How to Run a Successful Anti-Bullying Event in Your Martial Arts School

Two smiling kids with hand around shoulder promote anti-bullying

Martial arts schools have the opportunity to play a leadership role in bullying awareness, education, and prevention. Hosting anti-bullying events, including seminars, workshops, and courses, can help reduce the negative impact of bullying in your community, while getting the word out about your martial arts school.

The Role of Martial Arts in the Anti-Bullying Movement

I founded Martial Artists Against Bullying (MAAB) because I believe that no other industry is in a better position to do something about bullying than the martial arts industry. The mission of MAAB is to enlist the international martial arts community in a unified effort to educate, inform, and help eradicate bullying.

Our anti-bullying program is designed to help children of all ages overcome the negative impact of bullying. Since we launched MAAB, hundreds of martial arts schools have hosted events, talks, and seminars with students around the country. 

National Bullying Prevention Month

In 2006, the Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights (PACER) declared October to be National Bullying Prevention Month. The event offers a special opportunity for martial arts schools to raise awareness and education about how our industry can contribute to anti-bullying techniques.

At MAAB, we created a blueprint to help martial arts school owners plan, promote, and conduct a successful anti-bullying event, which we call the Done with Bullying program. The course can be shared with existing students or non-members at your facility, local school districts, or community centers.

What to Cover in Your Anti-Bullying Course

We recommend conducting the MAAB Done with Bullying course in four sessions (one per week) throughout the month of October to coincide with National Bully Prevention Month. Alternatively, you can present all four sessions during a single 4-hour seminar at any time during the year.

Anti-Bullying Event Session Topics: 

  • Session I: What is bullying? Why do people bully? Why is it bad to bully others?
  • Session II: What should/shouldn’t we do when we see others being bullied? 
  • Session III: How should you deal with bullying? 
  • Session IV: “Buddying” & what to do instead of bullying.

Register for free with MAAB to access our full anti-bullying course program, which includes recommended scripts and activities for each lesson.

How to Market Your Anti-Bullying Event

Along with our course outline, MAAB provides a marketing plan to help martial arts school owners get maximum exposure and participation in their communities to take a stand against bullying. We’ve laid out a eight-week campaign plan that includes specific tasks for promotion and member engagement. 

Week 1: Announce your participation in National Bully Prevention Month on social media. Commit to posting about the topic one to three times per week. Set dates for your four course sessions (or your one-day event). 

Week 2: Promote your upcoming event dates via in-class announcements, posters, Facebook Events, email, and online event registration

Week 3: Raise awareness about your anti-bullying event by reaching out to local news and media. 

Week 4: Use every means possible to remind members and prospects to sign up for your first course session. 

Week 5: The week of your first event, make sure your facility and staff are fully prepared. Send out reminders to attendees. Host a great event!

Week 6: Repeat the process for your second event session. Use photos, video, and media coverage from your first event to grow your second!

Week 7: Continue to grow your third session with social media and word of mouth. 

Week 8: After the successful conclusion of your final event, request feedback and testimonials from students and parents. Share a recap of your month-long anti-bullying program with members through email and social media.

Taking a Stand Against Bullying

While anti-bullying events may be a part of the business strategy of many martial arts schools, I believe our industry has an even more significant role to play in the fight against the rise of bullying in our society. If every child had the opportunity to learn about bullying prevention, imagine the difference it would make in our communities. Together we can change the world, one lesson at a time. 

A life-long Martial Arts professional and anti-bullying advocate, Dave Kovar has been teaching anti-bullying strategies to his students for over 35 years.

How to Plan Martial Arts Birthday Parties for Kids

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Birthday parties are a super versatile tool that can directly impact the bottom line and immediate cash flow of your martial arts school. Four major benefits include:

  1. Getting leads and new members
  2. Creating business partnerships
  3. Increasing retention and your school’s sense of community
  4. Improving your recurring income

With a targeted plan, like the one we’ve outlined here, you can start using birthday parties tomorrow as a part of your business strategy. It’s important to know that you, the owner, do not have to be solely responsible for running the parties that you host.

Having a staff member who is good with people is good enough. Creating positive, memorable experiences will do more for your retention and lead generation in this instance that touting your expertise.

Follow these five steps, in addition to everything we talk about in our video above, and you’ll become the community favorite spot for birthday parties.

1) Know your industry

Knowing your industry may seem like obvious advice, but industry heavily influences aspects like activities, themes, marketing, and business partnerships. What will work to make a sports center unique and attractive for parents will most likely not work for a martial arts school. It’s important to understand your target or ideal participants: how to engage them and how your business can create the best experience for the birthday kid, family, and friends.

How you can differentiate your business to start, according to industry, is most easily done through themes and activities. For example, you can use well-known pop culture references (Ninja Turtles is a classic) or anything else relevant to your birthday celebrant’s interests.

2) What to include in your birthday party package

Your party package should focus on

  • providing the space,
  • creating an agenda,
  • leading the entertainment/activities
  • and basic food accommodations (pizza is a good option).

This is where you can create your competitive advantage over other businesses in the area that only provide the space but no activities. Keep in mind that parents may want to have more control over the details, like cake and decorations. When you decide on your party package, it’s best that you avoid the hassle of super personal details and be strategic about what you provide.

Timeline & Expectations

Aim to run your parties between 90 and 120 minutes. We recommend using the first 10 minutes for a tour of your school or gym. If everyone is new, take the opportunity to introduce yourself and lead the tour yourself. If the birthday celebrant is a member of your facility, have he or she lead the group.

After the tour, transition the group to your planned lesson, workout, or activity. Establish behavioral expectations by using titles, like sir, ma’am, Mr., and Ms. Setting expectations and following through with them is important because it’s a selling point for parents in two ways:

  • you’re ensuring that everyone leaves with a great experience (more birthday parties) and
  • you’re showing that you can foster discipline in their kids (meaning they’re more likely to buy from you).

Include giveaways, like a free uniform or trial membership, to reward your small guests for good behavior. Again, your goal in hosting birthdays is to create more interest in your school.

3) Decide your price

Birthday parties at your school fall in the marketing/lead generation category—meaning that your pricing doesn’t have to follow an exact formula. Depending on your goals, you can choose to charge for or give away parties in a strategic way.

Charging for birthday parties

If you want to gauge price, start by researching other businesses in your area that throw birthday parties. What are they charging? You may see that it’s not uncommon to attach a $200 to $300 price tag for a party.

Next, determine how many kids you want to include in your base price (you can choose 12, 20, or another number that works for your space). We recommend that you charge $20 extra for additional headcount. For transparency, list the group limit included in your base price and the extra charge on your party package advertisements.

Important note: We promise that you won’t be stripping parents of their hard-earned cash. Much like creating a price structure for your classes, your party prices are based on the value that you provide in creating a memorable experience.

Giving away parties

Giving away a party to a current member or as a result as a promotion in your community is a valid and smart choice to make if you’re thinking of it in terms of how many kids and parents you’ll contact as a result. Integrating free parties with your paid parties will help your overall marketing strategy.

Upselling

You can include options like board breaking or another activity as an additional option for purchase outside of your standard party package. Upselling items will add to your revenue and gives parents the ability to customize their child’s party further.

Bonus: As you already know, breaking things in style is pretty cool. A child who has an awesome board breaking experience is more likely to want to come back to your school to do more.

4) Connect with local businesses

Creating local partnerships with businesses who can contribute to your parties is a marketing win-win. In exchange for running promotions or giveaways as an exclusive vendor, said vendor can promote your business through flyers and other marketing items onsite.

Examples include:

  • discounted cakes from a local bakery,
  • pizza from a particular restaurant, and
  • discounted party decorations from a party supply store.

5) Manage party bookings & RSVPs digitally

The advantages of having digital invitations and party packages will outweigh not having them at all or using paper. Forms like the ones that you can create in Event Manager will

  • collect party information and process payments
  • help you know who is coming and who is interested in your services

Using Event Manager for invitations

Parents will not have to pay for invitations if you use Event Manager. The bonus is that they can send the link easily and that you can include questions about interest in your services. If families indicate interest before the party, you can call right away to talk with them more about your classes.

Download: 6 Martial Arts Birthday Party Best Practices​

Why Involuntary Attrition Is Killing Your Member Retention

"Why Involuntary Attrition Is Killing Your Member Retention." Woman training with ropes at gym.

When you’re losing the battle for member retention, it’s impossible to ignore. Complaints, poor attendance, and painful cancellations show a clear problem. But what about when content members disappear without notice?

While on the surface it seems like your member retention is rock solid, a silent killer may be lurking. Due to failed, expired, or delinquent credit cards, you may lose members without knowing to a phenomenon called involuntary attrition.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at involuntary attrition, its impact on your business, and how you can prevent these needless cancellations.

What is involuntary attrition?

Involuntary attrition occurs when memberships are automatically cancelled due to failed payments. On average, 15% of recurring credit card payments decline. Some industries experience more than a 30% decline rate. When these payments fail, they are rarely retried. The delinquency goes unnoticed and ultimately results in a lost customer.

Mobile Payment Swiping Credit Card

Causes of involuntary attrition

To fight involuntary attrition, you must understand and address each of its underlying causes.

Credit card expiration

Credit cards expire about every three years. That means that about one-third of your members will need updated payment information every year. If you don’t have a system for keeping credit card data up-to-date, you risk losing a significant amount of revenue and members.

Credit card declines

Credit cards can decline for over 130 reasons. The most common reasons for credit card decline include credit limits, suspected fraud, late payments, and deactivation. Even when consumers are notified of declines, they may not remember to update their payment information with your business. Relying on members alone to troubleshoot declines will result in missed payments and unwanted cancellations.

Delinquency

While most membership management software platforms offer robust and reliable recurring billing, many still lack the features to handle delinquent accounts properly. Most software will not automatically retry a payment after it is declined. Likewise, automatic payment reminders via email and text message can help to prevent missed payments—but they do little to correct the situation once an account is delinquent.

If ignored, delinquent accounts can turn into lost members. Software helps streamline membership payments. However, solving delinquency requires you to employ staff to review accounts and work with customers to resolve issues.

How involuntary member cancellations impact your business

Although other business challenges often overshadow involuntary attrition, it can do significant damage to your finances and member relationships.

Lost revenue

The most obvious result of involuntary attrition is lost revenue. With each needless cancellation, you lose money not only in the current month but every subsequent month that the member would have stayed.

Losing money in the first month stings, but losing money every month afterward crushes your bottom line. This long-term multiplier effect means you must replace the lost member with a new one if you want to make up for the missing income. This puts additional strain on your business because it requires more time and resources to obtain a new member than keep an existing one.

Damaged relationships

Generally, cancellations come from your least engaged and lowest-quality members. Involuntary attrition, on the other hand, can impact any member. For example, a member who attends regularly may come back from vacation to find that his or her membership was cancelled due to an expired credit card. In some cases, this member is locked out of the facility and unable to access their workout history and progress.

Of course, involuntary attrition may not be permanent. Your best members are more likely to notice the error and return to your facility. However, the experience is unpleasant and may damage your relationships. As a business owner, it’s your responsibility to safeguard your relationships with members—especially your financial interactions with them.

A shrinking community

In some industries, involuntary attrition accounts for 20-40% of total attrition. This means that one out of every five cancellations is unnecessary and avoidable.

The loss of members has a compounding effect on your business. The smaller your community becomes, the less likely you are to benefit from word-of-mouth marketing and referrals.

Limited growth

If you’re constantly fighting attrition, it’s difficult to grow your net profit. The combined challenges of lost revenue, damaged relationships, and a shrinking community will limit your potential for growth in the short and long term.

Credit Card and Mobile Phone in hand

How to stop involuntary attrition

Despite its devastating impact, involuntary attrition is relatively easy to fix. Because these members (generally) want to stay a part of your community, you don’t have to change your service, facility, or staff.

To end involuntary cancellations, you need to make the billing process seamless and keep members’ payment methods up-to-date. Below are some of the strategies that we include in our managed billing service to reduce involuntary cancellations:

1) Update credit card information

Keep payment information current to avoid losing members to expired cards. Our team follows up immediately to get updated credit card information and to collect outstanding payments.

2) Communicate with members about missed payments

Catching overdue payments before they lead to involuntary attrition requires speed, skill, and determination. You need to follow up immediately, give customers multiple chances to resolve the issue, and phrase your request in the right way to make members act. At Member Solutions, we handle the scripts as well as reach out to your customers to resolve payment issues quickly and effectively.

3) Offer convenient payment methods

Often, members will proactively manage payments if given the opportunity. Our system allows members to make a payment or update payment methods 24/7 through an online payment portal or by phone.

4) Provide customer service for members’ billing needs

Your members’ needs are not limited to learning good fitness habits and training techniques. Maintaining a healthy financial relationship with members requires effort, too.

The customer service team at Member Solutions is trained to respond to the unique financial needs of your members. They practice responding to members’ concerns about contracts, personal financial challenges, and data security. The additional support strengthens relationships and makes members less likely to be lost to involuntary attrition.

5) Track overdue payments closely

Stay ahead of involuntary attrition by constantly tracking a list of delinquent accounts and past-due invoices. To make things easy, we track missing payments for you. All you need to do is check reports on collected payments, accounts receivable, and active members periodically.

Winning the war for member retention

Member retention is the key to your increased profitability and long-term growth. You can stop needless cancellation and build a strong community by learning to recognize the causes and signs of involuntary attrition. Through a payment recovery system and superior customer service, you can boost revenue and provide a better member experience.

Want to eliminate the threat of involuntary attrition? Get a demo of our managed billing services.

Make Email Newsletters Work for Your Fitness Business

Subscribe to newsletter on tablet screen with office objects on wooden desk.

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.

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

Two smiling colleagues practicing a genuine membership sales pitch

Does selling memberships make you feel greasy? It shouldn’t! Think of it this way: Your sales process is not only the key to more money for your martial arts school—it’s also the way to discover 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 prospective members’ 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 this goal? When did you begin to consider training to meet your goal?”

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 your goal, 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. 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 your prospect:

“What do you see happening when you achieve your goal? 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 vision 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. Offer 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

Mobile device camera for recording video marketing promotions on white background

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.

7 Ways to Handle Late Member Payments

Mobile invoice for member payment on cell phone

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

Free Trial tile letters on top of notepad with coffee and office items on desk.

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 Use Your Martial Arts Blog to Get More Leads

How to Use Your Martial Arts Blog to Get More Leads

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.