How to Succeed in Small Towns
Many instructors might believe that making it big in a small town can be much easier because of limited competition. In my town we have eight schools in a three-mile radius and twenty-one schools in a ten-mile radius. Although working in small towns can be rewarding as a martial arts instructor, success isn’t easy. One common roadblock we face is overcoming limited resources. Limited population, income, staff, as well as isolation, can make it difficult to promote yourself and your martial arts school. What’s important to remember, though, is that it can be done.
Promoting yourself: Like it or not, we’re in the business of selling ourselves and our services. This can be a challenge because most people do not like to sell, and those working in small communities usually don’t have the wherewithal to hire experienced salespeople. What’s more, even if we did, the level of experience you desire may not even exist in your town. Therefore, we must take advantage of social media and build relationships with local influencers such as school principals and business owners.
To avoid burning out trying to juggle too many responsibilities, take it upon yourself to promote your martial arts school in the simplest of ways.
People love to talk about their health, and if you host an “Open House” party, often, you’ll get at least one or two new students out of it. With the student value of membership in my school being $3,000 a year, it is worth my time to have an “Open House” party. Maybe you’ll meet business owners who ask you to do a presentation for their employees. Or maybe you can do a presentation for a group of moms or organize a self-defense class for your neighborhood watch program members. Always look for opportunities to present what you do and get exceptionally good at explaining the health and safety benefits of training.
These simple ways of introducing your classes to the community are inexpensive and require only a few hours of preparation. They also give you an opportunity to show people what you can do for them, and what they can do for themselves. And the more people you meet, the bigger your martial arts business will get.
Keep in mind, though, that in small communities it’s easy to fall into the mindset that everyone knows you. You must remember that people move in and out of places all the time. I recently did a self-defense clinic at our community center and three of the participants were new to the community. They did not know me or my school. Reaching out to these people is a great way to boost your business, because newcomers are often looking for ways to become involved in the community.
Marketing your services: Everyone knows how expensive traditional advertising can be. Newspaper, radio, and TV ads are costly and are usually not realistic for most martial arts businesses. Community papers can be affordable; however, they aren’t very effective. If you’re starting a new class or clinic, try getting local radio or television stations to air a public service announcement about it. Ask some of your students to attend and bring friends.
For the time and money involved, probably the most effective way of selling is direct marketing by social media or email. When you meet people, get their name, and phone numbers and call them. Don’t just hand out your business card. If you do give them a business card, write a note on the back, giving them a free trail session or class. Hook them this way and, most likely, you’ll have a new student.
Occasionally, I will send out 100 emails or so to people who have expressed interest in my school. In your email, invite them to a free trial session. Also, make sure to write the email as if you were talking to them on the phone. Use “hello” instead of “dear,” and let them know how much you would enjoy working with them. Invite them to bring a friend.
Some of the most powerful words to use, according to Jay Conrad Levinson in his book Gorilla Marketing, are:
Secrets. Secrets of self-defense or secrets of improved energy.
Facts. Facts everyone should know about their health and safety.
Truth. The truth about increased energy or the truth about safety.
Discover. Discover what it means to feel and look good.
Bargains. High-value affordable prices. Yes! yes! You can become a black belt at any age!
You can take these words and put whatever you want behind them. Use them according to the market you are trying to attract. Also, include a P.S. in the email. The two things read most in letters are the beginning and the postscript. You might want to use a P.S. to remind them to bring a friend.
If you have printed flyers see if any of your students or their parents own local businesses and ask if you can leave some on their counter or if you can post them in their waiting rooms. Each time you take a new approach, you may only gain a couple new students but, remember, in small towns one new client will make a difference.
Skill advancement and continuing education: It is easy to burn out if you don’t continue to learn new things for yourself and your students. In rural populations, isolation can be a huge factor. There are many good books on the market that will help you continue to grow. You can study anatomy one month, business-building techniques the next, and so on. Set a goal for yourself to learn something new every month. Or refresh your memory about something you have already studied. Be a “full-time student” and keep using your mind.
When I first became a martial arts instructor, it was a struggle to keep my education current because I lived in Florida and the nearest city that offers continuing education courses from our association with Seoul, South Korea. Now, thankfully, continuing education had been made more accessible through online programs and Zoom sessions. Keep your creative juices flowing by keeping your mind busy.
To your health, wealth, and success,
P.S. – If you want to dominate your area with proper Facebook marketing join our “Facebook Domination for Martial Arts Schools” program today.
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