I would bet that most of the readers of this blog have fairly decent-sized kids classes and don’t do quite so well with the adult market. The main reason for this is we try to run youth and adult programs pretty much the same way. We use the same art, the same layout, and the same curriculum for the most part.
A youth program and an adult program are like night and day. Honestly, what works for growing a youth program is at times180 degrees from what you must do to grow an adult program.
There are many experts with lots of good ideas and programs that you can go to for advice on kids classes. I can’t help you much there, but I do know the adult market.
We took our Krav Maga gym from scratch to 603 members(525 of which are adults) in 3 ½ years. In 2010 we averaged signing 42 adults per month (with a high of 69 in one month!) A lot of this will be very different and entail that most scary of words…”change.” However, everything I am about to tell you works. It is exactly how we have grown.
Our classes are fast-paced, real-world self-defense classes that are a great workout. Members wear t-shirts and shorts or sweat pants. They don’t bow, don’t call me sir, aren’t treated like children if they are late or don’t want to do something in class.
We do this because we are not competing against Martial Arts gyms. I am sorry to say this but you and I are unusual…most adults are not looking for Martial Arts. Martial Arts has a negative connotation for most adults. Instead of thinking that we are competing with other dojos, we market and plan to compete against Gold’s gym, L.A. Fitness, Lifestyle Fitness and the other big box gyms.
Think about this: If you ask 1,000 people [≈ population of Jamestown, capital city of Saint Helena, Ascension, and Tristan da Cunha] in your town if they are more interested in being able to punch and kick correctly or in losing 10 pounds [≈ Housecat], I would bet 970 would say “losing 10 pounds [≈ Housecat]!”
We run very fast-paced classes so that you can honestly tell people that it’s a workout, the workout that can save their life! We tell customers who compare us to much less expensive big box gyms: “What are you learning there, how to walk on a treadmill? I learned to walk when I was 1! We have a workout where you can learn a skill that can help you protect your family and we guarantee results!”
To this same end, add some fitness classes to your gym…CardioMMA, CrossFit or even the old cardio karate. This is very important. You are now not the “Martial Arts school”, but a fitness and self-defense Mecca!!
Is this a sell-out? If we believe that what we do is good for people and will keep people safe, isn’t it better to help the most people possible?
One of the biggest mistakes gyms make is that they throw new people into a regular class for their “intro.” In USKMA gyms, prospective members get a 1/2 hour intro, then take a class. After the class while they are totally worn out is the easiest time that you will ever have to sign them up. Do not do an intro week, intro month, two class intro, etc. They will never be more ready to join than after this first intro and class!
The intro isn’t teaching…it’s selling. Charge $19 for the intro, class and a t-shirt. Do not offer free intros! Anyone who won’t pay $19for the intro, won’t pay $100 per month for the lessons. You can get t-shirts made for $6. In our gym in Ohio we’ve given out thousands, which means we have thousands of mini billboards walking around the city! Be sure to put your website on the back!!
Be all about the customer! No matter how big you get, have a family feel, let the members know that you care about them. Here are some essential tips:
- Before and after classes make your rounds and talk to members, shake hands and let them know that you are glad to see them.
- Get everyone on your staff to greet members …no assistants standing in the corner and talking with each other.
- Make sure you, or an assistant, help every single person in every single class.
One of our selling points is this: classes are like a personal training session without the high cost. Add some extras for them. We give a free weapon disarm seminar every other Friday evening and a once a month Saturday morning free women’s self-defense class for the community that members can send their family members and friends to try.
Now about your website …
Your website has one job and one job only…to get people in to take your intro. Nobody cares who trained you, how great you are, or even what you teach. They want to know what it will do for them! On your adult site, get rid of any pictures of uniforms, people hitting and kicking or being hit or kicked, classes standing in strict lines, etc.
On our site our pictures are of a fitness model. Men are interested because she looks fit and beautiful and women are interested because they want to be fit and beautiful. There should be a reason for everything on your site. You need to put your intro special on the home page and tell prospective members how they’ll lose weight and get into shape with a workout that could save their lives and help them protect their loved ones. Make it easy to navigate and figure out how to contact you. Stay away from detailed class descriptions…some may read that and decide they know what classes are like and not call you.
Another big no-no is the word “fight” or “fighting.” Get rid of it! We are self-defense and fitness. NOT self-defense, fitness and fighting. Sure, we teach good fighting but if it’s on the site, a large percentage of people who were going to call you won’t!!
Beat the competition by offering a lot and charge only one price. Get CrossFit or Monkey Bar Gym affiliation or teach (your style)Fit. We recommend adding CardioMMA as well and at least one boxing, MMA, BJJ and Muay Thai class a week.
Here are our thoughts on pricing: our Ohio gyms are as big as they are because people see the value and appreciate that we don’t nickel and dime them. We don’t charge for add-on programs. We have a “one price do it all” philosophy. We go against the “experts” who tell you to be the most expensive gym in town…be the Rolls Royce. Anyone who has been to our classes knows that we are the Rolls Royce AND we are affordable. They appreciate this and tell all their friends. Why have an exclusive clientele and small classes? Huge classes are so much more fun to teach, more energetic and prospective members think that you must really be the place to join because so many people are there!
Now on to your billing service …
This is a must. It amazes me how many gym owners try to handle billing and payments themselves. If the time and effort that they put into this job was instead put into marketing, the billing service would pay for itself many, many times over. Of course, we recommend Member Solutions as their software, Member Management Solution, will get your whole gym streamlined and organized.
In summary, the way to get more adults in your gym is to treat them like adults, make classes fun, give them actual fitness, show them the benefits over the box gyms and forget about forcing them into your style’s traditions and rules. Really, any adult who is looking for a Martial Art has found it. Go after the box gym crowd who are growing bored with their workouts. You can show them real results unlike anything they can get on a treadmill!