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Kovar Systems
Student Retention Business Tips

Retention Tools: The Birthday Party

By Ilya Mir

Birthday parties, if done well, are a powerful retention tool for your martial arts school. First and foremost, an ideal birthday party should highlight the birthday student throughout the entire party. Treat this occasion as an opportunity for your student to show their friends how important they are to your school and all the cool skills they’ve acquired during their time with you. Make this event  all about them, and they might just be back every year.

At our school, we have a student who has trained with us for five years and has had all five birthday parties with us. Here are a few steps we take to plan out our birthday parties…

Step 1: Staffing and Pricing

Price the birthday party so that it is attractive to your staff and profitable for the school. You want to make it attractive to your staff because if they are on board, then it can be a huge marketing opportunity for the school. Incentivize working the party so that your staff is more inclined to stay after weekend classes are over. Without proper staffing the birthday party will not yield the retention and acquisition levels you’re anticipating

We charge $245 for a birthday party that is 1.5 hours long and $120 of that goes to our instructional team, roughly a 50% split. If we have a team of two instructors working for three hours (accounting for set-up and clean-up) each will make an additional $20/hour in commission to their hourly wages.

Step 2: Preparation

Get the word out. We make sure to use our CRM, Zen Planner, to send auto emails to students and parents offering them to sign up to do a birthday party with us. We recommend that our families let us know 60 – 90 days in advance. This way there is a higher likelihood that the date they want is available. We only offer birthday parties on Saturdays, so inevitably the dates we offer are limited.

Include your birthday party times on your online and physical class schedule handout. As parents are scanning through the class times, they may come across the birthday party and be prompted to save a date for their child’s birthday.

Make a list of all upcoming birthday parties. Divide the list among your team members and have someone personally reach out to every upcoming birthday student. A phone call, a written “awesome” postcard, or a conversation with their favorite instructor goes a long way.

Step 3:  Tips for During the Party

  1. Before the party starts have a huddle with the kids and explain the focus anchors to them. Keeping kids that aren’t your yet students focused can be tough, so go over what signs they should look out for when it’s time for them to be focused on the instructors. It only takes three minutes, and I assure you it’ll be the best three minutes you will spend at the birthday party.
  1. Engaging the parents works wonders. Use them as pad holders for kids when you run lines and have them participate in games. The more you can bring everyone together, the more successful of a birthday you will have. When parents are on the mat, smiling, and sweating with the kids they will be much more open to scheduling an appointment. 
  1. Facebook is a great tool to use for birthday parties. Take pictures throughout the party. Focus on action shots. Post them with the permission of the parents and wait for all the birthday inquiries you’ll have coming in.

For us, a successful birthday party has 15 kids and generates 3-4 appointments, which usually converts into 2-3 trials, and ultimately 1-2 full-time students. We only do 1-2 birthday parties a month, but with enough staffing and resources, I’d like to make it one birthday party a week. With the above tips, you’re sure to rock every birthday party at your martial arts school.

Today’s blog is written by one of our success coaches, Ilya Mir. He works as program director at our Natomas location. He trains both in kenpo (2nd Degree Black) and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (Purple Belt). 

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by Ilya Mir