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Old 12-22-2013, 12:08 AM   #1
"Soliciting Advice"
IP Hash: 024430e4
Anonymous User
Build it They Will Come...Or not

Ah, don't we all long for the days when the Master could just sit on the mountain and students would make long treks to support and learn from them?

I belong to a dojo that started in 1990 and has somehow survived up to this point. The first few 'generations' of students worked out well enough. It was a small group but stable. But now we haven't gotten enough new students to replace the older people washing out.

Because of our finances, we have to rent. We have 3 two hour classes (T/Th/Sa) and in theory are fine with 10+ in the first hour on the T/Th class. Because of bad luck, we have just moved for the third time in the last 3 years. Our new landlords are very nice and hopes are high we can make it work.

We have the talent- our instructor is easily the highest ranked in the drivable area and well beyond that as well. In fact, we don't have real competitors (which I think has caused this soft attitude on advertising).

Any advice on how to reinvigorate an aging base? What about attracting new students? Advice on what not to do works great too.
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Old 12-24-2013, 12:26 AM   #2
Michael Hackett
Dojo: Kenshinkan Dojo (Aikido of North County) Vista, CA
Location: Oceanside, California
Join Date: Oct 2000
Posts: 1,175
Re: Build it They Will Come...Or not

Assuming you are in the United States, website, website, website! Get listed here on AikiWeb. Make brochures that you can locate outside the dojo (for times when you are closed) and to give to folks who inquire. The Yellow Pages don't seem to be too productive, nor do demonstrations. Link up with other martial arts schools in the area so you and other schools can make referrals back and forth. Make sure that you have someone to contact when prospective students reach out, regardless of how they learn of you. Good luck.

"Leave the gun. Bring the cannoli."
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Old 12-24-2013, 09:00 AM   #3
Location: Massachusetts
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 2,998
Re: Build it They Will Come...Or not

Strike while the iron is hot. Many people feel holiday guilt and New Year's resolve to do better. If you can latch onto that in a way that connects with people's aspirations to do better, without pandering to unrealistic fantasies, you'll bring in new people. The trick then is to retain them!
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Old 01-02-2014, 04:55 PM   #4
Dojo: Kokikai Aikido Boston
Location: Boston
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 120
Re: Build it They Will Come...Or not

It is good of you to try to help. I'd start by asking everyone how they heard about the dojos. There are tons of free online directories, a Page on Facebook is very easy to set up, could easily be done in an hour. Craigslist posting works well. Posters can work. Demos, could work in a way because the advertising could bring in more people. Anyone who makes it yo the demo is usually very interested in joining. Ask people to jump in and participate. As for your head instructor, it would be good to have his blessing before embarking on this, but, it is a very big job that he has and he or she would probably welcome some help! I am probably corresponding with potential students, current students, and former students on a daily basis, not to mention leading classes, sending e-mails, advertisements, etc...etc...
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Old 01-03-2014, 10:33 AM   #5
Dojo: Ren Shin Kan
Location: Birmingham
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 340
United Kingdom
Re: Build it They Will Come...Or not

Agree with setting up a facebook page. You can target posts to all members within an area who list "martial arts" as an interest (not sure about cost}
Leaflet drops work but can be costly - my dojo distributes 5,000 three or four times a year and we probably get 20- 25 students from that (about 1/1000 strike-rate)
Also promotions such as free classes (pay for 5 get 6 for example) or 1/2 price memberships in January.
Good luck!
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Old 01-03-2014, 03:01 PM   #6
Dojo: Brisbane Aikido Republic
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 298
Re: Build it They Will Come...Or not

You can basically have the dojo you want if you have the time and will. You need at least the time you spend on the mat to do this, at least in the initial stages. Getting buyin form the whole dojo is pretty important(and can be the biggest barrier i've seen in a few cases) and then a willingness to tweak all the variables. Having had the good fortune to open/grow a few dojo over the years I penned the following which you might find useful along with some stats on demographics, retention etc...
look forward to hearing how it goes

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