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Marketing tips

Intro

The following are some areas of advertising that seem to work best for the martial arts.

Internet

With hundreds of millions of people using the Internet, you must have school website. However, to reach even a fraction of those potential customers, you need a well-designed site that promotes your specific business goals

Ask yourself:
  • Why do I want to be on the Web?
  • What image do I want to present?
  • What do I want people to be able to do when they visit the site?
The answers will help define your online goals, guide the design of your site, and indicate which functions you need to include. A cheap appearing, poorly designed site makes your school appear to be a small-time, poorly run school.

Some tips for building a web presence:
  • Quickly choose a short, descriptive, easy to remember domain name and get it registered before someone else registers it.
  • Build, or have someone build, a professional, eye-catching website for the school. 
  • Find a web-hosting company to provide server space for the site. Find a good host by researching companies that offer the most features, reliability, and support for the least money. You can find good service for $10 a month, or you may use the free Google Sites.
  • If selling online, outsource the payment process, Google Checkout and PayPal are solid options. 
  • Consider "search-engine optimization," or ways to increase traffic to the site. Firms specializing in this range widely in quality and cost, but you may be able to achieve some results on your own; check out SEOBook.com or Hubspot.com for tips

Social media

Create Facebook, Twitter, etc. accounts for the school so you may keep students updated on school events or alerts, such as closing due to weather. Make regular updates so students will get in the habit of checking the sites regularly.

Keep all the social media accounts updated daily with informative posts. Stay active on social media websites to get your school widely known around the web.

Email past students

One of the cheapest, often most successful ways to boost traffic is to send an email newsletter to past students. Make the newsletter informative, not just an advertisement for the school. It is more effective to market to the people you know. Just your showing that you remember them may cause them to come back. Often their lifestyles have changed since they left the school, and now they may have new reasons to come back, such as wanting to lose weight, having children they want to start in training, or having more money that is discretionary. Remind them of the good times they had when they were students and tell them about your new offerings.

Guestbook

To build a customer database, keep a guestbook at your front counter, and encourage visitors to sign it. Have space for them to add their name, phone number, email address, and ages of potential students. Enter this information into your school contact database and use it for mass emailing. Keep copies of your latest newsletter and class schedule at the counter so visitors may see what you may offer them.

Host events Consider hosting events (not just demonstrations). Have snacks, music, and lots of hands-on exhibits. Find out which nonprofit organizations attract people who might also be interested in the martial arts or other individual physical sports, and then donate school branded martial art objects to the charities' silent auctions or gift bags. Form alliances with non-competitive businesses where your customers spend money, like restaurants or health clubs. You can share your client databases (assuming you tell customers in advance and allow them to opt out) or display their business brochures in your school. Doing this spreads the cost of marketing.

Direct mail

Direct mail offers a personal touch and can get big results on a small budget. If you do not already have a list of people to contact, you will need to get one from a list broker on the internet.

Once you have a contact list, craft an attention-getting, professional appearing letter
  • Do not use "To Whom It May Concern" as your salutation line; people will immediately view it as junk mail. Address potential clients by name so they will take notice of the letter. 
  • Start by pointing out the problems most martial art students want to solve, such as extra weight, getting into shape, or self-protection. 
  • Research local police records to find where the most burglaries or assaults are occurring and target these neighborhoods. Include clear, but concise, evidence as to how your school can help solve these problems for a reasonable price. 
  • You may want to offer a discount for registering for classes within a certain time frame.
  • A testimonial or two from people in the target age group, or target organizations and businesses will give your product a school face.
  • You also need to relieve people’s fear of trying something new. They may fear failure or getting trapped in a contract. Remove this risk by offering a money-back guarantee.

After you have finalized the letter, test it on a pool of potential customers to see what works, and then use what you have learned to refine the letter or to reach out to a larger audience.
Print advertisements This includes newspaper and magazine ads, brochures, flyers, and other similar ideas. Print advertising is well-suited for the martial arts because it gives you a chance to combine action pictures with ideas to convince the person that he or she can do what the pictures depict. Most people have seen the martial arts in one form or another in the movies or on television, so the aim of your advertising is not to inform people about your martial art, but to inform them that you teach the martial art and that they should come to your school and try it.

You should convey a small amount of information in your ads about your experience, reputation, and qualifications. Concentrate the ads on benefits for the student. Include school information, such as location, phone number, class schedule, and school name. This lets people know who you are and what you do.

Your next task is to convince the potential student to come to the school and try a class. To do this, you must overcome any stereotypes you think the person may have, as well as trying to relax any hesitation the person may have of starting a new activity. You must convince the target audience that they can, and should, be training at your school.

Your ads must be tailored to the group you are trying to reach. For example: suppose you open a school in an area that is mostly comprised of people ages 25-45 years, who are blue and white-collar workers, with medium range incomes. Most of this group would probably take classes at night, and most will have probably worked during the day. They will want classes designed to help them relax and stay in good physical condition while reaping the other benefits of martial arts training. A mistake would be to advertise something like "Olympic and tournament training." A 25-45-year-old working person has trouble relating to why he or she should want to enter Olympic or tournament training. Your advertising must be written so that the group of potential students you have identified can relate to and react to the ad. This holds true for any form of advertising.

Most major cities have some type of city magazine or newspaper insert that informs the public about happenings in the city. If your target market reads such magazines, you may want to consider advertising in them. However, for the new school, the rates of advertising in these magazines may be too much. The money could probably be better spent in other ways, until your revenue flow increases. Do not get caught in the trap of advertising in inappropriate places simply to see your name in print.

Radio and television

Radio and television advertising is expensive so only large highly successful school have an advertising budget for it. Therefore, for small schools, especially startups, they are not an option.

Flyers and brochures

Flyers and brochures provide a way for you to explain in more detail the kinds of services and benefits you offer. They give those who are hesitant, a piece of information that they may carry home and consider. It is to your advantage to have quality brochures with text and color pictures. Remember to strive for the highest quality possible.

Your flyers and brochures must do the following:
  • Stress the benefits of training in taekwondo, and more specifically, at your school.
  • Give relevant information about your qualifications to teach, i.e. your name, training history, tournament or other achievements, etc.
  • If you use photographs, make them action pictures.
  • Try to keep the brochure informative and exciting, but keep in mind that the student must be able to relate to it.
  • List all necessary information for finding you and your classes. Include the address, directions to your location, website address, telephone numbers, and office/class schedules.

Word of mouth

Corporations spend millions of dollars developing customer loyalty for their product. They try to manufacture a reputation for their products artificially because they know that word-of-mouth is what truly sells most products. As a small business owner, you must earn a reputation on your own, one that is honest and so deserved that word-of-mouth increases and is effective and enduring. If your teaching is of good quality, you excite student interest, and if you offer all the other hallmarks of good teaching, your students will tell their families and friends, and word will soon get around. You will still need to employ as many means of advertising and promotion as you can, but it will be word-of-mouth that creates your reputation.

A good reputation has the potential to attract new students; however, nothing will drive away potential students faster than a bad reputation. You may use the same principles as the giant companies use. Get your name before the public and making sure that all associations made with your name are positive. When a potential student decides to try martial arts training, you want your school to come to mind.

Community involvement

Many businesses are involved in community activities. Some feel that it is just using good business sense to become involved, while others sense an obligation to help the people that help them stay in business. In either case, you will sooner or later be asked to help in some sort of community activity, especially charity functions. You should strongly consider these requests if time permits.
You are a new and growing business, one that needs to be introduced to the community and gain its support. Other business people who are involved in various civic affairs offer a potential wealth of experience from which to seek good business advice. Help them find out what kind of person you are, instead of making them guess.

Teaching opportunities

Another excellent possibility for promoting your school is by teaching short length (one day, one week, etc.) classes in the physical education departments of local schools, churches, etc. The idea is to arouse interest in attending your classes. Remember that in all the methods and possibilities of advertising and promotion, the key point is to get the potential student to try your school. If you have them involved in the training, you give them the opportunity to actively consider the idea and to want to become more familiar with your school.

Visitors

A visitor to your school offers an interesting situation. He or she has made the effort, for whatever reason, to inquire about your school. You must now balance yourself between selling them on the school and not scaring them away by being over eager. There are several possible solutions to this:
  • Have brochures handy for the visitor. Make sure that they have something to take from the school when leaving.
  • Ask the visitor if they would like to try a short, private lesson. Offer nothing fancy, maybe just a simple self-defense technique. Again, the point is to get them involved.
  • Allow them to watch the class.
  • Consider some type of premium to have them return, such as a free uniform or a free trial period of instruction.
  • Encourage the visitor to talk with other students and to ask questions.
  • No matter what, be courteous. Remember you are developing a reputation. Even if the visitor decides not to take your classes, he or she may still be a source of word of mouth advertising to others.

Photographs

Hang lots of photographs of students training at camp, posing with trophies, etc. in the lobby so visiting parents and their children can see the fun they are missing.

Vacation time

During the summer months, most schools experience a decrease in business. In the months of March, April and May send out a bulletin that explains your "Vacation Policy" during the summer months. Your policy is the students MUST make up their classes in advance of going on vacation. This way when they come back, they will be on target for their next belt exam and their fellow students will not pass them up.

Summertime

Summer program

Post a big sign in front of your school that reads "SUMMER MARTIAL ARTS ONLY $99! INCLUDES 6 WEEKS of classes and A UNIFORM!" Make sure this sign is easy to read, bold letters and is at a place that people in cars that drive by can easily see.

Summer intramurals

Points are awarded for participation in games, extracurricular activities, buddy classes, attendance etc. Set it up to promote participation in the school and watch all their friends join up!
  • 1 point per class attended
  • 2 points per activity attended
  • 10 points for the team winning a game challenge
  • 20 points for signing up a friend
Set it up any way you like.

Summer contest

Run a contest for the person who had the most classes attended over the summer months. The winner receives a prize such as $150.00 of school merchandise. Everyone wins; even the students who do not win a prize gain from the extra effort to have good attendance (make sure you stress this to the students).

Business card

  • Keep card simple: school name and logo, school address, what the school offers, owner name and title, and school phone number, email address, and internet address.
  • Give a card to everyone who comes in the door.
  • Give students a few cards so they can give them to friends.
  • Give a card to any person with which you do business.
  • Tell each person to whom you give a card to give you a call if they, or their children, ever decide to take taekwondo lessons.

Free introductory lessons

Free introductory lessons should be an exception, not a rule. Most people know the free lesson is only a ruse to get them in so they can be hit with a sales presentation. Instead of advertising free lessons, use the free lesson as a deal maker for a reluctant customer by telling them “How about I give you a free introductory lesson before you make up your mind” and then write “Good for free trial lesson” on back of a business card and sign it. This personal offer may bring them back. Tell them that if they decide not to use the card to give it to a friend to use.

Posters

Bulletin boards

Bulletin boards are everywhere, in laundry mats, colleges, grocery stores, libraries etc.
  • Print eye-catching, professional, but simple posters on day-glow yellow paper with tear-off telephone number tabs. Each tab should also have the school name.
  • Have students take posters to post.
  • Keep a supply in your vehicle so you can post one whenever you see a bulletin board.

Window posters

  • Print three large posters on day-glow poster board with the words “New beginner class starting now!” “Enroll today!” Rotate the poster colors periodically so it appears to be a new sign.
  • During holiday’s or season changes, add an extra banner-style sign that says, “Holiday Special”, “Summer Special”, “Back to School Special”, “Taekwondo Summer Camp Program” etc. Add holiday decoration around the sign as appropriate.

School party

Some parents may be a little afraid of sending their child to martial arts class, but they do not fear a children’s party. Use any excuse for a party: holiday, schools out, school anniversary, Easter egg hunt etc.
  • Decorate the school and have free food, music, games, and door prizes.
  • Have students wear their uniforms and perform demonstrations with board breaking.
  • During the winter season, ask that each person bring canned food to donate to a local cause.
  • Print ticket size invitations and give many them to each child, one for every child in their class at school and for other friends. Have them write their name on the tickets and pass them out.
  • Have staff members on hand to answer questions about the school to do enrollments. The more memorable the party, the longer its effects will be on enrollment.
  • With adults, have pool parties or ball games to build comradeship.
  • Contact your Chamber of Commerce to organize an Open House Party to bring other business owners to your school so they can learn about your martial art. If they join, they will probably talk to their employees and customers about it and bring in more students. 

Appreciation night

  • Quarterly, conduct a "Family & Friends Appreciation Night."
  • Give each child invitations that they can sign and pass out their parents, grandparents, or other relatives and friends to invite them to the event.
  • Make the invitations special to the student so everyone will want to come. Welcome video and still photographing.
  • Have a door prize they must sign up for and have snacks and drinks available.
  • Have a special area set up for photographing students with their instructors or family/friends. The background should show the school logo and name. Students can pose using training equipment in the school.
  • Remind parents that they can bring their child to one class and then stay and take on their own. This will allow them to bond more with their children.

School visits

Ask children students if they would like you to come to their class at school so you and they could demonstrate taekwondo for the class.
  • For student’s that say yes, tell their parents what you want to do and get the school name and teacher’s name.
  • Mail an official letterhead letters, or have students deliver the letters, to the teachers. In the letter, say that the student is a member of your children’s’ self-defense program (do not call it taekwondo or a martial art; the teacher may have preconceived bad thoughts about martial arts). Say that the student has asked you to come to the class to demonstrate what he or she has learned in the program. Tell them it will be a short, 15-minute demonstration where the student shows some techniques and then you will perform some safe, but spectacular, techniques and then give a short talk on stranger danger, handling bullies, etc. (use eye-catching charts to keep student attention). Remind them you are doing this for the student as a reward for good behavior at school. Thank them for taking the time to do something special for a great child like the student.
  • Some schools may have policies against handing out business cards, brochures, or flyers. However, you can have your student pass out pencils with your school name and phone number on them to all the classmates.
  • Send a thank you note to the teacher after the demonstration with an offer to come back again.

Board breaking event

Have a special board breaking event where students can bring their friends to train with them in class and then watch them break boards.

Lock-in

Hold an overnight lock-in where children students can bring a friend and spend the night in the school on a sleepover.
  • Have each attendee bring a pillow and sleeping bag. Have plenty of food and drinks and organized games.
  • Stress to parents that this will give them a night to themselves.
  • You can charge for the lock-in if desired.
  • Hold a lock-in on New Year’s Eve that continues until noon the next day. Stress to parents that this will be the cheapest overnight babysitter they can find.

Demonstrations

Anything used in a demonstration to illustrate the actual nature of the martial arts brings the potential student closer to becoming an enrolled student. Demonstrations are excellent for this purpose, but they must be well organized.
  • Try any potential source of students: boy and Girl Scout troops, youth organizations, garden clubs, Lions clubs, booster clubs, senior citizen groups, business associations, or any other suitable audience.
  • Perform a demo at the local mall, at local schools, during community events, or at the local fair.
  • Have uniformed students march in local parades.
  • Set up a demo as a fundraiser for a local charity. The charity will probably be able to arrange to have a local celebrity at the event and even get it in the newspaper and on the local news.
  • Arrange for plenty of seats and have a snack bar to sell refreshments.
  • Set up display tables that show the history of taekwondo, sell martial arts supplies, and have a display about your school.
  • Have someone do enrollments on the spot.

Public testing

Hold a public testing to generate interest in your school.
  • Hold a rank testing at a mall in a large open area.
  • •Since the test would last a while, it would attract a lot of people; more than a short demo would attract.
  • Kids could see other kids in action and cause them to want to do the same thing, and parents could see what taekwondo is all about.
  • Have a big sign stating it is a rank testing and another sign saying you are accepting new students, along with the school name, address, phone number, and web address.
  • Have a person with an “Information” sign to answer people’s questions during the testing.

SOURCES
  • Beaver, W. (1986). Opening Your Own Martial Arts School: A Planning Guide. Originally published by Brennen Business Guides (out of print).
  • Hackworth, R. (2001). The 10 Best FREE Promotional Items of All Time To Double Your Enrollments.  [Online].

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