Daniel Millsap MBA School Research
MARKETING IN THE TRENCHES: THE APPLICATION OF MARKETING CONCEPTS TO A MARTIAL ARTS ACADEMY
I was very excited to do this interview. Finally I would have the chance to apply my MBA program knowledge on and gain an understanding of running a business. During the interview, was a bit disappointed when I did not receive the type of in-depth responses that I would have liked to receive but this, in part, could have been due to the fact that I did not give my interviewees the questions before-hand. Guiding my question selection was a personal motivation to understand what customers valued the most in the martial arts industry. For example, I wanted to know how they were able to motivate students to do an activity that sometimes involved pain and discomfort. With people taking up exercise programs after Thanksgiving only to drop them two weeks later, I wanted to know if the same phenomenon occurred in their particular industry and to what extent. I also wanted to know what they perceived as being the most difficult aspect of running their business and if technology played any factor in the day-to-day running of their business.
According to Sue, the most important ingredient of a successful business is positive relationships. According to them, students value the ability to interact with others sharing a similar interest. When asked if cliques were a problem,Sue responded that it was an unfortunate occurrence which ultimately harmed the students involved because they were unable to learn from a greater variety of training partners. When asked what she believed to be the qualities of a good student, Sue stated that a good student was someone who showed great respect for others and who displayed a certain type of selflessness. Sue added that a good student would do more than what was simply required of him/her to get by. When asked how they collected customer feedback, Sue was concerned that his perception of things did not match the reality of the situation and it was at this point in the interview that I began to talk about objective methods of determining customer satisfaction such as the use of customer questionnaires. Of concern for Sue was the complexity inherent in running the school as a business on the one hand and in running the school as a community center on the other. Sue mentioned that payment collection had been detracting from their ability to teach well. As a result, Sue implemented the use of a year-long contract between the school and the students. Through the use of a computer software program, money is automatically withdrawn from students' banking accounts or their credit cards on a monthly basis for the entire term of a year. This was the most surprising thing for me to learn as I had never imagined that a school would only offer this payment option for its students. As a customer in the service industry, I value the ability to begin/finish my relationship with a business at a time of my choice.
The fact that _____ has been in business for 8 years led me to believe that they would have definitive answers to my questions. I was surprised to discover, however, that my interviewees did not have a better understanding of some of the basic concepts brought with my questions. For example, they were unable to clearly state what separated them from their competitors. The answer I was given about the importance of the client relationship matched with our author's views in that customers are buying an experience as opposed to a product. In this case, students value the ability to interact with others who have shared interests in the form of a type of martial art or fitness activity.
I was very impressed by the usefulness of this project. It required preparation in order to formulate appropriate questions and it required the exercise of interpersonal skills in the form of the interview. In retrospect, I would have given my interviewees the questions before the interview for them to reflect and create a response. Perhaps this would have allowed them to give more in-depth responses to some of the most important questions. On the other hand, I believe that giving the interviewee no knowledge of the questions allowed me to truly gauge their level of understanding concerning the topics that I had chosen to discuss. I also found it a challenge to get my interviewees to relax and open up to me. Businesses rely on trade-secrets and perhaps it is not always easy for them to share some of their beliefs with interviewers. Regardless, I believe that a truly talented interviewer would be able to relax people and get them to open up. This is one area in which I truly would like to improve.
When asked about his mission statement, Sue vaguely understood the concept and the reasoning behind having a mission statement but did not actually have one. He stated that it was something that he had always intended to do but never got around to doing. Interestingly, he pointed out that in his experience it was difficult to create goals when the environment was always changing and thus the goals were always changing too. I attributed this confusion to the lack of a long-term goal. I believe that _____ would benefit from having both long-term goals and short-term goals to track her progress.
When asked about what his customers valued most, Sue vaguely alluded to the customer's desire to form meaningful relationships. When enrolling students, they are asked to write down the two reasons that they are there. For example, some students may wish only to improve their cardiovascular health while another student may wish to learn how to fight professionally. _____ offers a variety of classes in an attempt to attract a variety of students. The fact that Sue did not have a clear answer to this question leads me to believe that she is not doing as much as she could be doing to solicit customer/staff feedback.
The following recommendations are based upon the
fact that the industry that you are in is primarily a service industry
as opposed to a product one and that you are offering something
intangible to customers (knowledge) as opposed to a concrete object (a
computer). As a result of our interview there are two topics I would
like to discuss with you. The first is value and the second
Successful organizations are the ones able to
determine what potential customers value most and how to give customers
what they want better than competitors are able to. Value is the subjective perception of satisfaction based upon the relationship between what is given and what is received.
In this case, value is a product of the relationship between management
and instructors and between instructors and students. Without good
instructors there will be no students to teach and without students to
teach there will be no cash inflows for the organization. From the
student's perspective, a valuable instructor is one who is an expert in
his/her field and is both able and willing to convey the art. As
you know, however, a teacher can teach a student everything that he/she
knows without that knowledge being of any use or value if the student
does not make an effort to learn and to practice.Therefore, from
the instructor's perspective, a valuable student is one who is not only
able to pay for instruction but who is disciplined and a pleasure to
teach. Organizational goals should focus on the best methods of
mediating this value exchange in order to satisfy both instructors and
The identification of goals and methods of attaining these goals is the purpose of organizational strategic planning. Organizational goals should be based upon your organization's mission and should be publicly displayed to both employees and customers in the form of a mission statement. The mission statement is arguably the most important and widely used tools in business today. It is the game plan an organization creates based upon its current situation and its future goals. Of course, not every game plan is appropriate for every team and for every situation so it is important to understand and have a clear picture of your present situation and your future goals. The creation of a long-term goal allows an organization to point itself in the correct direction and a clear understanding of present situations allows the organization to monitor its progress and to stay on the right track. A ship at sea without a destination is simply drifting along with the currents but a ship with a destination and without corrective navigation is unable to reach its destination. So it is important for an organization to have a long-term goal (destination) as well as methods for tracking progress and making changes based upon present situations (feedback). First an organization must create a set of goals. An organization in this particular industry might ask itself the following questions: What are we offering our customers? Do we want to attract a certain type of customer to facilitate the creation of a certain type of community? What do our customers want from us now and in the future and how can we provide for them better than our competitors? How can we retain talented staff members and keep them happy too? Secondly, an organization must be able to assess its present situation, plot a course, and monitor its progress towards its goals. An organization might ask itself: Are our current actions conducive to the achievement of our goals? How can we objectively assess our actions? How can we track our progress? Are our customers truly satisfied? How can we make our service better? Having a long term goal gives an organization its purpose and having actionable steps allows it to reach its goal.
In conclusion, it is important for you to determine your purpose and your mission. Only then will you be able to formulate an effective plan. Remember that you are offering a service and not a product and that you are dealing with people and not things. Keeping your staff happy will in turn help to keep students happy. Strive to create and maintain a comfortable yet challenging atmosphere for all of your students and they will keep coming back for more.
The martial arts sub-industry within the larger health and fitness industry is a very interesting industry because of the need to truly understand customer needs and wants and the best way to satisfy them. It is not an ideal industry for anyone to enter into, however. It entails the need for knowledge about health and fitness and its relation to the martial arts. To truly become the market leader requires dedication and a knowledge that is only gained through deliberate participation and practice. Owning a business in and of itself is not necessarily an easy task, and the complex interaction of personal relationships within this industry is cause for careful analysis. In order to truly add value for customers, a school must be able to attract and retain the best teachers. Even then, it is up to the student to truly create the value, through the deliberate learning and practicing of the knowledge imparted. MBA graduates will likely find the operation of a successful martial arts school a challenge and one that rewardsa superior knowledge of the customer and the value of the product offered.
The following are the questions that I asked during the interview.
- Question one: What motivated you to start a business?
- Question two: What is your company's mission statement?
- Question three: What do your students value the most out of this experience?
- Question four: If you had to categorize students based on commitment and length of study, how would you do so?
- Question five: How do you differentiate yourself from your competitors?
- Question six: Is there a a technology that you find you could not live without and that is very important to you and your business?
- Question seven: What is the hardest thing you confront in running this business?
- Question eight: How do you see the future of the industry and how do you plan on adapting?