by Kathy Olevsky
I‘ve been operating a martial arts school full time for 39 years. I think I may have made every mistake that can be made in this business. The reason I’m still in business, I believe, is because I asked for help. I learned quickly that others before me had already found solutions. In this reality-based column, I’ll point out key mistakes I made in my business career, which are common errors among school owners, both large and small, throughout our industry. Then I’ll share the solutions I applied to overcome them.
Summer is approaching, and some schools see a considerable drop in new business during these summer months. If it happened last year, they assume it will happen this year, too.
In reality, this is a great time to make sure you drive new business to your door. There are families that stay home during the summer months and enjoy a “staycation” rather than a vacation. So, there is no reason not to jump on your marketing and try to increase revenue during the summer. Don’t let previous summers dictate how your business will go this summer.
Many schools find that they can avoid the slump by targeting specific summertime business. It’s not unusual to offer a 60- or 90-day program to get people in the door. After all, if you teach a great curriculum in the first 60 days, new students would be crazy not to continue on after the summer months.
Summer is also a time when schools decide to pack their schedule with new and exciting events (or, they decide that events will fail because summer months are slow and never even try).
In fact, the summer months are a great time to experiment with “Fun Fridays” or “Wow Wednesdays.” Set up a day with a variety of different one-hour clinics and let people sign up for one — or for a whole day. Themes can be taken right from traditional curriculum. But just be sure to offer them the opportunity to get a concentrated dose of something that they might typically not get in a full hour of a regular class.
In the summer, we seem to run out of ideas to get new members in the door. We have run so many Buddy Days that it doesn’t seem like a worthy idea to repeat. However, this may be a great time to do a BOGO (“buy-one, get-one” free) offer. Everyone likes a deal and we need to give perspective students a reason to start now.
So, why not take the opportunity to capture new business with a “buy-one, get-one” program? It could be that you offer the parents of current students three free months of training. Or you might offer your standard introductory program BOGO, as an opportunity to get two for the price of one.
A BOGO offer can be directed at new people and marketed on social media. The success of a BOGO offer is based on making sure it has a limited time and is a great deal. That way, the prospective student perhaps can’t resist, but it doesn’t damage your future income.
Summer is also a time when many schools focus on children’s Summer Camps. We often overlook the teenagers when it comes to Summer Camp. You cannot just modify the kid’s-camp program and expect teenagers to come.
However, a little brainstorming with some teens can help you design a one-week program for them. There are many topics that appeal to teens, subjects that you can’t do with younger children.
In addition, adults enjoy summer clinics and special events. If you have an adult population of current students, don’t forget to target them with some special seminars. These should be one or two hours long and take place during the day. You‘ll be surprised how many will take time off during the summer months to do some self-improvement.
We have actually set up a Clinic Day for teens and adults. These clinics are one hour long and cost $10 each. The participants get a discount for signing up for a whole day, rather than per clinic. Topics include everything from wristlocks, meditation and sparring strategies to specific weapons classes.
The key message here is, don’t let summer be the “bad time of year” for your business. Make it a success in 2018!
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