by Cris Rodrigues
In March 2020, our industry was shaken to the core. COVID-19 hit us like a ton of bricks, leaving many school owners feeling helpless. For some, switching to online classes was pretty simple; for others, it probably felt like preparing for a quantum physics exam.
Resources that my team and I put out, like the Virtual Martial Arts Blueprint and the Ultimate Facebook Ads Workshop, flew off the shelves as school owners searched for digital tools to help them survive. Many schools, however, took a hard hit. Freeze requests poured in. Cancellation emails and phone calls happened daily. School owners watched as their tuition billing declined.
When a mass exodus of clients happens with any business, often the owner will have a knee-jerk reaction to eliminate expenses. Unfortunately, said owner frequently eliminates the one expense that actually can bring in more revenue, and that’s marketing.
With many of the traditional forms of marketing thrown out the...
by Frank Silverman, MAIA Executive Director
In February 2020, the stock market hit an all-time high of 29,348. Unemployment was at a 50-year low of 3.5 percent. And the martial arts school business seemed to be riding an infinite wave of new student signups.
Then BAM! We were knocked on our collective butts by an invisible foe that has gone on to kill thousands of people, shut down the economy around the world, drive up the U.S. unemployment rate to an estimated 20 percent and, literally, terrorize people in ways not seen in modern times.
And that wave of student signups? It disappeared. Nearly every martial arts school in America was shuttered as cities and states implemented the recommended quarantine procedures.
It served as a stark reminder that life can — and sometimes does — change on a dime.
During the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, I received countless email messages and voicemails from school owners:
“I don’t know what to do!”
by Cris Rodriguez
There are two aspects of owning a martial arts business in which we, as an industry, need to focus on, level up and improve our skill set: marketing strategies and sales systems.
After all, sales are the lifeblood of our businesses. Our schools live and die by the number of new members we can attract.
Here’s a fact: People are always going to quit.
And I don’t mean to sound harsh, but the reasons they quit doesn’t matter. Your school needs to bring in new people. Without leads walking through your doors, those doors will soon close and your opportunity to have an impact on your community will fade.
It seems silly to see posts in martial arts–related Facebook groups that treat “sales” like a dirty word. Or that martial arts training should be free. Or that if you charge for your classes, you’re a sellout. Give me a break!
The word “salesman” presents a negative image for a lot of people in our industry....
IS STAYING INDEPENDENT AN OPTION?
There are still many school owners who choose to remain independent. Their reason – whether fully justified or not – is that by remaining independent, they will avoid teaching a “watered-down” style, or teaching solely for profit.
These independents feel that by not affiliating or franchising, they have more control over what is taught in their curriculum and how it is taught. Many schools that teach traditional styles remain independent to avoid modernization.
However valid their opinions on franchises may be, many school owners also have business reasons for staying small and independent. Many of them have realized that economies of scale do not always work out (i.e.: more/bigger schools for bigger profits). Simply put, bigger is not necessarily always better.
These successful-but-small martial arts school owners have figured out that in some industries getting bigger does not always means more money in your...
AFFILIATION VS. FRANCHISING
There are benefits to both affiliations and franchising, but close examination shows a sizable difference in the control of quality. Many organizations have voluntarily made the switch from affiliation to franchise, primarily to ensure better control of product quality.
The main difference between these two organizing entities is the legal ability to enforce conformity and quality. While some associations may try to instill control through the use of gradings and association “logos,” for the most part, the only true obligation the school owner has to the association is lip service. If the school owner has any disagreements with the affiliation, they need only provide nominal notice and then resign from the association.
On the other hand, the reason franchises have been successful in the past is due to the legal ramifications the franchiser can evoke if a franchisee does not adhere to the strict business model and requirements laid down...
A quick starting note: I did my initial research on this subject matter prior to the COVID-19 pandemic reaching North America. However, seeing the results of this crisis only reinforced my theory: Martial arts schools must consolidate, or will perish. There may be schools that are exceptions, but they are just that: exceptions.
Inconsistent Levels of Quality
A recent graph published in MASuccess showed that around 96% of all martial arts school owners own only one or two schools. Many of those second schools are small satellite locations (and usually located in an elementary school gym or a local community center). This indicates that there is a lack of consistency with respect to curriculum, standards, quality and legitimacy.
Unfortunately, this lack of conformity has resulted in numerous lawsuits against various schools, often due to some type of negligence on the part of the school owner. Whether this negligence was due to actions of the school owner or one of the...
With everything moving to digital, there is a huge opportunity to provide immense value in traditional ways. Try these 5 tips below.
By: Cris Rodriguez, MAIA Digital Marketing Expert
While Digital Marketing is the medium in which everything is happening nowadays, traditional forms of marketing can still play a role in supporting and uplifting your current marketing efforts.
Here are 5 Forms of Offline Marketing, as well as some examples demonstrative to that fact.
#1: Hand-Written Thank You Cards
For every single one of your members that has stuck with you through this, you should take the time to sit down and hand-write them a thank you card. It will go a LONG way.
Think about it, what's the only thing adults get in the mail? BILLS!
So imagine your member's surprise when they go out to grab their mail and find a PERSONALIZED letter from their Martial Arts Academy?
They will not only be elated but feel appreciated as well.
#2: Business to Business Relationships
Now yes, I am...
by Christopher Rappold
Open a business magazine or glance at the business section in Barnes & Noble, and then try to recall the business-building ads you’ve recently scrolled over while perusing the internet. Regardless of the industry or group on which they focus, you’ll find one thing in common: They’re disproportionately focused on getting new clients rather than retaining existing ones.
The mother of one of my students approached me in the lobby with her young son, who was visibly upset. She asked if I had a moment to talk. As it turned out, though the boy was an angel in our classes, he was a terror at home and at school. She was bringing him in to have him tell us what he’d done. Additionally, as punishment, his parents had decided to take away the only thing that seemed to matter to him: his martial arts training.
It took me a total of 10 minutes to reframe the mom’s decision to remove the positive reinforcement of martial arts....
by Melissa Torres, MAIA Division Manager
I’ve worked for the Martial Arts Industry Association for some time now. I’ve learned a lot, especially since I became Division Manager. When you spend time speaking with dozens, if not hundreds, of martial artists and school owners, you can’t help but start to notice patterns. One thing that really stands out to me is that school owners choose their career because they love martial arts. They have a passion for teaching and want to spread the benefits.
On one hand, this is great. On the other, it means that almost none of them considered the business side of the venture when they opened their schools.
This ties in with another pattern I’ve noticed: Many school owners don’t know the first thing about running a successful business. They get bogged down in daily tasks like teaching, answering phones, cleaning mats and taking out the trash — all important jobs, to be certain — but they tend to...
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