Excerpt from John
Graden's upcoming book
"THE TRUTH ABOUT THE MARTIAL ARTS BUSINESS"
John Graden's new book, The Impostor Syndrome
Click for John Graden's two minute bio from
American Martial Arts Masters Documentary
The book will
be in three sections:
The Core Dynamics Why we do the
things we do and why we often don’t
do what we need to do. This is very
specific to the martial arts instructor
and believe me; this is the only place
you will ever get this information.
I’ve Learned As founder
of NAPMA, ACMA, MAPro, and MATA, I’ve
been exposed to the good, the bad and
the ugly when it comes to running a
school. Here I will bring us all up
to date on the proven systems of attracting
more students, keeping them longer
and building wealth for your family.
The Dark Side The
inside story of the lawsuit that drove
NAPMA into bankruptcy.
Trial vs Non-Trial Program Strategies
By John Graden
The trial program, in its
many configurations, has been a staple
in the martial arts school enrollment
process for a very long time. A trial
program invited the prospect to come
into the school to try anywhere from
a single class to a month of classes
for free or a small fee. We’re
going to look at a few proven trial and
non-trial strategies and then discuss
the process as it relates to your school.
I have always advocated a two lesson
trial program for $19.95 that includes
a uniform. Essentially, I’m selling
the uniform for $19.95 and providing
the two 20-minute lessons as a bonus.
I like this process for a number of reasons.
People who will pay $19.95 to take two
lessons have already pre-qualified themselves
for joining. Free lessons often bring
shoppers not buyers and people interested
in martial arts who do have the means
to pay. When people call, we closed the
appointment for taking the trial lessons
and used a visit to the school as a fall
back if they wouldn’t commit to
taking the trial lesson course. This
has worked hundreds, if not thousands
of other schools.
In the early 1990s, Rick Bell of EasyPay
introduced the Guaranteed Enrollment
Tour. This took the student through five
stations that presented the benefits
of martial arts to the prospect and finished
at a custom poster that EasyPay had designed
that helped the salesman convey the benefits
in pretty emotional manner. The sense
of risk for the student was alleviated
by a 30-day money back guarantee if the
student balked at the financial presentation.
Andrew Wood had a slightly different
approach with his Martial Arts America
schools. His was a hybrid approach that
invited a prospect down to the school
to get an eight-page information kit.
When the prospect arrived, the instructor
invited him to take a trial lesson on
the spot. This lesson concluded at the
point the instructor felt the student
was at his or her height of excitement.
This was often a 6 8 minute lesson
followed by a presentation into the office
for the close.
There is a strategy that has been working
for free lessons and it’s been
done best by Bill Clark in Jacksonville,
FL. His concept is not a new one, but
the execution is. The concept is that
the only way to join his school is to
be recommended or referred by an existing
member. That is not a new idea. However,
he has taken this to a new level. He
requires his staff to go into the community
and strike up conversations with prospects
in shops, standing in line, walking the
sidewalk, in restaurants and anywhere
else they might be. The purpose of the
conversation is to see if the prospect
has any interest in training and then
present them with a VIP card, which entitles
the prospect with a 30-day trial membership
that includes a uniform at no charge.
The instructor explains that the school
only allows referrals in, so the instructor
will refer this new person in.
The strategy is to bring them in and
have them take two private lessons that
are essentially, the same as any two
lesson trial course. After the first
or second lesson, depending on how well
each went, an enrollment conference is
made. The strategy in the conference
is offer three options for paying. A
high monthly tuition, a slight discounted
tuition paid in five months or a single
payment with a significant discount.
This sounds like a pretty standard presentation
strategy with the exception that the
instructor then offers to discount the
membership further by crediting the value
of the VIP pass off of the annual program.
So if the annual was $999, the student
can reduce that $100 more by signing
on that day. You would be amazed how
many students will cut you a big check
using this strategy.
Tiger Shulmann Karate, arguably the most
successful franchise in the industry,
currently uses a $79 trial month offer
that includes two private lessons and
a uniform. Again, the idea is to enroll
them after the two lessons.
As you were reading about these strategies,
you may have thought, “that’s
what I do…” or “that’s
a good idea…” Look a little
closer. Maybe reread them again and you
will notice that some of the largest,
wealthiest and most successful martial
arts school owners in history use the
trial lesson concept. Certainly, Tiger
Shulmann and Bill Clark are in that picture
and your author has had a pretty good
run in this business. This is not to
take anything away from Rick Bell and
Andrew Wood, but for the most part, they
dealt with small schools. Both are excellent
salesman and that’s a huge requirement
to make any non-trial introductory program
work. You have to be able to close someone
on a program within 15 - 20-minutes of
them walking in the door. Let me tell
you, Rick and Andrew could sell. I know
Tiger, Bill and myself could as well.
I’m not sure our staff could though
and I’m not sure all of you could.
Selling is fun but not always easy.
The intro tour and the eight-page info
book/quickie lesson put the burden of
enrolling on salesmanship of the instructor
instead of experience of the student.
It’s very difficult and a bit intimidating
to have to make a decision to join a
martial arts school within a half-hour
of walking in the door. It’s like
getting married without dating first.
It’s fast. If you believe that
the three dominant learning processes
for the human population are divided
into visual, kinesthetic and auditory
learners, you can be sure the kinesthetic
will be hesitant to join without first
physically experiencing the classes.
That’s one third of your market.
The visual learner often needs time to
go through your materials to help them
get a grasp of what you are offering.
That’s another third of you market.
The auditory learner may be best suited
to listen to your pitch and act.
I’m not saying these are definitive
percentages and I don’t believe
anyone is 100% one-way or the other.
But the fact is that you would not buy
a car without driving it first. I like
people to know what we teach like before
joining. I want high-quality students,
not just in terms of their ability to
pay but also in their commitment to stay.
John Graden is the founder of NAPMA,
ACMA, MAPro and now the Martial Arts
Teachers' Association (www.martialartsteachers.com).
He is the author of How to Open and Operate
a Successful Martial Arts School and
Black Belt Management. He can be reached