What does it take to get those kids marching right off of the school bus and right into your Taekwon-Do school?
And don’t freak out, I’m not suggesting that you start some kind of after school daycare that includes Taekwon-Do. I’ve seen a few instructors have some success with programs like that, but I personally wouldn’t touch it with a 10 foot pole. But, that’s just me.
What I’m talking about here is leveraging the facilities that are already packed with your customers everyday!
I’m talking about being the first person that comes to mind for parents and teachers by getting yourself and your program into the grade schools in your area.
Before we go any further, we have to define what I mean by “getting yourself and your program into the grade schools.” I’m not referring to doing a demo at an assembly or starting some after school program that meets once or twice a week for a semester. As far as creating new students, those take a great deal of time and produce to few results. Especially for the instructor who already has his own school and classes to teach.
Your focus here is to work your way into the school covertly. You’re not going to bang down the door to the Principal’s office and overwhelm him with how great you are, how great Taekwon-Do is and how great it would be to work together.
You start slow.
You begin developing relationships with the parents, teachers and administrators. Opportunities will blossom from there.
So how do you start slow and quickly become the first person who comes to mind when parents and teachers think about structure and discipline?
I’m going to share with you a few key strategies we use to make this happen and maintain these relationships.
Teacher’s Permission To Test
Every testing, our junior students must have their parents AND teachers sign off on their test form, stating that they are ready to test. They leave their name and email just below a paragraph that basically reads, I, ______________ believe that _____________ has or does not have (they circle one) the behavior, attitude and discipline of a Black Belt and is ready to test for his next rank. Then they sign at the bottom. There’s a similar line for parents as well.
Then at the bottom of the page is all of your contact information and a short paragraph explaining all the free services you offer to grade schools. This could be anything. I include that we do show-n-tells, 1/2 hour school talks on subjects like grades, behavior and bullying.
I conclude it with a short thank you, and a sentence or two about what we are committed to for the kids and that if we can ever be of any assistance, that we are available.
This one note does a number of very important things.
First off, it reinforces in the student’s mind that their parents and teachers are people of authority and have the ability to determine whether or not they test. That may seem silly to some of you, but some kids (and adults) need the reminder.
It also lets the teachers and parents know that you actually meant it when you told them that you cared about their child’s success in and out of the do jang, and that you value their opinion.
You have now been introduced to the teachers, they now know that you are on their side, that you are of service to them and that you both have similar goals for the development of students.
But, what if you run into a problem? What if a parent or teacher says that the student is not ready to test?
This is your opportunity to shine. You can now start a conversation, working with the parents and the teacher to get to the bottom of why they don’t believe the child is ready. Then you can create a structure that will support the child and get them back on track. Now you, the Taekwon-Do instructor, are directly involved with the parents and teachers, you (always were, but…) are now seen by others as someone as important in that child’s life as the parents and teachers.
This is great for your retention, will cause parents and teachers to refer children to your school, and will have parents thinking twice about taking their children out of such a great program.
Now imagine if every student in your school did this.
You won’t hear from every teacher, but you’ve started the relationship.
As for the ones that bite and want to take advantage of your series of Taekwon-Do school talks, you want to control when those happen. Even with only five or six teachers scheduling you every few weeks, it can make your schedule become pretty hectic. We intentionally schedule them in the mornings, on Fridays, sometimes Thursdays if it’s necessary.
Being that we have a series of talks, if the first one goes well, we let the teacher know about the others and we schedule a time two weeks from then to do it again! This allows you to get in front of a class 3 times in 30 days, develop a great relationship with the teachers and develop parent’s trust because the school says that you are someone capable of speaking to their children.
We always have something to hand out to the kids inviting them to an upcoming event or something happening at the school. Never had out flyers about regular classes or try to sell anything here. In most cases you can’t, but also, kid’s don’t buy, parents do. So get the kids and the parents to your school with a free pass to a buddy night or a free pass to a bully buster training. Something like that, where they’ll come see you, see your Taekwon-Do school and get a chance to see what you have to offer.
In many cases, teachers will invite you to come back and do the same thing again year after year. You are building that relationship.
After School Programs
I’m not a fan of the traditional after school Taekwon-Do program where you teach in the cafeteria or gym once or twice a week for an entire semester and hope that you get some new students out of it. You can’t control the marketing, you are lumped in with 20 other after school programs that are being offered and you don’t know if you’ll have 10 students or 30. There’s too many unknowns and it’s too much work for one or two new students.
After working with a successful instructor in Colorado, we developed our after school Taekwon-Do program that is only one month long, allows us to donate $700-$1500 to the school and nets 10-20 new students each time!
I get in with the P.E. teachers and take over their class for 2-3 days. Long enough for me to see every kid in the school from Kindergarten through 6th grade. Depending on the school, that’s anywhere from 500 to 700 students. I teach a really fun class, ask the kids if they’d like to do more and give them flyers for the after school Taekwon-Do program starting the following week. You should be able to get 5%-10% of the students to participate.
Depending on the school, we charge $20-$25 per kid and donate all that money to the school to use as they see fit. THEY REALLY, REALLY LIKE THAT!
Then I teach after school Tuesday and Thursday for the next 3 weeks. We use special incentives, give them homework, belts and they have to earn stripes. On the Wednesday of the 2nd week we invite them to come to a special class at the Taekwon-Do school. This way they get to feel like it’s the real thing and the parents now know where you are and have gotten involved. We finish with a big graduation and demonstration at the Taekwon-Do school the Friday after the last class.
After the graduation each students receives a free pass to train with us for two weeks and we do a great deal of follow up with them. Of the kids who do the after school program, we would enroll 20%-25% in our regular Taekwon-Do Program.
Developing this relationship now opens the door to other new opportunities. Think of all the fall festivals and other events put on at grade schools every year. Schools are always holding all kinds of fundraisers looking to raise money and there’s probably a way you can participate in that. We give many schools a 6 month training program plus a uniform for them to auction off at their fundraisers.
As I was registering my son for Kindergarten this year, right there in the line was Zoyo, a local frozen yogurt shop in the neighborhood with a table set up. I don’t know how they got there, but I’m going to find out and get myself in there next year. What better place could you be to market than the registration tables where every child in the neighborhood and their parents are slowly marching by you one by one!
Building these relationships may seem like a very difficult task, but once you get the ball rolling, you have the ability to quickly become the first person on the minds of parents and teachers when they think about martial arts, Taekwon-Do, good grades, respect, discipline and character.
The public schools and districts are very protective of their students (as they should be) especially here in Phoenix. They only allow certain approved vendors to have anything on campus and you almost have to give up your first born in order to get in. Unless you are a non-profit corporation, then there are many fewer hurdles to jump through. You also need to consider all the private and charter schools in your area. These are often overlooked, but have very little barrier to entry.
Obviously the laws and regulations where you are may be different, but know that there is a way. Getting into the schools in your area is one of the biggest things you can do to solidify your place as community leader and will pay off in more ways than just money!
About the Author:
Mr. Karstadt is the founder of 1 TKD Consulting and owns the longest running ITF Taekwon-Do school in Arizona, Karstadt Taekwon-Do in Phoenix, AZ with his father Master David Karstadt. He has been training since 1984, earned his Black Belt at the age of 8 and is currently an internationally renown intstructor teaching the culture, discipline, leadership and business skills of Taekwon-Do in classes and seminars to Instructors around the world. He has been a member of eight U.S. Taekwon-Do Teams and has traveled to 14 different countries competing in Taekwon-Do winning numerous medals at the World Championships and in international competition, most notably winning the 2004 World Championships in South Korea with two gold medals and the Men’s Team All Around Trophy. Mr. Karstadt currently resides in uptown Phoenix, Arizona with his wife and three children. Mr. Karstadt can be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com