Martial Arts: Martial Arts Business
The Human Side Of Marketing and Student Retention for Martial Arts Schools
By Christopher Caile
Most martial arts schools don't have a lot of money or time for self promotion or advertising. But there are a number of simple things you can do to promote your school, keep student interest and encourage retention. One of the most powerful is the human connection.
# 1 - Connect with visitors and those viewing your classes.
When prospective students drop in to observe a class, make special efforts to have someone greet them, introduce themselves, your school and art and invite them to try a class. This can make a powerful impression. Here it is especially important to be friendly but professional and try to get to know the visitor to create interest. Let them know you are interested in them and their goals. Just as important is to get their name and other personal contact information to follow up. This is a minimum if the inquiry is by telephone. Communicate and invite the person to visit.
# 2- Know your students, pay attention to them and communicate.
Know each of your students by name, know their personal circumstances, their goals and their strengths and weaknesses. And communicate as often as possible. Use their name. Let them know you see their improvement or effort. This can be a powerful tool since students respond to attention. They appreciate being recognized personally and your interest in their development. If you know their birthdays, acknowledge them and any other events such as births or marriages. If there is sickness , an accident or a death in the family, respond with a personal note or a card from the class where students sign their names. You can also visit students if they are hospitalized or attend funerals. This way you let them know you care and are attentive to their circumstances.
When students miss classes, follow up. E-mail them after not seeing them for a while, or better make a phone call. To build a sense of community, use e-mails to keep students up to date, make announcements and distribute photos.
# 3 - Develop a website with student connections to encourage and retain interest.
Your web site should not only be a vehicle to attract new students and provide basic school information, it should also be used to promote group identity and highlight various students and their participation in school activities.
For new visitors your web site should sell you school and art and promote what you are doing. Highlight what is special about you as a teacher, your school's or art's philosophy, its history, its special programs and what students can accomplish. Also include a class schedule and contact information. This will give new readers a good introduction to your school.
For Current Students: You also want to interest current students and keep them involved.. Include news of events, photos of students, school activities, promotions, competitions and other activities. Let students see themselves. They will refer their friends and family. Also include simple links to Facebook and Twitter to help spread the word. Then there are articles, something virtually all martial arts websites forget. If you frequently update your website with new articles, a blog or other interesting written information, including photos or links to YouTube.com, your students will return to find out what's new or interesting. This will help student maintain interest and foster a sense of community. You can write these yourself, use a senior student or find something on the web you like and then request permission to post them on your site. FightingArts.com, for example, receives requests all the time just for this purpose.
# 4- Make connections in class.
Don't simply show up for class, teach and leave. Talk to students before class, introduce new students during the class, acknowledge visitors, birthdays or school activities. You can also give short lectures on what you expect, discipline, manners, proper etiquette, respect, etc., or add special drills, self-defense technique, a fighting technique or drill, even a kata application -- anything that will promote interest.
In class be sure to acknowledge performance or effort. Don't yell, be derisive, or overly critical. If you verbally make a correction, it is sometimes good to mix in a smile or add a little humor. Also work with students, or have an assistant do so. Work one-on-one in class, making adjustments, showing proper form or technique. And after class make sure you talk some more with students -- another step to continue and build personal connection with the students. Remember, students are consumers and they respond like them.
In short, a very effective form of marketing your martial arts school and retaining students is through personal communication and contact. The more you, and your staff build relationships, and maintain personal contact and ongoing communication with your students, former students and visitors, the better results you are going to see.
About The Author:
Christopher Caile is the founder and Editor of FightingArts.com.