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S T O R Y
R a p h a e l
G a r c i a
IF NOT, THEY WON’T BE YOUR CUSTOMERS FOR LONG
“Thank You for Your Patronage” is a sign we often see hanging in stores as we make our final shopping selections. It’s a simple concept that the business owner is thankful for people who go out of their way to spend their hard earned money with them. It should work as a continuous cycle: companies provide the needed goods and services to the customers, while the customers trust the business to deliver quality goods and excellent service. This cycle has to be cultivated, especially in today’s hard economic times when purchases of products and services once thought of as necessities have now become discretionary. The martial arts industry is a part of this cycle. To succeed within the industry you must meet or exceed customer’s expectations. You must nurture the relationship, thank people for their business, and build that sustaining cycle. We see it from the very top of the ladder of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), down to the “mom and pop” MMA gyms. Success hinges on the ability of these businesses to keep customers happy and coming back time and time again. Happy customers are the lifeblood of the martial arts industry, and smart business owners have a keen understanding of how to please. business, but a number of potential referrals that could come your way. “Having a great product should always speak for itself,” said James Cosenza, founder of Warfare Inc., Clothing and Lifestyle Company. “I let my customers try out the products first before buying. Once they see the quality, they will keep coming back.”
YES, BUT …
A great product can take you only so far. “A student is most likely to quit within the first hundred days. They’re the most fragile at this point, both physically and psychologically,” said Peter McHugh, manager and instructor at the Ricardo Almeida Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Academy in New Jersey. “Because of this, it’s absolutely crucial to build rapport with the student from the get-go.”
You have a chance to begin building customer loyalty the very first time a person interacts with your company. Whether it’s looking at your school’s Facebook page or trying on the latest shirt, that first impression creates a perception about your organization. If you botch it, count on losing not only their
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+ You’re working them hard. no doubt. but are your customers happy enough to stay? .
” Customers should know that you’re providing the quality of service you would want if you were the customer.” said McCarty. “Yes. and not on making one sale. the business goals may be out of line. no matter if it is a new student or a long-time client. This includes making sure they are well compensated and treating their teams as well as they possibly could. and that we’re not just trying to sell them a product. boxing gloves. “You have to have fervor for your customers. “When you put them before yourself you will start to gain their trust. what’s important is providing a complete service experience. “Who is the ‘master’?” If a gym owner is more concerned about students showing him respect. While coupons and special deals may catch their attention at first. “On the first call. and we give a better service.” said McHugh. Will this make your company the most money? Maybe not on the first time. “These schools need to see their instructors and programming staff as valuable and not just a cost. and you cannot treat this like just another business.” Respect for the arts and for the degree you’ve earned is important.” When gym owners or their staff become the centerpiece for the business. “This is where ‘GAS’ comes into play. you’ll build a relationship that leads to many sales.” WHO’S THE MASTER? Tom DeBlass. And when an owner or head instructor shows equal respect for staff and students.” When you put the customer first. “The ability to retain instructors and the tenure of the team is key. or MMA mats. If you focus on providing the best possible service.” McHugh added. people often call for a quick price quote on mats or equipment. Without them. From the very start.Building this rapport begins the minute they walk into your establishment. echoed those sentiments.” DeBlass stated. these potential clients want your attention and they want to know you truly care about them being a part of your martial arts family. But you need to ask yourself.” Cosenza said. UFC Middleweight and owner of Ocean County Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. CEO of Members Solutions. you may have already lost their business. sales representative for Zebra Mats & Outfitters. “Customer service is always the most important thing. not on your sale.” said Steven Pinado. and they will remain as loyal to you as you do to them.” IT’S NOT ABOUT THIS SALE Whether you’re selling gym memberships. “You have to show the students you care. it’s “bend over backwards” service that keeps clients coming back. something that will serve them better and give better value. 34 O C TOBER 2 0 1 2 I W W W. “I’m thinking less about the quick sale and more about building a relationship. This is what has built the long success of Zebra Mats. “Consumers want your attention. And when we do we often provide them with something they didn’t know they needed. you have a much better chance of satisfying their needs. long-term relationships are formed.’ Consumers don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Customers know we care about their entire business. your focus should be on the customer’s goals. “GAS is an acronym for ‘Genuine and Sincere. “For us. This is easily accomplished by having a well-trained staff that knows to keep the facility “white glove” clean while always being prepared to help whenever asked. you might as well quit from the very start.” said Patrick McCarty. If your waiting area is unwelcoming or if you’re slow to address their needs. but we make sure we get to know their business and ask questions. C O M . students will wonder who is serving whom. People are then willing to pay the price because we ask the right questions. But you’ll build a relationship that best serves both you and the customer. M M A B U S I N E S S .