How to Build a Successful Martial Arts Business (part 1)

Learning a martial art takes willpower, discipline, and persistence. Guess what! Those are the exact things you need to succeed in a business too. So running a dojo should be a cakewalk for an accomplished martial artist, right? Sadly, success as a martial artist does not always translate into success as a dojo owner. The truth is, to succeed in running a dojo, you must not only know what you should do but also what you should not do.

So you want to start a successful Martial Arts business?

Richard Bach, the author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull says, 'nothing happens by chance. There is no such thing as luck. Every little thing that happens has a meaning. You may not see it right now but before long, you will.'This blog post epic will give you some ideas on how to identify customers, set goals, design offerings, go about martial arts marketing and many other things that you need to succeed in running a dojo. It is a gold mine of information from my personal experience and from that of other successful dojo business owners whom I have worked with over the years.

Starting a successful Dojo business

To be sure, running a martial art school or dojo is not cheap. You will have many expenses and then there other financial risks. For a small business, these risks can be considerable. But there is also the privilege of being your own boss. The risks, you can minimize with careful planning. Some of the ideas contained in this article will seem obvious, but it is surprising the number of businesses who overlook these simple steps when planning their business. So let's dive into it and review the elements of a successful martial arts school.

Goal Setting

Martial arts is second only to golf, in terms of the number of new participants over the last decade. The average fees paid by each student can total over $600 per year. Considering that the capacity of a typical dojo is 200-300 students, you can potentially earn revenues of $120,000 - $180,000 each year for your dojo from recurring memberships alone. In addition, one-on-one martial training is also becoming popular. Serious students are prepared to pay upwards of $40 per hour for this type of personalized training. It is a great way to augment your earnings and grow the revenue of your dojo. To achieve what you want from your business however, you need a vision of what it is your want to achieve.  This starts with goal setting.Goal setting is the process of thinking about an ideal future and then taking steps to make this future a reality. Goal setting is like a compass that points you in the direction of where you want to go in life. Without a goal, we are like a ship without a rudder adrift in the sea. You might get somewhere but not where you want to or wanted to go. Goal setting is actually very simple. Here is the process.

  • Create a big picture of what you want to do with your dojo. Identify your long-term goals and write them down. Try to limit yourself to 3 major goals (more than that is really an overkill) and don't panic if they seem a little out of reach.
  • Next, break these goals down into smaller goals and targets. For example, you might list mini goals you need to achieve to reach each of your three main goals. Note: Don't keep the goals so simple that you can reach them easily and not so hard that they become impossible to reach. Find a middle ground.
  • From here, note down all of the tasks you will need to do to achieve these mini goals. At this point, you've broken down your 3 main goals into bite-sized, manageable tasks! Now start working on these. You might make a checklist of what you have to do every day, every week, every month and every year, say for the next five years.

Goal setting is fundamental to your business and where you want to take it. So set some goals and watch the magic happen.

Identifying Your Ideal Customer

The ideal customer is at the heart of any marketing strategy. Once you identify who needs or may be interested in your services, designing your marketing material, structuring your offerings, and developing your pricing plans becomes intuitive and easy.Get Specific When you start off, you're a small business, and the general tendency is to reach out to as large a target audience as you can. Resist the temptation to market to everyone. Your ideal customer is not every individual and family in your community or city. You want to get specific about your market segment; here's why:

  • Today's consumers are fed with more advertising messages than they can process. Trying to be something for everyone, tends to result in you resonating with no one. Choose your target audience and tell them why you are for them specifically.
  • You may not have a lot to offer in the initial stages of your business. You may also lack the cash and resources to generate plenty of buzz around your services. It is better and more efficient to narrow down your ideal customers to a small group and focus on converting them.

Create demographic profiles Break your ideal customer down by demographics. Below is a list you might consider in your demographic breakdown. Not all will be relevant depending on how you are pitching your services:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Region
  • Income

Create psychographic profiles Psychographics is the study of values, personality, interests, attitudes, lifestyles and opinions. Psychographic information helps you understand why someone may want to take up martial arts classes.As a start-up, you will have little or no customer interaction. So getting psychographic information can be challenging. But not impossible. Here are three strategies to try:

  • Network with martial arts industry associations to understand customers more deeply and gain access to groups with an interest in martial arts.
  • Offer free classes or training to individuals who are willing to provide their feedback. Make sure you sell and demonstrate your value proposition during the free sessions. This is a great way to gain valuable insights into customer behaviours and attitudes about your services.
  • Spend time online on martial arts forums, communities and Facebook pages to 'get in' on the conversations happening around martial arts.

Build the ideal customer persona

The demographic and psychographic information you've collected should help you create an ideal customer sketch.

Example: The ideal customer at Ganghan Martial Arts is a teenager aged between 13-18 years, and interested in learning karate for self-defense. She/He resides in the city, has supportive high-income earning parents (annual income of over $50,000) who will drive him/her to the dojo, and take an active interest in his/her progress. Additionally, the ideal student will have a family member (siblings or parents) who are interested in lessons, and likely to take up the discount offers and complementary sessions on our 'Family Package Plans'.

As your business grows, you will find yourself refining your ideal customer persona to keep pace with evolving demands and a changing industry landscape.

Designing Your Offerings and Classes to Meet Your Ideal Customer's Needs

Once you have a clear idea about your ideal customer, you can start designing the service packages/plans, pricing, classes, and timings. What you would have already decided is the type or types of martial arts you will be providing. Now, it is a matter of structuring your offerings to the situations and needs of your ideal customer.

Service packages/Plans: Say your target customers consist of adults who're interested in understanding and learning one discipline and don't have too much time for regular training, as well as those who're committed to training in multiple disciplines and can invest a lot of time towards this pursuit. Then, your service plans can look something like this:

Package 1: Pick one discipline to train in: Aikido, Judo or Krav MagaSelect any two training days per weekDuration: 6 weeksTrain at your own pace. You have the option to start with your own fitness clothes and get a uniform later.

Package 2: Train anytime in each of the three disciplines: Aikido, Judo and Krav MangaAttend all the available classes for the disciplinesDuration: 6 weeksGet one free uniform

Timings: Class timings must be compatible with your ideal customer's lifestyle. If your ideal customer is a school student, you naturally need to schedule training keeping school timings and bed timings in mind.

For working adults, the class schedule can look something like this:

Monday: 7:00 - 8:30 pm

Tuesday: 6:30 - 8:00 pm

Wednesday: 7.30 - 9:00 pm

Thursday: 8:30 - 9.45 pm

Saturday: 12:00 - 1.30 pm

Pricing: Training costs will depend on the age and status of the ideal customer. If your ideal customers stretch across a broad age category, you can consider giving children, seniors and students a discount. You can also price the classes based on the number of classes people sign up for.

The pricing plans for adults and students & seniors may look something like this:

Adults Package Cost

Pay-as-you-go$20 per class

10 class package $18

25 class package $34

50 class package $600

Seniors and Students Package Cost

Pay-as-you-go $18 per class

10 class package $16

25 class package $30

50 class package $400

Classes: How you design your classes will be closely linked to the age, requirements, attitudes and interests of your ideal customer.

For instance, if you're catering to kids or young teens, you can include mat chats where you teach the philosophy behind the martial art, tell a story or anecdote about a famous person related to the martial art, and teach such qualities as humility and respect. You can also incorporate a fun drill at the end of the class so the kids can have some fun, relax and more effectively retain what they learned.We will be posting the second part of this blog next week. If you haven't already, remember to subscribe to our newsletter so that you can get these updates.

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