Strategic Business Marketing for Martial Arts Schools

Nicklaus Suino Sensei Teaching Iaido

Are you struggling to grow your martial arts school?

Are you tired of watching other schools in your area get bigger while yours stagnates?

Would you like to be able to finally earn a good living doing what you love?

You probably had a dream when you opened your school … full classes, lots of energy, rent paid every month, and plenty of opportunity for you and your students to grow. It’s an awesome dream!

I had that same dream years ago. When I opened my first dojo in 1993, before the days of website marketing and email, I struggled to pay the bills for several years. Even a decade later, when I sold the dojo to a few of my senior students, our enrollment was under 60 students.

When I opened my second dojo in 2006, I promised myself and my wife that I wouldn’t accept the same struggle. It was either going to be successful or I would quit and do something else. I worked my butt off (and I still do) to build a vibrant dojo. Eleven years later, I’ve learned some important lessons about martial arts business, and I’m still learning.

Most school owners I meet are pretty good at the arts they teach. Some are VERY good - their talent and passion are what led them to open a school in the first place. Some are decent business people. Most are pretty good at signing up new students because of their passion. But they just don’t have enough new student calls or emails, so they get stuck at 30, 40, or 60 students.

Those are okay numbers. I’ve deliberately kept mine at around 125 students because we’re kind of an experts academy, but I know schools that have 200, 250 or 300 students. Some of them charge much higher fees than the struggling schools. Their owners (some are friends of mine) know how to grow their schools faster and more efficiently. They have full classes. They test 30 or 50 kids at a time. They offer lots of extras. They can afford to take vacations, put their kids through college, and put money in their 401(k) accounts. They’re the rock stars.

So what are THEY doing that YOU’RE not doing?

Some run TV ads, some set up tables at the mall, some give demos in the public schools. There’s no doubt those things can help build your numbers. But there’s one area where a few of the great school owners truly rock it out. Where they invest in a strategic approach, get it launched, and have it work for them twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

That approach can bring in more students. It can help ensure those students are the right fit. It can even frame the first few months of their experience so they’re more likely to be good contributors and long term members. This approach works consistently throughout the year, and helps get those people in front of you so you can share your passion and get more of them to become members of your school.

Black-Belt Martial Arts Marketing

What I’m talking about is purpose-driven, authentic martial arts marketing. It’s worked for my dojo and for some of the more amazing dojos we know. It can work for you. It’s a system that helps you get from your vision to a plan, from a plan to action, and from action to consistently improving your awareness, leads and sales. When our clients (in all kinds of businesses, not just martial arts) commit and take part fully and energetically, we’ve never seen it fail!

And the best news is that it can be tailored to fit your particular martial art and your vision for who comes into your school. If you want to talk to a real human being and learn more about how this works, feel free to drop me an email at nick@michiganseogroup.com.

If you’re not ready to chat, feel free to sign up for our Black Belt SEO News and Tips. You’ll get real, street-level advice on how to better engage your potential customers. Whatever you do, I encourage you to take action. Every day you wait, there are ambitious martial arts school owners out there learning, working, and figuring out how to build their numbers. I’ve seen it again and again just in our area – the schools either prosper or flounder – there’s very little middle ground. I don’t know about you, but I prefer the hope that comes with taking action.

I’m sure you’re concerned about the cost of a program like this. It’s not cheap, but in every area of life, the value of true experts far exceeds their cost. Good online marketing for your martial arts school is no exception. You could hire a generic SEO company to build your website and run your social media campaigns, but you wouldn’t get the experience of several committed martial artists who have also been in the business of online success for many decades. (It’s true. Not only have I been in the business of martial arts for 25 years, but my co-founder Don Prior holds several black belts, and Dan Holland, our web programmer, is an extraordinary martial artist who, among many accolades, is a former US national gold medalist in judo kata). We’re the real deal. 

I share your dream of a vibrant, prosperous martial arts school. I’ve seen what’s possible, and I know you can get there. Whatever you decide, I wish you every success!