Creating a successful Martial Arts Business

Almost everytime I talk to one of our ICAF club owners I ask them how their club is going. Generally the response is "Great", then I ask about enrollment and the response changes. I am usually told that membership is down and given the standard excuses, you've heard them and maybe used them, "it's summer and everyone is on vacation or It's baseball or soccer season, but they will be back". My question to you is why? Why do they find other activities more exciting then martial arts? and more importantly why will they come back? I believe the answer s will be found in an examination of the way you manage your martial arts business, yes business. 

The first thing instructors must understand is that they are running a business. It's okay to have pure and altruistic motives for teaching martial arts but it is still a business. Let's face it you have expenses so you must have income and yes it's okay to make a profit doing what you love. This said why is it that most of you run your business like a hobby? If you wish to increase your student base and therefore your income and profit from the business there are several things you need to do. 

The most important thing is probably to educate yourself about running a business. Now I don't mean you need to run out and get an M.B.A or even attend the many, many , many expensive seminars on running a successful martial arts operation put on by people who are not adverse to making a profit. There are other ways, the small bussiness administration puts on free (tax supported) seminars on a varity of business related topic's your only investment will be your time. There are many books written about business management that can be checked out free at your public libary or if you are really gifted you can download them to your tablet device free. The local univeristy or community college may offer short one day or night classes on a variety of business related topics for a reasonanable price. Finally you can network with the other members of the organization who have vast experinence in a varity of business related topics. We have accountants, small business owners, web designers and people who have had long management careers. In addition we have people like Master Blomker and myself who have both run very succeful clubs and commerical schools. All of these people are a resource that you can tap for information, idea's and advice. Deciding to run your club as a business will demand that at a minimum you do the following;

1. Write a business plan. I will not go into great detail here but there is an abundance of information out there to assist you in writing one, just do it.

2. Establish a marketing plan each year and follow it. Of course to develop a useful marketing plan you will need to do a little homework. First you will need to understand the demographics of your area things like the median income, age, education of the people where you plan to have your club. You need to set your target market, will it be kid's, young professionals, aging adualts or a mixure of all of them. Yes you have a market for aging adults with the introduction of the combat cane to or curriculum, you could have one class a week that foucused on the cane for them.  You should develop a marking calendar that helps you plan your marking strategy for the entire year. Some dates to consider are New years day, Presidents day, First day of Spring, Memorial day, Independence dayLabor day, First day of fall, Halloween, Thanksgiving and of course Christmas. If your community has any annual celebratons these should also be included. Your plan should include what promotional specials you are going to run on these days as well as how you are going to market these specials. Will you use news print, flyers, radio or T.V and let's not forget about social media as an advertising choice. The plan should also include events at which you would like your club to perform demonstrations and don't forget to put a date on the calendar to contact event organizers about getting  you demonstration placed on the program. The marketing plan sets your marketing goal for the year so like all goals it should be put in writing or it probably won't get done. Don't confuse marketing with advertising they are not always the same thing. While there are a host of good free or low cost marketing idea's advertising usually cost money so make sure you develop a realistic budget. Make sure you follow your plan and track the results, what worked and what didn't. Remember that about 80 percent of your success will come from about 20 percent of your efforts. 

3. Based on your review of the areas demographics and a little spying on your competition, set your price. You need to stay competitive so don't be the most expensive but you and memembership in your club have value so don't be the cheapest. Make sure as you compare yourself to other schools in your area you are comparing apples to apples, a commercial school that offers classes 5 days a week will have more value then a 2 night a week club. The good news is that I know from experience that the average student will only attend 2-3 nights per week so you are not at that much of a disadvatage if you run a 2 night a week club. 

4. Set up a referal program. Reward students who bring in new students or referrals, maybe a free month of classes a t-shirt, etc. 

5. Vigorously follow up on all leads wheather they are developed through the use on lead boxes, phone sales or your club web site. If you haven't followed up on a lead within 48 hours the prospective student probably went elsewhere. 

There's an old saying you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink. Hopefully you will read this article, digest it and implement it. If you do the next time I ask you how your student enrollment is doing I will get the same answer I got when I asked you how your club is doing, GREAT! 


Master Pepin