Make Email Newsletters Work for Your Fitness Business

Do you send an email newsletter for your business? If the answer is yes, great! You’ll see some great tips later on to get your email newsletters performing even better. If the answer is no, what’s the reasoning? You probably get a few in your inbox on a regular basis if you subscribe to industry updates. Does it remind you of clutter? Do you have a love/hate relationship with these emails?

Sure, opinions and feelings vary about the use of email newsletters, but the question you need to ask yourself is: “Is an email newsletter a good fit for my industry and business?”

If you’re a martial arts or fitness business, the answer is yes.

Why send an email newsletter to members and leads?

Email newsletters are a way for you to gather all the news, updates, and content during the past month in one place. You can’t expect prospects and members to look at your website or social media pages all the time.

An email newsletter is another way of engaging your connections. It directs readers to other places where they can engage with you and shows how you’re active in your community. For example, if you put on events or run membership promotions, newsletters should be a key component in your email marketing strategy.

In fact, if you send a newsletter, you’re more likely to see results elsewhere. Direct traffic drives value and leads. According to research done by Parse.ly, a data analytics company, The New York Times newsletter subscribers “consume twice as much content as those who don’t get newsletters, and they’re twice as likely to become paid subscribers.”

What makes an email newsletter effective?

1) Established goals and metrics

You’re not going to know what’s working if you haven’t decided what success looks like. What do you want from sending a newsletter? Answers could look like any of these or more, depending on your business goals:

    1. X% increased member attendance to classes or events
    2. Y% more referrals
    3. Z% increase in appointments or paid trials

2) Consistent frequency

Stick to what’s realistic for your business and time. This could be weekly, monthly, quarterly, or another frequency that works for you. The most important element of your newsletter frequency is to commit to it. Your readers will learn to expect your name in their inboxes. If you need to dial your frequency back, communicate your new frequency to your readers. Ghosting—or disappearing without notice—won’t go over well.

3) Subject lines

Email inboxes are harsh, competitive places, like a gladiator arena for a reader’s attention. Good subject lines get your foot in the door. They’re not a guarantee for readership, but getting someone to open your email already is an accomplishment. Make that first introduction count.

4) Valuable content

Any disgruntled comments that you hear about newsletters most likely come from readers not feeling satisfied about what they receive. The ideal ratio is 90 percent educational content to 10 percent promotional content. You want to make readers feel like your newsletter has added to their day, not subtracted from it. Test different kinds of content to see what your readers respond to the most. And don’t be afraid to ask for feedback.

5) Niche audience(s)

Your email newsletter isn’t for everyone, so don’t try to appeal to everyone. Be decisive about for whom the content is important. Members? Leads who came in for a trial membership but didn’t return? Segmenting email lists in an email marketing software (like iContact) makes it easy to send specific content to designated audiences.

6) Make it personal

Newsletters are for building relationships and community. These two pieces are crucial foundational elements to a successful business in martial arts and fitness. Using conversational tone, versus a formal one, will help you connect with your audience.

What do fitness businesses need to put in an email newsletter?

Remember, it’s always best to do more of what’s effective, even if that means including less content in your newsletter. Avoid focusing on your writing ability (make sure to check spelling and punctuation, of course) and instead focus on what provides value to your audience.

1) Recent blog articles

Distribution of your blog is important to drive traffic to your website. Again, part of why newsletters are effective is for that reason. Blogs don’t need to be unique all the time—you can cycle content so long as it’s relevant and valuable.

2) Member or student highlights

Orangetheory Fitness is a larger-scale example of a business that emphasizes community through member spotlights in its newsletters. Because we’re in industries that thrive through strong relationships, spotlights are an easy way to strengthen the relationships you already have and to market your community to prospective members.

Within martial arts, belt progressions or similar big moments for students are a must to feature in your school’s newsletter.

3) Current and upcoming events

It’s important to show your members and prospects that you have an active, thriving community at your business for retention and lead generation. When done well, you can ride the line between educational and promotional without sounding pushy. Make it attractive—not salesy.

4) Engaging, relevant videos

You don’t need high-production value videos to be successful or to reap their benefits. Videos continue to engage audiences, on average, more than other forms of content. The camera on your mobile phone is sufficient to record expert tips from you, quick breakdowns of proper form, or glimpses into how great your community is.

5) Industry or community news

Is something big happening in the world of fitness or martial arts that would interest your readers? Write a short summary about the news, why it’s important, and link to the original source.

6) Social media and website links

Encourage your readers to continue to see updates elsewhere on your social media profiles, blog, and website. Include phrases like, “Follow us on Facebook to see more” and link any social media buttons within your newsletter template.

How to create an email newsletter with email marketing software

1) Pick an email marketing software

One that integrates with your member management software makes it really easy. Member Solutions’ software integrates with iContact, which is easy to use and doesn’t require coding/HTML experience.

2) Choose a template

Choose a template that is appropriate for your audience. Make it clean. More elaborate designs don’t make emails more effective.

3) Insert content

Have a couple consistent sections. It’s okay to experiment with what content works best.  A/B testing, like what iContact has, works really well to find out. A/B testing is when you test two different subject lines, call-to-action buttons/links, or content pieces to figure out what your readers like the most. It’s a data-driven way to find out what your audience wants.

4) Choose a subject line

Make it conversational and attention grabbing. Attention spans in email inboxes run thin. Make your subject line count. Keep it under 40 characters.

Making newsletters a part of your email marketing strategy

Newsletters continue to be an important part of engaging your community and attracting non-members to join. As you’re creating the best email newsletter strategy for your needs, remember these three key points:

  • Create your newsletter for your specific audience. It’s not your job to appeal to everyone.
  • Valuable content drives member loyalty and new leads.
  • Make email newsletters easy and professional with email marketing software.

 

10 Ways To Increase Gym Revenue Without Selling More Memberships

Most gym owners drive business growth in two ways: by finding new members and by keeping the members they already have. While marketing and retention are great for growing your community, they represent only a fraction of the ways to increase gym revenue. By shifting your focus to maximizing every available revenue stream, you can uncover ways to improve your earnings overnight.

Consider how your pricing, service offerings, and operations impact your bottom line. Imagine being able to capture every payment reliably; selling memberships at a fair price that reflects the value of your services; and members who are engaged and enthusiastic about your brand.

In this ideal scenario, your business captures the maximum amount of revenue from every member. You can relax while your gym rakes in profits from multiple revenue streams. No more struggling to attract more and more new members each month with expensive and complicated marketing campaigns.

Realize the full potential of your business by using these 10 methods to increase gym revenue:

 

1. Reduce payment declines

According to publications released by major credit card issuers, 15% of recurring credit card payments decline. For some industries, the decline rate can reach as high as 30%.

To put this in perspective, if you have 100 members paying $50/month, you’d expect to receive $5,000 in monthly recurring revenue. However, credit card declines will cost you $750 to $1,500 per month. That’s $9,000 to $18,000 in lost revenue each year.

Credit card declines can prevent loyal members from paying what they know you deserve. These payments weren’t lost to poor customer service, low-quality classes, or high prices. These losses are completely out of your control—that is, until you put a process in place to avoid payment declines.

Use a combination of technology and customer service processes to recover declined payments and add back revenue to your bottom line. Choose a software solution that offers payment reminders and automatic retries after failed payments. While you can hire staff to collect declined payments from your members, third-party companies offer the most cost-effective service solutions. Well-trained managed billing professionals can increase recurring revenue by up to 25% for a minimal fee.

 

2. Raise your prices

Are you charging what your services are worth? Many gym owners panic at the thought of raising prices because they immediately envision a mass exodus of even their most loyal members. In reality, a carefully calculated price increase will improve your gym’s financial health and profitability with little impact on member retention.

Consider the following scenario: Your gym has 100 members each paying $50/month. You plan to implement a modest 5% price increase of $2.50/month per member. Given the new price of $52.50/month, you expect to keep 95 of your existing members. Following the price increase, you’ll earn an extra $2,850 per year.

No clever marketing tricks or slick sales pitch required. Your simple price change has increased your revenue all on its own.

To keep member attrition to a minimum, communicate your new pricing appropriately. Give members plenty of notice. Explain why the change is necessary to continue the high-quality services that they value from you.

 

3. Use paid trials

Most gyms offers free trial memberships or guest passes to prospective members. These freebies pay off when they result in new members, but sometimes you end up spending money to support non-paying guests who never return.

Paid trials help to secure a return on your investment. Payees are more serious about keeping initial appointments. They’re more invested in learning about your gym, understanding your value, and building relationships with your staff.

Consider using a combination of free and paid trials in a way that makes sense for your business. For instance, you might offer a free trial of your basic gym access, but a paid trial for your premium classes or training sessions.

 

4. Offer premium memberships

Do you offer tiered membership options and pricing? If not, it’s time to start. Rather than forcing your members into a one-size-fits-all model, structure pricing options around their needs and preferences.

If you’ve tracked purchases and attendance in your membership management software, you can use reports to investigate spending patterns and identify popular services. For example, your members may fall into three categories:

Once you’ve categorized your members and set your pricing model, you can send targeted promotions to each group to entice them to upgrade their membership package.

 

5. Sell retail items

Do you know how often members get to the gym only to realize they’ve forgotten something that will prevent them from working out? Stock essentials like earbuds, water bottles, and socks in your retail store to make sure members can get what they need.

If you’ve built a loyal following, invest in branded merchandise. Use an online service to print your logo on t-shirts, hats, yoga mats, bags, and more. A beautiful, eye-catching design goes a long way, so if you’re not confident in your logo or layout, try an online graphic design service.

 

6. Book private training sessions and lessons

Almost all fitness businesses offer one-on-one sessions, and most of them wish they could book more of these money-making services. The trick to maximizing this revenue stream is a combination of staff training and communication with existing members.

Market your private sessions to members using low-cost, easy-to-use communication channels. Put signs throughout your facility, post on social media, and send emails with special offers. Your goal is for every member to know that you offer private sessions.

From there, leverage your staff’s relationships with members to close the deal. Teach instructors to observe members’ behaviors and to discuss goals with them. An instructor may notice a member who puts forth great effort and attends regularly, but her technique holds her back. With a bit of coaching the member could excel. In seizing this opportunity, you’ll help a member meet her fitness goals more quickly and open a new revenue stream for your business.

 

7. Childcare

If lots of parents visit your gym, you may want to consider adding childcare services at your facility. A busy mom or dad who doesn’t want to give up gym time will gladly pay extra to know their child is happy, safe, and nearby during a workout.

Before introducing childcare services, be sure to review the legal requirements for your staff, facility, and business. While these services can bring in a significant amount of additional revenue, you’ll need to plan carefully to make sure you’re able to provide high-quality care.

 

8. Host events and workshops

Members love workshops, boot camps, and fitness challenges because they help them stay motivated and reach goals more quickly. These paid events provide a lump sum that has an immediate positive impact on cash flow.

To make the most of this revenue stream, think strategically about the needs of your business and members. Review the calendar for times when an event could provide extra cash during a seasonal downturn. Add events to help members meet a common goal, like staying fit through the holiday season.

Need some fresh ideas? Browse this event list to get started.

 

9. Nutrition and health coaching

According to IHRSA’s senior research manager Melissa Rodrigues, 25% of fitness club revenue comes from ancillary services. Your members aren’t just looking for a place to work out. They’re looking for all kinds of services to help them stay healthy, fit, and confident.

Most members would be happy to pay extra for services to help them eat better, make healthy choices, and track their fitness progress. These services will make your bottom line happy as well. By adding health coaching or consulting, you can increase the amount of revenue generated by each member.

 

10. Sell advertising

Looking for an out-of-the-box way to increase gym revenue? Try selling advertising space in your facility or email newsletters to local businesses. If you’ve done a good job building your membership base, you’ll have a fitness-conscious audience that’s attractive to an array of advertisers. Create a list of local grocery stores, specialty shops, salons, spas, venues, and restaurants who might be interested in your new advertising opportunity.

 

Go beyond marketing and retention to increase gym revenue through alternative revenue streams, new services, and operational efficiencies. In doing so, you’ll allow members to strengthen their relationships with you, giving your gym its greatest potential for growth.

8 Fun & Easy Holiday Event Ideas

Here in Philadelphia, the fall weather is finally settling in with cooler temperatures, changing leaves, and Eagles football. What may not come to mind immediately is that it also is the perfect season to plan your holiday events in advance.

Depending on the complexity of your event, it may take weeks to several months to coordinate with sponsors, create marketing collateral, and to secure permission from venues outside of your martial arts school or fitness facility.

Holiday and winter events are great for bringing your local community together and as an easy go-to for padding your bottom line. We’ve created a list of both classic and novel ideas to help you start thinking about what you can plan in the coming months. Have fun with it!

1) Make Your Own Ugly Sweater Fundraiser, Party, & Contest

ugly sweater
Have contestants enter a make-your-own ugly sweater contest for a charitable cause in your community. Set ticket prices to raise money for your non-profit or charity. Make sure that you put aside funds for a fun prize. Have snacks and drinks available and space for people to socialize.

2) Winter Chili Cook-off & Festival

chili bowl

Cold temperatures bring out cravings for comfort food. While National Chili Day is on February 23, give chili another day of recognition for being one of the most popular winter dishes.

Decide how many cookoff entries you’ll allow for the day. Have attendees pay an entrance fee and encourage them to vote on their favorite chilis. Include hot beverages like cocoa, cider, coffee, and tea for purchase. Tally your votes and declare your winner with a prize. A chili cook-off is an event your community will enjoy year after year.

3) Dress Your Dog Up Like a Reindeer Contest & Party

dog in reindeer costume

The marketability of dogs is undeniable. If you need a reminder, check the internet. Pet lovers and owners get the chance to unite in this pet-friendly event. Create a fundraiser to support your local animal welfare organizations and shelters with a holiday celebration that includes pets. Attendees can either dress up their dogs for fun or enter the contest with volunteer judges to select the winner.

4) Gingerbread House Contest & Craft Fair

gingerbread house

A holiday crafts festival is great for a whole family activity—plus, gingerbread houses are a classic tradition. Depending on your available space, it’s an event that you can plan to have in-house or at a local community center.

Ask local artists to participate as judges and vendors. Charge an entry fee per person or per family to cover the cost of supplies. Better yet, partner with a community sponsor—like an art store or local grocer—for the items that you need.

5) New Year’s Eve or Day Party

new year party

Celebrate the New Year with a themed party for families or adults only. Using a theme with decorations—or a featured activity—will help your event stand out among other community events happening at the same time. If you’re aiming to cater to the 21+ crowd, collaborate with a bar that has event space and sell tickets for a New Year’s Eve party.

Make sure you have projection screens that will show the New Year’s countdown live from NYC or show one of your own. If you want something more family-friendly, plan your event for the morning or afternoon of January 1st with games, snacks, drinks, and music.

6) Valentine’s Day Prom for Adults

prom night

If you have an adult martial arts class or have group fitness classes, a Valentine’s Day-themed prom night for adults is the perfect cheesy throwback. It can also result in a great turnout for any charitable cause. Pick a dress code (themed or standard formal dress), a DJ, and a venue space with drinks.

7) Breakfast with Santa

santa pankcakes

Get kids excited for Christmas with a Santa breakfast, and use Member Solution’s online registration to have parents reserve seats for their families. Serve holiday-inspired pancakes, fruit, veggies, bacon, eggs, and other breakfast favorites.

8) Holiday Fun Runs

A staple classic! Have runners dress like Santa, reindeer, Christmas trees, and other silly costumes. It’s a great family-friendly event for all ages.

4 Steps to a Genuine Membership Sales Pitch

Does selling memberships make you feel greasy? Think of it this way: Your sales process is the key to not only more money for your martial arts school but also the way to discovering who needs your talents the most.

 

A good sales process is less of an outright pitch and more of a dialogue that helps your prospect envision success with you. The result is an opportunity to build trust, fellowship, and emotional investment.

Being good at selling memberships and running a business does not take away from your existing relationships at your martial arts school. Developing your sales skills protects your livelihood and adds value to the services that you provide.

4 Steps to Build Relationships in Your
Membership Sales

1. Be the best at what you do.

You can’t make a case for yourself if you don’t have something valuable to offer in the first place. Get your school organized. Nurture the unique qualities of your classes and community. If you feel like you need more time to focus on developing your business, try automating admin tasks with your martial arts software or delegating office work like membership billing.

2. Talk about value, not price.

Price questions require that you follow a specific sales script that can make or break the sale. When you’re asked about prices, avoid answering with a number. Responding with a number forces you to justify your value before your prospect has experienced your services. Many prospects ask about price because they don’t know what they want or what to ask about your martial arts school. Rather than discussing price, show the value of your services by talking about your prospect’s goals and past experiences.

A) Discover goals.

Always say that pricing will depend on the program your prospect chooses. If you give your prospect price when he or she asks, you create an objection that immediately puts you in a position to defend your services. Make the conversation option-oriented with questions like:

  • Why did you call us?
  • What do you hope to get out of this program?
  • Are you a beginner, or have you trained before?

Much like if you were a journalist, an interview-style conversation helps you get to know what the person actually wants. Particularly if the person has never tried martial arts before and doesn’t know what to expect. Focus on a dialogue that reveals goals first. Write down your prospect’s responses on paper so that he or she knows you’re attentive.

B) Discover past experiences.

Again, when you talk about the value of your school, differentiating factors are important. Now that you know what your prospect wants out of your program, you need to know what hasn’t worked in the past.

“How long have you been thinking about |LS|goal or training|RS|?”

Asking this question upfront avoids the possibility of hearing I need to think about it later in the sales process. Tailor this question as appropriate for parents talking to you on the behalf of their children.

“What else have you tried to accomplish |LS|goal|RS|, and why didn’t it work for you?”

Asking what your prospect has tried before gives you a better sense of his or her needs (e.g. support, beginner-friendly instruction, class structure). It also gives you the chance to empathize with his or her struggle and to talk about how your school addresses those pain points.

3. Plan to overcome 4 common membership objections.

An objection is any roadblock to a prospective member saying yes to your school. Objections arise when you don’t know how to address them early in the conversation with your prospect. Taking the lead, however, confirms that your prospect won’t flake later.

When asking these questions, avoid accepting I think so as an answer. If you hear it, don’t proceed any further unless your prospect can confirm with 100 percent certainty. Your recipe for success: question, listen, and verify.

Objection 1: Location & Transportation

Confirm that your prospect is in the area and has transportation to get to class. Even if you’re talking to a parent, ask.

Objection 2: Schedule & Time

Propose days and times. If your prospect is unable to confirm, ask when works better in his or her schedule.

Objection 3: Motivation & Commitment

You’ll need to help your prospect envision what it would be like to achieve his or her goal with the help of your school. Lead with positive reinforcement first. Ask, What do you see happening with |LS|achieving goal|RS|? What is that going to do for you? Follow up with asking what makes them unhappy about his or her current situation. Again, write everything down.

Not only does envisionment help your prospect, but it also helps you know how to best support the person.

Objection 4: Family or Significant Other

Oftentimes, prospects will say he or she needs to consult a family member or a significant other before moving forward with your school. Ask in your own words, Is there anyone who isn’t supportive of your accomplishing this goal? Who is the first person you’re going to tell when you get home and are they 100% supportive of you?

4. Give your prospect a trial membership

Trial memberships are a powerful sales and marketing tool for your martial arts school. It’s key to walk through the discovery process first with your prospect so that he/she understands your value and they feel empowered toward their goals. Afterward, give your prospect a chance to experience what your school through a free class, free week, or a paid trial with a free uniform.

Video Marketing for Martial Arts

If you haven’t noticed video marketing taking over the internet, then you haven’t been active online for the past few years. More than for showcasing cats and other miraculous feats, video marketing has the kind of punch that martial arts schools need for attracting new students and keeping current students.

The Cost of Video Marketing in Martial Arts

Nothing! Video marketing is simple to do when your martial arts school has existing social media accounts and a website. If any of these elements are missing—particularly a branded website—address that first. 97Display is a great internet marketing agency for branded websites because it specializes in our industry. Check them out here.

Social Media Accounts

If you have your social media lined up, great! If not, signing up for these accounts is free:

  • Facebook
  • YouTube or Vimeo
  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn

You don’t need to sign up for every account. Focus on what makes sense for your school. We recommend that you start with Facebook and YouTube.

Video Editing Software

Basic video editing also comes standard on Apple products (iMovie) and Microsoft computers (Movie Maker in older versions of Windows and Story Remix in the Photos app of Windows 10). Even without experience, you can shoot video on a smartphone—yours or one of your staff member’s—edit on your computer, and upload to your social media accounts and blog for free.

Professional Video Marketing

If you’re ready to step up your video quality beyond the ability of a smartphone, professionally filmed videos are a great idea. We recommend planning a budget and saving for a professional video as a long-term investment. If your school is ready for it, we encourage you to take the leap of faith.

Why: Hosting a professional video ad on your martial arts school’s website is the push already-interested prospects need to choose your school rather than your competition. And if you’re experiencing rapid growth, you will make up the cost in new students.

Video Return on Investment (ROI)

The cool part about investing your valuable time in creating videos is that once the work is done, those videos are yours to distribute and reuse as you want. You gain endless return on marketing and retention material that can cost nothing out-of-pocket if you choose.

Video Marketing Tips for Martial Arts Schools

Video marketing strategy relies on distribution for exposure. Social media plays a key role in telling your school’s story to people who otherwise may not know about martial arts or your business.

Videos to Share on Social Media & Your Website

Video has the ability to connect with audiences in ways that text or photos alone may not. Student/parent testimonials, student accomplishments, belt testing, community events, school demos, and competitions should all go online. The point is to showcase what makes your martial arts school unique and valuable to the local community.

If you or a staff member can’t capture video, ask parents or family members if you can share footage that they took. Regardless of how you get your video, always ask parental or guardian consent first. A way to address consent early is to include a photography and videography release waiver with new student contracts.

Post videos to your strongest online channels (e.g. Facebook and website) with a short description of what’s happening in the video. Make sure your post settings allow for sharing. If you prefer to avoid vetting negative comments, you can turn them off.

Go the extra step in video marketing

If you want more people to see your video, and you have extra cash in your marketing budget, boost your video post on Facebook. You then can create audiences in Facebook ads based on the people who watched your sponsored content for more than 30 seconds.

Increase Martial Arts Retention with Video Marketing

Sharing videos on social media also is effective for retaining your current students. Showing off your school’s expertise, staff, and student achievements boosts student and family morale. Students will want to stay in a community where they feel appreciated, acknowledged, and supported. Video is an easy way to do that.

Create Technique Videos for Students & Staff

An internal way to increase student retention is to record technique videos with one of your top instructors. Creating technique videos helps:

  • students feel more confident practicing at home (looping back to the idea of feeling supported) and
  • to promote instructional consistency across staff members.

Film two versions for each technique: a step-by-step version that breaks down what students are expected to learn and a version that shows what the moves look like when performed at full speed.

Where to save your technique videos for student access

Have a website developer make a password-protected database where you can upload and store technique videos. You can create a universal password to give out to new students when they join your school. If you need an immediate, lower-cost option, a private Facebook group is another great option.

How to use technique videos to help your staff in class

Technique videos help remind staff how to break down the day’s lesson in a way that is consistent and informative. Keep a tablet near your mats for instructors to reference in case they forget how to walk students through techniques step-by-step.

Key Video Marketing & Retention Points

  • Video marketing is easy to include in your existing marketing strategy. Once you make a video, repurpose it how you like.
  • DIY videos are free to make and distribute.
  • Share your videos on social media and your website, preferably on your blog.
  • Sharing videos boosts student and family pride in being involved in your school and the martial arts community.
  • Technique videos keep your staff’s instruction consistent.
  • Technique videos help students feel confident about practicing at home and coming back to class prepared.

Have you used video marketing to attract students and to improve retention at your martial arts school? Share your experiences below.

Make time for creative strategies like video marketing by doing less office work. Click here to learn more about how martial arts software can help your school grow.

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7 Ways to Handle Late Member Payments

mobile-invoice-member-payment.jpg

Asking your students for money is never easy. When a member of your martial arts school doesn’t pay on time, it’s tempting to let the delinquency slide to avoid confrontation. But you run a business. You deserve to be paid for the valuable services you provide. Still, how can you ask for late payments without sounding cold or impersonal? These seven tips will help you navigate how to collect and prevent late member payments:

1. Automate member payments

Automating credit card and ACH payments through your member management system is an easy way to prevent late payments. Talk to your members about switching to one of these methods if you notice them struggling to pay on time. Be sure to highlight the added convenience of auto-payments and address any concerns about data security.

2. Set expectations with new students

Review key points of your membership contracts with new students and families. Make sure students or parents sign off on payment amounts, due dates, and the membership duration. Be honest and open about your expectations for on-time payments. Just like your members expect consistent, high-quality martial arts instruction from you, you will expect prompt, full payments from them.

3. Charge fees for late payments

If late payments are a chronic problem for your martial arts school, you might decide to add late fees to your contract. Some gyms and martial arts schools charge late fees of $5 to $25 per overdue payment. For some individuals, the extra incentive will motivate them to stay on top of payments.

Before deciding to use late fees at your school, consider how this will impact your relationships. Ask yourself how new members will react to hearing about late fees before they’re even a part of your community. In the end, you’ll have to determine the best balance to protect your business without harming your relationships.

4. Send email reminders

You probably already use your martial arts software to automatically remind your members about upcoming payments and due dates. Hopefully, these reminders help prevent late payments before they occur.

Once invoices become past-due, you can use another type of email reminder to collect late payments. Create a short series email scripts to ask for late payments. Be polite but direct. Make sure to clarify any consequences of late payments, including interest fees or deactivation of the membership.

5. Make a phone call

Because phone calls are more difficult to ignore than emails, they’re particularly effective for collecting late payments. Be friendly but firm on the phone. Clearly and calmly explain the details of the past-due invoice and ask for the payment in full. While on the phone, you may uncover new information about your member’s situation that reveals the true reason for late payment. Use these insights to find a long-term solution to help you and your member avoid future missed payments.

6. Be kind, not argumentative

Your students are only human. They make mistakes. They forget to update expired credit card information or to check their bank account before payments are due. There are hundreds of reasons students miss payments. Avoiding financial disputes is crucial to maintaining a strong, long-lasting relationship. Before jumping to conclusions, see if a friendly reminder is all that is needed.

In some cases, your student may be dealing with a difficult or complex situation that has impacted their finances. Use good judgement to come to an agreement that’s fair and mutually beneficial to you and your member. It may make sense to be flexible or forgiving in order to preserve your relationship and retain your member.

7. Call in an expert

Collecting late payments is complex and challenging. To truly be successful, you’ll need to dedicate resources to make sure someone is responsible for follow up and collections. If you handle this follow up in-house, make sure to incorporate this task into one of your job roles so it does not become an afterthought for one of your busy employees. You can also outsource payment collection to a team of managed billing professionals to bypass the awkward conversations and eliminate the complicated follow up process.

If you follow the steps above, you’ll see your overdue invoices decrease while your relationships with your students improve. In the long run, the combination of these two factors is what will keep your martial arts school financially stable and successful.

Have you tried these tips? How do you encourage students to pay on time? Tell us your thoughts below.

How to Use Trial Memberships in Martial Arts

We debate the best way to structure trial memberships in the martial arts industry: Should prospective members pay? Does it make sense to offer a class or classes for free? The core of the trial membership discussion surrounds how to attract new people to your martial arts school while maintaining, communicating, and demonstrating value.

 

Benefits of Paid Trial Memberships

Supporters of the paid trial philosophy say that payees are more serious about keeping initial appointments. Because paid trial members already invested/financially invested in a shortened version of your program, the hardest part of transitioning to a full membership—the first sale—is completed. The experience, growth, and relationship with you become further selling points for your trial member.

Benefits of Free Trial Memberships

Opinions of free trials are less straightforward. What giving out free trial memberships will get you is a substantial increase of leads. And we really like leads. Retail market research suggests that consumers are attracted to free product samples (or in this instance, free classes) because of two strong elements of community that we also find in martial arts: relationships and reciprocity. However, the potential drawbacks of free trials within your business model are:

  • The time/operations cost to support non-paying students
  • Prospects look for a “hard sell” or ask, “What’s the catch?”
  • No guarantee of a measurable financial ROI (unless you can win back prospects)
  • Less of an incentive to build a relationship with you or your instructors

Our Solution: Combine a Paid & Free Trial Membership Strategy

We think paid and free trials have valuable returns when you consider the strengths of each to create a marketing/lead generation strategy that fits the specific needs of your business. The first step is to use a different approach for your external audience (fresh leads who don’t have an in-person relationship with you) and your internal audience (your current students and their social networks).

How to use free trials with your internal audience/current students

Giving samples of services for free is more effective when you leverage your existing relationships. Your current students are your best advocates for the value, example, and growth you provide for your community. An in-house referral program is a perfect structure to include no-cost-attached lead generation.

Skip any overt sales pitches when you talk to your students about bringing their friends to class. Hardcore sales talk will feel disingenuous in established, trusting relationships. Approach your referral program—or bringing a guest for free, as you may say—as a privilege students have earned. It’s a softer approach that relies on networking and your ability to create an attractive community for new prospects.

We recommend that you offer discounts or rewards for students who refer friends and for new students who converted from a referral.

How to use paid trials to generate leads & commitment

Paid trials will continue to draw more qualified, serious leads to your school regardless of additional swag you give as a new member package. However, including a uniform, gloves, or another bonus adds to the idea that paid trial members are joining a niche community. Again, you’re aiming to further the feeling of emotional investment for paid trial members to convert them to full-time members after the trial period ends.

How to Avoid Financial Disputes with Your Gym Members

Member-owner relationships are a bit like marriages. You work hard to cultivate strong, long-lasting bonds. You do all you can to show you care and provide what your member needs. Despite that effort, you can still find yourself dealing with absences, arguments, and painful breakups caused by disagreements about money. Among married couples, financial disputes are the second leading cause of divorce. Likewise, uncomfortable conversations about missed payments can make members feel like your gym is not the right place for them. To avoid losing members, put a plan in place to prevent financial disputes and strengthen your relationships.

What can you do to avoid financial disputes with your members?

At Member Solutions, we have over 25 years of experience providing billing services and collecting member payments. Think of us as a financial counselor who wants to help alleviate some the strains money puts on your member relationships.

Follow these 5 tips to avoid financial disputes and keep your billing practices running smoothly:

1) Talk about your billing policies

Clear billing policies allow you and your members to stay on the same page. Put yourself in your members’ shoes. Would you enjoy surprise charges to your credit card? While surprises can be fun, financial surprises can damage your relationships.

Create a membership welcome packet that clearly details what your members can expect financially. Address the when and how of payment processing, late fees, cancellation policies, payments dates, and how members will be notified if fees change.

2) Be flexible when members have money problems

Eventually, one of your members will show up to your gym after months of racking up an unpaid balance and overdue fees. They’ll say they had no idea it was happening. They’ll ask you why you didn’t remind them and possibly tell you they can’t afford to pay.

While it’s important to enforce your policies, sometimes it’s important to find a middle ground. Ask yourself, “What’s best for my long term relationship with this member?”

Sometimes it’s in your best interest to give a member a break. You may decide to waive fees or set up a payment plan to get a member caught up. When you make an exception, let them know that you’re doing it because they are a valued, long-term member. Explain that your policies are in place because newer members—who don’t have strong relationships like yours—might try to avoid paying.

This method has a variety of benefits:

  1. You were likely going to receive no payment. Now that you have made an exception, you are likely to receive some compensation.
  2. You increase the odds that this member pays on time going forward.
  3. If this member is leaving, it’s more likely that he or she will return to your gym.
  4. The likelihood that member talks highly of your gym will increase.

Every gym owner is unique and has different opinions on this situation. All we recommend is that you consider the value of each customer on an individual basis.

3) Automate member payments and billing

Automated billing services virtually take you out of the dues collection process at your gym. All you have to do is set up client accounts, due dates, and payment amounts. Voilà! Your clients’ accounts will be billed automatically.

What does this mean for you? It means that you no longer have to directly collect member payments. This saves time on administrative tasks and reduces strain on relationships with your members.

4) Offer secure online payment processing

The convenience of online payments has obvious appeal for both businesses and members. However, when it comes to online payments, choosing a service with maximum security is critical. The last thing you want is for your or your members’ financial information to be compromised.

Choose a Level 1 PCI compliant provider to protect your business. Providers that follow these data security standards offer the highest level of protection against credit card fraud.

5) Enlist a professional team to bill your members

In addition to damaging relationships, tracking down member payments is confusing and time-consuming. Pursuing missing payments can take up to 10 hours every week. That’s time you could spend with your members, growing your business, or relaxing with friends and family.

Outsourcing to an affordable managed billing service that specializes in tracking down delinquent accounts can reduce stress and help preserve relationships. Billing professionals have an in-depth understanding of the payment processing business and are better able to troubleshoot issues with failed credit card payments or delinquency. In fact, members are more likely to settle monetary issues with a billing company than a gym owner.

If you decide to collaborate with a third-party billing provider, choose a team that will uphold your policies while still offering flexibility to your members. A good billing company will be able to advise you on when to make exceptions for members who are having trouble paying.

Overcome financial disputes to strengthen relationships with your members

Financial disputes are one of the main reasons relationships end—whether it’s between spouses, business partners, or band members who pursue disappointing solo careers. To beat the odds, you need to be proactive. Talk to your members about your expectations regarding payments. Be open to a financial partnership with your members. If you decide to partner with a billing company, choose a team with the same commitment to customer service and fairness that you do.

How do you manage the financial aspects of your member relationships? Share your comments below.

How to Use Your Martial Arts Blog to Get More Leads

How to Use Your Martial Arts Blog to Get More Leads (3).png

A blog is one of the best marketing tools to increase website leads—which results in more students—for your martial arts school. The way you maximize your lead-generating blog is through fresh content and optimizing it for search engines like Google.

How SEO drives quality leads to your martial arts website.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the digital marketing technique that helps schools like yours display in a prospect’s Google search results when he/she researches “martial arts schools near me”.

Using SEO to generate website leads should be your marketing priority. Why? Prospects who look up martial arts schools near them are already interested in your services, which means you’ll be able to convert them into members more easily.

In addition, you don’t need to spend a ton of money to attract SEO leads; you only need to create great content that draws them to your site—like blog articles.

How your martial arts blog helps you attract leads.

Blogging is an easy way to advertise and establish your expertise with the public—and more so, the families who may want to join your school. Even if no one were to read your blog, regularly posting new content help you rank higher in Google search results and drives more qualified prospects to your site.

With the recurring mentions of keywords and topics, like

  • Martial arts school for kids

  • Women’s self-defense

  • Your specific discipline

You build the knowledge base that Google relies on to rank your site. Over time, your web pages are more likely to rank well in search results.

Blogging helps attract leads in another way. Your blog is like a virtual bulletin board; it shows that your martial arts school has an active community. Your prospects are more likely to convert when they connect with recent posts about classes, student achievements, and other information.

Many business owners avoid blogging because of the misconception that the process takes too much time. In reality, not blogging is costing you more in new students and retention.

Use these 3 steps to make martial arts blogging for SEO simple.1) Include keywords in blog titles & URLs.

Google pulls search results based on the keywords prospects use. In your situation, keywords include

  • Your business name

  • Your business location(s)

  • Your program offerings

Blog titles and their corresponding URLs are perfect places to include these keywords. When a prospect searches any of these criterion/criteria, your school will appear in the results. Avoid generic blog titles like “Recent Activities”. Make titles specific with keywords. A better lead-generating title for activity updates is “|LS|Business Name|RS|’s Martial Arts Classes on |LS|Date|RS|.” If you’re not comfortable naming new blogs right away, try renaming older blogs with relevant keywords for your school.

2) Transcribe videos & name uploaded files with keywords.

Well-placed, high-quality video and images are crucial for your blog’s performance. Before uploading images or videos to your blogs, name your files with keywords like the ones listed in Step 1. Transcribe any video dialogue you have on your site. Videos with transcriptions are great as standalone blog posts. Search engines crawl this information and count it toward your ranking.

3) Share links between your social media sites and your blog.

Search engines are all about related content. When you link to other sites from a webpage like your blog, it’s called a backlink. When you backlink between your social media sites and your blog, Google is more likely to boost your ranking.

The boost you get is because search engines recognize a web of backlinks as proof of content’s quality, authority, and trustworthiness. Share new blogs on your social media sites, and re-share older articles as evergreen—or timeless—content. Reposting content should be a part of your marketing strategy. It’s an effective way to connect with loyal and new members of your audience.

If you’re looking to generate more leads for your martial arts website, 97Display can help.

Why Community Service Matters for Martial Arts Schools

Through contributing and giving back, we are able to continue to grow our martial arts business. As a byproduct of serving our community, we also have the ability to maximize the exposure of our school.

Since opening our school in 1994, we have been actively involved in our community and remain heavily connected to several local organizations. By doing so, we have developed a reputation of being a reliable business and one that many organizations call on often for support.

Here are 3 ways we are involved in our community:

1. Chamber of Commerce

Through business to business networking, we are able to build relationships that help create opportunities to market our school. This is also a great way to maximize brand recognition within your community. Other local businesses will begin to refer you to their customers and friends.

2. Donate to Schools

We are always looking for opportunities to donate to school auctions, raffles and award ceremonies. These donations can be used for school fundraisers or as incentives for various school programs. By donating and giving first, you may also create the opportunity to speak in the classrooms.

3. Local Sports Organizations

Sponsoring youth athletic leagues, teams or clubs can be a great way to show your community support and introduce you to a brand new audience. Many youth organizations host opening and or closing ceremonies and tournaments, which may provide an opportunity to set up a booth, distribute marketing materials, and more.

“From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life.”

-Winston Churchill

By getting more involved with your community, you will not only create a positive impact on those you serve, you will also build a solid reputation with local residents and fellow business owners.

About the author: Jason Flame is a 7th Degree Black Belt in American Tang Soo Do and owner of Tang Soo Do University in Moorpark, CA. He has also served as a MAIA Elite consultant since 2010. Jason is an active member of his community and serves on the Board of Directors for several local organizations. As an active community member, he attributes the success of his business to understanding the importance of giving back to those in his community.