Student Recruitment On A Shoestring
By Christopher Caile
You can spend a lot of money recruiting new students
for your martial arts school, but you always don't
have to. Many small schools, or those teaching through
recreation programs, or clubs in high school, colleges
or at universities, just don't have the financial
resources to expend for traditional advertising. But
this doesn't mean there aren't effective low cost
your students to become ambassadors for your
A simple but effective recruitment method is utilize
your own students -- they are your most valuable asset.
Use them to publicize your school and to distribute
promotional materials. But to make this work, you
have to organize a program that can consistently and
effectively work for you. Here is a simple program
that has proved effective for others.
Give your students postcards (mini flyers) to distribute
to their friends, family and other potential students.
They can offer a free introductory class or classes.
To increase their effectiveness:
Include a personal message
from you, the instructor or owner, talking about the
benefits of study.
Ask the recipient to
talk to the person actually giving him the post card
about his or her own dojo experience and what value
the student found in practice. This cements interest
in your school and in the value of study before the
potential student ever gets to your door.
Ask your students to hang flyers on bulletin boards
of grocery stores, convenience stores (such as 7-Eleven),
houses of worship, windows of stores in your neighborhood,
and in local high schools (you will need permission),
colleges or universities.
One effective method for flyers is to include small
"tear off strips" at the bottom of the flier
with your dojo's name and telephone number (printed
vertically). If you use these, however, it is important
to replace the flyers regularly.
Design the flyers for
the area and audience where they will be posted. Use
different colors, messages and pictures. You can highlight
special summer programs, after school classes, pre-school
age classes, classes to build student's self-confidence,
self-defense programs, etc.
When a student calls
or comes in with a flyer or tear off sheet, find out
where it was seen and note which message was on the
your own students -- they are your most valuable
Ask your students to become ambassadors for your
school. Create a business card size VIP guest pass
entitling the recipient to two or four weeks of free
lessons. You might also include a free uniform. Your
students can be encouraged to always keep a few of
these passes with them.
Encourage your students to talk to friends, schoolmates,
relatives and people they meet about your school,
their own experience and what they have gained from
study. And ask them to hand these passes out whenever
they ever start talking about their martial arts.
You or selected students can also visit school guidance
counselors. Explain the values of discipline, role
models, building respect and etiquette that your art
can provide. Give examples of particular success stories.
Suggest that your VIP Pass might be just the thing
for students who could benefit from study.
Give out special VIP Passes to local churches, schools,
summer athletic clubs or groups, special organizations
for their fund-raisers and raffles. If you check the
area within a couple of miles of you dojo your will
be surprised at how many of these type organizations
Offer more than just one or two free lessons. The
offer of a free lesson is expected and is therefore
is perceived as having little real value. But two
weeks or four weeks of free lessons is something else.
It will be valuable to the student and will give them
enough time to catch on to your martial art and develop
and interest in continuing.
You will easily be able to tell which new VIP Pass
students are most enjoying your art and their new
experience. Don't wait until the end of the free lessons
to talk to them about joining. If they are interested
you can also offer them incentives to do it now rather
than waiting until their free program ends. This way
you can benefit from their enthusiasm.
Once or twice a year have a contest with prizes for
the person who distributes or posts the most fliers,
post cards or VIP Passes or brings in the most new
Tracking Your Efforts
Track which effort,
flyers, postcards or VIP Passes work best for you
Track flyer messages.
Which produced the best results, and where?
Track when new students
join. Do they join at the end of the summer, or when
the new year begins? Then, tailor your distribution
of new flyers, postcards and VIP Pass distribution
to these periods to generate maximum effect.
Track your students
who are most effective in your promotional efforts.
Have each student initial the back of the postcards,
flyers, and VIP Passes he or she distributes. Flyer
tabs can be similarity marked but this effort is often
too much for many students. Either pick a time for
everyone to get together and mark your promotional
materials, or do it yourself with a simple 2-3 number
code assigned to the students participating.
Reward Your Students
When a new students signs up and you can track their
recruitment to an existing student's effort, reward
The reward can be a
fixed value to be used toward the purchase of anything
in the dojo, entry to an event or tuition. Everyone
can be treated equally, or you can create a graduated
reward program to provide extra incentives to you
Give special recognition
to the most successful students. Mention them at the
end of class, or at special school occasions; use
their names in school newsletters, give them special
awards or recognition plaques, or hang their pictures
with the goal achieved in the school where you post
other special information.
out the Learning section for
more articles about the
business side of martial arts.
About The Author
Christopher Caile has been a student of the martial
arts for over 40 years, and a teacher for more than
35 years. He has an MA in International Relations
with a specialty in southeast Asia, and has lived
and traveled in Japan, Okinawa and south and southeast
Asia. He is 6th degree black belt in Seido karate
under Kaicho Tadashi Nakamura, a long time student
of aikido under Roy Suenaka (Wado-kai aikido), as
well as a student of other martial arts (including
daito ryu aikijujutsu, judo, boxing and several Chinese
arts) and Zen. He is also a teacher of qi gong (Chinese
energy medicine), in which he trained under Master
Zaiwen Shen and is Vice-President of the DS International
Qi Medicine Association.
In his business career he has been a newspaper journalist
and entrepreneur of several business ventures, and
he designed innovative telecommunication and marine
products which were developed in companies he founded.
In 1999 he founded FightingArts.com (which went live
in August 2000) and its parant company eCommunities
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