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Combat the Summertime Slump by Winning the Retention Battle

By MAIA Executive Director Frank Silverman


In a recent column, I discussed the need for focusing on enrollments during the summer month. Even though summer enrollments are often less than stellar, it's important that we work towards getting new students.

I suggested ways to capture the low-hanging fruit: siblings and parents. Assuming you’re focused on new-member enrollment, a focus equal in importance during the summer is retention. It does no good to open the front door to a new student only to lose one through the back door.

There are quite a few reasons that summer retention is difficult. First, you are competing with the swimming pool and the season’s extended daylight hours. As much fun as it is to train in martial arts, in the summer months, staying out late and playing with friends is big competition.

There’s no getting around heat and nice weather being an issue for many students. Just as important is the fact that families break their normal routines with out-of-town vacations. This alone is a big cause for dropouts.

To help close the back door, here are my best suggestions for each of the three issues mentioned above. Of course, there are many ways to combat a high quit rate (specifically teaching great classes and great martial arts). In addition to those basics, here are three proven ideas that work to combat the summer blues.

Tip #1: Hold Events

The first tip, relavant to the longs days and the swimming pool, is to conduct events. Make sure your studio is packed with things to do that are related to martial arts but also on the fringe. For example:

  • Host a “Spirit Week” during the week of 4th of July, where participants dress in red white and blue.
  • “Plain Clothes Day:” Train in gi pants and t-shirts or while wearing shoes (more like in real life).
  • Host pizza parties, movie nights and more types of special events.

You may have less participation per event, but hosting more events means reaching more people. The more active your members are, the less likely they are to quit.

Tip #2: Keep Your School Very Comfortably Cool

Beat the heat! This is simple. Heat causes quitting. I'm not talking about students here. I mean the parents. If your school is too hot for parents to sit in for their child’s class, they will eventually stop coming.

Make sure your air conditioning units are working at full capacity. Have fans up and running if the AC can’t keep up. Offer free cold water if the heat index is off the charts, and make sure the water fountain is available to and working for all attendees.

Tip #3: Postcard Special

Now, how about the summer vacations that seem to derail members? The best way to combat this — but impossible, of course — is to not allow summer vacations. That typically doesn't fly, so the next best thing is a postcard special.

Ask all members to send postcards to the studio when they travel. Offer a small gift for receiving a postcard. Limit gifts to one per student. Gifts can range from a keychain, a $2.00 gift certificate to your pro shop, or even a $5.00 discount on a future event.

Post all the postcards on a school wall for everyone to see. At the end of summer, draw a winner from all the postcards for a free private lesson. This will incentivize people to come back to the school, to see the postcard display and receive the prize.

All three of these above suggestions are meant to keep your students “your students” during the dog days of summer.

For great back-to-school ideas and more on retention, join us at the Martial Arts SuperShow at the Bellagio in Las Vegas in July. Sign up by calling the Martial Arts Industry Association (MAIA) at (866) 626-6226 or register online at



Contact Frank Silverman at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter and Facebook @franksilverman.

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