16 Retention Tips & Tools for Your Martial Arts Kids Classes

Two boys sparring in martial arts class

Client Question: Could you provide some in-the-classroom retention tips that work for your school?

At Combined Martial Arts Academy, we implement several techniques and tools within our Kids Martial Arts programs. The tips I’ll provide here are used within our Little Dragons Program (3 to 6 year-olds) and in our Beginners Program (6 to 10 year-olds).

  • Age-specific classes – All students are grouped in their respective age group. This is important as it helps with learning and stops bullying. Grouping by age group also builds up confidence and increases the student’s self-esteem.
  • Achievable curriculums – We set a grading curriculum that is achievable for the student’s age.
  • Break it into four – Each class is broken down into four stages. This helps with students’ concentration as they are not repeating the same thing over and over again for 45 minutes.
  • Disguise repetition – Changing the order, instructors and equipment enhances and disguises the repetition of learning.
  • Use students’ names at least 3 to 4 times throughout the class – This shows the students that you care about them. I believe this is one of the most important things in student retention.
  • Special Events – We continually host special events throughout the year. This allows students to show their friends and parents how well they are doing.
  • Take photos and give out awards – We take a photo whenever a student makes an achievement, such as white belt. We also present an award. The award says: “a black belt is a white belt that never quits.” We present the award to the student in front of their peers in the class.
  • Stickers – A constant reinforcement and recognition of the hard work and dedication to training.
  • Training certificates – 3 to 4 are handed out in each class.
  • Monthly attendance awards – These awards are handed out to students who have not missed any classes for the month.
  • Shihan’s Super Star Award – This award is given monthly to a student in each division for their effort in school, at home and in class. The student also receives a special badge that is put on their gi.
  • Birthday cards – Cards are mailed to each student and they get to wear a black belt for their class. Photos are provided of them wearing a black belt.
  • Report cards – Done on a quarterly basis.
  • Get well soon and miss you cards – These are sent on a weekly basis to connect with the students so they are not away for too long.
  • Pizza party – Students who bring the most awards from school receive a pizza party. This encourages students to not only do well in Martial Arts class, but also other activities, including school.
  • Free birthday parties – All children under the age of 10 can sign up for a free birthday party. We include details of this in our information packet.

Consistency and persistence breeds results. These 16 retention tips need to be consistently carried out every month if you want drop-outs to stop. At Combined Martial Arts Academy, we try to be as consistent as possible with these retention efforts. I meet with my management and office staff every third Monday to remind them of these systems and to make sure they are comfortable and using the techniques. Every two weeks I have an instructors meeting and training as well to check to see if they are implementing these systems.

Bill Wakefield is one of Australia’s pioneers of growth and success in the Martial Arts industry, www.c-m-a.com.au. He is a well-known and prominent speaker on the subject of Martial Arts business, as well as a Member Solutions Advisory Team Member.

4 Ways to Build Solid Customer Relationships in Your Fitness Business

Personal trainer and client smiling while discussing workout scheduling at fitness center

Are you focusing as much energy on your current members as you are with your new ones?

Having engaged, happy customers not only helps make your business more successful, but it also makes your job worth going to every day. When you open your doors on day one, it’s pretty easy to remember the important details of your first clients’ lives; birthdays, family events, career successes. As with any relationship, these are the details that form strong bonds and create customers that will stay with you for a long time.

As your member base grows, it becomes increasingly more difficult to have enough time in the day for those meaningful conversations—it’s not that you don’t want to, but if you spent even just five minutes a day with 200 members, that wouldn’t leave you with time to do much else. It is, of course, still vital to engage your customers. As with so many parts of your business, having systems in place helps to ensure that your customers know how important they are to you should be a key part of your operations.

1) Technology

Most modern technology is geared towards one thing: convenience. In this case, let technology do the work for you. If you have only a few short moments with one of your members, would you rather spend that time collecting an overdue payment or asking them how their weekend was? Assuming you answered the latter, letting your members know that they can make payments online will help you to forego the often times awkward conversation you need to have about their tardy payment.

If you have an event or class for which they need to register, let them know that they can register from the convenience of their home. Don’t make them stand at your front desk signing forms and writing checks when you could be asking them about their goals or soliciting their feedback.

2) Go Above & Beyond

What may seem like a little thing to you may alter the entire scope of somebody else’s day. You never know how an email to one of your customers may brighten their mood. Because it would be nearly impossible to manually send an email to each and every current and former member you’ve ever known, have a system in place to do it for you.

At a minimum, make sure you’re collecting birthday information and setting an email to be automatically sent on the right day. Remember, every email you send doesn’t necessarily have to contain information about upcoming events or sales. Sometimes a simple “Happy Birthday!” will go a lot further for your business.

3) Connect on the Phone

Of course, not everything can be an email or text message. Speaking to your customers directly, even over the phone, can help cement the relationship you’ve built. If you’re worried you may be missing someone, set yourself a reminder. Assign an ongoing task for someone on your staff to do touch base calls. Most importantly, don’t wait until the member hasn’t been there for a while; engagement is proactive, not reactive.

4) Hold Member Appreciation Events

Everyone wants to grow their member base. Holding “Bring a Friend” events is an effective and often times lucrative way to hit that goal. Remember, though, you can’t grow your member base without doing your best to keep the current roster engaged and happy.

Holding member appreciation events can do just that. Host a free event in which your only expense is your time (a special group class) and only invite your current customers. Some may argue that the value gained from these events can even far exceed the cost of an event you pay for out-of-pocket, such as hiring a special speaker or trainer.

Before and after the event, give them the chance to mingle with each other. Take the opportunity to talk to them on a personal level. Cultivate a community within your business. If you host these events regularly, not only will your relationship with your customers improve but your customers’ relationships with each other will improve, too.

As always, Member Solutions is invested in your success. We offer a variety of tools that can help you systemize important aspects of your business so that you can focus on what you do best. If you’d like to learn more about how you can make the most of these tools, don’t hesitate to contact the Training and Support team at 877.600.3811 or support@membersolutions.com to schedule a training session today.

About the author: Justin Bodamer is the Product Support Manager for Member Solutions. The Training & Support team is dedicated to helping you and your team make the most of your software and services. You can contact him at membersolutions@membersolutions.com.

5 Budget-Friendly Ideas for Your Business’s Grand Opening Event

Client Question: I am opening a new business soon. Can you provide some ideas to drive traffic to my business on our grand opening day?


Chances are good that you have invested a lot of money into starting your new business. Here I’ll provide some low-budget ideas for a grand opening celebration.

1) Rent an inflatable jumpy or bouncy to place in front of your business. If you don’t have a front lawn, rent a sky tube. Add balloons, yard signs, and gigantic banners out front that read, Grand Opening—anything that will make people look at your location. Use your connections, too. Know someone that owns a hot rod, race car, or chopper? See if they’ll let you borrow it. Place it out front to draw attention.

2) Offer free hot dogs and sodas throughout your event. Have visitors go inside your martial srts school or gym to get a coupon for the free food. In order to get the coupon, have them fill out an info card.

3) Create grand opening postcards or flyers. Donate $250 to your local high school football, soccer, baseball, or basketball teams. In return, ask them to put the postcards or flyers out in the neighborhood they live in. This is an easy way to get cards out for little to no money. It’s also a win-win for you and your local schools and sports teams. They need money, too, and will appreciate your donation.

4) Have hourly giveaways for gift cards to local restaurants and movie theaters. Have visitors fill out an info card to enter the drawing for the prizes. Make sure you keep their information and enter it in your member management software so you can follow up with them about joining your martial arts school or gym.

5) Giveaway t-shirts with your business name and logo. Drive around to local businesses, parks, and supermarkets. Invite the people you talk to take a class. Have an appointment book on hand. Make sure they know about the Grand Opening celebration.

Remember that your grand opening doesn’t have to be just a one-day or evening event. Make the most of your new business opening. Consider running a one- or two-week celebration to keep the excitement and the momentum going.

Hope this helps,

Chuck


About the author: Chuck Heacock is the owner of the Fitness Compound, a training facility that provides unparalleled fitness activities including Martial Arts classes, special boot camps, personal training, baseball, basketball, spinning, Zumba, cardio, and more. Chuck is also a sought-after fitness industry consultant.

After the Birthday Party: A Follow-Up Formula that Turns Leads Into Students

Birthday party event registration and planning

The #1 and #2 reasons for offering any event at your school are retention and new memberships. In last week’s post, I provided tips to help you get your birthday party program off the ground.

In this post, I’ll cover our follow-up system in detail to help you gain those new potential memberships that can result from hosting birthday parties. Keep in mind that you can use this system as a base for follow-up for any of your events—not just birthday parties—with a few minor changes.

Step 1

At the end of the party, all of the guests are handed a VIP pass, which entitles them to one free introductory lesson with the owner of the studio (me). They must call or email me for an appointment. I had 1,000 cards printed for less than $50 through VistaPrint.

Step 2

After each party, I upload all of the event registrations to an Excel file and enter all hard copy information into the same file. I then save it and tag it as “GB attended an event” (GB for Giroux Bros.) and put into my martial arts management software offered through Member Solutions.

As soon as this information is transferred, they receive an automated, personalized email from me that looks something like this:

Hi Mary,

I see that your child attended an event at the studio this weekend, and I heard that all the kids had a blast!

The instructors should have handed you a VIP Pass for a free introductory lesson. I wanted to follow up to see if you were interested in scheduling one with me this week or next.

I will give you a call in a few days as well to set one up for you.

Thanks, and I look forward to meeting you and your family soon!

Sincerely,

Steve Giroux

Owner | 7th Degree Black Belt

Step 3

I take 10 or 15 minutes to enter all the leads into my cell phone and mark them accordingly to have quick access to the information when I call. An example is Bday217 | Mary | Joey and Lexi 7 and 8.

Mary is the mother listed with the child or childrens names and ages.

To help with my own time management, I make these calls during my commute. I’ve had the most success reaching people during the late morning to early afternoon timeframe while the kids are in school.

If I don’t reach them live, I leave a voicemail. I only call them once unless a call back is requested.

At the end of the week, another automated email is sent, which looks something like this:

Hi Mary,

I’ve been trying to reach you. I wanted to see if you were interested in coming in for your free trial lesson. I still have a few spots available next week. If you are interested, please give me a call.

Thanks, and I look forward to hearing from you soon!

Sincerely,

Steve Giroux

Owner | 7th Degree Black Belt

Step 4

Although these leads are warm, remember that they haven’t specifically asked for any information. They’ve simply attended an event at our studio and hopefully had a great time.

If my initial attempts haven’t sparked a response, I put them into my drip system.

Within the member management software, I tag them as Children Program Prospects 2015. They will receive a series of seven informational emails, automatically-timed, three weeks from one another as a result. The emails are in a newsletter format and discuss topics such as listening skills, bullying, ADD, and ADHD to name a few. I also include these prospects in my direct mail campaigns that I launch three to four times a year.

I hope this information has been helpful. If anyone has questions on hosting birthday parties in your martial arts school or setting up a lead follow-up program, please don’t hesitate to ask. As always, I’m happy to help.

About the author: Steve Giroux has been training in martial arts for 30 years and is a 7th Degree Black Belt in Chun Kuk Do. In 1999, he graduated from Bentley College with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Accountancy with a minor concentration in Law. After founding his studio in January of 1999, Steve has successfully grown revenues over the years after starting at only $7,000 in his first year. You can contact Steve via email at Steve@GirouxBrosMartialArts.com.

Fitness Boot Camp – Brick & Mortar vs. Dirt & Grass

Tire jumping during outdoor fitness boot camp event

Let’s have a look at two completely different scenarios.

Scenario one:

You have been running a boot camp outside for the summer and have built up a fantastic group of regulars. However, now that the colder weather is here, not many clients are participating. The indoor boot camp is looking more and more promising. But is it really the way to go?

Scenario two:

You have an indoor boot camp with a room of raving fans that love your energy and everything seems great…until the first of each month when you write that huge check to the landlord. Monthly rent and sunny weather makes the outdoor boot camp look more promising. But again, is it really?

The explosion of boot camps has created a debate among participants and instructors as to which is best: the indoor or outdoor. Both have strong arguments that we will explore to help you make this decision. Remember, there is no right or wrong choice here: only what is best for your fitness business and the target demographic you want.

This is, and always should be, why you make your decision. We will look at 4 key factors that your fitness business will need to consider when making this important decision.

Fitness Boot Camp Factor 1: Cost to Operate

The first thought here is that an outdoor boot camp should win hands down. However, that is not always the case.You will need to do some research here before you make this decision for your fitness business. Many cities and regions require permits to use park or field spaces for commercial purposes. These fees can be high in some areas. Where I live, it is $20 per class. If you are running the usual 4-6 classes a day, then that is $90.00-$120.00 per day fee.

A 1,000 sq. /ft. space is typically $2,500-$3,500 per month. That comes out to $85-$115 per day. You would also need power and utilities for the indoor space, but the outdoor space requires a van or truck for transport. The huge savings may not be there. Another factor is that outdoor fitness boot camps require additional insurance coverage in most states and provinces, so please check this out before you start.

Overall winner: If no park fees are required, outdoor boot camps will win; otherwise it is a tie.

Fitness Boot Camp Factor 2: Climate

This is one that indoor fitness enthusiasts will champion because of not wanting to work out in the snow and excessive heat. However, I know some people that have successful boot camps in harshly cold and hot climates. The catch is that these classes are specialized. This gives them a unique demographic that is not weather dependent. If you are running an indoor space, you need temperature and air quality control. Climate control can add to the cost of the space per month, but it will keep the gym smelling better and the temperature where it is comfortable for the masses.

Overall winner: Since the masses are what most of us market to, indoor wins.

Fitness Boot Camp Factor 3: Atmosphere

Outdoor camps always have nature on its side. This could be beaches, mountains, beautiful parks, or wooded forests. All have the fresh air and natural stimulus that people love. Indoors has music and multiple tailored or branded surroundings. You can logo walls, keep it a brick or garage feeling, or soften it for a specific demographic. While indoors, you can have access to facilities like bathrooms and showers. Easy access to these staple facilities gives you a powerful argument for the indoors.

Outdoors will build a better connection to getting your people active outside of the boot camps, and this may build long-term success for your campers that some forget to take into consideration.

Overall winner: I am going to call this a tie as I think that both offer many pros and too few cons to make it a deciding factor.

Fitness Boot Camp Factor 4: Equipment

This is also a deceptive one. At first glance, most people will say that the indoor boot camp will have greater access to equipment. This may be true, but I have never seen this as a limiting factor for the fitness boot camp operator. After talking with hundreds of operators and campers, it appears that almost all indoor and outdoor providers use the same tools; BOSUs, TRX straps, med balls, ladders, ropes and various other dynamic exercise pieces that are easy to set up and portable.

Rarely do I see or hear of fitness boot camps using free weights, benches and machines, so I do not see this as a huge advantage for the indoor people. However, access to other amenities such as toilets, change rooms, and showers is a huge plus. Also, the indoor camps can easily upsell additional products that they keep ready, such as bands, nutritional products, or training gear.

Overall Winner: Just for the access to amenities, the victory is the indoor camp.

After everything is tallied up, the indoor fitness boot camps win in two key categories: climate and equipment, both of which will allow the fitness business to have a much wider target demographic. I really like that part. With a tie going to atmosphere, it leaves the outdoor fitness boot camp with the big win of cost to operate.

Before the outdoor people all run off to sign a new lease, there is one more factor that I need to mention. Do not ever sign a lease on a space if you have not built up that much-needed group of campers. Before you move your fitness business to the great indoors, test things outdoors. Then find a nice cheap space close to where you have been doing your outdoor camps.

The bottom line is that outdoors is where you should start and then move to a nice indoor space once you have established a great following.

David Chang’s Answer: What Steps Should I Take to Add Extended Child Care to My Summer Camp?

Client question: We run a Summer camp that’s held from 8 am to 3 pm. We’re considering offering extended care from 3 pm to 6 pm. What issues do I need to consider when setting up this option?

Offering extended care for your Summer campers is an excellent idea. Not only can it provide an additional stream of revenue, more importantly, it can make the difference between whether or not a parent signs up for your camp!

For many working parents, picking their child up at 3 pm is not an option. You need to be capable of watching their child until the parent gets off work, or they will find another camp that can.

Here are four steps to get started …


Step 1

Check with your legal counsel to determine whether or not there are specific requirements in your state with regards to caring for children. Depending on your state, licensing may be required.

Step 2

Make sure that any staff members you hire to watch the children are properly screened. I recommend running a background check on every employee in your organization, but this is particularly important for any employee who will be caring for children.

Step 3

Protect yourself by training your staff on how they should care for children. Have clear-cut policies on safety standards and disciplinary procedures. For example, you want your staff to know exactly where the children may not go. You need them to be clear on what to do if a child is misbehaving. Your staff should not be allowed to go into a restroom alone with any child.

Shield yourself from potential lawsuits by ensuring that everybody under your employ understands and follows your procedures.

Step 4

Provide plenty of games and activities to keep the children entertained for three hours. Some suggestions are board games, puzzles, Lego blocks, and stories.

With a well-thought-out plan, providing extended care can be a real boon for your Summer camp.

Meet the author: Sifu David Chang and his wife Elizabeth Chang are the owners of Wushu Central Martial Arts Academy with two locations in California. Sifu Chang is a former Wushu style forms national champion and Elizabeth is the brains behind the business. They teach over 600 students and currently employ 17 instructors.

Martial Arts Summer Camps: Tips to Heat Up Student Retention and Revenue

Girl practices punch at martial arts outdoor summer camp

Our three-week martial arts summer camps usually bring in $12,000.00 to $15,000.00 each. We look forward to these events as a way to generate more revenue for our school and to engage students during a time where attendance usually thins out.

Whether you’re running your first martial arts summer camp or hoping to optimize your upcoming events, our marketing and logistical plan can help you increase income and attendance.

Martial Arts Summer Camp LogisticsScheduling & Length

We hold three to five three-week camps throughout the summer. Typically, we host camps in June, July, and August. We prefer to offer full-day camps; however, half-day camps can be more manageable if your school is not equipped to run full-day camps.

Themes

Themed camps are popular and can command a higher price. In June, we host a Ninja-themed camp. Each camper receives a ninja outfit and every activity corresponds with the theme. For July’s army-themed camp, attendees receive nerf blasters. In August, we hold a Star Wars camp. Camper get their own light sabers and we watch the movies during snack and lunch breaks.

The Price of Admission

We charge $169 per week for our camps. Beginning in February, we offer the following pre-sale discounts:

  • 17% off three-week camps
  • 13% off two-week camps
  • 10% off one-week camps

Early-bird discounts are applied per registrant; therefore, if you registered two family members for one-week camps, each would get 10% off each camp, rather than 13% off.

Food & Beverage

We provide snacks in the morning and afternoon. Campers must bring their own lunches and drinks.

Field Trips

We occasionally include field trips in our martial arts camps to keep attendees interested and involved in the programming. We take the campers to a softball field to play kickball, whiffle ball, and soccer. We also plan a pool party and provide a picnic lunch, which includes hot dogs, chips, and soda pop.

Staffing

As a school owner, I do not have the bandwidth to manage our summer camp program. Instead, I incentivize our Head Instructor to oversee these events in exchange for a substantial share of the profits. To supplement our regular staff, we offer a discounted price to any campers between the ages of 13-15 who will serve as “camp leaders.” We accept up to four leaders per camp.

Martial Arts Camp MarketingPromotional Pricing

We begin marketing early to ensure we fill our summer camps. Five months prior to the first session, we begin offering discounted pricing as follows:

  • February – March: 17% off three-week camps; 13% off two-week camps; 10% off one-week camps
  • April – May: 10% off all camps
  • June – August: full-price for all camps

Marketing Communications

We communicate about our events through a variety of channels to maximize our reach:

  • Posters and handouts in our school and local businesses
  • Mat chats during classes at our school
  • Facebook Event posts
  • Facebook Ads
  • Emails marketing campaigns
  • Text messages

Scarcity & Urgency

We impose a limit of only 30 campers per week. We advertise these limits to creates a sense of urgency. We state the current number of spots available in our mat chats, blog articles, Facebook posts, emails, and text messages. We do this consistently so that it feels to our audience like we are counting down the limited availability.

There’s Still Time!

Think there’s no time left to run a camp? Not true. Simply adjust the timing of the promotions I’ve described to apply them to your event. Start today by creating your registration form so you can start marketing your camp.

Questions?

If you have questions, please feel free to contact me. I would be happy to help. You can reach me at tristarkarate@gmail.com or 815-932-5425.

About the author: Duane Brumitt is the co-founder and owner of Duane Brumitt’s Tri-Star Martial Arts Academy in Bradley, Illinois.

3 Event Registration Software Tips to Increase Your Turnout

A camp. A clinic. A tournament. No matter which type of event you’re hosting, you have to get the word out and you need to get people to sign up for it. However, getting a significant amount of event sign-ups is not simple.

Online registration tools, like Event Manager, can make it easier.

Event Manager enables you to go paper-free by taking your event sign-ups and payment processing online. The software also comes loaded with management and marketing tools to promote events and accelerate registrations.

Use these three techniques to maximize your turnout and get more event sign-ups.

1. Waitlists

Give interested registrants the option to join a waitlist for currently-filled events, and receive notification by email when an event spot becomes available. By enabling the waitlist feature, you maximize your chances of keeping your events at capacity and maximizing your turnout.

With Event Manager, you can specify the number of registrants that can join a waitlist. You also have the ability to designate the amount of time a waitlist registrant has to register for the open spot before it is released to the next person on the waitlist.

How to do it:

Click your form name, then click the Advanced tab. Enter a seating capacity in the Maximum Form Capacity box. By doing so, you’ll activate the waitlist option. Click the Waiting List check box, then enter your waitlist capacity and response time limit.

2. Promo Codes

Using promo codes is a great way to drive demand and increase event registrations. Through Event Manager, you can set capacities, activation dates and expiration dates to promotional codes. Event Manager will automatically deactivate the code for you once the code’s capacity or expiration date is met. This feature is particularly useful if you run specials on Groupon, Amazon, or other deal-of-the-day sites.

How to do it:

Click your form name, then click the Pricing tab. Click the Enable Promotional Code Discounts checkbox under Promo Code Discounts to activate the feature. Next enter your promo code, dollar or percentage discount, along with your start and expiration date and promo code capacity.

3. Custom Messaging for Closed Events

You want your event promotions to be everywhere your prospective registrants are. That’s why we added the ability to create messaging for closed events. Through this feature, you can post messages on registration pages that are not yet active or have closed because the event has passed or reached its capacity. This provides yet another place to promote upcoming events and specials that will increase engagement and facilitate registrations.

How to do it:

First, click your form name. Then click on the Advanced tab. Click on the Customize button next to System Messaging. There you’ll have the option to customize the messaging that prospective registrants see when the event form has not yet been activated when the event has reached its seating capacity, and when the event registration cut-off date has passed.

Do you have a favorite Event Manager feature to share? Or a tip of your own to increase event registrations? Let’s talk about it below.

Create an online registration page in minutes and take payments online that very same day. Event Manager r comes with a full set of management and marketing tools to make the sign-up process easier and more efficient. Use it for camps, buddy days, birthday parties, tournaments, and more.

Request a Demo to Learn more.

How to (And How Not to) Run Your Martial Arts and Fitness Events

Two young men sparring, practicing kung fu martial arts

I’ve tried special events. They don’t work. I never get new enrollments from them.”

I’ve said the same thing, but I still run special events. Let me tell you why.

I’ve been teaching professionally since 1993 and started working for my well-known instructor right out of business school.

Light the world on fire. That was my outlook.

In college, I worked on a project in management class: How to run a martial arts school effectively. I produced TV commercials that I wanted to use to bring in new enrollments by the dozen.

I moved to Seattle, lived in the back of my instructor’s school, and was so excited to start to build my empire. Running events was one of the ways I intended to build that empire.

I Handled the Registration Process on My Own

The first special event I ran was a women’s martial arts self-defense program. I promoted it through flyers that I distributed at the library. I gave the flyers to wives and parents of our martial arts students. I spent hours talking on the phone. I got sign-ups.

When the day of the seminar came, no one showed up. You could hear crickets chirping in the background.

On to the Next Event

Undaunted, my instructor had a great open space. Probably about 6,000 square feet of training space. I knew that lots of people were running Parent Night Out events. I figured why not supersize the concept by having a sleepover? A free event. Free to students and free to their friends.

The new approach? Like night and day. I had parents dropping off kids by the vanload. I remember one parent dropped her kid off and out the window she handed me his pullups.

“Just make sure he changes into this before he goes to bed,” she said. Then she closed the window and sped off.

Over 90 students ended up camping out on the floor of my instructor’s school. It had to be the worst night’s sleep I’ve ever had. And after everything was said and done, I reassured myself thinking I’d at least get 10 new students from my efforts. Wrong! Not one student signed up. Plus I had to feed pizza to 90 kids!

Fast Forward 20 Years: What I’ve Learned

I’m still hosting special events. Some are home runs. Some are stinkers. But I’ve learned the planning that goes into it — the process through which students register and the follow-up that takes place after — determines the overall success of your event.

Here are some steps to hosting special events and making them something that could potentially pay off to gain new members.

1. Make your special event compelling.

Ideas for martial arts schools:

  • Bring a buddy, break a board, and meet Kung Fu Panda (need to have a Kung Fu Panda costume)
  • Regular buddy night pizza party for Juniors. Spend $60 on pizza. The students have to bring a buddy to attend.
  • Jedi training buddy night
  • Nerf Night (buy a bunch of nerf taggers on eBay, buy the goggles too for safety). This could easily be your most successful buddy event.

Ideas for fitness businesses:

  • Kickboxing class
  • Boot Camps (indoor, outdoor, or both)
  • Kettlebell class
  • Nutritional seminar

2. Use online registration.

Remember how a bunch of people registered for my first event, but no one came to the event? You need to get a commitment from people.Having an online registration process is the way to go.

I use Member Solutions Event Manager online registration software to create online registration pages and collect payments (or I can keep the event free and still collect registrations through Event Manager). Having an online registration page gives me a link I forward l to my students. I also share the link on my social media networks.

I always suggest limiting the number of people who can sign up. Use that as your way of getting a commitment.

Pen and paper are things of the past. Think about it. If you have a paper sign-up sheet and people can see that no one signed up, that can really work against you. When you use an online registration process, no one knows how many people have signed up. It creates an invisible urgency because they do not want to miss out.

3. Follow up and continue to follow up without going overboard.

We need to be careful about how we follow up with non-members. I know that people expect there to be some sort of offer to join your school or gym. I’ve done “get 30 days of classes free and a uniform” limited to certain amount of students. I’ve also offered 6 weeks of classes for $69.

I think an email followed by a phone call is one of the best ways to follow up after a special event. I know there are some people who will email every week until they get the person back into their facility.

Keep In Mind

Here’s something that I did not understand until just recently. It’s very unreasonable for you to think that every person that participates in a special event is ready to join your school or gym. They may be interested but just not ready to raise their hand.

Let’s get something else straight. No matter how compelling, no matter how slick of a persuader you are, there are going to be those that will not join–at least not right away. That is why keeping their info in a warm lead pile is key. This way you can go back to them when you have another program or event to offer.

Let’s be real; let’s be smart; let’s work hard.

About the author: Korbett Miller has been teaching at his martial arts school in Kirkland, WA for the last 17 years. Korbett still actively trains in Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and received his black belt from the legendary Saulo and Xande Ribeiro. He’s also won the Brown Belt Senior II World Championships in Jiu Jitsu. He is most proud of his three daughters and 17-year marriage to his wife, Elise. Korbett can be reached at korbett.miller@gmail.com.

Martial Arts Summer Events & Marketing Strategies

Calendar on tablet

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.

2. Events

Another idea that I use to increase member retention, as well as acquire new members during the Summer months, is conducting seasonally themed events.

Annual Picnic

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.

Movie Night

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.

3. Attendance

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.

4. Marketing

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.