Times are tough. Make no mistake about it; banks and auto dealers are not the only ones feeling the pinch of this economic downturn. For better or worse, most people pay for their martial arts training out of discretionary income, and only if there is something left over after other optional purchases like cable TV, dry cleaning, and religious contributions.
So what is an instructor to do when the pipeline of new students starts to dwindle? How do you cope when you know that 50% of your clientele will drop out before they reach one year of study (about the time they reach Green Belt) and the replacements are just going to stay home? By the way, some statistics show that less than 10% of White Belts will achieve Black Belt.
To be sure, you should continue whatever programs you have to sell your value to new audiences. Perform at fairs, reach out to the school districts, post fliers, and if you can afford to beef up your advertising, do it - but remember, your current student population represents your biggest investment as well as your greatest source of opportunity. When you take care of them, you take care of your business.
Now is the time to help your students become better martial artists. Hold special classes, even one-on-one sessions that you haven't provided since the current flock were beginners. Concentrate on the little details that separate the "just show up" crowd from the truly proficient.
Everyone is feeling the pinch. Look inward and address the quality of your product rather than attempting to expand your quantity in a market where you'll have to over spend to capture a diminishing influx. This downturn will end, and as always, the quality of the product will be remembered long after the discounted price, the advertising, or the gimmicks.
If you are a student, these can be tough times for you as well. A focus on quality is a just as valid for you as it is for the proprietor of your school.