You find what you seek
The types of students you attract are the types of students you seek. If you are seeking students that are law-abiding, productive members of society, that is the type of students you will attract. If you are seeking rough and tough students, that is the type of students you will attract. If you, your school, your instructors, and your students present a wholesome atmosphere, then they will attract families and less problematic students. If your school presents a rough, tough atmosphere, then it will attract problematic students that tend to hinder growth and profitability.
Choose the right marketing strategy
Your school may be the best in town, but that will not matter if no one knows about it. You have to make people aware of what you have to offer. To get the most for your marketing dollars, nail down these variables.
- Who are your customers? The key to picking the right place to publicize is clearly identifying your target audience. To find out more about your potential clientele, see if any industry trade groups have market research on typical customers, including their demographic profile, behavior, and media preferences. Also take a look at your competition's ads, for example, if they are all local that means the customers are too, so you need not spend a fortune on a broadcast TV spot.
- Where do they get their information? Research for the best platform to reach your customers, such as print, radio, TV, or online, and the specific publications, stations, or websites those customers are likely to use. Make a list of the top options; then call the relevant ad departments and ask for media kits, which should list demographic info on their audience. As a shortcut, simply advertise in the same places as your competitors. Just be sure to highlight your business' uniqueness; otherwise, you will just appear one of the bunch.
- What is your budget? The answer will help narrow your options. Even if you have a tight budget, there are ways to reach your buyer. Give existing clients a discount off a future purchase if they refer other customers. Alternatively, partner with businesses that offer complementary services and share advertising costs.
A small martial art school will not have the budget for a professional marketing campaign, which means it will have to do its own marketing. There are ways to attract more customers without spending a lot of money.
Start by looking at what your school has to offer
Do not think of yourself as just a school that teaches a martial art. Think of yourself as a business that has a product to sell. Ask yourself, “What makes my school unique? Ask yourself, “How is my school different from all the other martial art schools in my area, other than teaching a different martial art style?" Ask yourself. “What can I offer that my competitors cannot offer?” Maybe it is a better price, more expertise, a babysitting service, convenience to major roads, or maybe because you specialize in teaching children. Once you have established your uniqueness, use direct and indirect marketing to ensure your target audience knows about your uniqueness.
Send email newsletter to past customers
One of the cheapest, often most successful ways to boost traffic is to send an email newsletter to past customers. 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.
To build a customer database, keep a guestbook at your front counter, and encourage visitors to sign it. Have a space for them to add their name, phone number, email address, and ages of potential students. Enter this information into you 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.
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 noncompetitive 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.
Create an attention-getting direct-mail campaign
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, such as InfoUSA.com; expect to pay 10 to 25 cents per contact.
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 marital 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.
Create an Internet presence
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.
- 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.
Quickly decide on a short, descriptive, easy to remember domain name and get it registered before someone else registers it. Design and build the site. Then 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; checkout SEOBook.com or Hubspot.com for tips.
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.