this enough. It is so important to control what comes up in a Google search for martial arts in your community. Let’s say a potential student looks up ‘martial arts near me’ (they live in your community). What comes up in that Google search? How many spots on that page refer to your school? You need to control as many spots as you can. The importance of this is easy to understand. Besides giving you credibility it is also one less spot a competitor can take. A very easy way to get your school info on that first page is through YouTube. Google owns YouTube and likes to rank their videos. Just because you upload a video doesn’t necessarily mean it will be ranked. There are a few steps that you can take to make sure your video makes the first page of a search. I have a short video that will outline these easy 9 steps.

Step 1. You need find the correct Keyword. You need to target keywords that prospect will look up. Ex: martial arts your city, martial arts near me, martial arts instruction, your school name, etc….

Step 2. Make sure your keywords are in your video script.

Step 3. Use as many of your keywords in your file name.

Step 4. Putting in the proper title and description.

Step 5. Adding the correct tags

Step 6. Upload the transcript of your video

Step 7. Building a strong YouTube Channel. This will take some time and is a little less important for what we are doing.

Step 8. Getting more social indicators. You are in a good position for this step because you can have your students share this video on all their social media accounts. Students want to help you out.

Step 9. Getting backlinks to your video. This is the hardest step. If you know people that can help use their help. If not don’t worry because if you do the other steps correctly you should get the results you are looking for.

This shouldn’t take you long.


February 2017


Production Marketing

There are many forms of marketing a martial arts school owner must do. One of the most important and necessary ones is production marketing. Production marketing works because it is always being done. It is a type that is scheduled to be done at a certain time. Some marketing has to be done a few times a year, some monthly, some weekly and some daily. So no matter what, the marketing is scheduled to happen and it does. This is so important.

Daily/Weekly marketing should be on your mind to do a small amount every day. I like to do some kind of social media post daily. Try to add videos that people will share. Add links to your school website on all your posts. I like to use drop (tent) cards when I am out. A drop card is a double size business card folded in half. The fold makes the card look like a tent. They stand up on counters nicely. So I sometimes call them tent cards. I have some type of offer on these cards. I drop these wherever I go. I place a couple where I put my coffee together at a 7-11 like store. I place them at as many places as I can. I like to connect with other local businesses to leave a few Take One’s. Take One’s are tri-fold 8.5x11 sheets. Like a mini brochure. This has all kinds of info with photos about my school. You place them in a printed box that says “Take One” on it. So I go drop these off at a couple locations on my way into the dojo. These are just a few examples but I think you got the idea. This is marketing that I try to do daily but at the very least, once a week.

Monthly/Yearly marketing is marketing that is scheduled to do every month or a few times a year. I have, at the very least, one demonstration scheduled every month. I always get a few new students from them. If I have the time, I try to schedule one every week. This is a great way to get your name out there. An example of yearly marketing would be like when you host a Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) training day to start off your Christmas marketing. Another would be the twice a year fairs that I put on with the other tenants in the shopping plaza where I am located. These are just a few examples but you get the idea.

The main point I want you to get out of this, is that marketing has to be scheduled. It is so easy to go a whole week and not accomplish any marketing. In my early years a whole month or two could go buy. When I figured out and began to schedule my marketing my school exploded. Now that I have these systems in place, it only takes me about 15 minutes on the weekend to review and schedule my marketing to be executed that week.

Please do this, it WORKS!

Good luck to your school.


January 2017


Simple No Cost Effective Social Media Marketing. You need to do this! And it’s fun.

Once a week, in each class, designate a picture or video class. Have students take turns shooting pictures and videos of each other in action. Phone videos work. You still teach the class but you set it up with sparing and other drills that will produce an opportunity for good action shots. For the most part your students get a regular class. Students taking the pictures and videos can increase their timing and ability to anticipate techniques. You should also get pictures of your students at some of the fun events you organize (you really need to organize fun things). Smiling students are very important photos plus the more they smile with you the better your retention.

Believe it or not these photo/video classes turnout to be my largest attended ones. The students love this class. A good side effect is that the students work harder when there is a camera in the room. Everyone wants to be a star. I know this article is about social media marketing but I just want to mention this has also increased my retention. It even makes teaching class more fun.

I have a few of my Junior students post the video/pictures on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, etc…. They can do it a thousand times faster than me. The most important thing is that each student in the video/photo be tagged. For example, if you tag Jimmy in his posted video/picture, then this post will be sent to Jimmy’s social media for all his friends to view. This viewed post will have your information on it. Some people have hundreds of friends. Just think, if you do this with every student, you could have thousands of views. Views of people having fun at your school. You couldn’t ask for a better promotion. This is a Winner!

At the bottom of the post you can a place a link to your website or social media page. I would suggest that this link goes to a dedicated information page. A page that is dedicated solely to selling you and your school. Many like to add an introductory course option or a free guest pass offer. Try a few things to see what works best for you. If you have questions email me. donprue@igomag.com. Good Luck to your school.


December 2016


This holiday promotion goes a long way.

You make up a gift certificate to give to the parents of your youth students. The one I used offered the parents a free course. Place the gift certificate in a Christmas or Holiday card. I offered parents a choice from a variety of courses/activities.

For example, I would have courses for self-defense, weight loss, flexibility, physical fitness, etc… You should add as many options as you can come up with. You want to list an option that will appeal to their needs and wants. What buzz word will bring them to action? It doesn’t matter since your goal is just to get them on your floor. I found that if a parent used the gift certificate, they were 90% more likely to sign up for continued instruction. This always got me new students.

It has an additional side benefit. Even if a parent chose not to use the gift certificate, they were still very appreciative. I can’t tell you how many came up to me and thanked me for being so thoughtful. It let them know I cared about them.

You should take every opportunity you can, to demonstrate to parents that you appreciate them. It really helps your student retention.

I wish you merry Christmas and happy holidays.



November 2016


Christmas and Holiday Profit

Two options that have been very profitable for me. You should consider doing them.

Click here to listen to a 2 ½ minute audio with some helpful tips on this.


October 2016


Halloween promotion that works.

Julie Emig, California emailed me to remind me to put out information on my Halloween promotion. I want to thank her.

This is another easy and free promotion that should get you new students ever year. It is so simple and it has worked every time for me. You need to print out guest passes on orange stock with black print. I like to add a Halloween design on it.

I put the guest passes into bundles and give them to my students and parents of students. I ask that they pass out a guest pass with the candy they give out for Halloween. This could give you 100’s of views. You can’t ask for much more. 100’s of impressions for only the small cost of printing. Please take advantage of this. Free impressions don’t come around every day. Good luck to your school.




August 2016


My friend, Jim, has 850 active students. I asked if he could give me any tips that could help Martial Arts Group schools grow. Jim told me that he gets almost all his new students from community networking. Jim’s networking has been so successful, that he rarely pays for any marketing or advertising. He gave me a very easy way to get started networking. I tried it and found that it does work!

Jim told me that he is so well networked that most people within a 10 mile radius of his school (sometimes even farther) know who he is and where his school is located. He said “I want everyone to know about my school even if they don’t want to train. You never know when they will change their mind.” You have to give potential students a reason to drive past other schools to attend yours. Name recognition is a good reason.

I said to Jim, “I am sure all Martial Arts Group members would love to be networked as well as you. How do they get started?” He recalled the time when he had only 10 students and hardly anyone knew of his school. He then gave me the following starting point.

You should make a list of all the charitable and similar organizations in your community. This will take some time because there are more than you think. Do your research. It will pay off. Call every organization on your list and introduce yourself. Tell them that you want to give back to the community and you are offering your services to them. Tell them that you will perform a demo at their events. Further, that you will donate several memberships to their fundraisers (like auctions). You can’t pay for this kind of exposure. You need to get out in front of the community and this is a great no cost way to do it. In three days I set up 4 promotional demos. It only took me 9 calls. I have more calls to make.

Jim said it takes a while to get going but is well worth the time. Jim says now that he is established, organizations call him. Now, he spends a lot less time networking, his students are doing it for him. The time invested at the beginning really pays off in the end!



June 2016


Testimonials – more important than you think.

The added benefit(s) are increased perceived program value; increased retention; increased word of mouth promotion (the absolute best type) and an improved atmosphere of respect among all school members.

Proven: Image is everything

Testimonials, which we like to call “My Experience”, on your homepage will increase your odds of getting an appointment from a visitor (potential student). Asking for My Experience comments isn’t easy. It’s a good thing I have a simple plan.

Prospects will look you up. “My Experience” comments will make them more likely to visit your school. That’s why the more you get the better it is. Locate a few on your homepage with a link to your “My Experience” page where you have all of them. This is more important than most school owners realize.

I need “My Experience” comments too, so please, please, please, if you are satisfied with Martial Arts Group, could you give us a quick testimonial? Should only take you 40 seconds. I really appreciate your business. Just a quick reply to this email. Please include your school name so I don’t have to look you up. Don’t forget, constructive criticism is always welcome. Thanks.

My Experience comments are one part of the “Key to Victory” (growth).

The first thing you need is a way to track who gave you a My Experience comment and who didn’t. I like excel so I’m a spreadsheet guy. Some schools have client database software. You should be able to track My Experience comments either way. Even if you write down the names and scratch them off when they give you one, as long as you record the data.

You want to keep track of My Experience comments because you want to know the percentage of students that give a comment. This percentage will tell you a lot. For simple math, let’s use the example of a school with 100 students and a good testimonial plan. Let’s say you get 15 My Experience comments. That gives you 15%. This has to make you wonder. Maybe only 15% of the students like me or my program enough to give a testimonial. Are my classes boring? Does my program have enough value? I could go on with a bunch more questions but what it really comes down to, is there a satisfaction problem? You need to find this out. Your percentage shouldn’t be that low. Solution: Mingle with your students and parents to find ways to improve their experience.


A good way to get started getting “My Experience” comments is by just asking for them. I ask the students and parents of, when I see them. Everyone I don’t see, I send out an email asking. Something like this:


Joe,

I need your help. I would appreciate your feedback. What I need you to do is, if you are satisfied with my school, please tell me about your experience. Tell me what training at my school has done for you. Please reply to this email. It should only take you 40 secs or if you want, write a longer one. I am very interested in hearing what you have to say. If for any reason you are dissatisfied please come talk to me. I am here to make this a great experience for you.

This will really help me and all the other students. Thank you.

Mr. Prue

This email will get many but not from all of your students. For those who don’t give you a comment you will have to ask them again at a later date. I like to ask again with a quick note at the bottom of their progress reports. A lot of people are excited about good reports so they are likely to be happy and satisfied. Good time to ask. On the other hand, a poor progress report usually doesn’t lead to a testimonial but they may opt to give you feedback about their dissatisfaction (just as important if not more). To keep the student, you have to figure out how to change their dissatisfaction. This is a good time to get that feedback. I also like to ask, those who haven’t yet given a testimonial, right after a rank promotion. This is another place where the student’s progress is measured. Another time when people are happy and satisfied. I could go on but I think you get the idea.

Your mission should be to get a “My Experience” comment from each student. If they don’t give you one then they might be dissatisfied and you don’t need that.

Having a bunch of My Experience comments on your site will impress prospective students. Testimonials are not that hard to get. So go get them.





Special Update - May 2016


I am seeking a group of martial arts school owners to join me in sharing information with each other that will help increase our student count. The Martial Arts Group has thousands of members. With participant contribution, we can have hundreds of schools sharing effective ideas that work and are current. Together we can create an incredible wealth of knowledge. We can all work together to get bigger and better. Little effort for big results.


We are not direct competitors. It would be in all of our best interest to work together to increase our student count. We all have effective marketing techniques working in our schools. If we all share these techniques with each other we can all grow significantly. This alliance can help us in so many ways.


• Increased prospect appointments
• Increased trial memberships
• Increased member conversions
• Class training drills – we could all use to add more variety
• First page on Google – Proven SEO methods
• Better social media marketing
• Increased bottom line
• Ways to save money
• Ways to increase revenue
• And so on


This is a simple plan. We all work together to get bigger and better. “Gain and Retain”, a key to victory. If you would like to participate, reply to my email with your school name (so I don’t have to look you up) and I will send updates.


Ideas I have about how it will work Click Here To Listen (2 minute audio)







March 2016 - Connecting with Public and Private Schools – A Key to Victory


Don,


In last month’s Ask the Experts, Mr. Silverman suggested that I try to "get in" with the public and private schools. Can you please ask him to elaborate more on how I do so? I’m sure that this would be very beneficial. I could use some help on how to get started.


Joy, Denver




Joy and everyone else interested in connecting with local schools,

If you teach children then connecting with your local schools is one of the most important things you can do. There are only so many schools in your area. You need to be the martial arts school that connects. Don’t lose this ideal position to a competitor. Your competitors may come in before you, making it much tougher to connect as an additional martial arts school. You have to battle your competitors for students. All the kids are in school so that is where you want to be. Usually, whoever is connected WINS!


This is a very involved and extremely important topic. One that we will discuss often.


This is what I would do first, ask the parents of your students if any of them are connected with any schools. Like for instance; do they work at a school? Do any know a principal or other school official? Are any members of the PTA? And so forth. You get the idea. A parent on the PTA or one that knows a school official is the best and easiest way to get started.


Don Prue


Answer: Frank Silverman, Executive Director of Martial Arts Industry Association (MAIA)


This is a very good question. It truly is important to be involved with the local schools. Why? If you have 100 students and 80 are children they all have one thing in common- they- attend school (public, private or home schooled). Since the vast majority are public or private we want to "partner" with like businesses (and yes, schools are businesses). There are two ways to get involved: ask and receive and build relationships. First, asked and receive is simple. Not to over complicate things but simply asking the local schools if you can pass out flyers, be part of career day, host PE teacher for a day are all very possible and often easy to get approved. Become a "dividend" or "partner in education and ask if these are items you can do. If the answer is no, then you need to do the "build the relationship approach." We do this by giving before asking. First, again, become a partner or dividend (it may go by a different name) and offer to: donate a free month of classes for honor roll students, help direct traffic on the first and last days of school, bring donuts for the teachers at the school on a teacher work day, judge contest; ask how you can help. This method in tougher school districts could take a bit, years, but it is an effective way to get involved. Eventually, you will be able to ask for what you would like. Now the question is what do you want? You want to be able to market or offer free classes to students. I say free as it often takes away one objection from the schools so offering a free week is better than offering a discount. If all this fails, consider "pay to play". Offer to pay to print the school newsletter in exchange for an ad it in or ask if they allow paid ads. Items like the foregoing are a good method to getting involved in public and private schools.


MAIA is a martial arts industry leader in business consulting. They have so much to offer martial arts school owners. It is in your best interest to find out more about all the fantastic business information that MAIA has to offer here: https://www.masuccess.com/.



February 2016


Don,


I could use your help. I am only converting about a third of my trial memberships to fulltime students. At the end of their trial I offer them a month to month plan or they can save by signing up for a year membership. Can you give me a few pointers on how to close more of my trials?


Terry, Sacramento, CA


The first step is the most important step, the interview. You cannot sell someone if you don’t know what they are looking for. Sit down with the prospect (if a child then the parent) and find out who they are. Why are they at your school? What are they looking to gain by training with you? You need to record all this information. The more information you can get out of them the better. Now you will have the issues that need to be addressed when closing them to become a member of your school. DO NOT SHORT CUT THIS STEP! (We can go over proper interview techniques later)


Too many school owners meet, greet and throw the prospect into the back of a beginner class. They give the prospect a little attention but not enough to sway them. By putting the prospect in the back of a few classes you usually will not show them that they can reach their goals. This is why you interview them to discover what their goals are. The prospect has to, by what they go through in your trial, be able to envision themselves achieving their aspirations. For example, if they come in because they really want to learn how to defend themselves, then take them aside and show them some cool self-defense techniques. If the parent wants their child to learn self-discipline and motivation then take the child aside, where the parent can hear you give them a talk about these topics. Let the parent see that you can help achieve their goals. I can go on with a bunch more examples but I think you get the picture. The trial session(s) has a limited time. During this period, the prospect or parent has to see that their goals can and will be met. I can’t say this enough. A couple of times at the back of a normal class usually will not do the trick. If the prospect is a child there are additional factors. You want the child begging the parent to join. Usually, regular classes are not super fun but necessary. So at some point you need them to have a great deal of fun. There are many fun ways to do drills. If you are not familiar with them then do so. I once had a parent come up to me and tell me they had never seen so many people laughing while doing push-ups! (Right after back to being serious). One way or the other, you need to be sure the child enjoys the activity.


Another big factor is, how well does the prospect feel welcome? I like to give the prospect a buddy. A buddy is one of my students that has a great attitude. After the interview I call the buddy over to meet the prospect. If the prospect is an adult the buddy is an adult. If the prospect is a child the buddy is a child. The buddy takes the prospect over to meet everyone in class. Train your class to be courteous and respectful. They should meet the prospect with respect and enthusiasm. For every trial class the buddy is there to greet the prospect. I am sure you can come up with other ways to make the prospect feel a part of your school. If the prospect is a child, introduce their parent to some of your more supportive parents. The more welcome they feel the more likely you will have a new member.


You spend a lot of time and money getting people in to try your product. You need to spend more time on the process of keeping them. Plan it out and execute.


January 2016



Jim from Ohio asked a great question: How do I increase my inquiries?



Don,

I started my school 5 mounts ago. I have 27 students. I have a high conversion rate on turning inquiries into appointments and appointments into students. My problem is that I have difficulty getting inquiries. I have a professionally developed website and Facebook page. I understand that a good marketing plan consists of several components. What is your best or best couple of marketing techniques to increase my inquiries?


Thanks,
Jim


To get an answer, I went to my friend Frank Silverman. Frank is Executive Director of Martial Arts Industry Association (MAIA).

Answer:


Having an online presence and social activity is key but rarely is it ever enough. First, with a base of 27 members I highly suggest three things that are cheap, easy and very effective:

1) Get as many parents involved and training as possible. Offer specials and free trial classes for them. This will also help build your adult program. Also, be aggressive in signing up siblings.

2) Seek referrals. Do this two ways. First simply ask for referrals (of existing members) and have a rewards program in place for everyone that refers a new member. Often if you ask people for business they will give you business. Second, host as many events as possible and encourage friends to participate (Bday parties, parents nights out, etc). If your conversion rates are high this will turn into new memberships as well. Make it public; meaning make sure everyone knows if a current member refers a new student and the reward that they received.

3) Try to "get in" with the public and private school. Be a partner in education, teach a PE class, participate in school events, sponsor newsletters, do school talks and more.


Thank you for your input Frank


I would like to add, one of the most important things you can do is get out in front of the community. It is all about exposure. Demos demos demos. You and your students can volunteer within the community. A good way to help out and to be seen. You have to let the community know you exist.


MAIA is a martial arts industry leader in business consulting. They have so much to offer martial arts school owners. It is in your best interest to find out more about all the fantastic business information that MAIA has to offer here: https://www.masuccess.com/.





December 2015



Question: What is an effective holiday promotion?



Holiday Promotion That Works!

Sorry for the late notice. I just remembered a plan I initiated many years ago that really works and should also be utilized by you.

You make up a gift certificate to give to the parents of your youth students. The one I used offered the parents a free course.

Place the gift certificate in a Christmas or Holiday card. I offered parents a choice of one from a variety of courses/activities.

For example, I would have courses for self-defense, weight loss, flexibility, physical fitness, etc… You should add as many options as you can come up with. You want to list an option that will appeal to their needs and wants. What buzz word will bring them to action? It doesn’t matter since your goal is just to get them on your floor. I found that if a parent used the gift certificate, they were 90% more likely to sign up for continued instruction. This always got me new students. It has an additional side benefit. Even if a parent chose not to use the gift certificate, they were still very appreciative. I can’t tell you how many came up to me and thanked me for being so thoughtful. It let them know I cared about them.

You should take every opportunity you can, to demonstrate to parents that you appreciate them. It really helps your student retention.


November 2015



Question: What is the best referral program?



Mark asks, “What do martial arts businesses find to be the most effective referral program? Is it giving referrers a discount on membership dues, free supplies, thoughtful gifts not related to martial arts, etc?”


Answered by: Don Prue - built one of America’s largest martial arts organizations. At his peak he had over 3000 students. He says, “I was in the right place at the right time. I was first in at the beginning of the kid market boom. I made many mistakes in the beginning but I sure learned a lot along the way”


Mark, this is a very good question. I have tried so many different referral programs and most did not work. Fortunately, through trial and error I came up with an extremely effective referral system.


Having an effective referral system should be the most important marketing tool you possess. This is easier said than done. The difficulty is how or more importantly, what is it that motivates students to bring a friend in. When I first decided to create a “Bring a Friend” program (as I called it), I thought it would be easy, but it wasn’t. I knew my students loved me and I thought they would instantly jump into action to bring in friends to help me. I was wrong. They did not. I asked for this help until I was blue in the face. I would sign up a student here and there from asking but overall just asking for help was a failure.


From there, I came up with the bright idea that I would give my students something to motivate them to bring a friend in. Back then, money was tight so I decided to give away incentives that didn’t cost me anything. I decided to try to give them gifts of discounts. If a student brought in a friend who signed up, the student would receive a discount. I tried discounts on their monthly payments and I also tried to give discounts on merchandise. Neither option had much appeal. I also tried rewards that were not martial arts related like video games for the kids and restaurant gift certificates for the adults. I tried many variations. Response was dismal and not to my liking.


I could go on with more examples that were mildly successful but now it is time to share the answer that turned my whole bring a friend program around. It became my number one marketing tool. The key to a successful bring a friend program is “Exclusivity”. I came up with the “Ambassador” program. Students who brought in and exposed others to the benefits of training were ambassadors to the art. This entitled them to special privileges that others did not have. It was an exclusive club. I created special classes and seminars that only ambassadors could attend (not taking away the normal training times). The student is now only addressed as Ambassador Smith (whatever the students last name is).


When a student brought in a friend who signed up, I would have a special ceremony. This ceremony was held at the end of class. It only took a couple of minutes. I had all the students sit down while I called the student up in front of class. I presented the student with a special T-shirt. This T-shirt had a really awesome design. You could not buy this T-shirt, you had to earn it. From there I would have the whole class stand up. I would say “I present to you Ambassador Smith”. Then I had the whole class stand and bow to the new Ambassador along with a big round of applause. I made this a really big deal. If a student brought in three friends they were presented with a special Bomber Jacket. It was offered for sale, but at a very high price (over $150). Once again this jacket had a really awesome design on the back and front.


These two items are good examples of utilizing a double edged sword in your marketing. You are motivating students with items of high perceived value and promoting your school outside the walls of your school with very unique and desirable clothing items.


I am sure you can come up with some variations to this system on your own but exclusivity is the key. Make your student standout and feel special.


Please, if you have a good referral program share it. We would love to hear about it.


I want to thank Mark for a great question. If you have a question please ask it here.

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