Anyone who follows the show Game of Thrones knows the famous saying, “Winter is coming,” which is a warning of difficult times to come.
For most martial arts and fitness-based businesses, fall and winter tend to be our best times of the year, with high enrollment and phenomenal retention, while spring and summer tend to be the most challenging and slowest. This begs the question, why can’t spring and summer be the same as the rest of the year?
About four years ago, I noticed that my accounts receivable were down nearly 25% during June, July, and August. Summer became the worst time of the year for me and my business. It seemed like a struggle just to make it through.
Fast forward to a few years later, I can now honestly say that I look forward to Spring and Summer as much as Fall and Winter. With proper coordination, event planning, and marketing, any season can be a success.
Here are a few ideas that I have implemented as part of my program to help keep my classes busy and drive new members to my school.
1. Fun Fridays
Many of our members – especially the children – perceive martial arts or fitness as a “school” or “work” related activity to be only done during the school year. This makes it imperative that we adjust our programs to add more fun and excitement during the Summer.
One of the most exciting things that we do during our Summer months is our “Fun Fridays” series. I take every Friday that I am open during the summer months and choose a specific theme or activity for that day.
Here are a few of the themes that I do for my Fun Fridays:
- Crazy Hair Day: Kids wear their wackiest hairstyles during class
- Pajama Day: Kids can wear their favorite pajamas during classes – so long as the outfit is appropriate
- Weapons Day: Safely practice a weapon that the belt has never done
- Buddy Day: Kids get to bring a friend or two to take a class with them, which is a great way to attain new students
- Ice Cream Day: I purchase ice cream cups and give them out to the kids when the class is over. This is by far the most exciting Fun Friday!
You can get as creative as possible, but make sure that your activities are well-structured, well-staffed and provide value to the parents as well. Although the atmosphere at your school during these Fridays will be more relaxed, it is important that parents understand that the children will still be practicing and training in martial arts.
Another idea that I use to increase member retention, as well as acquire new members during the Summer months, is conducting seasonally themed events.
I always plan an Annual Summer Picnic at the beginning of August. I rent out an entire park with a kitchen and invite my entire student body and their friends to join. At last year’s picnic, well over 400 people stopped by throughout the day. At the picnic, I provide food, carnival games, a dunk tank, bounce house, pie eating contests and much more.
Hosting this picnic is a great way to keep members excited during the Summer as well as reinforce a family atmosphere that can help create a bond between you and your members … AND it opens the door for prospective new students.
Water Gun Parents’ Night Out
I believe that we all, at one point or another, host Parents’ Nights Out throughout the year. With my Summer Parents’ Night Out, I make it water gun-themed. As you can suspect, the students go crazy over this. At Parents’ Night Out we play games, serve dinner (pizza and juice) and block off a section of the grass that is located behind my school to set up a safe zone for water gun wars.
For Movie Night, I reserve a local theater and invite all of my students to spend an afternoon to watch an age-appropriate movie and to enjoy some popcorn and snacks. Movie Night is also a great way to market your school because, not only can you set up a booth and banner at the movie theater, you can also ask your students to wear your school shirt.
Another great idea to help with retention is to give out attendance rewards to all of the students who were consistent during the summer months. Everyone likes feeling special and receiving awards, which gives the children an incentive to never miss a class during the summer. Winners of the attendance award are publicly praised during one of the fall belt exams.
For the most part, I have been talking about tactics for retention, as that is one of the most important factors for staying successful during the Summer months. However, many of the events – picnic, buddy day, movie night, etc. – bring in a lot of referrals during these challenging months, which can turn into prospective new members.
From a marketing standpoint, I like to offer Summer sign-up specials to help draw in new members. You can offer a discounted price for the first month or two of training, include a free t-shirt or equipment set with registration or offer a free month of classes for any family member who is not currently signed up at your school.
These techniques helped make last summer our best one yet. I hope that you can take some of these ideas and use them – or modify them – to help you grow your school.
As always, success is in the preparation. Begin preparing today to have your best summer ever!
About the author: Master Peter Trikilas is the Owner and Chief Instructor at Master Peter’s Academy of Martial Arts (MPAMA) in Dayton, New Jersey. He has been training in martial arts since 1985 and opened his school, MPAMA, in 2011 — which has over 500 students to date.