by Christopher Rappold
In 2020, most martial arts schools had to put their teaching on hold because of the pandemic. We were told that we had to close our schools. We came back swinging on Zoom. We were told that we could open at 20-percent capacity, then at 40-percent capacity; with 6-foot distancing and 100-percent mask wearing; with no masks if we trained outside; and so on. Many schools were able to maintain their student body; unfortunately, some did not.
Now, here we are, more than a year later. Most schools still have some restrictions in place. Even if there are no legal restrictions, regaining the community’s confidence is a hurdle many of us must overcome because of the uncertainty COVID created. One form of marketing you should consider employing at this time is the kind that comes from the inside out.
I’m talking about the students who currently train with you in person, the ones who believe in you and trust you. They are vital to the success of your school, and they can help you get old students back and new students in the door. Here are a few ideas you can use to focus on them as we move forward. Obviously, before implementing any of these suggestions, consider your specific situation and follow your state’s guidelines.
A drawing is easy to do and relatively inexpensive. Get a cool prize or two that an adult or a kid will like. (I recommend staying away from anything electronic.) With spring here and summer coming up, fitness-themed prizes and outdoor toys are great options.
Now you’ll need to create a list of the ways your students can earn raffle tickets. Make sure that list includes (for parents) posting videos and pictures of their children taking class, (for children) posting reviews of social skills developed from being in your organization, and (for everyone) posting reviews of the school’s cleanliness and voicing opinions about the best technique in a particular class. Your families will be more than happy to help you grow.
Holding a small in-house martial arts tournament is great for boosting retention — and it’s fun for the students. You can create as many divisions as you need to keep the numbers low on the mats. Have rewards for everyone and something special for the winners.
We recently held a Jenga tournament at one of our locations. Two divisions were created with $50 prizes for the two winners. The cost to enter was $15. We had 15 competitors signed up. The tournament went three rounds in both divisions to create first-place winners, and a good time was had by everyone, including the parents who came to watch.
Jenga tournaments — along with Lego contests and Bingo nights — can be socially distanced ways to bring fun to the school and create the safe social atmosphere that most families long for. After our event, we had parents who posted to share their child’s excitement, and more important, they posted to share their appreciation for the social environment we created for everyone.
Put your instructors in the spotlight for this one! If you’re part of a franchise or association, you may be able to bring in instructors from outside your school (but still from inside your organization). Once you have the instructors, choose a topic based on a skill set your students would love to get better at, then put together a 45- to 60-minute seminar. Make sure it creates a great learning environment for all who attend. Have an option for people to participate on Zoom, as well.
At all these events — which can be held monthly, bimonthly or quarterly, with just your students or with your students and the community — make sure you have someone to take pictures for social media or perhaps to make live posts. Having your students shout from the rooftops about the coronavirus safety measures you’re taking, the great classes they’re getting and all the results they’re receiving at your school will help you regain the confidence of your COVID-weary community. Let us make it martial arts strong!
To contact Chris Rappold, send an email to [email protected]
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