In last week’s post, I suggested a plan for getting out and meeting with influential business owners in your local area, in order to pick their brains on how they market their businesses.
In today’s post, I’m going to discuss three ways that networking can greatly help you improve and grow your martial art school. I spend a great deal of time in Small Dojo Big Profits discussing the power of networking, and how to get your name out there in your community.
And for good reason; networking will help you grow your martial arts school. Please note that I’m talking about good old-fashioned face-to-face networking, not social networking (which, although it can be used for marketing, is about as impersonal as it gets).
I know that for many of you (especially those of you who grew up using social media) this may seem like a waste of time. However, I would strongly disagree with that perspective, based on my own experiences in growing my own schools.
How I Used Networking to Grow My Martial Art School
To the surprise of many of my peers and friends, I am an introvert at heart, which means that networking is not my favorite thing to do. I’d much rather focus on my online marketing campaigns or direct response marketing, than I would making contacts in my local area.
However, I know from experience that when I focus on networking (especially when starting a new school), it adds an “X” factor to the growth of my business. And, while that “X” factor can’t be quantified, you’ll know it’s working by how fast your programs grow.
Take for example my first school; I spent considerable time and effort making contacts in the local community. Because of those efforts, I went from zero students in a small town where I knew no one to 150+ students and a full-time location, in a little over a year.
Considering I was starting a school from scratch, that’s a pretty amazing growth rate. Here are a few reasons why that happened – and why you should consider networking as a primary component of your marketing strategy.
#1 – Networking Injects Fresh New Ideas Into Your Business
Now, for those of you who didn’t read last week’s article, I was NOT talking about meeting with other martial art school owners. We do too much of that in this industry, and not enough of meeting with business owners in other industries.
In fact, I’d say it’s that tendency to be insular and industry-focused that will hurt you most in your growth and evolution as a martial art school owner. By tending to only exchange information and ideas with other people in our industry, we end up recirculating the same old material, over and over again.
This makes our business approach stale and has the end result of making us late adopters of new marketing and business ideas and technologies. And when you think about the fact that we are competing with other industries as much as we are with each other (more so in many cases), this puts us at a distinct disadvantage.
I guarantee you, if you examine anyone who is a thought leader and innovator in this industry, they are borrowing from and exchanging ideas and information with people outside of our industry. I recommend you consider this if you want to grow your school and have an edge on the competition.
#2 – Networking Builds Your Circle of Influence
When I open a school in any given area, I do everything I can to become the person that people in that area think of when it comes to choosing a martial arts instructor. And, one of the ways I do that is through networking.
Contacts count when it comes to building your martial art school’s enrollment. That’s because the more people who know you and think of you in a favorable light, the greater the chance that you’ll get non-member referrals.
“Non-member referrals” means “referrals from people who aren’t enrolled in your studio.” Now, you might wonder why someone would do that. Well, it could be because they met you and thought you were a heck of a nice person… but that’s unlikely.
Instead, it would most likely be due to your actively going out in your community and being a servant to others. Meaning, you’ve spent time and effort making contacts, and then asking those contacts how you can be of service to them.
That might mean mobilizing your school members to volunteer for a charity or fundraiser. It may mean teaching a free self-defense or safety class for various organizations in your town. Or it may just mean you donated to a worthy cause.
Whatever the reason, contacts can make you in business – and the martial art school owner with the most contacts (the biggest network) in your town is likely going to be the one who ends up with the most successful school.
#3 – Networking Means You Have Your Ear to the Ground
There are opportunities that come up in your business every single day. Opportunities to attract new students, opportunities to expose your business to new and untapped audiences, and opportunities to increase your profits.
However, you’ll probably never know about those opportunities if you don’t have your feelers out in your community. Most of those opportunities will come in the form of a mutually beneficial arrangement from an influencer in your community. And let’s face it – those folks only offer those opportunities to people they know and trust.
It’s sort of like dating – if you’re not “out there”, making yourself attractive and available, then you’re never going to catch the big fish.
Remember, Good Networkers Serve Others
And one more thing… to paraphrase Edison, typically these opportunities are going to come in the form of work. Not to get off topic, but you have to be willing to roll up your sleeves in order to take advantage of some of the best opportunities. Start looking at these instances as less of an inconvenience, and more of an opportunity to serve others.
Even if an opportunity doesn’t pan out in immediate growth for your school, remember that you just increased your social currency with the people you helped. See “non-member referrals” in reason #2 above for why this is still a win.
That’s it for this week’s post. I’d like to hear how networking has helped your martial art school grow. So, if you’ve successfully used networking in marketing your martial art school, feel free to post your story below.