How to Market Your Martial Arts School Without Going Broke

Written by Kevin Petersen

December 14, 2015

As a martial arts instructor, making a living doesn’t depend so much on how well you do karate yourself. Instead, it’s about providing an experience that your students will benefit from and will keep them coming back for more. Here we will discuss Martial arts school marketing ideas to take your talents into a thriving business.

Unfortunately, you could be the foremost martial arts expert in your area but if nobody knows about your services, you’ll likely struggle to thrive.

So how do you take the first step?

How can you get more students in the door and increase awareness about your school?

Here are a few simple marketing ideas for your martial arts school that will increase awareness and help you build your brand.

1. Marital Arts School Marketing – Claim Your Space Online

Face it – every business should have a strong online presence in order to maximize their marketing efforts.

Fortunately, there are a few things you can do that are absolutely free and still make a big impact.

Whether you realize it or not, your business’ first impression usually happens online (not in the Dojo).

Even if people learn about you from a friend or from a booth at a local event – they are very likely to go “Google” your school to see what kind of reviews you have online, or maybe look for pictures of your facility to learn more before they spend any of their own money.

If you’ve spent no time doing the basics online for your martial arts marketing, who knows what these people are finding!

The First Step

First off – you really need a first-rate website for your school so when people are looking for you online, they can find you and you make a strong first impression.  If you don’t have a site of your own, it’s not as hard as you think.

We’ll talk more about your website later on…

Assuming you have a website that exists, then the first step is to make sure that at the very least you’ve claimed your spot as a Google Business.

Click here to do that.

It’s free, and can be done in a few minutes.

The result is that when people look for your business on Google, or when they are searching more generic things like “martial arts schools in YOUR CITY”  or maybe even “karate lessons in YOUR CITY” you’ll have a better looking, more complete profile in Google like you see below:

martial arts school marketing

Source: Google

In addition to having accurate and complete information about your school, you can also do things like:

  • Respond on behalf of your business to reviews left on Google.
  • Add nice looking photos of your facility that will show up in Google’s listing. Make sure your facility looks it’s best in these photos!
  • Add accurate hours and location information.
  • Put your phone number and other contact info that people need to know.

Google owns the largest market share as far as search engines go,  but there are at least a dozen large directories, search engines, review sites, etc. that you should be completing your profile on – mostly for the same reasons I mentioned about Google.

Most let you claim a business for free, but may also offer some paid services which you do not have to buy.

The sites I’m referring to are Yellow Book online,  Bing businesses, Yelp, and many more.

Here is an excellent list of the 20 places your business should be online when you are marketing for martial arts.

If you take an hour or two and complete all these profiles, you’ll be a step ahead of most of your competition who won’t take the time to do it.

Simple, free, and impactful.

Start staking claim on your space online for free.

2. Incentivize Referrals

Do you have a referral program in place?

If so, how is it working?

If it isn’t generating new referral customers, then maybe it’s time to re-think it.

Referral programs can work in a variety of different businesses, and they are a fantastic martial arts marketing idea and way to grow your membership by getting the ‘word of mouth’ advertising train rolling.

But in order for it to work, your incentives have to be things that connect with your current students.

You’d like to think that they’ll just spread the word about your martial arts lessons for no reason, and maybe they will, but offering a reward that your students really want will increase the likelihood that they’ll actively recruit new students on your behalf.

Perhaps you can offer free lesson credits for them, new karate training gear, or some other benefit for every new student they refer.

You could even have different referral incentives for different age groups, to make sure the award fits the audience.

If you have tried a referral program that didn’t pick up any steam, try asking your students (or their parents) for some ideas about the kinds of rewards they’d be interested in.

3. Consider Your Entire Audience

You may specialize in instructing a certain age group or type of student, such as young children.

If so, don’t forget that you are marketing as much to their parents as you are to the students themselves.

Obviously if their kids love your karate class, the parents will be more likely to keep coming back for more. However, if you can also delight the parents who bring them and ultimately pay the bill, you’ll be almost certain to have a long time customer.

How can you do that? 

Make your waiting area comfortable and functional.

If you have just a few uncomfortable chairs and virtually no amenities, it’s likely that parents don’t necessarily enjoy coming to your school and waiting around for their child’s lesson.

On the other hand, if you offer things like comfortable seating, free wifi, a Keurig coffee machine, and a flat screen tv – the time they spend at your school will be more enjoyable.

Other things to consider are a small play area for younger siblings, and having your waiting area situated in a way that parents who prefer to watch class can easily do so without having to stand or sit in an awkward position.

Below is a photo from the American Black Belt Academy who has a mounted television, chairs with tables for parents who’d prefer to eat, drink, or work, and a great view of all the action.

martial arts school marketing - waiting area idea

What’s more, this becomes something you can use back at step 1 for taking business photos to add to your Google profile.

It’s a new selling point for you.

If a parent is comparing local martial arts schools and one has a well thought out, parent-friendly area to wait and the other does not – which do you think they’ll choose?

Don’t overlook small details that can help you stand out to prospective customers.

4. Get Customers From Your Website

Once you’ve setup a nice looking, basic website that makes a solid first impression – it’s time to take it to the next level.

How do you do that?

By using a blog to connect with your existing customers, and your prospective customers.

What should you write about? 

The quickest way to come up with content ideas for your website is to simply blog about questions you hear all the time from your students. These could be things about martial arts techniques, advice for choosing an instructor, and much more.

The concept is simple: if people ask you these questions in person, then there are probably many other people who ask those questions online (via Google search).

When they do, some website is going to be there to answer their question.

Why can’t that be you?

With the right strategy and effort, it really can be.

Who knows, you may end up with so much traffic online that you can start offering a digital product such as a martial arts video training or maybe your own line of training products or accessories.

Below is an example from Karate By Jesse who does exactly what I’m talking about – sharing his karate expertise on his blog.

Martial arts school marketing - Karate Blog Ideas

Perhaps that sounds far-fetched for you today, but if you decide to become an online authority in martial arts it is absolutely possible.

Once you’re tapped out of ideas from personal experience, it’s time to start discovering other content ideas.

For that, I’d suggest you try our software, Long Tail Pro.

Basically, it helps you discover exactly what people are searching for in the world on martial arts and lets you know which phrases would be the best to target based on how often it’s searched and how difficult the competition is.

Ready to start finding keywords? Click Here to take a 7 day free trial of Long Tail Pro and find out what your customers are searching Google for.

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  1. Cedar Mill Martial Arts

    You done a great job about this category, I got the best and useful information and suggestions from this category. You made a good site and it’s very interesting one. Thanks for sharing the best information. Regards.

  2. Tami

    This is awesome information!!
    Thank you for sharing!!!


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