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James Sawers
01-15-2014, 03:57 PM
Every few years I do a little research into what is working in recruiting and maintaining aikido students. Over the years the dojos I train at have had (and currently have) recruitment issues. That is, how to attract new students and maintain the current ones.

Granted students come and go for a number of reasonable reasons, but beyond this natural attrition rate, what can be done to maintain students?

We have tried demos, yellow page adds (old stuff?), and, of course, we have our own websites.

Does anyone in the aikido community out there have any new/ different ways to attract students that they would like to share??

Thanks....

In good practice, Jim...

Stephen Nichol
01-15-2014, 06:59 PM
Have you tried cookies?

Otherwise you could just ask people why they are interested in Aikido. From their answer you may be able to figure out how to structure 'some' of the classes to address the interests of the various people who share them.

When someone leaves or simply stops coming you can ask them what their reasons are. As you said for the majority it will other life situations but for those that leave for reasons with something to do with the dojo (or person(s) in it) specifically... well, having a sort of 'exit interview' can help answer some of the questions you have.

With that information you can decide what you can do and more importantly, if you want to and if it is worth whatever effort may be involved.

But trust me on the cookies. ;)

danj
01-15-2014, 09:40 PM
The exit interview is a great idea. Numerically with more people leaving that staying, if you can halve the rate of people leaving, as opposed to focussing on doubling the rate of people coming in the door...its likely to be a more successful strategy. Its kinda tough though to get the real reason people might be leaving sometimes though...e.g. people will rarely say 'your aikido sucks' but come up with something else instead.

Whatever the strategy I think the important basics have to be there such as
- a critical mass of students (maybe around 8 or so), fewer than than and the person leading the practice has to expend all the energy into creating life in the dojo
- practice twice a week seems to be the norm, usually with a gap between the days and avoiding fridays
- pictures of people enjoying them selves seems to manage expectation
- a teacher with a skill base perhaps some charisma and nothing too off putting ;)

FWIW i looked at your website, and perhaps advertising short 'social contracts' (through requirement to enrole in a community college) may bring people in quite successfully, but can also create the expectation that because it will finish in xxx weeks then many have an implied permission/expectation (probably not the right word ) to move on and try something else afterwards rather than stay on ...least ways we found this with beginners courses

best,
dan

Sojourner
01-15-2014, 11:27 PM
Some see it as good, others as bad for Martial Arts in general, yet there is a strong increase in interest in marital arts because of the MMA UFC group.

My thoughts is that we can all learn from that, even if you may be someone who for reasons of non violence or whatever does not watch UFC. The people that become interested in it have very valid questions and we as Aikidoa should have the capacity to answer those questions. The days of a student learning in silence and submission are not the case any more, various questions will be asked about what works and what does not work and why is it necessary and so forth.

We need to be open to new ideas, such as training in street clothes in the carpark of the Dojo as our Krav Maga friends do, and for the same reasons "if" we are selling Aikido to the public as being for self defense. We also need to consider giving students training in closed spaces, such as subway trains or buses and so forth and showing people how their Aikido training will work well and potentially be one of the best MA's a person might study if they want to defend themselves and others in these types of situations.

I am not suggesting we change the content in anyway of Aikido, but I do feel that we need to be prepared to take it out of the dojo and into real modern situations if we want more people to choose this training.

allowedcloud
01-16-2014, 05:41 AM
If I were you I would abandon any hope of getting student numbers back to where they were during your school's peak. The MMA/UFC craze has drastically changed what the average person expects from a martial art when they enter a dojo. Aikido and other traditional arts have been declining for years and I don't see this trend reversing.

Instead of desperately trying stupid marketing gimmiks and/or watering down the training to attract students, look for ways to maintain the dojo with a much smaller student population - maybe 20 max. If that means finding cheaper space - or better yet, no permanent space at all, then so be it.

The good news is that with a smaller more dedicated core student body, you have the opportunity to teach more in depth material, and to give more hands on attention to each student, raising the technical level of the school. So I think, in the end, everyone who stays will benefit.

Sorry, but (at least in the US) Aikido as a mass-market enterprise is on life support.

lbb
01-16-2014, 06:54 AM
I think Stephen and Daniel have the right idea. The key to attracting new students and retaining existing ones (even for just a second class) lies in understanding why they came in the door and what they were looking for. Are a lot of those reasons and goals silly? Sure, but that's only because they don't know what aikido is about. What you can do is look for the underlying reasons, the essence behind it. I think that people who stay, stay because the dojo serves that underlying reason, which is the real reason they came in the first place. It just doesn't do so in the way that they anticipated. So you need to understand their real reasons, and more importantly, get them to understand them (and how the dojo meets them).

ken king
01-16-2014, 12:07 PM
Seems all too common, we are experiencing the same issues. General lack of interest...people only seem to want to pound each other in the face.

James Sawers
01-16-2014, 02:39 PM
Stephen: When you asked, have I tried "cookies", I presume you are not talking about a nice chocolate chip? (Or, perhaps you are......??)...........If so, I would have to talk to some of my more computer savvy folks on their use. Did you have something specific in mind for their use?

Janet Rosen
01-16-2014, 03:39 PM
Yes, cookies, as in cookies. Haven't you ever taken a big fall late in the day on a seminar, hit the mat, sighed and wished somebody would bring you milk and cookies and let you take a nap like nursery school? :-) After weeks of threatening, last year I actually DID bring milk and cookies to my Low Impact class....

hughrbeyer
01-16-2014, 03:55 PM
No kidding. If you want to build a community, provide food.

James Sawers
01-16-2014, 04:51 PM
Well, I am helping to teach our new 50+ aikido class......mmmmm, cookies.......perhaps they might enjoy that........Myself, I usually crave a beer after class, but I'm open to suggestions, that's why I'm asking, after all....

Stephen Nichol
01-16-2014, 09:19 PM
Stephen: When you asked, have I tried "cookies", I presume you are not talking about a nice chocolate chip? (Or, perhaps you are......??)...........If so, I would have to talk to some of my more computer savvy folks on their use. Did you have something specific in mind for their use?

I was indeed referring to the food variety.

Our club has dinners, lunches, 'tea' during and or after seminars/gradings and some classes and even the birthday for certain members when the occasion warrants it. Essentially we foster a greater social life building community that people can take part in if they like or opt out of.

Because it is routine the members all chip in with helping set up, clean up after. Some will offer to cater the event. We are especially lucky enough to have an owner of a chain of Japanese restaurants who's son trains at the dojo so he will cater some of the meals for a good deal. All of this fosters that 'club' feeling that some people look for beyond just 'show up for training'. For those that just like to train and go home.. well, that is always there.

For those that like 'hit people in the face' well, that's their thing and they can go do that some place that makes them happy. I am all for people training in whatever makes them happy. To be very specific, if a person came to the dojo expecting to be like Seagal sensei in 3 months, I would explain how that is not going to happen training with us and they may find what they are looking for some place else (though it is Sensei's decision on such matters to refuse someone to train with us, not mine). I do mention to them that we do have cookies... and sometimes they come back after checking other places out because we have cookies and those places did not. :D

lbb
01-17-2014, 08:24 AM
There are also "cookies" as in tracking cookies, which can be used to follow people who have visited your site and target ads at them, but that's a whole level of nutty you probably don't want to get into. I know I don't, and I have to (for my job).

James Sawers
01-29-2014, 05:02 PM
Yes, cookies, as in cookies. Haven't you ever taken a big fall late in the day on a seminar, hit the mat, sighed and wished somebody would bring you milk and cookies and let you take a nap like nursery school? :-) After weeks of threatening, last year I actually DID bring milk and cookies to my Low Impact class....

Janet, actually, no.....but I have wished for a latte.....at a Starbucks, or the local equivalent.....Our dojos do have regular times for "community" get-togethers, and, at one, a group of us usually go out after class for coffee and such. At the other dojo I attend, we sometimes go out for "burger and beer" after class.

I guess these things help build that community some have mentioned, though not everyone can or will attend.

Anyway, thanks for the food for thought (couldn't resist!).....Any other ideas out there??

Richard Vader
01-30-2014, 03:59 AM
still would be very careful by offering young kids cookies... Especially if you are a middle aged man driving a van. You could be called upon to explain your recruitment methods at a local precinct!

James Sawers
01-30-2014, 03:23 PM
still would be very careful by offering young kids cookies... Especially if you are a middle aged man driving a van. You could be called upon to explain your recruitment methods at a local precinct!

Yes, thanks...........I'll be sure to wear my gi and hakima to prove my honest credentials......!!!:straightf

Eva Antonia
01-31-2014, 01:12 AM
Hello,

here in Belgium I think the situation is not comparable; we have a dojo around every corner (four in a 10 minutes biking distance for me, the nearest one being the one where I train), lots of high graded teachers and five or six shihans, several high class seminars every week-end, so our limiting factor is not the lack of interest but the fact that Belgium only has 10 million inhabitants, 1/1000 th of which doing aikido. AND we are subsidised, and most teachers are teaching completely pro bono. So everything's happy go lucky here.

But when comparing to Turkey, the situation is different. Universities subsidise sports on the campus, but for the non-student population there is near to nothing. Teachers are often professionals having to make a living off it, and dojo space is extremely expensive. So for a Turkish teacher it is quite a challenge.

The dojo where I go during the summer vacations is very successful in these difficult circumstances. When I went there first, the teacher was 2nd dan, and they tought in the sports facility of Istanbul Technical University. Now he is 4th dan, has his own very large and well equipped dojo, and he has maybe one thousand registered pupils, 200 - 300 of which being active and regular.

But the guy really invests 16 hours of his day, 7 days a week to get there. His first classes are at 06.30 in the morning; I went there some time out of sheer masochism - and there are always people liking to be thrown around for an hour before going to work. Last classes are at 21.30, and in between there are lots of other classes. He went to learn kendo and jodo in order to provide better weapons training, he regularly goes to Japan for his own training, and he also does a lot for marketing.

There is a very active Internet site (www.aikimode.com, if you want to look there for inspiration, even if it is in Turkish), with lots of videos and teaching material available, the dojo has a facebook group with regularly updated content, a twitter account and whatever else social media may require. Obviously, there are also dojo meals, special events etc., and since the business is growing so big, he started having technical assistants and a secretary.

And it is also a question of personality. As a student, you see that the teacher really likes his work, and also that he likes his students. Over the time, a sort of friendship relationship develops between teacher and students, and the atmosphere is quite relaxed and friendly, with the level of aikido still being very good.

I still prefer our Belgian non profit approach, even if we have less classes and shabbier dojos, but I think in a non-welfare state the aikimode dojo is the most successful and attractive one I have seen.

Best regards,

Eva

Riai Maori
01-31-2014, 01:56 AM
Hello, Our 20 year old club promotes "ADULTS BEGINNER COURSES" which encourage beginners to take one of our customised beginners' courses, which will take you from basics to yellow belt (6Kyu), and provide a solid foundation for joining our adult classes cost: $130 (NZ$) for 24 lessons. (2 classes weekly). All the best.

James Sawers
05-15-2014, 01:13 PM
As no one has contributed to this post for a while, I'll let it rest. I just want to thank everyone that posted for their suggestions and help. I came away with some ideas. I'll try and put these together and report back to my dojos.

Again, thanks.......In good practice.....Jim

lbb
05-15-2014, 01:31 PM
Hi Jim,

We've had a spate of new people lately. They cite three things:

1. Visibility -- literally. We've got a nice lot that happens to be visible from a busy intersection where traffic backs up, and we've done a lot to make the place look nice. We've had a number of people say, "I was passing or it caught my eye" or "I saw the garden and I wanted to find out more".

2. Web search. This is mostly for people who have trained before and are new to the area. They find our website and sometimes find us on Youtube.

3. Word of mouth (another kind of visibility, I guess). Students wearing dojo t-shirts get asked about the dojo, it comes up in conversation ("What are you doing tonight?" "I'm going to the dojo." "Really? What's that?"), kids come to the kids' program because their parents have friends with kids in the program, etc. Having cards we can hand out helps too.

Phil Van Treese
05-15-2014, 02:13 PM
Recruit students???? If they are interested, or at least curious, they'll come by. It always helps that the sensei has charisma. Ask my 37 students.

NagaBaba
05-15-2014, 02:37 PM
Ask my 37 students.

Are you lamenting or bragging? :)

James Sawers
05-15-2014, 02:43 PM
Are you lamenting or bragging? :)

I assume Phil was just stating the obvious.......:cool:

Thanks, Mary. Good ideas!

Edgecrusher
05-15-2014, 03:29 PM
Never assume, he is an old ball breaker. Trust me, he has put me through the ringer on too many times. I am one of the 37. :)

Shadowfax
05-15-2014, 03:30 PM
Yes, cookies, as in cookies. Haven't you ever taken a big fall late in the day on a seminar, hit the mat, sighed and wished somebody would bring you milk and cookies and let you take a nap like nursery school? :-) After weeks of threatening, last year I actually DID bring milk and cookies to my Low Impact class....

I used to bring cookies tothe dojo for everyone who atteded class on radom Thursday nights. It was popular with existing students but didn't get them to train more regularly or bring in any new ones. Of course that was't really the goAl ayway. We jsut had a lot of leftover cookies on Wednessdays, at my old job.

We have had a little sucess getting people to start by offering a 6 week "beginers course" at a discounted rate. We would have members hang flyers anyplace they thought they could to attract iterest. It seems to work well for the February/March sessio but ot so well for April/May. But we are a college town. Getting them to stay however is a whole other challange.

GMaroda
05-16-2014, 06:14 AM
I used to bring cookies tothe dojo for everyone who atteded class on radom Thursday nights. It was popular with existing students but didn't get them to train more regularly or bring in any new ones. Of course that was't really the goAl ayway. We jsut had a lot of leftover cookies on Wednessdays, at my old job.

We have had a little sucess getting people to start by offering a 6 week "beginers course" at a discounted rate. We would have members hang flyers anyplace they thought they could to attract iterest. It seems to work well for the February/March sessio but ot so well for April/May. But we are a college town. Getting them to stay however is a whole other challange.

If I don't get cookies again (or at least monkey treats) I'm totally quitting!

dongaleb
05-16-2014, 08:03 AM
Free trial.

phitruong
05-16-2014, 09:51 AM
Free trial.

how do you get lawyers to work for free?

James Sawers
05-16-2014, 02:13 PM
how do you get lawyers to work for free?

Funny..........:D

Shadowfax
05-16-2014, 03:09 PM
If I don't get cookies again (or at least monkey treats) I'm totally quitting!

Fine I'll bring you some banana's and prozac next week. :p

GMaroda
05-17-2014, 06:33 AM
Fine I'll bring you some banana's and prozac next week. :p

I could probably use with more Potassium and SSRIs.

allowedcloud
05-19-2014, 06:07 AM
Perhaps instead of charging a flat fee for membership you could try implementing a sliding fee scale where each member pays a different amount depending on their ability to pay, say from $20 to $100 a month. The idea is that having someone on the mat paying a little is better than not having them on the mat at all and paying nothing. Perhaps evaluate this with each member every six months to determine if they feel like contributing more at that point.

This scheme is being used at the place I train and has resulted in a doubling of membership since it came into effect.

lbb
05-19-2014, 06:55 AM
This scheme is being used at the place I train and has resulted in a doubling of membership since it came into effect.

How has it affected revenue?

Dan Rubin
05-20-2014, 03:09 PM
Perhaps instead of charging a flat fee for membership you could try implementing a sliding fee scale where each member pays a different amount depending on their ability to pay, say from $20 to $100 a month.

Is there friction when a $100 student finds out that others are paying $20?

Janet Rosen
05-20-2014, 05:26 PM
I've recently joined the board of the nonprofit that runs our dojo and because of my interest am coordinating outreach.
In the remote past there were public demos but it has been many years. So we are doing a public demo at our local Farmers Market in early June, around end of school year, and looking at a community open house in Aug around the start of school year, with demos, free short classes, barbecue, etc.
And I'll be meeting with other local nonprofits looking at partnership opportunities as well as working on alternate/special classes like the six week series I'm just finishing up on Surviving Falls - basically how to fall for non-martial artists, aimed at dinged but fit middle aged folks.
I agree we cannot compete on their terms with MMA schools...but like with a disability, that leaves open the question...ok, what CAN we do? :-)

sakumeikan
05-20-2014, 05:35 PM
Have you tried cookies?

Otherwise you could just ask people why they are interested in Aikido. From their answer you may be able to figure out how to structure 'some' of the classes to address the interests of the various people who share them.

When someone leaves or simply stops coming you can ask them what their reasons are. As you said for the majority it will other life situations but for those that leave for reasons with something to do with the dojo (or person(s) in it) specifically... well, having a sort of 'exit interview' can help answer some of the questions you have.

With that information you can decide what you can do and more importantly, if you want to and if it is worth whatever effort may be involved.

But trust me on the cookies. ;)

Hi Stephen,
What cookies would you suggest you give potential students?Chocolate Chipped, Coconut flavoured, Milk chocolate, minty ones?Do you also provide them with a cup of cocoa, tea or a Starbucks special? Do you find the local cafes take umbrage on you for taking away some of their trade?Are you planning a food kitchen in the near future?I think soup and a crusty role would be a more effective ploy to generate interest than a cookie.
Cheers, Joe

allowedcloud
05-20-2014, 06:54 PM
Is there friction when a $100 student finds out that others are paying $20?

No. Everyone is aware of the sliding fee scale system and we all know that not everyone pays the same to train. No one cares about something so petty as who pays more than so-and-so. As for me I'm just happy to have more training partners on the mat.

As for how it affected revenue, I have no idea about that as I'm not privy to the financials but typically more members paying dues = more revenue.

dps
05-20-2014, 08:50 PM
As for how it affected revenue, I have no idea about that as I'm not privy to the financials but typically more members paying dues = more revenue.

If you sell below cost you can make it up on volume. :)
dps

lbb
05-21-2014, 09:06 AM
If you sell below cost you can make it up on volume. :)

Yeah, that was where I was going...:D

Keith Larman
05-21-2014, 09:41 AM
If you sell below cost you can make it up on volume. :)
dps

Um, no, if you sell below cost you just lose more with more volume. You can sell some below cost if there are others paying above. Or other sources of income generated by getting butts in the seats so to speak. High volume and selling below cost usually means you go broke faster.

I am curious about how those students who pay more feel about others paying less. Who decides who deserves the lower rate? I often hear people complaining about how expensive this or that is who live in vastly nicer places, have nicer cars, take nicer trips than I could ever even hope to have. And yet I find a way to pay my share just the same. And for my daughter's private school, well, there's not a snowball's chance in hell we could afford to send her there without the school's financial aid assistance. But they use a service that other, vastly better off families complain about because they ask such probing questions like what sort of vacation you take, what cars you drive, the value of your home, your income, etc. At least they have a mechanism for making the process a bit more fair.

Anyway, I'm just curious as the dojo cho for our dojo. I've been trying to figure something out for a few students.

dps
05-21-2014, 09:48 AM
Um, no, if you sell below cost you just lose more with more volume.

Um, it was a joke Keith, an old joke. The smiley face should have clued you to that.

dps

Keith Larman
05-21-2014, 10:06 AM
Um, it was a joke Keith, an old joke. The smiley face should have clued you to that.

dps

Oops, too sleepy still...

carry on...

Am curious about how folk determine who gets what...

Janet Rosen
05-21-2014, 10:54 AM
Oops, too sleepy still...

carry on...

Am curious about how folk determine who gets what...

We have been having this conversation about "scholarships" esp for our kids classes - we've been pretty loose and generous and so far we can afford to be, but figuring it behooves us to look at local standards we are checking with other nonprofits who offer kids programs (in music, dance, etc) to see what forms they are using.

allowedcloud
05-21-2014, 11:30 AM
Um, no, if you sell below cost you just lose more with more volume. You can sell some below cost if there are others paying above. Or other sources of income generated by getting butts in the seats so to speak. High volume and selling below cost usually means you go broke faster.

I am curious about how those students who pay more feel about others paying less. Who decides who deserves the lower rate? I often hear people complaining about how expensive this or that is who live in vastly nicer places, have nicer cars, take nicer trips than I could ever even hope to have. And yet I find a way to pay my share just the same. And for my daughter's private school, well, there's not a snowball's chance in hell we could afford to send her there without the school's financial aid assistance. But they use a service that other, vastly better off families complain about because they ask such probing questions like what sort of vacation you take, what cars you drive, the value of your home, your income, etc. At least they have a mechanism for making the process a bit more fair.

Anyway, I'm just curious as the dojo cho for our dojo. I've been trying to figure something out for a few students.

Hey Keith,

I'm going to try to get you in touch with our dojo cho so he can answer the questions you have.

If you're curious this is where I train: http://toledoaikido.blogspot.com/

Josh

sakumeikan
05-21-2014, 12:31 PM
No. Everyone is aware of the sliding fee scale system and we all know that not everyone pays the same to train. No one cares about something so petty as who pays more than so-and-so. As for me I'm just happy to have more training partners on the mat.

As for how it affected revenue, I have no idea about that as I'm not privy to the financials but typically more members paying dues = more revenue.

Dear Joshua,
I guess the students who pay the 20dollars are not going to make a fuss in case they have to pay more.Is this a weekly fee or what? More members paying a more equitable sum of money [eg each person paying a median amount ] may well generate more cash??
I have noticed that Aikidoka have no problem paying fpr theatre tickets, cds , nights out on the town and usually the fees in the U.K are comparatively cheap.Cheers, Joe.

Phil Van Treese
05-21-2014, 02:11 PM
Am I bragging or lamenting???? Hmmm, I guess I am bragging because my students (now 41) like the classes, they like what they learn and aren't intimidated by the instr's rank and they can approach him anytime they want. The women (23 to be exact, up from 17 2 weeks ago) love the manner of teaching also. How are your students in the frozen north? I bet the penguins in your classes are fast learners, aren't they. However, for you to get more "students", I wouldn't bring cookies----you might try sardines.

Edgecrusher
05-22-2014, 10:43 AM
Not intimidated by your rank? Not now but, when I first started out for sure. Nothing is more awe inspiring than being taught by a 12th Dan. Besides, you never brought us cookies, it was raw meat and you told us to fight for it like starved pit bulls.

Phil Van Treese
05-22-2014, 12:55 PM
12th dan????? You know something I don't???? That's a whole lot of cookies there. I wonder how many sardines it would be?????

kewms
05-22-2014, 01:41 PM
Hey Keith,

I'm going to try to get you in touch with our dojo cho so he can answer the questions you have.

If you're curious this is where I train: http://toledoaikido.blogspot.com/

Josh

A little additional context might be helpful, too.

This particular dojo is co-located with a Buddhist temple, where the chief instructor is also the senior Dharma teacher. Sliding fee scales are unusual in the commercial/retail world, but quite common in the non-profit/social services world. Buddhism in particular has a lot of tradition around community support. So I suspect this approach works better in this context than it might in a for-profit dojo with a more "fee for services" attitude.

Katherine

PS Please say hi to Jay from me when you see him next.

kewms
05-22-2014, 01:48 PM
Um, no, if you sell below cost you just lose more with more volume. You can sell some below cost if there are others paying above. Or other sources of income generated by getting butts in the seats so to speak. High volume and selling below cost usually means you go broke faster.


Except a dojo has high fixed costs -- rent, instructor support, etc. -- but very low incremental costs. Adding an additional student costs very little, and most of those costs (uniform, organizational fees) can be passed on to the students themselves.

Moreover, each individual class is like a theatre performance: once it's over, it's done. You can't put it on a shelf and sell it later. So, like day-of-show "rush" tickets on Broadway, you'll take any revenue that you can get from a teaching slot that would otherwise be empty.

Katherine

Keith Larman
05-22-2014, 03:00 PM
Except a dojo has high fixed costs -- rent, instructor support, etc. -- but very low incremental costs. Adding an additional student costs very little, and most of those costs (uniform, organizational fees) can be passed on to the students themselves.

Moreover, each individual class is like a theatre performance: once it's over, it's done. You can't put it on a shelf and sell it later. So, like day-of-show "rush" tickets on Broadway, you'll take any revenue that you can get from a teaching slot that would otherwise be empty.

Katherine

Pedantic man replies -- Again, if you are selling "below" cost (fixed plus incremental) then *by definition* you are making less than it costs you. Honestly, being a dojo cho myself and cutting the checks monthly I'm fully aware of the high fixed costs and the fact that bringing more bodies on the mat is almost cost-free. I was replying to the comment that even if you're losing money by selling below cost you can make it up on volume as a general concept.

Taking off my pedantic-man cape now and getting back to doing the dojo invoicing...

allowedcloud
05-23-2014, 06:15 AM
A little additional context might be helpful, too.

This particular dojo is co-located with a Buddhist temple, where the chief instructor is also the senior Dharma teacher. Sliding fee scales are unusual in the commercial/retail world, but quite common in the non-profit/social services world. Buddhism in particular has a lot of tradition around community support. So I suspect this approach works better in this context than it might in a for-profit dojo with a more "fee for services" attitude.

Katherine

PS Please say hi to Jay from me when you see him next.

Thanks for this, it's absolutely correct. The idea is that people paying at the higher end of the scale effectively subsidize those that are paying at the lower end. This helps ensure that no one is financially excluded from training at the dojo.

And Jay was very happy that your Sandan test went so well :)

Rupert Atkinson
05-23-2014, 06:36 AM
Partly joking, but partly true: 99% of new students walking through the door have little idea of what Aikido is and expect to learn to defend themselves. After a couple of weeks they will have 'converted' and would likely tell a new newbie about relaxation and non-resistance and so on and so forth. After some time, the 'converted' wake up and realise what happened and that their black belt won't protect them. I think many leave because of this miss-match of expectations leading to a feeling of loss/betrayal both by their school/sensei and because of their own foolishness. They just wake up to the actual reality.

All true: The best way to attract people is to be good yourself. The best way to keep people is to teach them all the waza really well and to make them faster, fitter, stronger and more confident. You must also continue train hard yourself and to do your best to remain better than your students. If you do this, your club will be good - it will attract students by word of mouth and retention will be high.

Common sense: if you do demos in public places for recruitment purposes, plan them well - show what Aikido is - not just your favourite waza - and don't do sword taking as most people, especially other martial artists, will laugh at you. Possibly, quite loudly. And while it is good to have everyone participate, keep those with an obvious lack of skill (especially black belts) out of the demos. But do include low grades that have skill - they are possibly your best advertisement as they are what your newbies will become.

PeterR
05-23-2014, 07:01 AM
The best way to attract people is to be good yourself. The best way to keep people is to teach them all the waza really well and to make them faster, fitter, stronger and more confident. You must also continue train hard yourself and to do your best to remain better than your students. If you do this, your club will be good - it will attract students by word of mouth and retention will be high.

I was mulling over whether to relate this little story and you pushed me into it.

I was leaving for Canada after several years training in Japan and was undergoing all sorts of anxiety about starting my first club in my new abode. An old hand in starting clubs both abroad and in Japan (may have been the first non-Japanese to open a Aikido club in Japan) told me that if you are any good people will come. He left me hanging for a bit - but after awhile wandered back and said "Don't worry they'll come". They did of course but basically what worked is exactly what Rupert described. Word of mouth is a powerful tool - and so is leading from the front. I have only started a club one other time but in both cases the type of student I wanted did not come from flyers, cutting prices (OK they were always low) or dragging in friends and relations. Those things worked for the initial start to some degree but I think that for long term growth they are probably not the best way.

Aikido will not pull people away from other arts whether martial or otherwise, and it wont drag in previously disinterested people off the street.

lbb
05-23-2014, 08:33 AM
I was replying to the comment that even if you're losing money by selling below cost you can make it up on volume as a general concept.

As has already been explained, it was a JOKE.

Keith Larman
05-23-2014, 09:10 AM
As has already been explained, it was a JOKE.

Sigh. I know. I was replying to Katherine as the topic of incremental costs and students in a dojo is a topic of daily concern to me and I do recognize the issue.

Never mind... Time for a break. As *another* joke goes, if someone is having a hard time communicating, the least he can is shut up about it. I'm shutting up now.

damatte keikoshiro.

Stephen Nichol
05-29-2014, 08:18 PM
Hi Stephen,
What cookies would you suggest you give potential students?Chocolate Chipped, Coconut flavoured, Milk chocolate, minty ones?Do you also provide them with a cup of cocoa, tea or a Starbucks special? Do you find the local cafes take umbrage on you for taking away some of their trade?Are you planning a food kitchen in the near future?I think soup and a crusty role would be a more effective ploy to generate interest than a cookie.
Cheers, Joe

Hey Joe,

Sorry for the late reply. I spend more time using the search feature on this forum looking for gold than anything else these days.

We have found that a sweet tooth to the optimal 'introductory food' and we will supply our customers... err, students with whatever flavour they prefer for free... the first time.. ;)

To avoid the local cafes and 'suppliers' from taking umbrage we approach them and arrange to act as 'distributors' of their cookies and beverages and other 'product' and provide them a increase stream of customers. :D

So it is a win/win situation :p

Repeat business is done via the basic positive re-enforcement with reward practice: "Your technique has improved. Would you like some chocolate?" "If you correct your posture like 'this' you may find this easy to do. Ah good, just like that! Would you like some coco?" :p

Stephen Nichol
05-29-2014, 08:49 PM
On a more serious note to address the OP:

It is an interesting experience trying to grow the membership at a dojo as well as your practice space. The later being the case for those who rent out a shared training area of any sort and have to set up and take down mats and whatever else several times a week to train.

Finding that next level of growth in membership to make it possible to open a full time training hall/dojo is an interesting endeavor.

The content of what is on every medium you use to advertise is 'key' (not to be confused with Ki and Chi and ... well you get the idea) to be clear about what you do in simplest but still interesting terms.

So you have your web based advertising.
Word of mouth.
Flyers located in places you feel give you exposure to people from all over who may be curious.
Perhaps T-Shirts and other clothing with any logo you may have. The design of clothing logos and slogans can speak volumes about the personality and atmosphere one could expect from your club which will affect who you attract and why.

In our case, our current location is rather decent size and a very functional space however it is a shared time venue as a scout/guide hall. As our own Dojo matures and continues to grow (slowly) we find ourselves looking around for a place to expand/move to for the right cost and the correct balance point of membership levels to sustain that move.

We are currently limited by only being able to train certain evenings of the week due to the shared venue. A full time location will open up the options to train every night which in turn opens up the options for more people to come and train as they can fit it into the schedules.

Obviously the question we ask ourselves is: Even if we had a full time location, how many existing students would take advantage of being able to training any night of the week and how many new students would start based on the fact they could train on nights that are currently unavailable?

To summerize (nothing expecially new here I imagine):
Growth of membership and retention of students can come down to:
- Training costs
- Training nights available based on other things in their lives
- Personalities of everyone involved fitting together. (not always essential but helps if they do)
- Catering to new people not only with beginner classes but also each person's reason for trying Aikido.. or your style of it. Many people in our dojo have done Aikido in the past, often many years ago and want to get back into it. A little special attention in the right places and quantity can go a long way to making someone feel like they learn 'their way' to do what you are trying teach them 'what you do'.

Hope some of this is useful. I am always learning myself about... well, everything. So this is based on my limited experience so far.

Kind regards,

Steve

JP3
05-31-2014, 04:07 PM
We tried a Groupon. Serious. We structured it to give a half-price 60 days trial period, and since our dojo is "in" a BJJ school, what we did is voluntarily pick up the slack on dues as a group to see if the $$$ special could lead to some new folks. Got a few hits, and got 2 new couples and their older kids from it. Total of 6 new students. Cost our club people about $90 out of pocket to do it.