Use Direct Mail To Win Back Lost Prospects

Direct mail leaves behind a sour aftertaste in the age of digital marketing. Email takes the spotlight, and to its credit, works when done well. When email isn’t done well, your martial arts school can lose money on lost prospects. We define “lost prospects” in this article as interested people who failed to follow up with you or chose another school instead of yours. Direct mail is your winback solution.

Direct mail may not be as intuitive as email, but it’s a low-cost marketing trick that has a high ROI and consumer brand recall. Member Solutions, in partnership with martial arts industry expert Erik Charles Russell, has created the Pink Eraser-Invisible Close Method to help you recover the revenue that many schools never see.

What is the Pink Eraser-Invisible Close Method?

For its wordy name, the Pink Eraser Method is simple. The Pink Eraser Method combines sending a winback letter to the prospect with a pink eraser enclosed on the premise of helping them “erase the mistake” of not joining your martial arts school. It borrows the eraser concept from Dan S. Kennedy, a renowned marketing expert with 33 years’ experience who has written several books on topics like direct mail.

Because of the nature of the technique, you aren’t competing with the digital swamp that is most likely your lost prospect’s inbox. The weight and shape of the eraser gives the prospect a reason to investigate the envelope and to read the winback letter. You create an opportunity for a new business relationship through a low-risk situation.

How to use the Pink Eraser-Invisible Close Method

Materials You Need

  • Pink eraser
  • Member Solutions’ Prospect Winback Letter
  • A padded envelope

The only rule you must follow.

Use the Pink Eraser Method as a last attempt at making a sale. Do not include it in your everyday sales process. Keep the effectiveness of this technique by using it with people who have disappeared after a trial or short-term promotion for your martial arts classes. Need help with refining your sales process? Our member management software can help.

Step 1) The Pink Eraser Winback Mailer

Insert a pink eraser of your choice and the Winback Letter into a padded envelope. Send your direct mail package to your lost prospect. The weight of the eraser gets your prospects to open the envelope out of pure curiosity. Once opened, the introduction of the Winback Letter starts as,

“Anyone can plainly see…

I have enclosed a BIG eraser for BIG mistakes
because I think you’ve made one.”

The rest of the letter talks to the reader in a way that’s relatable (a low-barrier entry to a relationship). For example:

“I get it. You didn’t become a member because, for one reason or another, you felt like signing up on the spot would be a mistake. Maybe your fear is due to your past experience signing up for a membership that you never used. If you not becoming a member is in any way related to this, I want to help with that.”

It also is peppered with incentives like a free one month (30-day) membership and three bonuses of your choosing. It may sound formulaic, but the combination of emotional appeals with cool, free stuff works.

Step 2) The Invisible Close Method

The Invisible Close Method (ICM), as coined by Erik Charles Russell, allows you to close a sale without asking a prospect to make an immediate decision. Having time to build a relationship with the person and to demonstrate the value of your services often sells itself. Money then becomes an investment instead of an expense.

Ask to store credit card information in your member management software when your prospect returns to your martial arts school to redeem his or her free 30 days and free gifts. Tell your prospect that before the 30-day mark, she/he can decide to leave at any point with no charge.

The ICM sale happens near the conclusion of the 30 days. Talk with enthusiasm to your prospect about the progress he/she has made. Say that you want to see him/her continue that progress. If you have shown the value of your martial arts school, you’ll have an eager new student.

Make Direct Mail Work for You

The impact of direct mail can expand to other areas of marketing, like increasing awareness about your school, promoting summer specials, or engaging your current students. However, direct mail, like all forms of marketing, should be evaluated based on your needs and its effectiveness. One medium, like email, may be more effective for one martial arts school but direct mail and community networking may be more effective for another.

Although it may feel archaic, we recommend using direct mail, regardless of what’s trendy. If you’re looking for more martial arts marketing tips, Member Solutions can help!

Download your Member Solutions Winback Letter here to convert more prospects.

Free your schedule to build the relationships that fuel your martial arts school. Learn how Billing Manager gets you away from repetitive paperwork today.

Webinar: 10 Add-Ons to Increase Event Revenue

If you’re only offering registrants the ability to sign up for your event, you’re selling yourself, quite literally, short. Why? Registrants actually want options to make additional purchases made available through your events. Discover how to incorporate 10 event add-ons from Sarah McGeehan, our Client Success Expert, in this must-see webinar.

About Sarah McGeehan: Having held almost every position at Member Solutions, she knows the entire client experience inside-out. Sarah is a true jack-of-all-trades who is highly knowledgeable about connecting businesses with their ideal solution.

[/nd_container]

Bold Vision, Bold Behavior: A Success Formula for Selling Martial Arts Memberships

Words "Think Outside the Box" written on top of box drawn on chalkboard

You offer your students a bold vision of possibilities in both physical empowerment and inner strength. You teach students to boldly try new best practices. On the mat, you subscribe to the formula: bold vision through bold behavior.

Do you bring the same approach to your business development—identifying prospective students and enrolling them in your program? Or do you switch to “social selling,” which means observing social niceties versus building your business?

One way to know: Look at the results. Are you having any of these problems?

a) Not enough leads

b) Not enough leads converting to intros

c) Student attrition

Let’s discuss how you can solve these problems through bold vision and bold behavior.

Consider the student attrition problem. Could students be leaving because parent’s expectations are met or exceeded? For example, let’s discuss a case history in student retention:

The problem: A child is isolated at the bus stop and won’t interact with other kids. Your martial arts school builds confidence. In 3 to 4 months, the parent withdraws the child. Mission accomplished. But is it?

If parents see the mission is accomplished, there is no sense of urgency to continue.

What is urgency? For parents, it’s a compelling reason to act now, to keep the child in your classes. What bold vision do you offer parents?

Do you teach parents there are “levels of martial arts consciousness,” which can include:

a) The Martial Arts Mindset

b) Empowerment

c) Leadership

d) Personal Responsibility

e) Inner Strength

f) Technique vs. Power

Do you tell them (in advance) about the journey? If they leave, whose responsibility is this?

Perhaps this is an approach you can use to increase student retention; you might create a brochure to help parents visualize the journey.

Let’s consider lead generating next. Do you have enough leads? What bold vision are you using to generate leads for your Martial Arts school?

Here’s a thought: You may just use a brochure created for student retention (mentioned above) to generate leads. Mail them out and drop them off at places where parents can take one. More importantly: Your best lead source is happy parents. They are a prime selling asset. Are you maximizing this asset through getting:

1) Testimonial letters from satisfied parents?

2) Having them recommend you through social media, e.g. post a message on Facebook about your martial arts school?

Let’s say you have set an objective of 4 intros per month. It’s the second week of the month and you have one intro. Should you be concerned? After all, there are almost two-and-a-half weeks left to the month.

On a do-or-die basis, you want to stay on target of one intro a week. This calls for bold behavior―enrolling satisfied parents to be our advocates, to extend our good reputation. If the month is over, and we only have one intro, it’s too late to affect the results. We need to act now, on a “do-or-die” basis to hit our results.

Finally, let’s consider the conversion of phone call inquiries to intros.

Let’s spend a moment on examining the incoming phone call:

Social Seller

Customer: Hi, could I get some literature.

Martial Arts School: Sure, why don’t you come down for a demo.

Customer: First, let me see the literature, then maybe I’ll come down.

Martial Arts School: Sure, look forward to hearing from you.

Business Seller

Customer: Hi, could I get some literature?

Martial Arts School: Sure, glad to. Tell me, why are you calling us today?

Customer: I’m thinking of having my child take martial arts lessons.

Martial Arts School: Great! Any particular skill or character quality you want your child to develop?

Customer: He’s kinda shy at the bus stop.

In the second case, we used some boldness to learn the urgent need, and move from social selling to business selling. By focusing on the urgent need, we can increase our conversion to intros. Once they visit, we can give parents the brochure we designed with student retention in mind.

By bringing the bold vision and bold behavior that you employ on the mat to your business development, you can ensure a growing, profitable martial arts business.

About the author: membersolutions has taught selling skills for 17 years. He started three businesses and has made approximately 4,000 sales calls, selling both B2B and B2C. He invented a selling process, Urgency Based Selling®, with which he can typically help companies double their closing or conversion ratio.

15 Martial Arts Email Templates To Turn Your Prospects into Sales

New email alert on mobile device

Email is critical to the sales follow-up process and can help you book more appointments and increase your membership sales. However, writing effective emails can be time-consuming.

Use my 15 martial arts email templates and follow these best practices to optimize your email communications in no time.

Tip #1: Respond Quickly

  • Send an email within 10-20 minutes of receiving an inquiry to triple the likelihood that your prospect will schedule a visit (Source: Velocify).
  • Be the first of your competitors to follow up, and you’ll get 50% of the business (Source: Velocify).

How to do it: Use a martial arts software solution to automate your follow-up for web-based leads.

Tip #2: Personalize Your Emails

  • Personalized messages improve conversions by 10% (Source: Aberdeen).
  • Address your prospect by name in your emails.
  • Tailor your message to the specific reasons your prospect is interested in your facility.

How to do it: Start with our set of email templates, which gives you examples of messages for youth Martial Arts students, adults who want to lose weight and adults interested in self-defense classes.

Tip #3: Follow Up Multiple Times

  • If your first email goes unanswered, your second one still has a 21% chance of being opened. After that, there’s still a 25% chance that one of your emails will be read.
  • Unfortunately, 70% of sales emails stop after the first attempt (Source: Yesware). Don’t throw in the towel early; instead, try to outlast your competition.
  • Sending 4-6 emails is optimal when trying to get a response from a prospect (Source: Velocify).

How to do it: Create an “email flow” in your martial arts marketing software to automatically send a series of emails based on your prospect’s interests.

Start improving your email follow up today to convert more prospects into members.

About the author: Erik Charles Russell has been in the Martial Arts and Fitness industry more than 25 years. He owns Premier Martial Arts and Fitness in Watertown, NY. In 2015, he published a book based on his successes called “The Art of Selling Memberships.” The book became an international best seller — hitting number one in three categories in the U.S., Australia, and Germany on Amazon.com.

Download 15 Email Templates to Drive Trials and Sales.

Killer Customer Service: 5 Quick Tips for Your Fitness Business

Two young women hand credit card for membership payment to representative at front desk

Upon entering a sushi or Japanese restaurant, you may be greeted by the chefs with the expression, Irasshaimase, which means Welcome, please come in. It is one of the reasons I love going out for sushi, and I eat a lot of it.

Whether you’re a personal trainer, a fitness club operator, or a yoga studio manager, you want to create that same special feeling when people enter your business’s door or even walk into a class that is being taught.

The policy at our personal training studio is very simple: Every trainer greets everyone. They do not pass a client without saying hello. If the client is leaving, they say goodbye. These greetings and salutations go a long way to making our clients feel at home in our gym, which is exactly the feeling we strive for.

The easiest way to provide killer customer service in your fitness business is to do more for your members.

Here are five quick and simple ways to amp up your customer service:

1. Offer Towel Service—Provide clients with workout towels and shower towels so they do not need to carry around a wet towel all day in their gym bag. If you do not have access to laundry services, you can brand the towels with your business logo and use the towels as promotions by giving them to new clients as a welcome gift. The towels will serve as additional advertising should your clients visit another gym.

2. Provide Online Appointment Scheduling—Your clients deserve quick access to your schedules so they can make changes and book the sessions that they want, when they want them. The great thing with using fitness software like Member Manager is that frees up your time from answering the phone or emailing people back and forth to book appointments. Online scheduling will end appointment errors (no more double-bookings), and keep your clients happy and in charge of their scheduling.

3. Run Internal Events and Contests—Contests and events can be easy to put together and fun for your clients and trainers. Track the number of steps and reward those that hit 10,000 steps a day, or use the elliptical and stair climbers to track against the elevation of mountains like Everest or Fuji. Internal competitions, contests, and events will keep your clients engaged and your trainers focused.

4. Host an Online Store—This is another double-purpose service offering, one that clients love and that you can use to generate more revenue for your fitness business. Sell your memberships, personal training sessions, your fitness gear, and even your events through an online store. Add your affiliate’s websites to this same store to generate even more revenue for your fitness business.

5. Spa-Up Your Bathrooms —Your clients are busy and need to get ready for a day of work or a night out. Provide soaps, shampoos, and accessories to transform your change room into a spa-like space. If you do this right, you can also sell these same products to your members by setting up distributor agreements with suppliers.

When you deliver superior customer service like this, you can use it as a competitive advantage to contend with other fitness gyms and studios, to justify your price points, and to promote additional revenue streams, all while making your existing clients raving fans of your fitness facility.

]>

Help! How Can I Prevent Severe Member Attrition This Summer?

Kids laughing, playing in water at outdoor summer camp

Summer’s coming and I’m worried. A lot of our students, both children and adult students, took extended vacations last year and then never came back.

Any advice you can give? Ways I could be proactive … increase my chances that students will take part in training during the summer and return after vacation?

Korbett Miller’s Answer on Preventing Summertime Attrition:

You’re not alone. Summer is typically a challenging time for Martial Arts schools. We’ve had downturns in our enrollment and our gross/net almost every summer since opening our school in 1996.

In the beginning, when we didn’t have any financial cushion, it was desperation and panic in the summer. As my school became more viable, I began to just accept the fact that summertime was a down period and part of a business cycle. I resolved that there wasn’t much I could do.

A few years ago though, I realized that just isn’t true. You CAN do something about it. You CAN have a profitable, stress-free summer by taking some purposeful actions.

Here are two categories I recommend you consider. These will help create a sustainable summertime and a fun environment to maximize profitability and minimize member attrition.

#1 – Make Decisive, Positive Changes in Your Culture

First and foremost, everyone who has earned a black belt understands the value of commitment. Martial Arts is about consistency and commitment. Commitment is staying with something even when it’s a challenge or obstacles stand in the way.

Action Step: Make sure “commitment” is part of your instructors’ vocabulary and stump speeches, so that “commitment” is being reinforced with students.

Second, hosting events at your school is a great way to keep your culture fun and exciting, and your students involved and committed to training.

Action Step: Schedule fun events each week in your school. Take advantage of the warm weather. Go outdoors if possible to change things up.

Here are some event ideas for kids and adults:

Kids

  • Balloon Training
  • Water Balloon Toss
  • Dunk Tank Day (each year we have a “Get Back at Instructors Day”!)
  • Chux Days
  • Obstacle Course Days Ninja Warriors

Adults

  • Host a BBQ
  • Go hiking with your students
  • Host a special seminar

#2 – Change the Mechanics to Change the Mindset

Whether you offer ongoing or term memberships, I strongly suggest NOT offering summer holds or freezes. Here’s why:

If you “hold” people’s tuition during the summer, this is the mental conversation that you and your families will have come September when they are no longer attached to your school financially or physically:

Parents: “Johnny’s done Martial Arts for a while now. There’s that new sport, _______ or activity _______, he wants to try. I will just call and tell them we’re not coming back.”

Now here’s the mental conversation if you don’t “hold” someone’s membership for July and August, and they continue to make payments.

Parents: “Ok, I have paid for two months over the summer. I’m going to get my money’s worth with tuition. Johnny starts back right after Labor day.”

It’s a completely different mindset.

Action Step: Don’t offer summer holds or freezes. If you offer term agreements, credit the missed time to the end of the student’s enrollment period.

If you offer ongoing agreements, stress that you want to keep the student enrolled in the program and offer FREE private make-up classes for the weeks they missed.

This simple shift in the mechanics of how you run your school can dramatically change the complexion, cash flow and culture of your business in the summertime.

I hope this helps and wish you a successful, profitable summer! If you have any other questions, feel free to comment below or send me an email.

Thanks,
Korbett Miller

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 most recently received his Black Belt from the legendary Saulo and Xande Ribeiro and 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.Visit http://www.de-mythify.com to learn more about Korbett’s book and mini-course on finding freedom in a small business. Korbett can be reached at korbett.miller@gmail.com.

New Membership Strategy Kit!

Use this new kit to maximize your memberships and cash flow. 6 resources give you best practices on how to:

  • Effectively raise membership prices
  • Implement a membership strategy that provides a solid return on investment
  • Generate revenue beyond memberships
  • And more!

Download the Kit Today!

]>

Help! Our Front Desk is Costing Us New Members

We’re in the middle of the New Year’s resolution rush, but no one is joining. We think our front desk and approach to sales might be scaring people away.

Can you give us some tips to make our facility more welcoming, so it’s likely members join?

Chuck Heacock’s Answer on Making Your Front Desk More Inviting and Sales Approach Less Intimidating

Most of your competitors view January as just another start to another year. But if you’re reading this, you’re preparing to surpass your 2014 accomplishments … so congrats!

You’ve heard it before but I’ll say it again: first impressions cannot be changed. You can have the best program director in the world, but that won’t mean a thing to your business if your front desk — and the first impression you make — turns people off.

So here’s a quick look at my consulting notebook from 2014. Although they are in no particular order, these were the most consistent issues found in touring over 50 Martial Art schools and gyms last year:

Problem: No one greeted me upon entering the facility.

Solution: Very easy fix. If you’re open, make sure you, your assistant, your sales personnel, (anyone!) is there for a big warm hello.


Problem: Price list on the front counter.

Solution: More times than not sticker shock will occur. You need to build value to the prospective member’s dollar — or you just lost $1,200 to $1,500 by letting them leave. Brochures are for folks going on vacations. You need action now.


Problem: No action when walking in.

Solution: Hang pictures. Display trophies. Have monitors running that show you teaching class or highlight programs offered. Have something to build visual credibility.


Problem: Front desk is a tornado aftermath.

Solution: Throw everything away at the front desk that does not make you money. Clutter will kill a sale almost every time.


Problem: Walls are dirty. Paint is chipped, cracked and outdated in color, such as a pastel.

Solution: Take a picture of your location. Show it to your neighbor. Ask them what they would change to make it more inviting. Your opinion is irrelevant. You are there every day. You will not see what other folks see.


Problem: Hardcore vibe

Solution: I found that the family vibe locations are more profitable, and I will be the first to agree that money is not everything; I need to pay the mortgage. More importantly, I never want any of my members to feel intimidated, it would really defeat my favorite thing about my job: helping people become better humans.


Bottom line: Set your goals to be consistent, not explosive. Take 5 minutes at the end of every day to plan tomorrow. Ask yourself: “What can I do to make my business better?” By doing this, you will surely surpass every goal you ever set.

Chuck Heacock is a Sales Professional located in Los Angeles. He is best known for leading the licensing program for Krav Maga Worldwide, which has grown to over 240 schools throughout the world. He has been involved in every aspect of membership development from sweeping floors to owning 30,000 square foot facilities with over 35 years of experience. If your business is suffering, he will find a solution to get you back on track with his all-new 10-hour sales training course for you and your staff. You can reach Chuck at betterdojo@gmail.com.

Get Fit Holiday Promotions: How to Calculate Your Cost of Service

I do not know if holiday seasonal stress disorder is an actual condition, but if it doesn’t really exist, it certainly should. Every fitness business out there is being pushed this time of year to offer some sort of special or deal in order to entice people to sign up or make that first leap into health and fitness. Given that our wonderful industry also has some of the tightest profit margins, it can cause a greater amount of stress to try and exceed the expectations of the consumer.

Retail businesses can offer an 80% off discount, or a “buy one, get one free” promotion. They’ll still make a profit. But most of the fitness businesses we work with are service-based. If they offered these outrageous discounts, it would mean they would be paying people to work out. Not a bad promotion if you can swing it; “Come to my personal training studio and I will pay you to get fit!” You may get hundreds of clients, but those doors will be closed before they can even get in.

One of the best things to understand before you offer a special promotion is the cost to deliver your service. Determining your cost of service will assist you when you offer any promotions to existing and new members.

Calculating the Cost of Service for a Fitness Business

  1. Overhead Costs ―These are the indirect costs to your fitness business in providing services to customers. Examples include labor for other people who run the fitness facility or Martial Arts school, whether administrative assistants or a director of a department. Other overhead costs include your monthly rent, taxes, insurance, depreciation, advertising, office supplies, equipment lease, utilities, etc. A portion of all these costs will need to be included as part of your fees.
  2. Material Costs ― Material costs refer to stock or inventory required for the service. These are typically not huge additional costs for the average fitness business. For example, an automotive center would need the cost of brake pads and brake fluid when calculating a brake job. In our training studio, I add in the cost for our towels, laundry detergent, soap, shampoo, and razors. We purchase and supply these to our clients. They could just as easily be considered overhead expenses. In our training studio, I know that these toiletries add up to around $3 per client session, so I will use that number when calculating the cost of service and determining a promotional offer.
  3. Labor Costs ― Calculating labor costs for fitness businesses is usually pretty straightforward. Wages are typically the same per service per staff. That said, it is good to keep the average cost per service on hand and up to date. Also remember that when you give a raise to staff members, be sure to change this number to keep your costs in line.

We use our Member Manager software to calculate most of this for us with just a click of a button. I can see exactly the percentage of revenue per service that is going to labor for all staff or on a per staff person basis. Member Manager also calculates the revenue that I generate per service and pinpoints members that pay below my rack rate so I will know when it is time to raise their rates. All of these costs are important numbers to have handy when determining the discounts you want to offer. I can quickly add my costs together, along with my desired profit, to formulate an accurate price for a special.

Next week I will apply this cost of service calculation to a few fitness business models and show you some cool specials that help increase member attendance and still keep profits high.

Why Credit Card Processing Makes Good Business Sense

Imagine a brand-new member anxiously walks into your facility, eager to buy whatever is in sight. As he stocks up on gear, ready to make his purchase, you have to break the bad news: “Sorry, we only accept cash“. The member races to find some money but only has a few bucks in his pocket. He has a credit card on hand but you don’t take credit cards. Your member leaves disappointed and you lose a sale.

Is this you? Are you missing out on opportunities to grow your business? People rarely carry cash anymore; and when is the last time you saw someone with a checkbook?

To stay competitive in today’s marketplace, you have to provide what customers demand, and that includes the convenience of paying by credit card.

In fact, many people prefer to pay with credit cards to accumulate reward points and miles. Credit cards also help customers organize their transactions and provide buyer protection services, which make them a preferred payment method in many cases.

Accepting credit cards also provides several benefits to businesses:

    • Cash flow typically improves — regardless if there’s an increase in sales
    • Rather than sending an invoice and waiting for that invoice to be paid (or anticipate a check to clear), the money from the sale goes directly to your bank account
    • You decrease the likelihood that you won’t receive payment by capturing the funds as close to the time of sale as possible
    • And last but not least, an increase in sales

Many small businesses shy away from credit card processing because of the fees involved. However, numerous studies have shown that the average size of credit card orders can be as much as three times greater than those paid by cash or check. All said, the increase in sales heavily outweighs any expense incurred — making it a wise investment. Also remember … if you don’t accept credit cards, are your competitors doing the same? Or are they allowing credit cards and providing an advantage that you aren’t providing?

How to Get Started with Credit Card Processing for Your Business

In order to take credit card and debit card payments on-site at your place of business, you will need to do the following:

Step 1: Get a Merchant Account

A merchant account is a special type of bank account that allows your business to accept payments by credit or debit card. Merchant accounts also provide the ability for you to receive monthly statements detailing your business’ processing volume. To learn more about merchant accounts, visit csipay.com/overview.

To obtain a merchant account, you will need to apply under a merchant agreement with a reseller or bank. The application process is fairly simple and requires that you provide some background information about you and your business, along with some supporting documentation.

What you can expect to pay: The processing fees you will incur usually represent a small percentage of the transaction and a set amount. When shopping for a merchant account you will often see rates advertised that try to lure you in with a cheap transaction fee. Make sure you review ALL of the fees that you will pay. Many times, in addition to the low-cost fee, advertised, you can expect to pay different rates depending on whether you swipe or key in the customer’s credit card number. These fees combined together make up what you can expect to pay for credit card processing.

Step 2: Work with a Level One Payment Card Industry (PCI) Compliant provider.

The PCI Compliance standard was created by the credit card industry in 2006 as a way to prevent sensitive credit card information from being compromised to avoid credit card fraud. To comply with the requirements you need to make sure you work with a secure, certified processor to ensure the credit card information is securely stored and that the payment requests are processed in a secure manner. The processor, who provides you with your merchant account, will be able to explain this more fully and educate you on best practices when accepting credit cards at your business.

Step 3: Establish a way to capture transactions.

This is accomplished with a credit card terminal or reader. You are probably already familiar with them when you have shopped in a retail location and used your credit card. The reader can be configured to work with other software solutions, such as a front-desk system to help manage your Fitness facility. Once you start processing credit card transactions, the transaction amount will be sent to your bank account minus the transaction fees that are withheld.

There are numerous readers that exist and you can shop and select the best reader based on your needs. Some are even wireless if you want the flexibility to move around when processing payments.

Remember earlier when I mentioned that you can expect to pay processing fees when accepting credit cards? These fees will actually change depending on the manner in which you capture the credit card transaction. You should try and swipe the actual credit card whenever possible since that will help provide the cheapest processing rates for your transaction.

Getting started with credit card processing may seem a bit daunting. Don’t worry ― it is easier than you think. There are many great resources out there to help you get started. Make sure you pick a reliable, dependable partner; and in no time at all, you’ll realize the many benefits that credit card processing can bring to your business.

About the author: Steve Pinado is the CEO for Member Solutions. Recently, Member Solutions launched a new affiliate business, Constellation Payments, to deliver secure and reliable payment processing for merchants. For more information, call 888.248.7060 or send an email to sales@csipay.com.

Make Direct Mail a Part of Your Back-to-School Marketing

"Back to School" chalkboard on desk with school supplies

I’m a huge fan of using direct mail to market my martial arts studio. Being just outside of Boston, Massachusetts, I’ve always had to find creative, low-cost alternatives for my marketing. My overhead historically has been high, so a costly marketing plan has never been an option for me.

When I first started to use direct mail as part of my marketing plan, I did everything wrong and wasted a lot of money. The difference between then and now is that I have a strategy. My ads work, my list is hot, and it’s coupled with an email.

Think of your marketing plan like your fighting plan. When you first started, you closed your eyes and just went in swinging. As your martial arts skills developed, you became a smarter and more strategic fighter. You picked your shots wisely and with laser-point precision. In the end, you were less tired, less beat up, and more victorious.

Thinking through your marketing plan is extremely important. It will take some time to execute properly, but the results will be worth it. Here’s what to consider.

1) Mail to a Good List of Prospects

The first step of having a successful campaign is to keep a good list of prospects. If you are just starting out, purchasing a list is always an option. However, if you can create a list of people who have visited your school through special events or have taken part in something you’ve offered, you will find that your results in turning them into students will be much higher.

2) Create a Professional-Looking Advertisement

Once you have your list in place, it’s time for your advertisement. I create my own because, over the years, I’ve become pretty good at graphic design and making my ads more specific to our offerings. If you aren’t at this point yet, Get Students has some really nice, professional-looking cards that will help you get started.

3) Keep in Mind You Have to Pay for Postage, Too

Regardless of what you use, there are some important tips to remember with direct mail. First, you need to understand that in addition to the cost of printing the cards, you’ll also have to pay for postage. A postcard stamp is cheaper at $0.34, but if you mail 5,000, you’re still looking at $1,700 in postage. It still may be worth the cost, but I personally try to keep my budget lower and more focused on the hot leads I mentioned above.

4) Consider a Bulk Mailing Service

What’s worked best for me is to create oversized postcards and mail them through a bulk mailing service. Standard rate postage is much cheaper—the only drawback is that it will take a couple weeks for your pieces to be delivered. With a little planning, it’s worth the money you’ll be saving versus mailing first class. Plus, you don’t have to be the one putting the labels and stamps on each card.

5) Present an Attractive Offer

I’m getting ready now to start my mailing for the Back-to-School rush. My postcards are set to hit 500 mailboxes on or around August 29th. The 2nd set of 500 will be delivered to the same prospects two weeks later on or around September 15th. We’re offering a $100 discount on enrollment if they sign up prior to September 30th.

6) Include a Call-to-Action and Testimonials

It’s very important to have a call-to-action, or CTA, on your postcards. If you don’t have an expiration date, there is no sense of urgency for them to call you now. Figure out what type of promotion works for your school and make your offer. Always include a testimonial from a happy student or parent. Testimonials are worth their weight in gold when it comes to marketing your school.

7) Send Emails Between Mailings

In addition to the postcards being delivered, send emails to the prospects between mailings. This helps with reminding them that you are the one extending an offer.

8) Look at Your Return on Investment

Lastly, always review your return on investment prior to spending any money on marketing. My direct mail campaign will cost me roughly $700 from start to finish. One student who signs up from the efforts will bring in $2,600 for the year. I’m confident I’ll get more than just one new student from this campaign, but regardless what that actual number is, I think it’s a pretty good gamble.

If anyone has questions about direct mail marketing at your school, please don’t hesitate to ask. I’m happy to help.

About the author: Steve Giroux has been training in the 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