When you’re running your own school, you are probably preoccupied with attracting new students. Getting new people into your class is only the first step though, keeping them on board is the real challenge. Ideally you have new people who try out and decide to stay, you train them and they become better capoeira’s. You as a teacher invest time and effort and in return you get the satisfaction of seeing someone’s abilities develop.
If you’re constantly getting newcomers but they drop out after a few weeks, you’ll be stuck in a loop where you only ever get to teach the basic techniques since there’s always someone new. This will bore you out, but also the other students. You still invest time and effort, but get very little in return. (or you organize a beginners only class, but I don’t like that)
Capoeira is a very social sport and the way newcomers are welcomed and how quickly they feel integrated in the group, are in my opinion one of the main deciding factors for student retention in the first phase (the “exploring capoeira” phase). Other, obvious, factors are the quality of the class and the competence of the teacher.
Today I want to focus on the integration part and how I handle this nowadays. Remember, it’s just my personal view and experience that I want to share.
For years, we didn’t do anything special when someone new arrived on our figurative doorstep. We as teachers made sure to give that person a warm welcome for sure, but that was about it honestly. Some people stuck around, others left and we never questioned our approach. Things started changing for us a few years ago, when we realised we should pay more attention to our communication strategy for both existing and potential members.
Getting new people in
The revision of our communication strategy started with professionalising our online identity (website and socials), slowly making sure people looking for capoeira in the city would find our school first.
Secondly, we needed to be prepared for peak moments of the year. When do we expect the most visitors? That’s especially after the summer vacation. When the school year is starting again people young and old often look for a new hobby to pick up. A second important time to gain new students is January, when everyone has made their New Year’s resolutions. So, around the beginning of September and January we make sure to have some introduction classes prepared and try to be a bit more active online.
Turning a visitor into a member
As I said above, making someone feel welcome and making it easy for them to integrate in the group (which proably already has some social cohesion) is fundamental. We facilitate this using an onboarding process combined with some good practices. A clear onboarding flow also helps you as a manager to keep your school’s administration in order.
Several points in both lists below assume you have certain processes already in place, they might not be relevant for your case but I recommend considering them.
Offer more than 1 free trial class
The default policy of our group has always been to offer 1 free trial class. More than 5 years ago I lobbied to change this to 3 free trials and got a lot of pushback, but eventually I changed it for my own school. 1 class is in my opinion not enough for someone to properly evaluate whether they like something. Most people will not want to enroll and pay a subscription based on a single experience. And what if someone comes to try out but it so happens that you’re teaching a special class that day (e.g. Angola when you’re Contemporânea, or maculelê). It will give a completely distorted image of what a regular class is. Thus, with only offering 1 trial class, you lose a lot of potential. I’ve heard many teachers argue that 3 free classes costs them too much money if everyone takes 3 classes and leaves. But what’s worth more, the revenue of 3x 1 person, or someone who decides to like capoeira and trains for years?
Call new students by their name from the start and make sure to remember them next time.
That way you prevent that people feel like a number. And it shows that you are interested in getting to know them.
Ask them seperately how class went and reassure them they did well.
Most people feel insecure after their first capoeira class. Explain that capoeira is not an easy sport and it takes time to improve, but every training will help. Compliment them on their effort.
Welcome them personnally when they arrive (again) and say goodbye when they leave and.
Don’t ignore a visitor and expect they just jump right in the group. After class, don’t let the visitor just take off. Take a few minutes to talk about the class.
Be clear and transparant about pricing and policies.
Either when someone contacts you for more information, or after a trial class you should inform the person about the available price plans, how many trials they can still take, whether or not they have to pay for other things like insurance, a uniform, …
Have read-only chat group for official communication
We have a WhatsApp group where every enrolled student is added and which we use for one way communication. We as teachers send updates on classes, events, reminders, … and the group is read-only for members to avoid small talk and memes so that people only get relevant information and don’t have to filter.
Have a private group for chatting.
Next to our readonly group, we have a second one which informal and open for everyone. That way, the group can chat and send jokes. No important information is posted here. We’ve also had a private Facebook group for years, but that one has been slowing dying since we started the WhatsApp chats.
Below is an ordered checklist of things we do when someone wants to start learning capoeira.
If the person sends you a message or calls you beforehand, give a bit of context
Explain how a capoeira class works, what the timetables are, where you train, what they should wear and bring, … Take away any uncertainty that might complicate their visit.
Have the student fill in the registration form and let him/her choose a payment model.
Once the student used all his free trials and decides he wants to stay, have him fill in a registration form where you ask about his address, contact information, emergency contact, … Also explain the payment models again and let him choose one that fits their training scheme best. (e.g. pay per class, 10 classes card, yearly subscription).
Have the student read and agree on your school’s terms & conditions.
Combined with the previous step, if you have a policy document, send it over. Also, when you’re in the EU, ask written consent in case you’d create and publish media where the student appears in.
Register the student with your insurance company.
In our country, every sports club should offer a sports insurance to their members. If an accident happens, you don’t want to be liable for the costs yourself. Also, always have the necessary forms handy in your studio in case something happens.
Add the student to your contacts list and hand out your own contact information.
Create an email group in your client to easily send formal communication to everyone at once without forgetting people. Also add the new students to your mobile contacts list. And, very important, share our own phone number and email, in case the students needs to reach you.
Add him/her to the groups of any social platform your school is using (e.g. private Facebook group).
As mentioned above, I recommend having some form of closed group on a platform where all members can chat with eachother and share content. This will stimulate the social cohesion. Once someone is officially enrolled, add them to the group(s) and introduce the person to the rest.
Add him/her to your private messaging group (e.g. WhatsApp).
Same as the previous one, once the student is officially a member, add him/her to your messaging group(s) and introduce the person to the rest.
If relevant, offer the new student to acquire a uniform.
We actually don’t require people buying an abadá and t-shirt in their first six months so that they don’t have to spend unnecessary money. But, there’s an advantage when new people are motivated to rather quickly acquire a uniform. They’ll look like the others and won’t stand out in the group during class, thus it’ll be esier for them to feel part of the group. You could create a bundle offer for new students combining a subscription, the inscurance fee and a uniform as a discounted price.
Send him/her any resources you may have:
This one is rather optional. If you have certain capoeira related materials available, don’t gatekeep it for new people but try to share stuff as soon as possible. Some capoeira group have their own cloud file sharing platform with video recordings for example. In our case, we share the evaluation model (see this post) of the school and recorded instruction videos. You could also share a playlist of capoeira music or some links to interesting YouTube channels. But, be careful not to overload new students with information as to not overwhelm them as it might scare them of.
- Make the effort to communicate well and transparant at all times.
- Show interest in people.
- Include beginners in all your school’s (online) social activities.
It may sound obvious, but most people don’t think about these things because they do what their teacher did and don’t question methodologies. As a teacher it’s your mission to do it better than your own teacher. Keep the concepts that were good, improve them and replace old fashioned ideas with modern ones.