The first rule of sales is to get the product into the customer’s hands. And if you run a service-based business like a martial arts school, the only way to get your “product” into your customers’ hands is to let them try your service.
Trial offers are an effective method of driving more people into your martial arts gym, but they often leave owners frustrated at how so few “convert” to regular memberships once those trials have ended.
Does this mean trials are actually ineffective at driving memberships? Not quite. If you take a look at trials that have low conversion rates, you’ll notice a few patterns…
…without selling out, watering down, or becoming a McDojo
Effectively marketing your martial arts school doesn’t mean you have to sell out like a McDojo or burn through tons of capital you don’t have.
Unfortunately, dojo owners tend to shy away from professional marketing techniques because they perceive it to be shady, dishonest, and manipulative.
This was true in decades past, but the marketing world has changed for the better, and the best marketing practices available now can explode your business without hurting your conscience or polluting your reputation.
When building your gym’s marketing, there’s a basic conflict for every gym owner. On one hand, they opened a gym or martial arts school because they love the sport and art they train in, and would like to make it as accessible as possible to people in their community. On the other hand, they are now running a business with their livelihood on the line.
From a business perspective, gym owners are worried about their bottom line. From the sports-fan and instructor perspective (which not every gym owner is), the goal is to provide the best experience and value to gym members.
As someone who moved a lot and likes to travel, I find myself searching for gyms in new places quite often. My first contact with a gym is typically through their website, and thus I’ve already seen a lot of variety in gym website design. Granted, it’s mostly BJJ schools websites, as that is the sport I train (with a few MMA gyms thrown in the mix).
Social media has pervaded our daily lives to the degree that you’ll be hard pressed to find a member of your gym who doesn’t use it at all. Over 90% of young adults (18-29) and 2/3 of all Americans, use social media in some way.
Sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram provide you with a great opportunity to reach and interact with your gym members and potential visitors, for a relatively small investment of time and effort.
Member referrals are an extremely valuable source for finding new members for your gym. When we analyzed how people find martial arts schools, 21% of people found their current gym through a referral. However, 41% of people decided to visit their gym for the first time based on a referral – This means that an additional 20% of people looked for an opinion about a potential gym from someone they know, before trying it out.
In my previous article, I covered the main acquisition channels for new members at martial arts gyms. It may or may not surprise you that search engines accounted for a whopping 46% of new gym members. If you add map services such as Google Maps to it, which is another form of search, that comes to a staggering 63%. That means that on average, almost 2 / 3 of your member acquisition will arrive via online search.
The survival and growth of a martial arts gym is tied closely to the influx of new members. Members pay the bills, and without a steady flow of new ones, a school cannot grow or even maintain its current status, as there is a constant churn of existing members.
To understand how prospective members might find your place, we ran a survey on Reddit’s BJJ community. Being that the results are from an online community, you would expect the data to somewhat prefer online acquisition channels. However, I believe it is still representative of how most people conduct their martial arts school search.