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

Kids in martial arts uniforms

In ‘How to Build a Successful Martial Arts Business (Part 1)’ article, we discussed the importance of setting clear long-term goals, identifying your perfect customer, and how to form a business strategy to cater for your chosen demographic.

In our Part 2 article, we’ll be concentrating on developing actionable goals to create a market fit for your dojo, and how to successfully advertise yourself. We’ll be covering the basics of online and offline client-building, as well as a couple of insider tips to help you skyrocket to success.

Fitting into your niche

Let’s work backwards from the customer base you created in Part 1. Where are they likely to hear about your school, how can you convince them that you’re worth their time, and how are you going to convert that information into a sale, retain that customer, and create more opportunities from there?

You need to create a marketing plan of action for attracting customers, tailored to your specific wants and capabilities.

For this section, we’ll be continuing the example of high-school age, urban-dwelling teenagers:

Advertise to suit your clients, not yourself

Teenage students, particularly those on the younger age of your spectrum, primarily hear of (or are pressured into) extra-curricular activities by their friends, classmates, or parents. They tend not to read traditional print – though their parents might – but they are persistently surrounded by online advertising.

It’d be largely a waste in this case to concentrate the bulk of your advertising on newspapers. You’ll catch some parents, but you’ll be missing out on the students themselves, as well as their peers. Worse, you’ll be at risk of having your students feel resentful towards their classes if they’re being dragged along to something they don’t really want to do, and they’re unlikely to return in that case.

Martial Arts courses are also obviously quite hard to do across the Internet, so your efforts should be kept local and you should try to take advantage of some online services that benefit small and local businesses.

  • Maintaining a Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram presence will allow your young, socially-networked clients to see you through the Local Search and Around Me features. Where an older market might not care much for your online presence, younger clients may post on your page or tag themselves as attending, further heightening you exposure.
  • Likewise, by using Facebook’s Local Awareness features you can run adverts that allow you to customise the location in a radius around your dojo, as well as the age and gender of your prospective clients.
  • Partnering with another business that caters to active teenagers (such as a sportswear outfitter), or even approaching a school directly to offer a student discount allows others to do your marketing for you (and everyone benefits)!
  • Everybody knows how much high-schoolers love their phones. Take advantage of this by integrating with apps such as FitnessTexter, or create your own QR code containing contact information or discount offers for students on-to-go.
  • Advertise directly to parents looking for after school activities by pursuing some advertising targeted towards older demographics, or creating discounts for referring your child’s classmates.

This changes significantly depending on your clientele. For a client-base of more senior students, you’ll be relying much more upon word of mouth, and advertising your accessibility. For young 20s types, you’ll do better showing off your equipment and plastering your advertisements with the fit, toned people that they could turn themselves into with your help.

Market fit is king

Once you have your client-base, and a plan of action to attract them, you just need to keep thinking of ways to attract and retain them as customers.

A famous example is the Taxi company Uber. Trying to attract technology-driven early adopters, they offered free rides to tech conferences in return for exposure. In return, grateful young tech enthusiasts got on their Twitter and Facebooks to their thousands of followers, and a small drive-share company suddenly had an exposure level far beyond their wildest imaginations.

You might think, “what on earth does a taxi company have to do with my martial arts school”? The answer is simple: it proves that innovation and meeting your audience breeds success.

If there were one, singular tip to automatically boost you to superstardom, everyone would be successful. Success requires a level of commitment, of risk-taking, and drive. The tips I’m sharing are enough to get you on your feet, but your business needs to cater for your own clients in unique and brilliant ways to truly stand out from the crowd.

Convert interest to sales

Once you’ve taken these steps, you’ve done the business equivalent of baiting your hook. All you need to do is give a little more as an incentive, and you’ll be hauling in a load of customers ready to start working up a sweat.

Free introductory offers, group and family discounts, and an accessible inventory of what you can offer them – in a way that’s already been perfectly catered to their taste – should be enough to tip them over the line into trying out your service. After all, you’ve made it so easy for them to try.

Reward loyalty

Getting someone into the dojo is only half of the battle for successful marketing. A repeat customer is a loyal customer, and their fees are revenue that you can count on each month. Establishing a strong, recurring client base, rather than relying upon people coming in for single sessions, is key for long-term growth.

Reward your die-hard fans

We’ve already discussed the merits of charging less for repeat customers, but there’s a lot more you can do to retain your customers and acquire the vital recurring customer base you need to stay afloat.

Partnering with a nearby gym to give a mutual 10% discount on fees for joint customers might convince someone to go for the 6-month plan over the 2. Convince enough of your friends and family to take an introductory package? We’ll give you three months off your next course!

It might sound like a lost sale, but remember that each person who a customer refers, and each time an offer convinces someone to stay longer, is money you might not otherwise have received.

Loyalty breeds growth

A truly satisfied customer will tell their friends and family about your product whatever you do. With a little convincing through loyalty schemes, they’ll shout your name to the high heavens.

Track where new students are coming from, and how many of your new influx stays to be return customers. If you’re seeing a significant amount stem from personal referrals, you’re doing a great job rewarding your core users.

Conversely, if you’re seeing a significant amount of drop-off after one or two lessons, or you’re not getting the numbers of referrals that you’re aiming for, it’s time to rework your plans for long-term customer investment.

We’ll be releasing Part 3 next month, and we’ll be focusing on the structure of initial lessons to keep your students coming back for more. Sign up to our newsletter to receive the next article when it’s released.

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