Well, is it?
Are you finding that your school’s website is invaluable in producing the results you wanted when you made it? Some of us have websites to attract new students. Some of us just want to share information. Some of us just want to post “lookitme!” sites. Some are trying to sell merchandise. Regardless of the reason you built your site, there has to come a point when you assess whether you are wasting space on the highway, time and money.
As martial arts teachers, most likely we built our sites to attract new students. So reflect on the last month. Who has been in looking for lessons? How did they find you?
Uh, I sure hope you have been asking everyone who inquires how they heard about you.
Do you have a ledger book recording the names, phone numbers, mailing addresses and details of every person who inquired into your school? If not, please get a copy of my book, Making a Living with Your Backyard/Garage/Community Center Dojo. Even if you have a school, this book has valuable rules for increasing your enrollment. I may not be the smartest guy in class, but one thing I do know is how to run a school and increase enrollment. Make sure you plop down the measly $7 bucks and invest in something that will make a difference… Anyway, every school should have at least two places to go to glance at potential students: one, in a book–and the other, in a folder in your email.
If you find that that visitors to your school are finding you more through walk-ins or ads, but not your school’s website, then you might consider overhauling your website. The first place people look to find anything these days is the internet, and if your website does not bring at least inquiries you need to change a few things.
I would like to offer some advice about what works for school websites and what doesn’t work. Some of these things might upset you a little; you know how we martial artists like our things-we-do-because-our-teachers-did-it stuff. Anyway, let’s get right to it:
- Remember the purpose of the school website: to get people to come in a consider joining your school. The website is not supposed to sell the membership (unless you have a way to actually sign up and pay online). Therefore, make sure that the language on your site serves that purpose. No one cares if your or your teacher is the Grandpoobah Grandmaster with 12 degrees and is a world-champion in the latest hot dog eating contest. The student wants to know if you are qualified to teach, what he will learn, how much it will cost, and if your school will make him better than the next guy’s (or at least be more interesting) school.
- History section. It is helpful, but not necessary, to give a history of the art you teach. Education is good, and a teacher who educates the student is seen as more knowledgeable. Some sites simply sound like they want your money. But if you give something they don’t know, and it’s interesting–students will paint a picture in their mind of the art’s rich history every time they think of you. Like I said, it’s not necessary, however. What is necessary is your history. Students need to know who you are, where you come from, and what you’ve accomplished. Without it, you are just another business. This puts value in the student’s mind. Tell them who you learned from, where you’ve been, what you’ve done. Another thing you might add is a history of the school–your school. This creates interest and, again, promotes value. Tell a story, and it sets you apart from the other guys. If your story is more interesting, you become unforgettable and more interesting to potential students.
- Give a curriculum or at least tell them what they’re in store for. I’m not talking about the usual “self-defense, weapons, forms” stuff that every school out there tells you. I want you to look at what your school has to offer that the other guys don’t have–what you do that’s unique–and what you do best. This piques interest, and again, it creates value. A good tip would be to describe, in detail, key points of learning in your school. One of the interesting things I’ve seen my classmates do is to list “vital Jow Ga forms”: Subduing Small Tiger, Subduing Big Tiger, Double Headed Staff, Tiger and Leopard Fist, Five Animals Fist, Iron Arrow, Double Sabers, Tiger Tail Broadsword… and then give a description of what each form does for you. You could also do a history of those forms. For example, if you teach Tae Kwon Do, don’t just list the forms and general requirements, get specific: Chon Ji — meaning Heaven and Earth. Foundation form of TKD that builds basic footwork and teaches how to move and strike, and how to move and block, simultaneously >> Dan Gun — named after Dan Gun, the monk who founded the state of Korea. This form teaches the student how to generate power by the rising and falling of the stance, while moving, and using the weight of the body to multiply the amount of force behind a punch. This is much better than No Belt–Chon Ji >> White Belt–Dan Gun… Students often wonder when looking at schools, “what am I going to be learning?” Answer that question for them. Few schools are.
- Keep in mind that students also want to know what is their benefit. They don’t care about the titles and bragging stuff. If you tell them who your Grandmaster is, make sure to make it relevant to the student. Why is it beneficial to have a Great Grandma Guro for a Grandmaster? If you claim that your version of the art is the “original” or “authentic” version of what you teach, answer the question of why it makes a difference. Too many teachers use the site as a means to brag and make themselves look good in print–TOO many. Don’t be one of them. Tell the students of your accomplishments, but make it relevant to them. Promise them that if they study with you, they will be stronger, more skilled, and better prepared to defend themselves (or whatever else you specialize in). And then tell them why that is, and how you are different from the “other guys”.
- One thing to remember is that most visitors to your site will not know much about the martial arts. We are sometimes so used to talking shop with other martial artists, we forget that most people don’t know what a Guro is, what a drill is, a form, or a Dojo. Keep your use of specialized jargon simple, or make sure to explain them, either in (parenthesis) or a legend or a description within the text. We don’t want to confuse our potential students.
- A good tip is also to outline how your classes will run. I have a “Training Method” section of my website. In this section, I give my philosophy of training and how it differs to what most schools do. I have seen some schools break down what learning will be like at each level of their training and how long it will take. Again, stress education, and make it relevant.
- Answer frequently asked questions. Sometimes, not knowing the answer to certain questions will prevent students from making the call. No one wants to be hard sold on a program, especially if they have no interest in that program. The idea is to answer as many questions as possible so that the student will know if he’s interested. This section shouldn’t be cluttered with too much information, however. Keep it short and simple, and answer the important questions.
- Pricing. I have had good and bad experience with pricing. One thing is that it sorts out the people who can’t afford it or won’t pay for it. Yet on the other hand it does not give you the opportunity to justify your price in person and address concerns that would make a visitor to your site move on to the next. I have heard some teachers say that is brings students in ready to sign up, having been convinced ahead of time–since price is often the deciding factor. You will have to decide what works for you. If you charge a lower price, by all means, post it. But if not, you may consider saying something simple like “pricing depends on the program you choose…”
- Add a form to capture information. I have a mailing list/guestlist on my site, so when visitors view my site, they are invited to leave their information so that I could add them to our newsletter, which comes out once a month. Usually it’s just generic information about the school, but frequently I do a blast that includes some short-term offer if they sign up by the end of the month. We also hold events that I invite potential students to attend, and the form is extremely valuable. You should consult with a webmaster to find out how to add one. They are a great tool to have on a website.
I hope you find this information useful, and–once you make some changes–see results. Again, if you don’t have a copy of my books, get them! Thanks for visiting my blog.