Mastering the MMA Blueprint Part 3:

How to Get More Students to Increase Their Commitment and Stay Longer.

In the previous post in this series, we covered How to Turn More Prospects Into Paying Students.

However, once people sign up as students, your goal is to get them to make a long-term commitment to themselves, to martial arts and to the school.

As instructors and school owners, we want to work with people who are dedicated.

So, in the same way that airlines have higher levels of service for certain passengers, you need to create a culture that encourages people to make a greater commitment.

That’s not to say we don’t care about the people who don’t upgrade. They simply haven’t decided yet to make a commitment and everyone decides at a different pace.

We need to give people a clear picture of what their ultimate goal looks like and establish a series of steps to help them get there.

Clearly we don’t arrive at that stage right at the start. Here are five of the key factors we need to put in place.

#1: Treating students with Tender Care from the moment they join.

#2: Building the upgrade ladder and creating added value.

#3: Creating an upgrade culture.

#4: Maximizing the number of students who stay.

#5: Encouraging students to refer their friends.

#1: Treating Students with Tender Care

These days everybody wants instant gratification – they want their black belt now. But, at the same time, if we push people too quickly, they won’t stay the course.That’s why you need a carefully designed process that has clearly defined and well-understood steps. Everyone should be able to see why they’d want to move to the next level and know what they need to do to get there.

Within the school, we need to create a culture and a system that supports people and encourages them through that process. However, people’s desire for instant gratification can sometimes mean it is tempting to allow new students to move too far too fast.

It’s important that the early classes take people comfortably through the learning process so that people are not getting scared, injured, battered and bruised in their first few weeks.

We don’t want people getting overwhelmed before they even get started. So the classes for newbies should therefore involve a lot of tender care.

My MMA classes for beginners have zero contact and very limited workouts. It may seem we are limiting their skill-set at the start but we don’t keep them at that level forever.
We’ll give them the skill-set but, if they get scared away in the early weeks, we won’t have them in three months.
We’ve done a lot of research into why people quit and I’ll talk more about that shortly. But one of the big reasons many people quit is that they get injured or think the classes are too aggressive.

Yet, at the same time, you get guys coming in fired up with the desire to be a fighter and they want to get into advanced moves very quickly. You don’t want to give in to these guys who push too hard. We are not going to hold them back if they have the skills but it’s important to move at the right pace.

You have to be able to deal with the lions and the sheep.

When I started my school, I was very focused on competition and that meant I wasn’t able to help some of the people who needed martial arts for other reasons. At the start, we want them to come along, have fun, make friends, feel good about themselves and be able to go to work the next day. We want them to look forward to the next class.

So, in the early classes, it’s very important to treat everyone with a touch of special tender care.

I go into these in much more detail in my book My MMA Millionaire Blueprint. You can get a copy here

#2: Building an Upgrade Ladder

If you want to fly in an airplane, you know you can choose between first class, business, coach and economy. To make the choice between levels, you need to know what they are and what they offer.

In the same way, if you go to a club and see a bunch of people sitting in a roped-off area with bottles of champagne, you know what’s happening and how to get there.

It’s exactly the same in your school; people need to know what your ladder is. They need to know what the different levels of membership are and what they need to do to reach them.

For example, here are different levels we offer in my school:

• Level One: Intro
• Level Two: Combat Gold
• Level Three: Combat Athlete
• Level Four: Ultimate Combat Gold
• Level Five: Ultimate Combat Athlete

You need to decide what levels you want to offer and what to include in each.

You can call them whatever you want and set them up however you like but you need to have tiers.

No Tiers = No Business = No Money

This is a culture you need to build into your school.

You have to make your upgrade something everybody wants and there are certain things you need to put in place to make it more appealing and to make everyone aware of what you are offering.

Here are some examples of extra benefits:

• Uniforms
• Special Events
• Super-powerful Gear
• Monthly seminar by students
• Monthly meeting
• Extra mat chats

The secret of building a great upgrade program is continuing to add in extra value every time you think of something new. Then you need to promote it constantly.

The ladder has to be clear and everybody should know what the steps are. It has to be in every fiber of your school and the people who are part of it should feel special.

We build the upgrade into everything and encourage the desire to upgrade. Banners and promotions mention that some benefits are only open to upgraded members. You need to have constant subliminal promotion of the idea of upgrading.

When you decide to put in this upgrade approach, you must build it from start to finish.

To get started, you need a minimum of two membership levels.

• Level One may be just one extra class.
• Level Two can have additional classes and other benefits.

The key is to build as you go and add more benefits and extra levels.

#3: Creating the Upgrade Culture

The process of getting someone to upgrade begins the moment they sign up as a student at your school.

That doesn’t mean you make them an offer the next day. You have to make sure the time is right.

However your marketing process should be designed so that you take someone all the way from signing up for your introductory classes through the upgrade process.

The process begins right away with a welcome letter thanking them for enrolling. From then on, everything you do is building a relationship with them and building rapport.

All the time, they should be receiving regular communication sharing your story and encouraging them to keep moving towards their goals.

You should always communicate offline and online. There is no guarantee that people are receiving or reading your emails so you want to touch them in as many ways as possible.

I have little contact with students in the introductory program by design. However, I use emails and letters to create ownership of the program making it easier for the consultant to close the sale.

The aim of my emails and letters is to increase loyalty to the academy and myself and also to martial arts in general.
People need to feel they belong to something bigger than themselves and I work hard to build that culture.
Everything is built around upgrades.

The mat chats at the end of each class are a very important part of the upgrade process. What we’re doing there is refining their buying decisions and painting a vivid picture of where they’re going.

We are always telling stories about the higher levels. It’s like writing a sales letter – you always want to be painting a picture of the benefits.

When you have various tiers of membership, there are different models you can follow for the step of offering people upgrades.

I go into all this in much more detail in my book My MMA Millionaire Blueprint. You can get a copy here.

#4: Maximizing the Number of Students Who Stay

There is one important thing you need to bear in mind to make sure all this works. When you have new students coming in the front door you need to make sure they are not running straight out of the back door.

If you are busy counting the new students coming in through the front door, you may get a shock when you look inside the gym and find nobody there.

They have all gone straight out the back door. You have to make sure you shut that back door with retention systems.

If someone quits your school, it is easy to blame them and say they were not cut out for it – but if someone quits it’s because you have failed them.

They came to you because they had a problem and thought you could provide a solution but you have not been able to give them that solution.

One of the most important skills of being a successful person is accountability. So you have to accept responsibility and avoid blaming others.

And one of the most important elements of running a successful school is focusing on retention.

An important part of that is understanding some of the main reasons students quit.

Reasons Students Quit

Here are some of the top reasons why students quit.

Only Receiving $1 Service: You want to overwhelm your students with value so your competitors don’t have a chance. This is called over-delivering.
Not Having Clear Goals: If your students don’t have a clear view of where they are going, they will quit.
• Injuries or Fear of Injury: The injury is rarely permanent such that the person will never be able to train again. What really makes them quit is either the fear of injury happening again or the fact the time off changes their routine.
Broken Routine: Perhaps school finals came up and they needed to study all week. So what happens is the routine gets broken and now maybe they got started doing other things.
Overtraining: People who have never exercised in their lives all of a sudden want to train all day. They feel great at first but they end up being sore. Our beginner program has such good retention because we’ve analyzed what works. We never push people too hard in beginner classes.
Missing Part of the Perfect Class Pyramid: The three parts of the “perfect class pyramid” are Smiling, Technique and Cardio. You need to find out which part is missing and make adjustments to the class.
No Personal Relationships: A common reason for quitting is that no personal relationships have been developed with other students or with instructors – in other words, no camaraderie.
Competition Loss: A lot of people don’t necessarily want to take part in competition but feel pressured to do it because of the competition culture. Sometimes people think they want to compete and they build up too many expectations and then they feel like a failure when it doesn’t go right.
Culture Not Suited to Needs: A lot of gyms have a competition culture where they have the circles of fighters. But what about the self-defense and fitness classes? The school needs to be part of all of these subcultures.

As a school owner, there are many things you can do to improve retention. You should have events going on in the school every month to bring the team together and aid retention. Events can include paintball, beach parties, UFC parties and seminars. The black belt school owner will sit down and plan one year of events in advance.

When you do this, you are moving with direction and know where you’re going. All the students will know when events are happening so are more likely to attend. You should aim for one event per month, though you may need different events for different groups.

I go into these in much more detail in my book My MMA Millionaire Blueprint. You can get a copy here

#5: Encouraging Referrals

One of the best ways of growing your school is through referrals from existing students.

However, if people don’t know you want referrals they won’t give you them. That’s why you need a wide range of activities to promote your referrals program. Here are some good ways to do it:

Referral Wheel: Every time someone refers a friend to your school they get to spin the wheel for a chance to win prizes. This has the double benefit of rewarding people for giving you referrals, while also acting as a giant advertising campaign for your referrals program.
Thank You Board: Have a giant board in your guest area thanking people who have given you referrals.
Emails: Every month send an email thanking all the people who made referrals and list the prizes they won.
Newsletter: Include thanks in your newsletter welcoming new referrals and listing prizes won.
Sniper cards: A personal card saying thank you for the referral makes people feel good and means they will refer more people.
Double Rewards: People are most excited when they are new so offer double rewards in the first week – double spins and double prizes.
Buddy Week: On certain dates, allow people to bring buddies to classes. They love inviting their friends and many will sign up.
$1,000 Raffle: Everyone who makes a referral gets a ticket and once a month have a big raffle at an event like a UFC party. When they win the $1,000 cash prize, people go crazy. This is great advertising for referrals and everybody wants to be involved.

You can also publicize your referrals by printing and announcing details of the program everywhere possible such as on receipts, schedules and business cards. You can also announce your program during in-house tournaments, belt tests and group events as well as in mass emails to students.

Another good way of attracting referrals is having a special website so people can give a link to their friends.
When someone gives you a referral, make sure you focus on that person. Don’t kill the goose that laid the golden egg. When they give you referrals, give them attention – call and send a thank you card. That will lead to you getting more.

When you go public with your goals for referrals e.g. “We want to get 30 referrals this month”, the whole team will work together to help achieve it.

Conclusion and Actions

Too many businesses – including martial arts schools – put almost all the focus of their marketing on bringing in new people. The truth is the real key to your success will be how well you encourage your current students to stay longer and make a deeper commitment.

Here are some steps you can take now to implement these ideas

• Develop an Upgrade Offer at Higher Price Levels
• Implement an Integrated Upgrade Process in Your School

If you’d like more information on how to implement these ideas, you can get a copy my book My MMA Millionaire Blueprint here.

If you’d like some advice about implementing these ideas, we would LOVE to help you grow your martial arts school. To set up a call so you can see how we can help please visit: