The toughest part about running a martial art school is getting new students in the door. The newspaper is all but dead; most people use ad blockers on their browsers, billboards are crazy expensive, and I refuse to advertise via text message or autodialers.
I depend on my blog and word of mouth as my main means of finding new business. With our location problems, I honestly haven’t worked very hard to generate new business in the past few years.
I neglected to post this earlier in the month. I might be persuaded to continue the offer if there is interest.
During the month of July two people can join Kuk Sool Won of Muncie for the price of one and keep that price for the next two months! That means a 50% savings for Back-To-School Time.
I suggest you schedule a time to come in for the three class Introductory Program, which is free of charge, and see if our school is a good fit for you. Then you can sign up, order your uniforms and really start learning the traditional Korean art of Kuk Sool!
Which is more different, our art or our philosophy?
The last time that I counted, there were about twelve martial art schools in Muncie. That’s a lot, don’t you think? The purpose of this blog is to tell you what I think of the other schools. There are several ways for me to speak here: as a martial artist, as a business owner, and as a man who wants the people in his town to be happy, healthy and strong. I’ll use all three voices before I’m done.
First, what kinds of martial art schools are there in Muncie? There is traditional Okinawan Karate, American Karate, Korean Tae Kwon Do, American Tae Kwon Do, Jujitsu, and of course Kuk Sool Won. In addition to Asian martial arts, there are even some people who practice and teach the revived Western Martial Arts of fencing and combat swordsmanship, and of course wrestling is in all of the high schools, not to mention gymnastics (which began as strength and agility training for Greek martial artists).
Historically, martial art school owners have not been on friendly terms with each other. You may have seen the old kung-fu movies where there are rivalries among different schools and they end up fighting in the streets. That might be an exaggeration of our situation, but it is kind of the way things used to be in Asia. And of course, the different cultures (and countries) have some prejudice towards each other. By and large, these prejudices are alive and well in the martial art world.
As I mentioned last week, all of the other schools in the area teach arts that are very different from mine in their content. I also mentioned that many (probably the majority) of them focus on tournament competition, and we do not. However, that aside, it may be surprising that I do not consider myself to be in competition with the other martial art schools. I choose not to compete for the same small “piece of the pie” that martial art school owners typically vie for. My marketing efforts are spent inducing people to look to us for fitness training, family activities, life-lessons, and camaraderie. I do not just focus on those who might be looking for martial art training.
Even so, Muncie has about 66.000 people. If all Asian Martial Art Schools in Muncie had 100 active students in our schools (probably more than any of us have at the moment) then that would be only about 1.8% of the population engaged in martial art training. If that’s the best that we can do as an industry, then we should just pack it in and go work at McDonald’s. No, we have lessons to teach in awareness, fitness, self-defense, compassion, and confidence that everyone can benefit from. I think if we had 25% to 40% of our city’s population (24,000 people) actively training in martial arts, things would turn around drastically in our society.
Can that many people train at my school?No.
Would they all be happy with my marital art and teaching style?No.
Do I want to personally have 24,000 people as students?Heck no.
Am I willing to do the work necessary to train that many people if no one else steps up.Absolutely.
The truth is that I need the other martial art school owners in town for my vision to be accomplished. Regardless of how they see the situation, they are my allies and I will continue to treat them as such and value their contributions. My conviction and belief is that if we stand together collectively to combat the ills that our society faces, we can teach people to change their lives. If we can put aside the prejudice and bickering that are endemic to martial art practice (and I suppose to humanity as a whole) we can accomplish so much more than one small school by itself.
So, if you like what you read from me, and are interested in training, we’ve just started a ONE FREE MONTH NO-COMMITMENT TRIAL PROGRAM. That’s eight entire classes, free of charge, to see if you like what we do and how we do it. If so, choose a package and sign up. If not though, please take a trial class at another school in the area (they should all have them). There is so much to be gained from martial art training that it would be tragic to choose not to train because you didn’t like the atmosphere or style taught at a particular school.
I have more to say on this subject, but it will have to wait until my next entry. Take care and train hard my friends.
One of the jobs of a small business owner is marketing his (or her) business to the public. As with all skills, there are some people who have talent in this area and others that do not. Marketing is not an area in which I have, heretofore, exhibited apparent genius.
However, as with other skills, practice goes a long way toward making one proficient. Lots of exercise, if done correctly and under correct supervision can render incredible results, especially to the untrained individual. The better we become, the more skilled our practice has to become to show results.
Now, the way that marketing usually works is that a business owner conceives a plan and puts it into motion by paying other businesses to talk about (or advertise) his business. This is usually an expensive endeavor and a risky one. Money is paid with no guarantee of return. For instance, the money that I have spent on newspaper advertising lately has been largely wasted. Most people don’t read the newspaper any more. Few look in the phone book, and even fewer, the Yellow Pages. So, business owners are largely turning to online marketing and what is known as “Internal Marketing”.
Internal Marketing is using existing clients and customers to spread the word about a business. That’s what this post is about. I have spent a lot of money using traditional forms of advertising over the years, and none of it does anywhere near as well as word of mouth (a.k.a. Internal Marketing). When my students and their parents care enough about the school to mention it to their friends and families, other than being a HUGE compliment (which it definitely is,) it is good for the school. The more people talking about us and the work that we are doing, the more people will come to want to be a part of that. When this happens, it is sometimes called “Viral Marketing”. The ideas spread from person to person like a virus (but in a good way).
Now, I have very specific goals that I am setting for the growth of the school. My wife and kids have committed to helping me achieve these goals, and I would like the to see a similar commitment from my students. Not for my financial gain, but for the benefit of the school itself. We don’t need a mansion in which to train. We don’t require luxury training facilities, showers, saunas, espresso machines, etc. What we need is plenty of room to train, ample training equipment, a safe surface on which to fall, separate changing rooms for men, women, and families, separate restrooms, a comfortable viewing area, adequate office space, and a safe parking area. If I had my druthers, I’d like natural light, the ability to allow natural ventilation, a sound system, a video projector, mirrors, a large whiteboard, plants, and a smokin’ hot receptionist. Preferably female.
Just like in society as a whole, when you do things to help your martial art school, YOU reap the benefits too. If every student made it a goal of theirs to bring a new student to the school every four to six months, the school would at least quadruple in size every year! Can you imagine what we could do with that many more students? In addition to saving money on Yellow Pages advertisements and Newspaper ads (which could go back into purchasing equipment for the school) we would have enough tuition income to pay for a large, dedicated facility with all of the amenities that would make martial art training a real pleasure.
So, I’m not going to gamble my money on External Marketing right now. I’m going to spend it on some very nice fliers (which I’m designing at this moment), and I’m going to spend it on my existing students. What I want to offer is one month free tuition for each new (paying) student that you refer to the school. (I do want to encourage more scholarship students, but this post is about making the school financially viable).
I would love to be in a new facility by Seminar Time (the end of June). We can make this happen, but it will take working together as a team, or maybe as a family. It would be very cool to have Kuk Sa Nim participate in a Ribbon Cutting/Grand Opening when he comes through on the Seminar Tour this summer. If you think so too, please help by spreading the word. Use email, Facebook, Twitter, SMS Text, or just plain old talking to people. In a couple of weeks I’ll have some nice fliers, and you can post them in your place of work, church, clubs, schools, neighborhoods, etc.
And if we don’t have enough students to hire a receptionist by then, it’s ok. I’ll get by.
If there is one thing that my students and I all agree on, it is that we need a new location for our school. Something permanent where we can stretch out, push ourselves, enjoy ourselves, and become the best martial artists that we can be. In order to do this, we simply need more students. Lots of them.
I have decided to utilize some low spots in our schedule to offer extended trial classes to prospective students. Rather than my usual one week No Commitment Introductory Class, I am going to offer a One Month Free Trial Course. This objective of this course will be to introduce new students to the unique martial art system that is Kuk Sool Won, get them used to the way that I, and my instructors teach, and do this without interrupting my existing classes and paying students.
It has been nice to have the Senior Center to practice in. It is a much safer environment than our previous location. Still, the limitations are rather severe. Elbow room is lacking and the floor, even with our padding, is no fun to land on.
To make the most of these classes, I’m asking everyone to tell people about them. Let your friends know that if they ever were interested in trying out martial art classes, now is the time! This will be a mixed class (both children and adults), meeting on Tuesdays and Fridays from 5:30 until 6:15. I plan to run this One Month Free Trial Course all the way through the summer. If we can keep it full (20 students or so) in that time, we will be in our own school in no time.
As always, email me if you have questions or suggestions. I have some business cards that you can pass out to people if you would like. Next week I will have fliers for you to post in your work, church, and schools. If you find yourself uncomfortable recommending us to your friends and family, maybe you could visit our Facebook Page and write a recommendation for us there.