Master the Back-to-School Season with These 11 Tips
This year, more than ever, people in your community are ready to get back to a routine of in-school learning and after-school sports and activities. And, who could blame them? Some children haven’t set foot in a school building for 17 months!
This evident eagerness makes THIS back-to-school season THE prime opportunity for you to grow your martial arts school — greater than any other year before!
But of course, business growth doesn’t happen on its own. Growth only comes if you put in the extra marketing effort, continue to build relationships, and implement system checks.
To help you get started, we’ve compiled a list of our best tips along with the best back-to-school pointers from Action Karate Leaders, Solomon Brenner and Michael St. John.
Tips to Generate Leads & New Enrollments for Your Martial Arts School
1. Host a back-to-school event
Connect with the community before school-aged students get involved in other school or community sports and activities. One way to do this is by hosting a back-to-school event. Events that work well for our martial arts school owner clients: Back-to-School Pizza Party, Bullying Prevention Workshop, Parents Night Out, Bring a Friend Night. See our Event Start Chart for more event ideas and event marketing tips.
2. Run a special offer
Offer a limited-time, back-to-school special to encourage enrollment. Special offers that work well for our clients: providing a free uniform with enrollment and offering a sibling or family member discount.
Be sure to promote your special offer through multiple channels: run a Facebook Ad, launch an email campaign to past leads, send a push notification through your member app, distribute door hangers and flyers throughout your community, hang a poster in your facility.
As a Member Solutions client, you get monthly marketing kits to jumpstart your event marketing and special offers. Log in to view and download the back-to-school kit that includes a fillable flyer, Facebook Ad image, fillable door hanger, and fillable poster.
3. Build a relationship with your local school district
If you’re trying to get involved with your school district for the first time, Action Karate Leaders, Solomon Brenner and Michael St. John, have a pointer for you: host a Back-to-School Supply Drive.
“Before school starts, we ask all our students to bring in school supplies,” says Michael St. John. “It can be one thing, or they can bring in a bunch of supplies. Sometimes we’ll award a prize to increase participation. We then put the supplies in an Action Karate bag, show up to the school, and drop it off. We make sure the office staff knows that our martial arts students wanted to make some donations to the local school and that the supplies are for the school. We then wait a couple weeks, and stop back at the school, and try to set up a program that works best for the school.
The key here is we ask for nothing when dropping off the donation. We just drop the supplies off. We’re just giving. We’re not selling anything. We don’t want anything in return. It’s about starting to build a relationship that will turn into a real connection. It’s a lot easier to be involved with the schools if they know, like, and trust you and this is a great first step that has worked particularly well for Action Karate over the years.”
4. Partner up
Is your facility part of a shopping mall? Know a local restaurant, ice cream shop, dry cleaning business, pizza parlor that serves the same community members? Team up with local businesses and implement reciprocal marketing.
As people are looking for after-school sports and activities to establish their Fall routines, now is an optimal time to partner with a local business. Consider testing the waters with your Back-to-School special.
Just think: if the partnership ends up being successful, you’ll have a great, new marketing channel lined up for the Holiday season and new year.
5. Tighten procedures to overcome “system slippage”
“It’s human nature,” says Michael St. John. “Everyone starts off strong when they first learn a procedure, but over time, without practicing, it’s easy to get away from. We meet with our teams from all locations and the Martial Arts Collective at 9 am every morning and have lots of opportunities to practice. The next few weeks our team and the Martial Arts Collective will focus on these basics: 1) making sure our phone procedure is strong, 2) practicing our intro process for new members, 3) checking to see if our locations aesthetically need a “refresh”, 4) training our instructors on helping new students, 5) reviewing our upgrade procedures.”
6. Launch an email campaign
Believe it or not, email is still one of the most effective and worthwhile marketing strategies. In fact, email marketing generates $42 for every $1 spent, which is an astounding 4,200% ROI, making it one of the most effective options available. (Source: Hubspot)
Segment your contact list and send targeted email messages to reinvigorate past leads, fortify retention with existing students, and encourage referrals.
Inactive students: Use your member management software to run a report of students who haven’t been in over the summer, then email and call each to reconnect.
Active students: Send an email to thank members for their ongoing support. Let them know about the new member special and back-to-school event. Incentivize referrals by offering a special bonus to any member who refers a friend.
Leads: Remind past leads of the importance of martial arts training particularly during the back-to-school season for increased concentration and discipline for school-aged children. Announce the new member special and back-to-school event. Include testimonials from happy members.
7. Make sure your school is white-glove clean
Another great tip from Action Karate Leader, Michael St. John. “The idea of white-glove clean is if you had a white glove on and you touched a surface at your school, would the glove still be white?”
“We start at the outside. Make sure our doors are clean, the front area is clean, and walk through. Restaurants have their staff sit at their tables to see what the customers see. Do the same thing. Go sit in your parent area, where the parents are watching and see what they see. Go into the bathroom that your students use and see what they’re seeing. Sometimes we only see with instructor eyes or really because we’re there every day, we can be desensitized to the dust.”
Tips to Strengthen Student Retention
Thousands of new leads won’t make a bit of a difference if you don’t have the systems to enroll new students and retain students. Here are some of our best retention tips along with tips from Action Karate.
8. Offer free private lessons to get students back after the Summer
It’s not uncommon for attendance to be sporadic during the summer due to vacations and schedule changes. And, because of that, some students might be hesitant to return to class as they’re uncomfortable with their progress. Consider offering free private lessons as a way for students to ease back into training and get them excited again about martial arts.
Run an attendance report in your member management software, then place calls and send emails to inactive students. Be sure to include the free private lessons offer in your messaging.
9. Host a back-to-school picnic for members, family & friends
Take advantage of the season by hosting a back-to-school member appreciation picnic for your members. This event will not only show members that they’re valued; you’ll be able to gain some new leads by encouraging members to bring their family and friends to the event. Promote a family and/or group discount during your member appreciation event to encourage family memberships and group memberships.
10. Have this important conversation NOW with parents and students
While there’s a lot of opportunity to bring in new students, there’s also the chance of losing students during the back-to-school season because there are changes. There are 6-year-olds that are going to all-day kindergarten or first grade for the first time. Plus, you have new sports and activities that come up. You know that your parents of your school are having the conversation with their children about what they’ll be involved with; get ahead of it by having a conversation with the parents of your school and your students.
“We need to be in their minds now talking about the importance of training long-term”, says Michael St. John. “One of our favorite lessons that we share is the idea of being a fair-weathered trainer. A fair-weathered trainer is someone who only trains in the martial arts when conditions are perfect. For example, if it’s too hot outside, they don’t show up. It’s too cold. They have a headache. They’re tired. They find any excuse not to train.
We know though that the best black belts and instructors are in it for the long haul. Even when things are tough or bad. It’s back to school, there’s homework, new schedules, new routines and it’s hard. But we’re not giving up on our martial arts just because times are hard. We may be tired after a long day, but we’re still going to come to class and continue to train.
That’s the gist of the mat chats we have and we make sure parents hear this message, too.
When we have that conversation first, it’s hard for a parent to come up to you after that and say “you know, we’re really tired, I think we’re going to take some time off.” We must get ahead of it. We’ll have these mat chats and conversations for weeks through the back-to-school season and into September to reinforce that martial arts training doesn’t stop.”
11. Send a personal video to every family
To show their support in a meaningful way, and proactively strengthen retention, Action Karate sends personalized videos to each of their students in the weeks leading up to the start of the new school season. “We did this last season and the feedback from families was truly astonishing. This personal touch created all this good feeling. People stay because of connections. People stay because of the relationship and anything we can do to make that relationship stronger of course is going to help.” Use this script from Action Karate to create your own back-to-school personalized videos for your students.
Don’t miss the bus
More than ever, people are ready to get back to normal; be ready to serve them! Take the time now to plan and implement your back-to-school specials and events, connect with members, and get out into the community to maximize your martial arts enrollments and retention.
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