What if I told you that there was a system that you could implement in your school to generate tens of thousands of dollars in sales in only four hours on a weekend? What if I also said that some schools have used this system and made over $100,000 in those four hours? These results are not an anomaly. The Championship Martial Arts system of holiday sales has helped many schools turn a slow season into the year’s most profitable month!
By Michael A. Perri Jr.
There is a common belief among martial arts school owners that there are two times during the year when your school has to brace for a struggle. The first is during the middle of the summer. The second is during the holiday season in December.
For the latter, the winter’s cold and holiday parties, coupled with the excitement of boys and girls unwrapping their gifts, all play a part in creating a challenging — albeit festive — month for school owners. School owners have found it hard to stand out amongst all the season had to offer.
Through trial and error, as well as by learning from the successes of others, the team at Championship Martial Arts has managed to home in on a system that follows the old adage: If you can’t beat them, join them.
Mike Metzger and Frank Silverman, founders and co-owners of Championship Martial Arts, own eight martial arts schools and have another 52 licensees in the United States and Canada. These schools decided to be part of the Championship Martial Arts family so they could be part of a group of likeminded martial artists looking to make a positive impact in their communities.
They had a goal to refine the practices that allowed them to turn their passion into profit. Through the interaction of their licensees and the hundreds of other martial arts schools that they’ve consulted for during the past 18 years, Metzger and Silverman helped create the ultimate system to make your holiday season a massive success.
The holiday sale system was one they knew needed to be tweaked. Instead of trying to compete with every other retailer, they created a system that turned the concept of a holiday sale on its heels. The first thing they did was stop referring to it as a “sale.” This change in thinking meant the end of a holiday sale and the beginning of a holiday event.
The problem with referring to it as a sale is that it limits the interest to individuals who are looking to get a deal or who need last-minute gift ideas. In contrast, a holiday event gives every student and family member a reason to come to the school and celebrate the season. This simple shift in mindset turned a decently attended holiday sale into the can’t-miss event of the year! More people meant more sales.
If I ended this article right here, you could go back to your school and see some improvement in how you present your holiday sale (now your holiday event). What you may not realize, though, is that the process of having amazing holiday event results doesn’t start in the last quarter of the year. To have game-changing results from your holiday event, you have to play the long game. Preparation for the biggest event of the year — in terms of retention and revenue — begins all the way back in January. Keep reading to see all the steps you need to take to have an amazingly successful holiday event and to hear the tips and takeaways from the CMA family.
Retail is Just the Tip of the Iceberg
Although retail is an important component of a successful holiday event, you need to realize that it is only one element. In order to maximize your returns, you must incorporate all five profit centers: new member sales, upgrade program sales, special events, retention and then retail. New member and upgrade sales will include any tuition, down payments and paid-in-fulls. Special event sales can include single events such as parent’s night outs, testing and private lessons. Ideally, these events should be packaged so students can pay for several at the same time. You should also package your retail to create a win-win for you and your members. You win because you’re getting larger sales, and they win because they’re getting to save big on the things they want and need.
“You can’t stop there, though,” Metzger says. “There are three components to generating more revenue: more customers in attendance, more transactions per customer and more money per transaction.”
Once you realize that your event’s success relies on multiple streams of revenue, you can begin focusing your efforts on attracting as many people as possible. Before you begin preparing for the holiday event itself, however, you start laying the groundwork 12 months ahead of time.
Preparation and Culture
When you hear of holiday event successes like that of Dan Cartan, owner of DMW Martial Arts in Snoqualmie, Washington (one of Championship Martial Arts’ longest-tenured licensees), or that of Phillip and Kristine Blackman, owners of Blackman’s Championship Martial Arts in Albuquerque, New Mexico, it may seem improbable that their schools make more than $100,000 in sales in just four hours. We are not just talking about accounts receivable, either. That’s money in the bank. A hefty portion of this six-figure profit comes from families paying their tuition in advance — aka “paid-in-fulls.”
This is an idea that may draw skepticism from some because of its potential to lower a school’s monthly billing. With the right planning, though, the idea is not so risky. You have to understand that the preparation starts with two main components: new student signups at key times of the year and the development of a dojo culture that highlights the benefits of your holiday event.
“We’ve developed such a culture in our school around our holiday event that people are excited about it and look forward to the savings they get year after year,” Cartan says. “They get so excited that they even share with their friends who currently are not training in our school.”
This effect allows people to take advantage of huge savings year after year. It has developed into a win-win situation for everyone involved. The students win in that they will save money over the course of their training by paying up front. The school wins not only on a financial level but, more importantly, because it creates a family that is more committed to helping everyone at the school make a positive change in their lives through the martial arts instruction.
To combat the fear of losing out on your billing check, you have to make sure you have set new student campaigns to take place throughout the year. The CMA schools implement a system that allows their billing to stay the same and, in some cases, even rise after a successful holiday event.
This starts with a holiday trial offer and a holiday enrollment special campaign designed to help get new tuition revenue in the month of January. These two ideas form a core principle of staying on financial track after the holiday event. The new members are your next crop of students who will enjoy the savings next year. If you pair these holiday trials with your New Year’s specials, summer specials and back-to-school specials, you will be setting up your next holiday event to be a major triumph.
Make it a Can’t-Miss Event
Let's start with this statement: Stop calling it a “sale.” This event needs to be more than that. It has to be the can’t-miss event of the year. Food, fun activities, prizes and giveaways will help generate the excitement needed to make this a well-attended event. Don’t forget that great attendance is integral to your holiday event success. Here is a list of features your event can include to help get more people there:
Appointments You Set Will Equal Revenue You Get
Now that you’ve generated the excitement you need to make people eager to attend your holiday event, it’s time to set revenue-generating appointments. These meetings are your opportunity to have your students save big on their tuition. Each appointment is also important in helping you reach your goal of making the event financially successful. It is recommended to make available 15-minute time slots throughout the event.
Let students know that this event will offer the best savings of the year and that you would love to set a time during the event to explain how they can save money. Don’t tell them the exact deals in advance. Let each appointment know that you will decide the night before the event how much savings you will be able to offer for the holidays. The appointment should not be a high-pressure sale; it should simply be an offer to take advantage of the best savings of the year. If they decide not to partake, it’s OK.
For this reason, it is imperative that you to try to schedule a minimum of 16 appointments. That’s one appointment every 15 minutes for the duration of the four hours. If you have multiple people on hand to help present the holiday event special, you can double or even triple the amount of appointments you get. Experience has shown that the schools that have the most attended appointments end up with the greatest results.
The Win-Win Solution: They Save and You Earn
The reason this event is such a success year after year for CMA schools stems from how everyone is a winner at the end of the day. The students, the families and the school all come out on top. We know that the biggest monetary investment a student can make in our studios is their tuition, and so, during the event, we want to give them the opportunity to save significantly on their training. The holiday event special that we offer is an additional 5 percent off their prepaid tuition plus a credit for them to use on non-tuition-related items at the event.
This works particularly well when upgrading students into your higher-level training programs such as the Black Belt Club or Masters Club. At most CMA-licensed facilities, those programs are three years long. They help provide a large boost in cash flow at the event. Just think what you could do if you were able to get just 10 families to take advantage of the deal. For demonstration purposes, let’s say each family pays $2,500 in full. That will equate to $25,000 just in paid-in-full tuitions — and that doesn’t include anything else you bring in from the event. Also keep in mind that the average paid-in-full price is likely to be much more than that.
This same approach can be taken for members you want to renew in their current programs. The only stipulation is that they need to pay for 18, 24 or 36 months up front. When thinking renewals, it need not be only members who are expiring in December, January or February. Anyone who wants to take advantage of the savings can do so regardless of expiration date.
If you don’t have an upgrade program, you can still benefit from this system. Give your customers the opportunity to save money on their program, as well. To do this, present them with the option to pay in full for 12, 24 or 36 months. That will save them money and lock them into their current program without any tuition increases. So, whether you have only one training program or multiple programs, you can use this system to generate revenue from tuition.
Packaging Your Other Profit Centers
A large portion of your holiday event revenue will come from new students, upgrades and renewals, but you don’t want to rely solely on those streams for your holiday event success. You must recognize that your other profit centers — such as retail and special events — are just as important as new students and upgrades. To get maximum benefit for your students and yourself, packaging these profit centers is the way to go. Your retail numbers and your special-event sales will increase, thus helping you in both revenue and retention.
Even though I’ve hammered home the idea that this holiday event is more than just a retail blowout, you still need to maximize your retail sales. Aside from providing a set discount on merchandise, the best way to generate higher retail sales is by giving a greater markdown when customers purchase a package. This can be in the form of sparring-gear packages, program-based training packages, weapons-training packages, home-training kits and so on. Your students and their families will be looking for things to put under the tree, so you should have these items on display so shoppers can see and feel them as desired.
You also want to package those things that fall into the special-event category of the five profit centers. Testing fees, camps, “parents’ night out” events, private lessons and birthday parties all fall into this category. You can generate a great deal of revenue by offering packages for these events. Give a 10-percent discount to prepay your testing fees through black belt level. Sell a special-event punch card that gives 12 parents-night-out or seminar events for the price of nine. If you already sell private lesson packages, sell them for a slight discount the day of your holiday event. The goal is not only to sell the benefits of these packages but also to show the value.
Time to Take Action
You don’t have to be a part of the Championship Martial Arts family to get the kind of results we do, but you do need to have the same mindset, beliefs and execution. This article provides a basic blueprint that will help you lay the groundwork for a successful holiday event. Take action today, not tomorrow! See what you can do now to implement these ideas in your own school. Get your team involved and excited about the possibilities that can come with a new view on what a holiday sale can and should be. Success at your holiday event can give you the momentum you need to start the new year with a fresh energy, enthusiasm and hope for continuing growth.
Michael A. Pe
rri Jr. is the COO of Championship Martial Arts Ltd. and MAIA Edge. He has practiced martial arts since 1987 and has black belts in American kenpo and chito-ryu. Most recently, he earned a fifth-degree black belt in the CMA system. He can be reached at [email protected] or at (407) 249-2004 ext. 414.
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