Through Your Student's Eyes

By Dennis Lawson
Published on Oct 14th, 2015

As an instructor or studio owner, have you ever taken the time to think back to the past when you first started your Martial Arts training? Just going into your studio can be a scary experience for someone whose impression of the Martial Arts comes from watching TV, movies, or MMA bouts. How welcoming is your process for working with newly enrolled students? Martial Arts industry sources confirm that the average studio loses 22 to 25% of their first year students no matter what their student contracts may say. Successfully welcoming a new student increases your retention rates and can go a long way in reducing your future marketing costs.

The following are a few ideas that will help you grow the necessary connections to develop and retain students for the long term.

Show your appreciation for new students – New students want assurance that they won’t be hurt. Have you discussed your policy about “levels of contact” in your studio? What steps have you taken to assure that new students feel welcomed by you and your staff, as part of the studio? Consider making a bi-weekly call to speak with the new student or their parents just to find out how they’re getting along. Better yet, you might have a quick personal discussion with new students between your classes.

Everyone enjoys being part of something bigger – How do you handle your new student orientation? Do you make an effort to introduce them to other students during the introductory lessons, or do you wait and do this as part of the sign up process? Is your studio a community of Martial Artists or a group of people who show up for class and “Take Karate”?

Give them a Quick Win – The timing of promotions varies with each studio and Art form, but promotions aren’t the only way to reinforce a new student’s efforts. Think about a special award for the best student attendance during the first 90 days of classes. Consider tailoring your method of positive reinforcement to the individual student. For example, a child with behavior issues could be awarded something for showing good concentration for 4 or 6 classes.

Assign a new student mentor – A mentor can help the new student in so many ways. Whether assisting in learning the studio’s formalities, working with them on basics, of simply being a friendly face the new student looks forward to seeing; an assigned mentor can help you and your staff make a new student feel welcome. Also, being chosen as a mentor is a great way to recognize your more advanced student’s contributions to the studio. Consider offering student mentors an exclusive studio t-shirt – only mentors can wear!

Finally, consider how much you spend on marketing to get new students in the door. I once heard the Martial Arts studio marketing process described as, “trying to fill a bucket that has a hole in the bottom of it”. The hole, of course, represents the loss of students. If you could increase your student retention rate by, as little as, 5 percent what impact would that have on your studio’s bottom line? More importantly, if you find a successful method of keeping those students interested, you may have more time to focus on what’s truly important the quality of your Art, your teaching, and your students.



Filed under Philosophy and Opinion

Author Bio :: Dennis Lawson

Dennis Lawson has trained for 4 decades in Ed Parker's Kenpo. During his varied career, Mr. Lawson has been an IKKA Regional Director for Region #3, has acted as Master of Ceremonies for the International Karate Championships, and has published numerous articles in publications for the International Kenpo Karate Association, The Martial Arts Learning Community (TheMALC), and Kenpo 2000.

Mr. Lawson has had the opportunity to study other Martial Arts and holds advanced rank in Aikido and Takemusu Aiki Budo. Dennis taught, competed in, and promoted events in the New Orleans area for 20 years. Among his list of favorite achievements is choreographing and performing Kenpo for the Dance Council of New Orleans. His academic background in psychology and love of music allow Dennis to offer a unique and entertaining approach to tailoring "the Art" to the individual. Dennis has taught seminars in Ireland, Jersey Channel Islands, The Netherlands, Portugal, and throughout the United States.

Dennis holds a Sixth Degree Black Belt in Ed Parker's Kenpo and was awarded the title “Professor” under the auspices of The Martial Arts Learning Community (TheMALC). Mr. Lawson was inducted into the International Black Belt Hall of Fame as Master Instructor of the Year for 2006.

Other Articles by Dennis Lawson

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