Does your martial arts school prioritise word of mouth marketing? It’s one of the most convincing and cost-effective marketing techniques available to businesses, yet it’s often overlooked when you’re first starting out. Word of mouth marketing (referred to as WOMM by many businesses) is a successful martial arts marketing tool for schools all over the world. Following his experience in his own school, WAIMA, co-founder Graham McDonnell believes: “Word of mouth is by far the best way to get your brand out there without it being a major cost.”
Has someone else’s experience with a business ever been so good you decided to try it yourself? Perhaps you were told about it in conversation after you expressed your desire for a similar service. Perhaps you were told because your connection felt compelled to tell you simply to share the good news. If you’ve had conversations like this, then you have participated in word of mouth. Word of mouth marketing differs from organic word of mouth because it is actively encouraged and influenced by businesses. It takes the unpredictability out of word of mouth marketing, and intentionally shapes advocates out of your customers and networks.
The reason WOMM works so well is because of trust. Customers trust the opinions of their friends, family, colleagues and other relations much more than they do people who work in the business because they perceive they have no ulterior motives. Furthermore, people tend to hold similar values to the people they spend the most time with, and they like and trust people who are similar to them .
In his book Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking, author Andy Sernovitz identifies The Five Ts of encouraging Word of Mouth Marketing. Talkers Find the people in your network who love to talk and are good at it. Within your customer base should be your first port of call, but they could also be associated businesses, local organisations or online bloggers. When you’ve found your talkers, you need to ensure they are up to date with what’s happening at your business so they can join in on the conversation. Topics You need to give your talkers a good reason to talk about your business. Of course, good service will always be a topic of conversation, so this is imperative. A current sale or discount, a new feature or a special event might also inspire your talkers. Tools It’s important to make it as easy as possible for your talkers to communicate about your topic. Social media and email newsletters are a great method of getting this message out if you have limited time and resources. Taking Part To get the most out of your WOMM, you must participate in the conversations where possible. Conversations die out when there’s only one participant, so when you can see people are talking about you, particularly if it’s on your own channels, answer them. This includes comments on blog posts, direct emails and social media chatter. Tracking Tracking is an important part of WOMM, because the information you receive from word of mouth conversations will be some of the best feedback you can find. Word of mouth conversations are unfailingly authentic, so the feedback you receive, both positive and negative, should be aggregated by your school and used as a resource. Listen to what people are saying, learn from it and use it to cater your services specifically to your customers' needs.
In their Martial Arts Business Success podcast episode 10, TIMA co-founders Phil Britten and Graham McDonnell discuss word of mouth referral campaigns that work in martial arts schools. Phil and Graham suggest the use of a ‘bring a friend’ system where the referee gets a voucher incentive for referrals, which increases in value the more referrals they bring in. In addition to a monetary incentive, the boys suggest compelling students to refer friends through emotional appeals. “Our current students understand that they are learning things that will change their lives, and that we’re sharing the gift of martial arts with them, and it would be silly for them not to share that on to their friends” – Phil Britten They believe emotional engagement is key to spreading word of mouth through martial arts students. There are also ways martial arts schools can encourage the spread of positive word of mouth through staff. In staff training, teach your instructors how to engage with students and clients while incorporating this emotional appeal. If you explain the strategy and empower the staff to encourage these behaviours, you’ll have the consistency throughout your school to deliver the best results. If you’d like more information about how to encourage word of mouth referrals at your martial arts school, get started with a TIMA package today. We love to give advice to schools at all stages of their journey.
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