How to Build a Successful Martial Arts Business (part 2)

Recap - What's it Take to Build a Great Martial Arts School?

In our last post, we chatted about some of the key components in building a successful Martial Arts business. Need a refresher? Click here!

Marketing Your Martial Arts Business Online & Offline

You already know how important it is to market your dojo effectively to your target audience. Here are some online and offline marketing tactics you can use to drive up interest and inquiries.

1. Mingle and form business relationships with your local community

  • Distribute flyers and coupons
  • Encourage and request word-of-mouth referrals
  • Sponsor 2-3 local events during the financial year
  • If you're marketing to school students, contact your local elementary, middle and high schools for guest speaking opportunities on personal safety topics.
  • Implement a coupon exchange program with local businesses; some of the businesses can belong to members' parents or family members, so start conversations around this opportunity early on with them.

2. Tease and attract with videos

Who doesn't like watching martial artists demonstrate their skills? A couple of dynamic videos on the martial arts action in your dojo delivered through Instagram, Vine, and your website can create a buzz around your service. Brainstorm on themes and content, with a focus on making the videos interesting and entertaining.

3. Get your Facebook marketing right

  • Put together a content strategy. Your Facebook posts shouldn't be overly promotional. Consider the 60/40 rule, where 60 percent of the content is non-promotional (tips, advice, news, stories, community events and share-worthy third-party content) and 40 per cent is promotional (discounts, special offers, new packages, awards, recognition, press coverage and more related solely to your dojo).
  • Many cities have their Facebook groups for local citizenry, including local businesses. Share useful, valuable content inside this group (safety, fitness, awareness, anti-bullying measures, etc). Invite community members to try your complimentary classes, sit-in and observe a training session, or participate in an event.
  • Mention students, instructors and other businesses on your Facebook page
  • Thank and reward active users
  • Respond to inquiries at the earliest opportunity
  • Identify brand ambassadors and social media influencers in your community; network more deeply with them to increase recommendations and referrals
  • Keep a tab on the competition: understand their strengths, weaknesses, and tactics. Get inspiration from them, don't copy them
  • Paid ads on Facebook allow you to narrow down groups by age, location and gender. You can target your ads to your ideal customers for best results.

Marketing is a constant and consistent process. Design your marketing campaigns and collateral around specific goals. For instance, if you want to drive up revenue during a financial quarter, provide customers price comparisons between your dojo and the industry average or competitors. If you're targeting students on their summer break, create excellent videos and eye-catching flyers or invite them (and their parents) to your dojo for a demonstration and snacks.

4. Capturing Leads

A multi-pronged, multi-channel approach to lead generation is necessary to reach out to as many of your ideal customers as you can. Not all the leads you capture will convert to customers; by focusing on building your lead list, you won't run out of options.1. Build an optimized website

  • A branded website is essential to capturing leads and managing online bookings.
  • Add customer-focused, keyword-optimized content that assists potential customers in making a decision about joining your classes.
  • Keep your website navigation intuitive and easy with clearly marked categories and drop-down menus.
  • Include multiple calls-to-action that encourage visitors to contact you, provide their details or sign up for your service
  • Make sure that links to lead generation forms are clearly visible in the main content and sidebars
  • Post student videos and photos, photos of your studio and a black belt photo page

5. Get social

Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter should be part of your social media lead generation efforts.

  • Share compelling videos of your classes and dojo on Instagram.
  • Engage potential clients by leveraging hashtags and trending topics strategically.
  • Run competitions on Facebook using competition applications like ShortStack to get more information on potential customers. Don't forget to add a call-to-action,“ email address, link, and phone number to posts.
  • Encourage existing customers to become brand advocates. Keep them motivated to engage actively on your social media pages and share your content with their friends.

6. Get reviewed and referred

Solicit reviews and ratings from customers to showcase your brand's trustworthiness. Launch referral programs that reward both the referrer and referee. Avoid monetary incentives, instead think along the lines of complimentary classes and membership upgrades. To understand how to incentivize, segment your brand ambassadors into groups and tailor incentives to each of these target groups.

7. Invest in email marketing

For every dollar spent on email marketing, the return averages $44. Some email marketing tips you can use to generate more leads include:

  • Using incentives to drive up open rates
  • Keeping your main message and call-to-action above the fold so recipients actually see it
  • Writing a punchy subject line that creates a sense of urgency
  • Tying emails to your landing pages
  • Putting your logo on the email's upper left-hand side to ensure that readers see it

Converting Leads to Members

How quickly your revenue grows is directly proportional to how many leads you can convert into members of your dojo. Here are some strategies to consider.

Conduct a needs analysis

Modern day marketing is personal and customized. Once you secure a lead, you cannot push him/her to sign up for classes. You need to nurture your leads by conducting a needs analysis. Such an analysis will key you in on the leads' motivations to learn martial arts, the goals they hope to achieve, what factors are important in their decision to join a dojo, and whether or not they've previously trained in martial arts and their experiences.

You can ask these questions on your contact form.The next step is to tailor your follow-up messages to the information you've captured from the leads and book them for a one-on-one session plus a tour of your dojo. This is your opportunity to customize your conversation and pitch to the lead in question, which can help seal the deal.

Follow-up with social proof that demonstrates your value proposition

Don't expect leads to convert immediately after they've provided their contact details. They'll make you work for it, and you've got to be prepared!

  • Email leads testimonials about your dojo, training, and member accomplishments
  • Share blog posts discussing how you've helped people become confident, discover mind-body connection, learn conflict resolution and defend themselves in hostile/dangerous situations.
  • Get their attention by offering something of interest to them, such as an ebook or a voucher for a free class.

Make your website stand out from the competitionYour value proposition is a decisive factor that will determine how leads compare you against other options (your competitors). You want to drive home the benefits of joining your martial arts classes without making them search for it. That means ensuring that your website advertises your value proposition in a crystal clear way.Motivate leads to become customers quickly by offering attractive incentives. These might include a free six-month subscription to a martial arts or fitness magazine for the first ten new members who sign-up, or a 15-day trial with a money-back guarantee if you sign up before the end of the month.Understand why lost leads did not sign up Stay updated on the status of every lead and investigate it to understand what's keeping them from becoming members. You will discover some reasons that you hadn't considered yourself when developing your onboarding process, which you can assess, find solutions for, and initiate process improvements for better conversion rates in the future.

Organizing Automated Payments

Moving all payments to auto pay can make life easier for any dojo owner. Collecting membership payments through point of sale is both time and effort intensive in addition to being error-prone. By automating payments, you don't have to deal with the hassle of collecting recurring payments manually.

Invest in an automated payment platform

An automated payment platform is the most efficient way of organizing payments. The Clubworx automated payment platform, for instance, automates your membership payments and notifies you every time a payment is missed. The platform offers a single, simple interface to manage all member payments, processes one-off as well as recurring check and credit card payments, and also offers a mobile point-of-sale facility for financial transactions on a smartphone or tablet.

Retaining Your Members

Member retention is critical to the short and long term profitability of your dojo. You want to implement effective strategies that ensure member loyalty and give referrals a boost.To begin with, you want to target the right customers. It is easier to educate these individuals and help them understand how martial arts can transform their everyday life. You can also more easily convert them into brand advocates to generate positive reviews, recommendations and referrals.In continuation from the above point, educate customers by offering workshops and seminars on relevant topics, and publishing monthly newsletters featuring useful articles, news, resources and member accomplishments/stories.Deliver professional and friendly service that consistently meets members' needs. It is common to see people cancel their membership owing to an unsatisfactory personal experience at the dojo or gym. Some complaints include: 'I didn't know anyone there', 'I felt out of place' or 'There was nobody to guide me.' It is critical that you create a sense of community where members feel like a part of your dojo's larger environment.

  • Hire talented, service-oriented staff who can help in developing a supportive environment
  • Build member-staff rapport by putting up staff bios and photos on bulletin boards and encouraging staff to learn all the members' names
  • Train your staff to be extra-attentive to new students so they can find their comfort zone quickly and easily

Conduct orientation sessions that involve more than a walk around your dojo. Explain the important aspects of the training package members have signed up for, the accessories used, advantages, application and who to talk to for what.Have a one-on-one with members from time to time to make sure that their needs are being met. Address any concerns or unpleasant experiences they communicate without any delay.Keep a tab on member attendance to identify who is likely to call it quits, intervene immediately to understand the reason behind it and offer some kind of incentive that motivates them to stay.Reach out to old members with new packages, discounts, and martial arts lessons they've not trained in. Use this opportunity to figure out why they didn't feel compelled to try other classes.


You may be a warrior on the mat, but you must translate that drive and passion into business acumen to run a successful dojo. The 'customer' and the 'economy' are easy to blame, but they don't ultimately determine the fate of your dojo. What's going on within your business and how you're managing it does. So, always start with the critical areas of business performance that are firmly in your control. That's what I have tried to do with How to Build a Successful Martial Arts Business. By focusing on the key success principles discussed in this book, you can get your business off to a good start and avoid hitting a plateau in the growth of your dojo.

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