How To Use Booths To Increase Enrollment
WILLIAM SCOTT KIFER
For over fourteen years USA Karate in Carol Stream, Illinois, has been using booths to generate new students, and we have met with considerable success.
We’ll go to any event that draws thousands of people and will allow us to set up a booth. That includes county fairs, car shows, Jaycee and Chamber of Commerce fairs, business conventions and sidewalk sales. During the last 12 months, we have signed up 77 extension students using booths, and we’d like to offer you the benefit of our experience.
The time to start your booth organization is January 1st Get in touch with your surrounding cities, Jaycees, chambers, county and state governments, and find out “what, when, where, and how much”.
We’ve found that many of the largest opportunities, such as county fairs, require a deposit to reserve booth space anything from six months to a year in advance. Don’t let this put you off. The longer the advance notice required the bigger the event.
for booth spaces vary from area to area and event to event. In our area, 30 miles west of Chicago, booth fees run from $100 to $350, for a 10 by 10 foot space.
However, out of the 4 to 6 booths we do each year, we usually have to pay for only one or two. You can do the same by offering to exchange a demonstration for a booth.
Events like these are constantly in search of ‘draws’ and entertainment.
Use your imagination. in any case, don’t let a fee of a couple of hundred dollars keep you from adding dozens of students to your school. We paid $400 for a 10 by 20 foot booth at the DuPage County Fair, which has an average 5 day attendance of more than 180,000.
Was it worth it? You tell me.
This year USA Karate signed up 105 intros, gave 76 first intro lessons, and extended 37 for a total contract amount of $55,500.00, and we still have more coming in! We just mailed the last 250 lead letters, (out of 1500 leads from the booth), and signed up 6 new intros from the fair in one day! In the past fourteen years we have gotten over 10,000 leads, 1,092 first intros, and 586 full extentions for a total contract amount of $703,200.00. That doesn’t count the renewals!
Our booth is designed to have a three pronged approach: First, we have two lead boxes under nonviolent martial arts photos. The sign reads;
WIN A BLACK BELT KARATE COURSE!
Win a tuition FREE Black Belt program, including an official Karate uniform, at USA KARATE in Carol Stream.
Below the box, a smaller sign says:
SIGN UP NOW to Win your FREE Black Belt Course.
Each box has entry blanks in pad form for Name, Address, City, State, ZIP, Age, and Phone number.
Second, and our biggest draw, is:
HIT THE TARGET AND WIN A PRIZE!
We use a Gage Target that measures the force of the blow, and have the contestants hit it with a hammer fist to eliminate the possibility of injury.
We award a small prize for hitting with twice their body weight, and a slightly better one for three times their weight, and we ‘guestimate’ the weight of girls, women and those who are overweight, to avoid losing a potential sign‑up due to hurt feelings!
We find the value of the prizes to be unimportant, just as long as they look good and are martial arts oriented, and we give every contestant a karate sticker. If you can’t get a Century Gage Target, any nonviolent martial arts type of game will do. Remember: No one competes until they have completed an entry form and put it in the lead box. Ask the event organizers what their average attendance has been for the last few years, and plan on having prizes for 3%. If 10,000 will attend, you’ll need 300 prizes.
Finally, we have a trained helper offering: Sign up the whole family to take a FREE month of NO OBLIGATION classes, (a $115 value). Plus the opportunity to get an official Black Belt Uniform (normally $40-$60) for only $10. Treat interested prospects just like walk‑ins or info calls.
Manning your booth can be handled with a combination of staff and volunteers, but make sure you have one staff member present at all times. We ask ‘gung‑ho’ students and parents to help for four hours, in exchange for a ticket to the fair, a free USA Karate T‑shirt to wear in the booth, and $5 towards a meal.
We have them attend a training session to instruct them in what to say, (and what not to say!), to prospective students, and schedule them so we have at least two volunteers per shift, and four at large events or during prime hours. Have your helpers put their name on new student introductory lesson forms, and award prizes to the ones who sign up the most intros who become extensions.
Plan your booth with forethought. Check that you’ll have electricity. Try to get an end booth or one next to an alcove so you’ll have room for your game. You will need two small tables and chairs. Have a school banner, and use red, white and blue decorations.
We have a tower made of pegboard, with a hole and an interior platform to hold a color TV monitor, on which we display our Black Belt rank test, TV ads and television coverage of our school. Use pegboard hooks to hang signs explaining contests and introductory lesson offers, etc. If it’s going to be hot, bring a good‑sized fan.
You’ll need student registration forms, adult and junior, a schedule in calendar form, so you don’t overbook intros, business cards‑, brochures, flyers, ads, and information about upcoming events at your school.
Have plenty of pens, preferably with your name, address and phone numbers. You’ll probably lose at least a dozen a day, so you may as well advertise! Take a scissors, ‘scotch tape, duct‑tape, string, markers, and cash for food for staff and volunteers.
Make sure your school is prepared. Have enough intro lessons scheduled, and enough instructors to conduct them. Brief staff on how you plan to handle the flow, and be sure to track all walk‑ins and calls so you’ll know if they resulted from a booth or from other current advertising.
We lost a substantial number of prospects before we realized that ‘free intro’ people come in with a totally different mindset than ‘paid intro’ people. Unlike the intros who called you and paid to try your lessons, the free intros may feel you talked them into coming and it’s just a lark because it’s free!
You may only have one chance to change their minds. Treat them with special care. Stress before the class that there is no obligation. Spend a little extra time with them. Show them good skills, and fun, but show
them you are serious about what you do. Offer specials, like a reduced price on a uniform and the regular monthly rate, 9 they sign up before the second lesson. When they sign up for the monthly program, mark your calendar to make appointments in 3 weeks to see if they qualify for extension programs.
In our case we require perfect attendance, and proper attitude and progress. if they qualify, we apply their $99 monthly fee to the cost of the extension program. Offer discounts for family members. After we adjusted our approach to the ‘free intro’ students, we increased our seconds by about100%, and our extensions by 500%.
There you are. That’s a brief account of our success with booths, and we invite you to use our experience, or modify it as you see fit to suit your special circumstances, but take the ball and run with it!