Summer Slumps and Short-Term Memberships, Revisited
(Note: In keeping with the recent theme of providing my blog readers with actionable ideas each week, I decided to update and post an article I had previously published at MAbizU.com. If you haven’t yet read it, I believe you’ll find the ideas here beneficial…)
Why You Should Sell Short-term Summer Memberships
I’m a huge advocate for selling a six-week short-term membership during the summer, since it brings in a lot of extra income during those notoriously slow summer months.
Now, I’ve heard some of the “experts” out there tell people not to run short-term summer specials because (they claim) you are losing long-term business by doing so.
Well, that’s not necessarily true. Here’s why.
- First off, the people telling you not to run short-term specials are usually associated with billing companies. Martial arts consulting and billing companies don’t like short-term specials because they don’t get paid when you sell one. They’d rather have you signing everyone up on long-term contracts (which I agree with, but I’ll get to that in a minute) so they get a slice of your pie.
- Second, short-term specials bring in students you wouldn’t normally attract – what I call “transient” students. These are students that are only in town for the summer, maybe staying with a relative or friend. Or, they are students who simply don’t want to make a long commitment due to vacations or just plain fickleness. Those are the ones you really want, because some will decide to stay at the end of their short-term program.
- Third, short-term specials represent money you wouldn’t be getting if you didn’t offer such an option. I guarantee you there are a ton of kids and teens in your town who are looking for something fun to do over the summer. They may not want to enroll on a 12-month program right now, but a six-week program is just the thing to peak their interest and you might just keep them once fall rolls around.
So, short-term programs are really worth you time and effort. If you don’t offer one right now, by all means start offering one ASAP!
How to Get Your Short-term Members to Stick Around
After we implemented the short-term summer special, we discovered that we were losing a lot of the students we enrolled on 6-week specials because we didn’t have an upgrade process in place.
So, we started offering to fully credit the student’s initial payment toward a one-year enrollment, if and only if they enrolled on a regular 12-month membership before their six week period ended. This helped us upgrade a ton of what we thought would be “transient students” into regular members.
Using the 6-Week Special to Pre-Qualify Your Customers
By the way, you should price your six-week special at a price point equal to your base monthly rate.
Why? Because it conditions the new students to accept that dollar amount, and it also acts to qualify them at that price point. Then, when it’s time to enroll and they ask how much your monthly tuition is, there’s no sticker shock.
They feel like they were getting a real bargain on the special, but in the back of their minds they’ve also already accepted that $XXX.00 is a fair price to pay for lessons. Cool, huh?
A Little Help top Get You Started
In case you’re interested, an example of the flier we use in our upgrade process is included in the members download archive at MAbizU.com. (And, although we already have some summer ads in the archive, we’ll have new ad templates for download later this month that you can use to advertise your summer classes.)
I recommend you give the upgrade flier to students as soon as they enroll on a six-week special, since they’re usually really pumped up about taking classes during their first week. It also helps to revisit this with students that haven’t upgraded during their fifth week in class – sometimes they change their mind and you can upgrade them right before they drop out.
Now that you understand the rationale and the process, all that’s left is to take action and do it!
The martial art schools I have practiced in for the past 20 plus years have never had me on contract or anybody else! They do collect via eft. Yet, these schools maintain 300-350 paying students. They do this by teaching and coaching themselves. In other words they do not sit in their offices and they also have great black belt teachers. They talk to the parents after class and have great communication. They charge $120 – $130/month and do not have a problem getting it. These schools do not charge for testing or weapons classes, only t-shirts, dvd’s, and Gi’s. This contract thing makes me think a bit, if I teach well and have good service do I really need to be on a contract system?
By the way I do not have a school yet, I’m finishing my negotiations on a building as I type this. I do not have any real answers only what I am reading and watching in real life.
Sean, I’ve known other schools that followed similar business models.
I think you should run your school in a manner that you deem appropriate.
However, I don’t see anything wrong with asking people to commit with something more than a head bob and a handshake.
Great article. I bet this idea will help a lot of schools, if they choose to implement it.
When I was a brown belt and new black belt I would often volunteer at gyms, fitness centers, cub scouts and other such events to teach intro lessons during the summer.
Then those places would often help us advertise (just a poster on their wall, or a note in their newsletter, or actually handing out fliers/brochures) for the fall enrollment period.
I like your idea better, but if someone cannot drum up the numbers, this could be another alternative.
I spent a lot of time making connections with local organizations and teaching classes off-site when I opened my first school – it helped pay the bills, and I ended up recruiting long-term students as well. So, there’s something to be said for teaching at remote locations.
SInce I teach at a recreation center still (looking around for commercial property still) I’m at the mercy of the center. At present I can only teach three times a week so had introduced an introductory 6 week course at the maximum I charge per month which is $99 after they try our 1 free class. Most people usually join and those who can’t agree to the payment of $99 I wouldn’t want to attend anyway (don’t want to chase them to pay). I accept check, cash and credit card (square) if they pay me on the first day of class of that month. If they miss payment I charge them $10 after the third day. I try and convince them to provide me with their checking account info for electronic transfer but it doesn’t always work.
I will make it mandatory for new students once I gather sufficient students (+60). I believe I can go commercial once I have that many students. I presently have about 30 but the numbers seem to be increasing this month due to Employee DIscount Fairs I’ve participated in.
Can anyone offer me any steps to negotiating a good deal on a commercial property?
Joe Chao, first read “Small Dojo Big Profits” – the chapter on choosing a location. I give a ton of tips in that chapter on negotiating a lease. Also, go through the 100-level courses in http://MAbizU.com – the questions you are asking are all answered in those course modules.
Second, it doesn’t matter how you bill so long as you are able to bill electronically. I don’t even mess with ACH drafts anymore, because it’s easier to get a credit card or debit card number. Just make sure that you get an electronic billing agreement signed by each member that has a clear cancellation policy included in the agreement.