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Martial Arts Playbook (ebook edition 2)

By yalcin | Jul 19, 2019

Chapter 1: The Marketing Considerations

Introducing Your Business to the World

Getting new students to your dojo is not an easy job, but an essential one – especially if you want to grow your martial arts school and build a profitable business.  The first step in getting new students is building awareness about your school.  Whether you are a new dojo or an established business looking to take your school to the next level of growth, developing and executing a martial arts marketing plan is essential.  We recommend taking a multi-channel approach using social media, organic search, word of mouth, your website, blog and localized online search (both paid and organic).

The key is tracking what works.  One of the most effective ways to assess your marketing effectiveness is by tracking the cost of each marketing channel by lead.  This is really easy to calculate and track.  Let’s look at an example below.  

ABC Martial Arts spends $1,000 per month on marketing.  This spend is divided into the activities below.


Marketing ActivityTotal Cost for JanNo. of Lead for JanCost Per Lead
Referral $0.001$0.00
Google Adwords$100.003$33.33
School Presentation$150.005$30.00


From this type of analysis, you can find what your most effective marketing channels are for generating an inquiry.  As you can see, while some channels create a “free” lead, you need multiple channels to generate enough leads to grow your martial arts business.  By breaking these activities down, you might target high cost per lead activities and investigate what you might do to reduce that number (either by reducing the spend or increasing the effectiveness to generate more leads from those activities).

Below is are a series of marketing checklists to audit your current approach (if you are an established Martial Arts school) or to get you started (if you are about to open your doors).

What system should I use to build my website?

We analysed over 1800 Martial Arts school Websites from around the world.  Here’s what we found:

  1. The single largest content management system (CMS) used by martial arts schools is WordPress with a huge 30% of the market.  So nearly 1 in 3 Martial Arts websites are build using WordPress.
  2. 46% of sites are custom built. A lot of these sites are built using PHP or some other programming language.
  3. 10% of the sites were build using Wix, Weebly or Google sites.
  4. More than 50% (approximately 54%) of Martial Arts websites we reviewed are NOT mobile responsive.  If you view your website on your smartphone and it takes a long time to load and looks like your desktop site – your website is NOT responsive.  Google has been clear that your search rankings could possibly be affected if your site is not mobile responsive.  As well as being penalised by Google, you are not providing a great experience for your potential customers and current students.

Credit to -

From our own experience, WordPress is the most flexible and scalable solutions for building your website for these reasons:

  • Once you have a design you are happy with, you can build out your own site without relying on external third parties to do your development,
  • If you do need a WordPress expert, there are literally thousands of contractors or freelancers you can use from around the world to help you (after all, WordPress powers about 25% of the world’s websites),
  • Plugins offer endless integration options. Your website is a gateway for your martial arts business.  Chances are you are going to need to transfer some information captured through your website to other systems. Clubworx for example, let’s you post your calendar and contact form on a WordPress site with great ease.  All of that information seamlessly transfers into your Clubworx Martial Arts Management Software.
  • It is easy to build a mobile responsive site using the plugins within WordPress.

Here are some great tools to help you get started with your new website!

Test if your site is mobile friendly –

Test that your website loads quickly –

Improve your overall website experience by improving your Hubspot score –

Beginners guide to WordPress –

Sharing what you do has never been easier!

Your martial arts business is a visual / movement based business. It lends itself perfectly to social media and at the very least, you should have a content strategy for one of the major social media channels.  Social media is a great way to motivate and engage with your current students but it is also an opportunity to share your brand.  From a recent Clubworx survey, we found that about 10% of leads for dojos come from a social channel.  That’s not surprising when you consider:

  • Facebook has 1.65 billion monthly users,
  • Instagram has 500 million monthly users, and
  • YouTube has more than a billion users.

When you think about it, 20 or even 10 years ago, people would have to physically visit your dojo to understand what you did and what kind of people trained at your martial arts school. Imagine parents looking for a dojo for their children to start their martial arts journey, where does their research start?  It starts online. Now, if I am a parent and I go to your website and click on one of your social media icons and see kids training, I’m more likely to give you a call and inquire further than if I didn’t get the sense that you trained children.

These days, everyone has a phone with a camera. And on most smartphones, you can edit your videos quickly to post online. The key is to be consistent.  The checklist below has some great social media marketing ideas to help you take your martial arts school up a notch.



Here are some great tools for jazzing up the social media profiles of your martial arts school!

Photo Editing from a smartphone – Snapseed (available from the App Store or Google Play)

Canva for creating beautiful, branded images –

Upwork to use freelancers from around the world for more complicated design work –

Fiverr, quick design jobs for $5 –

Chapter 2: Selling What You Know: Show Your Students a Bright Future in Martial Arts

Moving a prospect or lead to a member is your sales function.  There are a number of myths about sales, but just like your own progression as a martial artist, sales and selling is a discipline in itself.  It involves a process of persuasion and while there are a number of techniques and tools, ultimately, you will apply your own style to the process.

Why should I care about sales

If you are not committed to developing a robust sales process that evolves as you learn about what converts a prospect to a new student, your business will never really evolve beyond being a hobby.  You are also wasting your marketing dollars in generating an inquiry and not putting that information to its best use.  Let’s look at the results of a bad sales process compared to a good sales process, assuming that the marketing spend is the same and has the same effectiveness in generating a lead.


Scenario 1

(Poor sales process)

Scenario 2

(Disciplined sales process)

Marketing spend for the month



No. of leads for the month



Cost per lead



No. of members generated



Conversion rate



Cost per acquisition

$500 per member

$200 per month

Membership payback (assuming $200 per month student fees)



Revenue difference over 12 months (assuming $200 per month student fees)

$4,800 net new yearly revenue

$12,000 net new yearly revenue


A strong sales process has a compounding effect.  Sure, you might think the difference between converting 2 members to 5 members per month is not that great.  Over the course of the year, it is a big deal.  Obviously, your martial arts business will be in a much stronger position if the cost to acquire new students is paid back in their first month of membership (see scenario 2) rather than two and half months (see scenario 1).  


Ok, I understand the maths, but what can I do to improve my lead to conversion rates

The starting point for improving your sales conversion rates is to define a process you are going to follow to move your prospective clients to paying members. Too many martial arts schools have one conversation with a potential student and leave it at that.  Unfortunately, you are heading for the first scenario we described above… where you are leaving a lot of dollars on the table.  Here is an example of a sales process:

Example Sales Process for ABC Martial Arts School

Step #DescriptionCollateral RequiredNext step
1 (day 0)Enquiry comes in from website contact formN/A2
2 (day 0)Autoresponder from websiteEmail highlighting the benefits of your dojo and a note on what will happen next (e.g. you will call them to book them into a free class)3
3(day 1)Phone Call (qualifying)Script or checklist.  Keep it consistent and collect information that will help you convert the member (for example – what are their goals and motivation for contacting you).  Book them into a free classIf they were able to be booked got to step 4a if no booking, go to 4b
4a(day 2-3)Free ClassMake sure the trainer knows they will be in the class and partner them up with an existing student.5
4b(day 4)Phone Call and email (attempt to book)Script – are you ready yet? And follow-up email with a student profile (someone who has been successful in progressing through your ranks at your school)If able to book go to 4a. If no booking go to 6
5(+1 day after class)Phone Call, post class assessmentScript with checklist, how did they find the class?  Purpose is to sign member. Did they sign? Go to 7.  Didn’t sign? Re-book 4a
6(day 7)Email with upcoming free class optionsInclude a calendar link to book a free class. If they book to 4a if they don’t book, add them to 8
7(+1 day after step 5)Sign upMake sure you have your waivers, payment instructions and a guide to the next 30 days for your member.  End Sales Process Start Membership Retention Process
8 (+30 days after step 6)Lead nurturing (add to monthly mailing list)Send regular newsletters to these prospects until they either unsubscribe or re-engage. End Sales Process Start Lead Nurturing.

This process can be as long as 20 steps.  One of the constant questions business owners ask when developing their sales process is, what happens to those leads that are neither a sign-up or a hard no.  We suggest adding these leads to a nurturing campaign, where they receive your newsletters or social media updates.

Sales is not a dirty word – it’s essential for your survival

Sales is a matter of understanding your prospect’s goals and explaining how your service can help them achieve those goals. It’s not about pushing a service they are not interested in, but it is about tailoring your approach to each individual.  Our research indicates that there is a huge opportunity for dojos to grow by simply learning about sales and making it a priority. Here are some statistics form our Clubworx Dojo Survey that support this:

  • 40% of dojo managers do not follow-up on an inquiry,
  • Of those that do follow-up, 40% of those only follow-up once,
  • 17% (nearly 1 in 5) indicated they are too busy to deal with prospects when they first inquire.

When you think the average prospect requires at least 5 points of contact before they sign-up for a service, you can see there is a massive opportunity to improve your martial arts school’s growth.

If you used a piece of software like Clubworx to manage your sales process, you will see a massive return on your investment.  Martial Arts software can help you by taking each and every lead for your business through a structured process of communication until they either sign-up or opt-out of your communications.

Chapter 3: On-boarding: Wowing & Ensuring the Success of your Members on Sign-up

When a prospect becomes a member, the next step in your process is on-boarding that member.  On-boarding has several elements:

  1. Back-office; making sure you have your contracts, waivers and payment methods filled in by your new student,
  2. Expectation management;  explaining the road ahead for your new student in terms of their training and signposts for progression (when does grading happen, how to prepare, etc),
  3. General housekeeping; showing your client where to access timetable information, key numbers to call, what to wear, etc, and of course
  4. Commencement of their training.

While we have dedicated a section of this e-book to retention, this is really the start of the process.  The likelihood of retaining your clients increases significantly if you can nail the on-boarding process.  As well as ensuring your paperwork is in order (avoid duplication wherever possible), do something to delight your new student.  Give them a free uniform or shirt.  People love to receive something unexpected.  

The other vital thing to communicate during the on-boarding process is how your school will help your new member achieve their goals.  You might be interested to know that a number of studies in the USA, Canada, Europe and Australia have found that the greatest percentage of adults drop out of a martial arts school within the first 100 days.  The main reason for this drop out is because the students felt the training did not deliver any real-world self-defense training in the early sessions.  Obviously, foundations are essential in martial arts training, but making the link between stylized progressions and the reality of using a karate chop on an attacker on a Saturday night might need to be made during the orientation phase of the new student’s induction.  Managing and aligning expectations of your new martial arts students are the key roles of your on-boarding process.  

Chapter 4: Retaining Your Members: The Key to Running a Thriving Martial Arts School

Your martial arts students or members are the lifeblood of your business. In order for your business to grow, you need to retain the customers you convert.  Sure, some customers will not be a good fit for your dojo and this type of attrition is natural.  However, there will be members who leave your business because of an avoidable reason.  It might be that they did not feel they were progressing, the training seemed pointless or they felt intimidated at training.  

As we mentioned above, statistics show that the average time for any student to stay in martial arts training is about three months. In short, 12 weeks is all that you have to demonstrate you can help your new student achieve their goals.  Retention starts with your on-boarding process.  Really understanding someone’s motivation can help you reduce your churn rate (churn rate is the % of current students leaving every month).  You can send more tailored messages, engage with new and current students who have had no exposure to martial arts training and intervene where a member is potentially about to leave.  

Unfortunately, many people do not really understand the impact churn rates have on the long-term financial viability of their business.  Below are two graphs showing a new martial arts school.  We are going to assume they can add 25 new students per month and each member is worth $200 per month. The graphs are illustrative only, obviously there are some seasonal adjustments where churn is greater and member acquisition is smaller but if we look at churn as the only variable, we can see a massive difference in the financial performance of both businesses.  

The difference between a churn rate of 3% and 6% creates a whopping $1.7 million difference over the course of 5 years.  No matter what your current churn rate, moving a dial one or two percent can have a massive difference on your financial success over the longer term.  

Business 1 with a 3% churn rate generates $5.4 million over 5 years

Business 2 with a 6% churn rate generates $3.7 million over 5 years


Some closing thoughts: Growing your Martial Arts Business is the Culmination of dozens of small things

There is no silver bullet in growing a thriving Martial Arts school.  It is a lot of trial and error each of the major business growth areas we have discussed.  Those areas are (1) Marketing, (2) Sales, (3) On-boarding and (4) Retention.  You need to be constantly measuring and testing what works and what doesn’t.  Underpinning everything though is YOU.  You are the product and delivering a great product is the cornerstone of everything else.  Be sure to invest in yourself and your art.  

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