Years I have been teaching people martial arts and this all the while for a non-profit organization. My 'real' job is being a software developer and till now there is no way I would be making the same kind of money with fight sports.
However, along those years I helped plenty of others improving their martial arts business. And the number one thing I can tell you... student retention is a very important aspect of growing your member count in your school.
So let me go into this and even if you do not want to look at your sport school as business, it is still a good thing to do.
I think that decreasing drop outs can count up to 50% of your revenue. Since your students are the most important part of your club, keep in mind that their needs and challenges will change over time. But let them always set a goal before starting to train. The three most common goals are increasing their fitness level, getting more skilled and losing weight.
And then follow up your student on these goals.
- Make sure you know who trains when. For example by using attendance cards and sending them a receipt of payment. This will help them remember they paid and commit easier.
- Talk with your students and especially to the parents if you are teaching kids classes. (well maybe for some adults too) If you have the luxury to decorate your own gym, make sure the lobby is as big as possible, at least the same space as the training room. I know this is hard to grasp as an athlete, but keep in mind that the majority of people comes and train for recreational and social purposes. Put commercial outside, so a random stranger can walk in and enjoy a drink while watching your classes. You should know every person’s name, job and other hobbies. Other typical questions you should ask: "How are you enjoying your training these days?", "Why?", "Do you see improvement towards your goal?", "Is there anything you would benefit from?" and other questions that will give you an idea of the status of your student. It is very important to know if someone is about to quit. There is a big difference in hearing "I'm thinking of quiting or I do not have much time to come and train" and "I cannot train anymore or I will come train again soon, but I am going to run a bit first"
- Make attendance calls every week! "I haven't seen you for some time, when will I see you in training?", "Anything I should be aware of?", "Ok, I will see you on Wednesday". Receive complaints and figure out how to deal with them. An absence of four weeks is the deadline, you will most likely lose a student after this period. Remember him/her about the benefits and be ready to help. Sometimes a student wants to come back, but is afraid because of some missed classes compared to the other students. Give a free private class or help them out half an hour before class. Have an 'we are here to help' attitude. If you are unable to reach the person, make sure you inform one of his/her close ones and ask them to tell them you asked about them.
Although student retention is one of the major tools to build your school, it is also very important to get new students to sign up. Maybe I will come back to this later, in a huge mc-dojo for the non mc-dojo article. For now I can only say that you should have some form of introductionary classes. I think the best way is to have a more private first setting, where beginners can get comfortable with the sport. It must feel for them they are getting 1000Euro worth for only 100Euro. And that's exactly what they should get!
- Give egg classes
- Let them set a goal
- Attendance cards
- Know name, job and hobbies
- Have recreational space/time
- Follow-up on personal goals
- Make attendance calls
- Be ready to help