View Full Version : New Members and mats???

Please visit our sponsor:

AikiWeb Sponsored Links - Place your Aikido link here for only $10!

06-19-2006, 03:33 PM
Hi All,

I am looking for ideas to increase membership. Currently most of our traffic is based upon our internet site. Has anyone else seen
any significant interest based upon fliers around town, advertising in the local papers?

Demonstrations have not brought in a single member.

Any ideas also regarding pledges to help support for new mats
would be greatly appreciated, ie Marketing, sales pitch approaches. etc.


Mark Uttech
06-19-2006, 04:29 PM
I hate to tell you this, but if the right karma is present, things will happen. If the right karma is not present, anything you try to do will be in vain. Strive on in bravery and do not waver!

06-19-2006, 06:40 PM
A couple of thoughts...

The medium is the message to an extent, so where and how you advertise can influence the type of people expressing interest, (and what they want to achieve from Aikido).

Example: new people showing interest based upon your web-site is probably a fairly good thing. Posting flashy fliers in a seedy part of town might draw a different calibre of potential student (not sugesting that you have).

As for fundraising - look to traditional and successful fundraising events that other organizations use. Organize a car wash, or host a BBQ with proceeds going towards the purchase of mats. Also, if your dojo is affilitated with a partcilaur association, does that association not provide funding (or partial funding) for such expenses?

06-19-2006, 06:44 PM
Hi !

Demonstrations haven't done much for our dojo either !

You need a long term effort to get results ,it is uphill ,it takes years for people to know you exist -
and finally enter the dojo.

You can get flyer's and posters distributed from central places to schools and the like for free,
at least in my country.

We tried advertising in the local papers last years ,and it didn't really pay off,
it is expensive if it is to catch your eye,because one time is not enough.

Maybe an appearance on a local TV-show could help.

But make a plan , target areas and be consistent.

I wish you all the best !

Mark Uttech
06-19-2006, 06:48 PM
try solving a local crime

06-19-2006, 06:51 PM
try solving a local crime

WTF? They're recruiting for aikidoka not batman.

Just Jamey
06-19-2006, 07:26 PM
The #1 thing that has worked for us is word-of-mouth by individual members. In close second is our very simple web site.

I make a special point to try to talk to anyone who looks in on one of our classes, even if they are just peaking in. It's been the case a few times that people looking in didn't want to interrupt the class and might not have followed up with us, had someone not spoken with them.

That said, we've gotten about 1 call for every 400-500 fliers distributed, and no actual members... This is the first year that we've had a basic yellow pages ad. It's been out less than a month and we've received two calls, but no members from that yet. We have been featured in a college newspaper, and there is a small weekly blurb (free) in the Datebook section of the local paper. The college article netted no one new and it's too early to tell if the Datebook will bring in anyone.

Membership is an uphill battle. Sensei and other instructors are always reminding me that it has to be a constant effort/project. Get the membership involved. They need to be supplying some of that effort.

Jorge Garcia
06-20-2006, 08:47 AM
Hi All,

I am looking for ideas to increase membership. Currently most of our traffic is based upon our Internet site. Has anyone else seen
any significant interest based upon fliers around town, advertising in the local papers?

Demonstrations have not brought in a single member.

Any ideas also regarding pledges to help support for new mats
would be greatly appreciated, ie Marketing, sales pitch approaches. etc.


These things have universally worked for us in every dojo I have been in.
1) The Internet. People now days look on the net.
2) The yellow pages. A small yellow page ad with a box around it will help in the long term. I know of a dojo that doesn't have a sign or any indication they are there but have run plenty of members off the yellow pages.
3) The little signs you see by the roadside. Buy 100 of them and put them within a 5 mile radius of the dojo in places where cars stop like lights and entrances and exits. This has been a good short term strategy.
4) Pay attention to advertising in December and January. Many people for whatever reason sign up in this time period. That has been true for us in the smaller cities and in the larger city. This year we signed up ten people in this time period. We have lost two since but others have replaced them. Our new dojo that we started over a year ago now has 25 members using these methods.
5) Have a good sign on your building that can be seen from the roadside.
6) Word of mouth. We have 11 kids in our kids program in this time period from word of mouth alone. One mom told another, who told another, who told another.
7) Be professional and organized with good literature to hand out when they come through the door. Selling the customer is the key. You have to get the job done when they meet you. A good looking martial arts place along with a competent and professional person to explain Aikido finishes the job.

Plant seeds where there are lots of people. Don't waste time or energy on Demos. In 12 years, I only know of two in our group that signed up from a demo and those quit shortly thereafter.

Finally, beside all this, I said my prayers and I let the good feeling and enthusiasm in me reach out and touch others. People have really responded to that.
Best wishes,

06-20-2006, 10:26 AM
Thanks for the input, all good information. I like the little sign idea.

06-20-2006, 10:36 AM
Word of mouth is the best idea. Then appeal to those who may use it (police, hospital staff, security).

However, I would say that it is better to keep a smaller club. You can often focus the training better in a small club. I have found that numbers are less important than dedicated students. Nothing inhibits a club like students who train one week, miss the next, then come back a month later.

Just Jamey
06-20-2006, 01:14 PM
I was sitting here reading some of the other input on this thread and it reminded me of another thing.

I kick myself every time I forget to do this, and to be honest I forget often...

ALWAYS, always try to get a phone number or e-mail address from visitors, who express interest. I've had quite a few people stop in, express interest, state they will be coming back to join, and then we never hear from them.

Have some way to contact visitors! Let them know the dojo reciprocates their interest!

[Clarification: I'm not advocating pressuring people into joining. I'm talking about one call or e-mail introducing yourself, offering to answer questions, and reminding people when the first class of the month or session starts.]

Will these people be life long aikidoka? Maybe, maybe not. Are the people who just pop in to try Aikido going to be life long aikidoka? Same answer. You never know who will be a dedicated member, and sometimes people who are interested get distracted with Life. They need a gentle reminder that the open invitation to your dojo is still there.

Now I just have to follow my own advice... Maybe a sign-up sheet for further information, or something along those lines... Hmmmm...

06-20-2006, 01:53 PM
Whatever subset of these options for marketing you select, when you get inquiries you should ask how they heard about you. Record this information. It will be useful in the future for determining what is working and what is not.

Jill N
06-20-2006, 03:49 PM
We always ask where new people heard about the dojo. In most cases, it was our website. Sometimes it is word of mouth, or friends. Sometimes it is someone doing another MA in the same dojo who decides to try something different. We will be doing a demo and a multicultural festival soon. I don't really expect it to be a great recruiter, but we'll see. It will be fun and will increase our visibility if nothing else.
e ya later

10-19-2006, 12:20 PM
I know this is kind of an old thread, but I just started a dojo so I want to suggest a few more things. I posted the dojo on as many sites I could find where I can list it for free. The most hits have come from the national organization of my style. I can look at statistics from my website and see where the hits are coming from.

I took a small business owners course for starting a business this year and was told that a "grass roots marketing effort" could work well. That is, talking to local businesses about what you are doing, and people who live/work in your area. If there are local coffee shops, go in and introduce yourself, talk to people in the area. I haven't done that enough yet, but I know I should. They say there are "seven degrees of separation" so the more people you talk to, the better.

I don't know if your dojo is a stand-alone facility or if you are part of a fitness center, etc... but if you are part of a center ask them if you can market through them. In any case, decide what your target market is, age range, marital status, etc... and try to reach those people.

It doesn't hurt to have a demo, make sure your ad is listed in local papers under "things to do" and local events. Post on Craig's list or a Craig's list clone. Put up posters, tons, everywhere. At least interested people will be directed to your website if they can't make the demo. Our last demo we had only seven or eight attending, but it was fun. We also had a beginner's class that day and it was exciting when everyone who came decided to get on the mat. Several stayed and invited their friends to join the class.

I heard of a trick where you call a local company and offer an employee discount if they take your classes. They then post it on an employee website and you get free advertising!

Make business cards and have them ready when people ask what you do. I think people who decide to practice Aikido have either been exposed to Aikido before, or are at a point in their lives when they are open to it. It's all about timing, that's why having a lot of information up all the time helps.

Don't get down. Even though your dojo seems empty now, all it takes are a few good new comers to liven things up. When I feel like I want to bring in new members, I try to do some marketing effort, even if it's just putting up a poster or planning an event, each day.

10-20-2006, 03:02 AM
I have lived both in different places in my country and abroad in Europe. I cannot know how things work in your cities but in Greece any new founded athletic association/gym/dojo faces this problem: intense competition. And it does not only has to do with the attitude people have towards all newbies in the sports area, the matter is a more practical one. It is common sense to have at least one gym or dojo in every other square! The town I live has 75000 people and (not joking) 58 working tatamis (mostly Karate, TaeKwonDo, Kick boxing etc) and 40 gyms (weights-fitness etc). So when my first teacher started an Aikido class very few people came to pay a visit just to see, fewer ended up having a lesson or two and 2 actually stayed in the course of 2 years ! The reason most often heard is, I suppose universal, that Aikido is more difficult than Karate or that Aikido is not like Karate (fed up with these excuses!!!). My teacher back then used fliers and word by mouth (something my current teacher does as well) but the same story all over. Few attended, fewer stayed etc.
What really seems to be working is this: For the time being my teacher does not own a dojo and so he and his assistant are teaching in 5 different gyms that can accomodate us. By spliting the lessons in different areas more people are attracted from different parts of the city and so our Aikido members list had almost trippled. Of course not everyone can do this but for us and for the present time it works in spreading the word!
Just a thought...

10-20-2006, 04:40 AM
I was the newcomer contact person for a group in Brisbane in Australia, it was a medieval group not Aikido, but the recruitment thing was kind of the same. We occasionaly put on demonstrations, but we mainly do it for ourselves not the public so we had to come up with other ways of getting people interested.

I have found that the internet and being seen by the public were good ways of enticing people to 'have a look' but the number one thing that had them coming back was personal contact. Flyers are good as it lets people know you are there... if they don't know you're there how can they turn up? :)

When we trained we were in a sporting field in public view... the sight of 10-20 people in armour beating the snot out of each other with wooden swords tends to get people to stop and look. I made it a point to stop what I was doing and go over to chat to them, explain what we were doing, ask about them and their interests, give them a card and get their contact details if they were interested at all. We also had a small booklet type thing that explained who we were, what we did, some of the other aspects etc. but that only went to those who gave their contact details as it could become and expensive endevour.

All that being said, that particular approach, with people dropping by, netted us about 15 new members and a demonstration in the city centre in the grounds of a cathedral, with pavillions and ladies in really funky dresses over a period of 3 days got us 1.

I think the biggest thing to remember is that it is only the people who are geuinely seeking what you are offering who are going to keep coming back, now matter how good your marketing campaign is.


P.S. My htoughts ramble and I write them as I have them, sorry if it's hard to follow sometimes :sorry:

10-20-2006, 04:45 AM
Don't forget existing customers!

For whatever reason people lapse from training, sometimes it just needs an icebreaker - a call or email to get them back.

10-20-2006, 06:40 AM
Word of mouth is the most important thing for increasing numbers.

However, I really think you are better with lower numbers. Find somewhere cheap to teach, find a handful of dedicated students and try to teach them everything you know (and expose the to other instructors). Why do you want more numbers? It is better to pass everything you know to one student, than to have a thousand students who learn only half of what you know (and then will go on to teach other students only half of what they know).

Focus on the keen, diligent and dedicated students and everything else will work out.

We do recruit every year (we are a uni club) with video footage and a demonstration. However I use the first 3 months to see you will last and who won't and don't waste my time with those that are looking for 'death blows', to wear a pretty hakama, or who are not willing to put in effort.

P.S. if it is a new club, just have patience - the club performs much better when it has so good higher grades in it. Two beginners training together usually get quite bored and frustrated and don't understand what they are trying to do.

Rigel Keffer
10-21-2006, 10:02 PM
1. Advertise at area college/university.

2. Self-defense demos targetting women. (This can correlate well with #1.)