I’m sure you’ve heard the story of the Ugly Duckling.
The poor little guy, who was the last one to pop out of his shell and was supposedly so ugly, spent the first part of his life being bitten, pushed and made fun of just because of his physical appearance.
In your case, you don’t have to worry about other ducks around you pushing you, biting you and making fun of you… But you do have to worry about what your shallow customers think. The ones who most likely know next to nothing about martial arts and who think they know what to do and ask in order to make a an accurate, educated decision about choosing to do business with you or not.
I’m not just picking on prospective Taekwon-Do members here, this applies to customers in every business, and knowing this ahead of time gives you the advantage when you sit them down to have a conversation about whether or not they are going to choose to do business with you.
So why would I say that your customers are shallow. Because in most areas of life, we all are. I am, you are, your friends are, and even those who you would never think to call shallow – they’re shallow too.
Now before you go getting all offended, hear me out.
This is not an insult, it’s just the truth. The dictionary defines shallow as lacking depth, superficial. When it comes to quantum physics, I am lacking depth, my knowledge of it is superficial, therefore I am shallow. When it comes to flying an airplane, I am shallow. When it comes to speaking French, I am shallow. This list could go on and on, but I think you are getting the point. And when it comes to Taekwon-Do, for the vast majority of them, your customers are shallow.
The Martial Arts Industry Association says that approximately 2% of Americans have participated in martial arts. That means that its safe to assume that the next person who walks in your door who wants to enroll in lessons is walking in knowing that they have very, very little knowledge about martial arts, but think they will be able to make an accurate, educated and informed decision about whether or not they will train with you.
Armed with what they know about Mr. Miyagi, Grasshopper and the latest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, they think they can accurately assess you, your school and what you have to offer. Because of their shallow relationship they are relying heavily on their first impressions. Whether it be your website, over the phone or in person, they are judging, assessing and forming decisions and opinions that are going to determine whether or not they can trust you, whether or not you are legitimate or just full of hot air and ultimately if they are going to do business with you.
The tricky part is that they don’t know they are doing this. They are not present to how much they are relying on your first impression to make their decision. It’s just what we, as human beings, do.
You must understand that people are constantly judging, assessing and creating decisions and opinions based on everything they see, hear, read and experience. Everyone. Good, bad or indifferent, they are always doing it and they always will be. It’s part of human nature. 10,000 years ago it served us well by allowing us to make decisions that kept us from being eaten. Now we use it to make decisions about trusting someone, if we should date that person or if we should take the chance and start a Taekwon-Do school.
So why is this relevant?
This is relevant because, knowing this, you can organize and design your school, your marketing materials and yourself in such a way that will create the first impression you want them to have. You can actually guide them and educate them on what they actually need to know in such a way that takes into consideration their lack of understanding and experience in martial arts and not have them feeling like they don’t know anything.
Lets break down that first impression. There are three things you want to take into consideration here. Those three things are you, your school and your first interaction.
First there is you and your physical presentation.
You must take the time to look at yourself and ask, “What does the way I groom myself, the way I look, what I’m wearing, and how I smell communicate to a new member walking in the door for the first time?”
There is a distinct message that is sent to a future prospect when they see you for the first time and you want to make sure it is the message you want to be sending. If you walked into your lawyers office and found the people walking around the office in pajama pants a t-shirts or swim trunks and tank-tops it would send a very different message than if they were all wearing business suits.
Likewise with your Taekwon-Do school. If you are wearing a sleeveless t-shirt that’s been sweated through once or twice that day and Taekwon-Do pants accompanied by a powerful whiff of your custom body odor, that will leave a different impression than if you had a clean, pressed uniform on and some deodorant.
I’m not going to tell you here what you should be wearing and how you should present yourself at your school. That is up to you. But you must be responsible for the message that your personal presentation sends to your new, and even current members. Most people won’t say anything, they just don’t come back.
Next is your school and its appearance.
What’s the first thing you think when you walk into your kitchen and it’s a mess? Better yet. what’s the first think you think about if you walk into someone else’s kitchen and it’s a mess with two or three days worth of dishes?
Now what about your Taekwon-Do school? Is your school clean? Organized? How does it smell?
Your prospects are reacting to what they see, to the environment they have found themselves in. Your job is to make sure that what they see and experience is a direct reflection of what it is that you claim to teach. A direct reflection of the results that you promise to produce with your students.
Does the environment reflect discipline, structure and organization? Do the pictures and decor reflect the tenets of Taekwon-Do? These things all matter. Dirty windows and mirrors, missing or stained ceiling tiles, poorly kept mats and even just dust sends a message to new members.
In addition to the daily cleaning tasks, think of some things that you can do to improve the presentation of your school inside and out. Maybe there’s some landscaping that needs to be done or an area where a fresh coat of paint would make an enormous difference. Once you’ve identified these problem areas, schedule the time to do something about it.
Again, as I mentioned before with your personal presentation, I’m not going to tell you what you need to do for your school. This is something that should be dealt with on a case by case basis because no two schools are exactly alike. But whatever you do, or don’t do, sends a message and you are the one responsible for the message that it sends.
Finally there’s your first interaction (conversation) with the new prospect.
Your job here is engage them. Specifically to engage them in questions that will allow you to help them make the decision of whether or not they want to train with you and whether or not you want them training with you. This can be done with simple questions like:
- Is this for you or someone else?
- Have you trained in martial arts before?
- What do you want to get out of training?
This breaks the ice, demonstrates that you are genuinely interested in them and begins to build instant rapport with you prospect.
Unless this person has trained before and more specifically, trained in your style of Taekwon-Do, they know very little about where they are, what you do, and what they should ask. The two most common questions you get from them are “when are classes?’ and “how much?” The answers to those questions are important and you should eventually get to them, but it’s not what they are really looking for.
They want to understand what it is you do, how you do it, how good you are at it and if they can be good at it. After those concerns are satisfied, then it makes sense to talk about schedules and prices. Otherwise you are letting them make the decision of whether or not to train with you while having none of the vital information they need to make that decision.
You never get a second chance to make a first impression.
Take the time to think about the first impression you are making with your shallow customers, AND the first impression you want to make with them. Then get to work making sure the two are aligned.
There are many creative ways schools owners accomplish this. If you have an example of one you like, please share it in the comments below!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org