Identifying Your Non-Customers

Synopsis: When attempting to grow a kid’s programme, from scratch or for an established, well-structured academy, gaining new customers should be as important as providing a service concerned with the retention of existing clients. This article will attempt to distinguish the different levels of non-customers to your service and methods to connect, ultimately growing your kids classes.

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In the past I have been overly concerned with providing the best possible service when compared to my competitors in the area. Whether that service level came in the form of alignment (credibility), communication or delivery; everything I did focussed on being markedly better to serve my clients. In retrospect, as much as this provided a fantastic environment to please said clients, the full potential for growth was never realised and everything developed organically. Whilst growth occurred, it was never noticeable in the short term, undoubtedly because my focus was on my existing clients and not new customers.

There is a huge market out there for new customers and whilst it is right not to neglect your existing student base you should have several scheduled campaigns in place to specifically target new customers and maximise your potential to reach these customers.

This post is not intended to provide a step-by-step guide on how to gain new customers rather, at this point my aim is to provide an insight into the groups of ‘non-customers’ you may have and how you should strategically market your campaigns towards each. If you are to successfully engage with non-customers you must first understand why they are indeed ‘non-customers’. Focus on why these children are not part of your classes and it will be so much easier to implement a campaign to serve them as clients.

Let’s look at the types of people we may consider non-customers, examine why they are non-customers and how we may reach them, develop them into clients and grow your kid’s classes.

There are several reasons why any service has non-customers; incorrect assumptions about what’s on offer, poorly sourced beliefs about your service and how it relates to them as clients, hurdles in place involving convenience and suitability and unanswered questions that ensure non-customers will always choose substitutes or alternatives over you. Let’s split these reasons into three different levels and asses each individually before understanding how we may tackle each specifically.

Level One Non-Customers or “soon-to-be-customers”.
[Potentially Governed by Perception].

‘Level One Non-Customers’ are your first tier of non-customer, consider them your soon-to-be-customers and for that matter potentially the easiest to recruit and grow your kid’s classes. Persuasion is the key here, the ‘vitality’ of your language is far more central to their decision to join than functionality and with the help of their own unique communities and networking groups they can be accessed more readily than any other ‘non-customer’.

For Level One Non-Customers, there is a perception that all martial arts classes are made up of regimented discipline. Children are not allowed to talk, must stand in uniform straight lines, conform to rituals and rehearse choreographed, robotic breathing and movement. Whether this ignorance has been reinforced by the movies or indeed the parent’s own past experiences as children, it is an obstacle that must be overcome.

Whilst it is true to say that there are still some martial arts programmes that simply have not moved with the time, it is also true to say these coaches have not had the foresight to look across the alternatives on offer within our industry and learned to implement subsequent delivery models, creating an environment where learning through fun, without any detriment to functionality, is at the heart of the interaction. Based on these insights, I would argue, it is these coaches who, as a result, shall never experience significant sustained growth.

These same Level One Non-Customers potentially have other perceptions or experiences that have kept them from enrolling their child into your classes. With the concern of strictness comes a view that their child will not fit in; once this mindset of unsuitability is fixed it is very hard to change. The perceived complexity of techniques, the dangerous, ‘unsafe’ nature of certain movements and the potential for their child to become uninterested with slow progress are all misguided beliefs but ultimately decide whether their child (the non-customer) becomes a client of yours.

As a business owner concerned with expansion, the removal of these beliefs not only maximises potential for new customers but also fosters the perfect environment for existing clients – the difficulty lies in how we market our brand to eliminate this misrepresentation. The answer to this lies in your ability to extend a strong message that all the above is incorrect.

The easiest way by far to convert opinions is to provide the best social pitch possible that has focus, is divergent and has a compelling tagline or as Daniel Priestley points out, one that stresses who you are (name), where you fit in (same), what makes you different (fame), what you are working towards (goal) and your vision (game). This, together with conscientious, vibrant marketing that advertises the environment in which you coach can go a long way – expand this notion into your logo and brand identity be aware of colours, their influence and the impact their uniform, consistent and methodical employment can have.

Utilising your website and chosen social media platforms to display images of your interaction with the children you coach and the informality of the setting also alters opinions. Social proof can be achieved if you have sought prior permission from parents to use images of their children for advertising and can tag parents in images or persuade relevant sharing across your chosen social media platforms, this can be done at the ‘sign up’ phase through your membership portals.

Testimonials from other parents or trusted partners (schools and or other industry providers you have partnered with) that reinforce your delivery, the setting, your abilities as a coach to interact and the benefit you have provided your current clients also go a very long way and are something I use in all my literature and promotional material.

Having said all of this there may very well still be parents that are anxious that your service will not fully include their child. At this point, your ability to ‘understand individualism’ is key.

Level Two Non-Customers or “refusal-customers”.
Potentially Governed by Convenience].

Refusal-customers consistently choose against you – not because they have an aversion to you personally or a bad experience that has already turned them away from your class but rather, convenience plays a factor in their choice to become your client.

A major factor in a parent’s decision to be a Level Two “refusal-customer” is your training times and the fact they do not fit into their own schedule. Your times and availability may well clash with other clubs: swimming, cubs, brownies, gymnastics, school pick up, their own working hours (child-care), the list could go on.

This can be mitigated by changes or additions to your timetable that facilitate convenient uptake. Breakfast, lunch and after school classes within the school day are one brilliant way to extend your class reach. Direct contact with your local schools is the best way to facilitate this or establishing a channel of communication with your local school sports partnership who are best placed to help you achieve such a strategy.

If you fail to secure a working relationship with your target school(s), consider installing classes immediately after the school day, however, this is traditionally a time when swimming is popular and could may well impact on your class implementation and growth.

Depending on the target ages for your classes you might consider implementing sessions after school drop-off, traditionally a time when parents meet for coffee and or soft-play and a gossip. However, as with swimming being straight after school, there is a whole industry you will be in direct competition with which, provides specific innovation and value to their own clients. Partnerships and or cross-promotions may well be the answer here and provided you analyse the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats sufficiently you will be in a much better position to utilise this option and cooperate with these industry alternatives.

Level Three Non-Customers or “unexplored-customers”.
Potentially Governed by Aspiration].

You should consider Level Three Non-Customers as non-customers that frequent markets distant from yours – alternatives as opposed to substitutes – they provide the most challenging conversion and are governed by their aspirations for their children, which is indirectly related to perceptions.

In some cases, children are specifically enrolled into pastimes that offer far more perceived scope for personal development. Whether these pastimes are considered life skills (such as swimming and lifesaving), arts (music and drama) or team-building (football, rugby, hockey, etc.), whilst the three kinds listed undoubtedly have their merits, the perceptions that our industry does not offer the same in equal measure is frustrating – use this to fuel your marketing.

To correct this, look to what I suggested to convert Level One Non-Customers but more so, consider the language and images used in marketing material.

Group photographs, celebratory team images and videos from competitions reinforce the ‘teamwork’ aspect we all appreciate from, what some may consider, an individual pursuit whereas, ‘talking-heads’ promotional videos, self-defence curriculums and anti-bullying programmes reinforce ‘life skills’. As for ‘arts’, there is nothing purer than the ‘gentle art’…

Another great way to tap into these non-customers and grow your classes is to cross-promote with alternatives to your service seek cross-promotional advertising (ancillary memberships and discounts) or attempt to formulate successful working relationships with as many mutually beneficial partners as possible. As previously mentioned schools are a great start as is utilising your pedigree to provide ‘off-season’ training for sports teams or clubs that wouldn’t normally use your service. There is great scope for relations between your operations and your local rugby team. Grappling movements provide great leverage for the conditioning and skill acquisition necessary in a contact sport such as rugby so look to contacting the operations manager or coaches of the mini-rugby team in your area.

Which group of non-customers should you campaign to first?

The table below provides a summary of each type of non-customer (by no means definitive) and a simplistic look at the reasons and potential solutions to converting them into clients.

Type of Non-CustomerLevel OneLevel TwoLevel Three
Potential ReasonsPerceptionsConvenienceAspirations
Actionable SolutionsCommunicationDeliveryAlignment

Focus your campaigns according to two things: your opportunity to reach the group and the groups conversion potential. Understand, maximum exposure = maximum growth potential. You may well look to adopt differing campaigns across different times of the year, see below for examples:

Campaign 1. Summer (July & August).
Utilise local junior sports team and their respective down time (off season). Your pedigree in fitness, kids coaching experience and grappling can be served well in this environment and may well foster either a continuous cross-partner relationship or indeed persuade parents to switch allegiance from one industry provider to another.

Campaign 2. September (back to school).
Look at your working relationships with schools and how their insights and the non-customers apparent here could be marketed to away from the school timetable or indeed as a provider during the school day.

Campaign 3. Winter (December & January).
Parents are anxious about children being outside after dark, advertise your ‘indoor’, ‘safe’ programme that deals with ‘environmental awareness’ through martial arts.

Throughout this article, I have provided you with lots of information to grow your kid’s classes. Identifying and distinguishing between the three kinds of non-customers mentioned herein provides valuable insight into the shortcomings of your marketing strategies and campaigns. It also presents an understanding of each non-customer communication channels, networking groups, habits and behaviours and what is potentially required to enter each one.

Think about the following:

  1. What are the shortcomings of your service?
  2. Why are people not choosing you?
  3. What elements of your programme need changing?
  4. What do you industry alternatives do well?
  5. What are the ultimate selling points of these alternatives?

Good luck and remember to let me know how you are getting on.

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