By MAIA Executive Director Frank Silverman
It’s the most wonderful time of the year — for martial arts schools, that is. We’ve hit the trifecta: the end of the hot days of summer, the start of back-to-school time and the edge of the holiday season. Any one of these three warrants an individual column, or even a full- fledged article, but I have only 700 words. Since that’s the case, I will attempt to wrap everything into one column. I want to cover the essential details of the question, How do we handle the transition from summer’s end through back-to-school and into the holidays?
First, regardless of how good or bad summer was, we need to focus on getting everyone who took a break, no matter how long or short, back to regular class attendance. We know it’s always less expensive to keep a client than to find a new one, so hop on the phone, send emails and post to Facebook. You need to do whatever it takes to get your students back on the mat.
Host welcome-back events. Offer free private mini-lessons and special make-up camps or classes to those who have been absent. Whatever it takes, get them back. These students will eventually help refer new members for the back-to-school season and, of course, become buyers during the holiday season.
As for back-to-school, first and foremost you must remember that you have a current student base. This is important for two reasons. First, we often pay less attention to current students while we focus on new members. This can lead to higher-than-usual turnover of existing members during this time of year. It does no good to sign up one new member and lose two existing members for lack of attention. Your young students especially may be caught up in the thrill of school-based activities and new extracurriculars. You need to provide an experience that keeps martial arts in first place in their minds.
Second, you should understand that everyone in your school is part of the marketing machine that helps you acquire new members. At this time of year, referrals must be a top priority. If existing members aren’t happy or if they quit, your machine shrinks, leaving you with fewer people to promote your school and refer new students.
Finally, to tie this into the holidays, you need as many people participating on the mat as possible if you want not only to end the year strong but also to have success in your holiday sales.
Holiday sales are partially a numbers game. Whether you’re a martial arts school or big-box retailer, your success starts with getting as many people as possible through your doors. The key is getting everyone involved. Some students will spend a lot; some only a little. The key to success is having everyone spend something.
Another great thing about holiday sales is that you don’t have to make this a hard sell. Everyone wants and needs items for their favorite activity/hobby (martial arts), and the holidays are the perfect time to ask for them! Remember that spending during the holiday season not only helps the bottom line but also helps your students — and it’s great for retention. Students are more engaged in activities when they have just invested in equipment and gear related to that activity.
At the end of the day, simply put, this is a great time of year. Stay focused and let’s all enjoy this most wonderful season!
Contact Frank Silverman at teamc[email protected]. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook @franksilverman.
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