The Technological Tool That Will Enable You to Market Your Studio to Smartphone Users
In order to be relevant in today's economy, a business needs to adopt a culture of innovation. It's the only way to keep up with your customers and your competitors, all of whom are constantly evolving.
Ten years ago, the way consumers shopped for products and services was drastically different. Back then, the majority of people still purchased from brick-and-mortar stores and lacked the tools that are available today for product research.
In the technological environment we now take for granted, modern consumers can quickly and easily get the information they need to analyze alternatives, weigh them against each other and then make a buying decision in a matter of minutes — using nothing more than their fingertips. What this means is customers are becoming more powerful in making their own purchasing decisions — without the need to talk to anybody at your business.
This shift in consumer behavior carries a crucial lesson: To succeed, you must deliver your marketing information in the shortest amount of time, to the most targeted customer segments, and in the way those potential customers want to be reached. Getting this right will allow your business to capture the right person's attention and enable him or her to take immediate action.
Consider the following customer's journey, which is representative of the process most people follow today.
Shopping in the 21st Century
Linda is looking for martial arts classes for her 6-year-old son. She turns on her phone and directs Google to find "karate classes near me." In a matter of seconds, she's presented with all the facilities that are nearby.
She scrolls down, then clicks on a couple of the options so she can read the relevant reviews. Then she clicks on a link to a studio that piques her interest. Unfortunately, the studio's website is hard to read because it hasn't been optimized for mobile devices. Linda cannot easily find the information she wants, so she clicks on "back" and scrolls down to the next school on the list.
The second studio has a simple, clean website, one that offers a special trial program for new students. Linda clicks on the button for the offer to learn more. She likes what she reads and sees. After noticing the prominent "Register Now" button, Linda decides immediately to sign up her son for the trial program.
To make sure your business continues to be relevant, you must take an honest look at it as though you were Linda. Put yourself in her shoes as she searches for a martial arts school for her son. Evaluate the experience she — or any other customer — would have while browsing and interacting with your website.
The key questions are: How does your online presence compare to that of your competitors? And if customers are ready to buy, are you offering them the tools they need to do so easily and quickly? Your answers will affect your business more and more as we move forward in the 21st century.
Tu Le is the founder and CEO of InCourage Martial Arts, the company behind the MyStudio app for martial arts school owners.
Q&A With the Developer of the MyStudio App
MASuccess: What is your martial arts background?
Tu Le: I am a lifelong practitioner. I started taekwondo classes when I was 13 and started teaching when I was 14. I trained and competed nationally with the members and coaches of the U.S. [taekwondo] team. I retired from competition when I was 22 to pursue full-time teaching and became a martial arts studio owner at 25.
MAS: How long have you been in business?
Le: Since 2007. [During that time], we opened seven studios in the Northern Virginia market. We sold two and currently operate five.
MAS: When did you realize that you had to do business differently?
Le: When our organization grew to three locations, we found ourselves drowning in administrative work. At that time, we were still registering students with pen and paper. Then we had to manually put their information into our management platform. After that, we would send the agreement to a collection agency, which kept 7 percent of the total bill. On $2.5 million — which was our gross at that time — we were losing $175,000 annually.
With a manual process like that, there was all sorts of room for errors. One day, on a random audit, we found that over $50,000 in summer-camp payments were missed because the team member "forgot" to input the agreement. To make it worse, the payments were supposed to be collected three months ago. I knew at that time that we needed to change.
MAS: What did you do next?
Le: We started immediately with an organizational goal to go paperless and mobile — meaning every agreement and every transaction needed to be easily available online somehow.
From our research, we [knew that we] needed to have four different software solutions to adequately meet our needs for managing our martial arts students, summer-camp registrations, afterschool programs, special events and retail sales.
Knowing that our customers' buying behaviors are different now, we wanted them to have the ability to do all of the above from their phone, wherever they are and at whatever time is most convenient.
Unfortunately, there was nothing like that in the marketplace, so we decided to build it ourselves. That was the beginning of MyStudio, the app platform.
MAS: What exactly is MyStudio and how does it work?
Le: MyStudio is a membership management and payment platform that is built with a customer-centric focus. That means everything that we designed and built is for the purpose of improving the experience of our customers.
The platform allows customers to easily register and pay for any services or products that we offer: martial arts memberships, afterschool-program memberships, summer camps, "Ninja Nights," sparring pads, etc. — right from their phone or computer, from anywhere and at any time they like.
Since we have five studios and operators from all walks of life — some of whom are very tech-savvy while others do not appreciate technology at all — we needed to make the platform extremely simple to use.
MAS: Can customers register for a membership at one of your schools from their smartphone?
Le: That's correct. Our customers spend money daily like this now. They can buy groceries, book a vacation, call a taxi and buy a Tesla car all online — the majority of these transactions are from a mobile device. To them, [registering for a membership at one of our schools using their phone] is more comfortable, convenient and safe compared to taking 30 minutes of their day to meet with us to write their personal and financial information on a piece of paper that will be stored in a cabinet.
For us, it eliminates 90 percent of our administrative work. Everything from registration to billing is automated, which allows us to do more of what we should be doing: getting new students and keeping current ones longer.Additionally, MyStudio was built with the ability to pass on the payment-processing fees to our customers. We were previously paying our billing company 7 percent, which was $175,000 annually, to bill our customers. Now, our platform automatically does that, and we have an extra $175,000 to invest back into our business.
MAS: And customers are OK with paying the extra fee?
Le: Again, customers are doing this on a day-to-day basis. They buy movie tickets, sporting-event tickets, food to be delivered, etc. and pay the extra fees without much thought.
MAS: Is MyStudio available only for your studios, or can anyone purchase it?
Le: MyStudio was built for the InCourage studios. However, when we showed our platform to some of our friends in the industry, they urged us to share it with others, so we did. And we wanted to do it in a way that would really help move the industry forward. The best way for us to do that was to make it affordable for everyone.