Even the best martial arts teachers sometimes struggle to fill their dojos. There’s more competition than ever to capture kids’ attention today, and it can often feel like an uphill battle to get them listening and excited about martial arts classes.
If you’re having trouble keeping your pipeline of new students flowing, just know you’re not alone. Fewer than 4 million people practiced martial arts in the U.S. last year, which was a far cry from the nearly 7 million individuals honing their skills in 2007.
Don’t lose heart, though! There are plenty of success stories out there to draw inspiration from – Chatri Sityodtong, for instance, came up out of poverty to create one of the most premier martial arts tournaments in the world. You may not have those kinds of global aspirations in mind with your martial arts school, but Sityodtong’s dedication and shrewd understanding of how to effectively market martial arts is certainly something to emulate.
So, how can you cut through the noise, get through to kids and increase enrollment in your martial arts classes? Have a look:
1. Set up a referral program
Chances are, every single one of your current students knows at least a few other kids who would get a real kick out of martial arts classes. You just need to incentivize them to refer new students to your school. There are a lot of ways to entice parents to reach out to their friends about martial arts school or even enroll one of their other kids. You can offer a set number of free classes for every referral who successfully enrolls in your classes, for instance. Group rates are an easy way to get parents to consider making martial arts the de facto family sport or activity. If you hand out guest passes to your current students, their friends and siblings can take a class or two to test the waters. Once they get a taste of the fun and excitement of practicing martial arts, they’ll be sure to sign up for regular classes.
You can even offer a money-back guarantee for the first month or couple of months to placate parents who worry about the cost of another afterschool activity. After they’ve seen the benefits of your martial arts instruction firsthand, they’ll be less hesitant to continue classes past that initial grace period.
2. Partner with local youth groups
Instead of trying to blanket your community with flyers and door hangers, you should be a little more targeted when getting the word out about your martial arts studio. The key here is to find parents who are already interested in enrolling their kids in afterschool or weekend activities, and pitch them the benefits of your class. By partnering with a local dance studio, Little League organization or other youth group, you can tap into a source of potential customers who are already primed to sign their kids up for athletics. After that, it’s just a matter of making the case why their son or daughter would be better off taking your martial arts instead of playing volleyball.
If you’re passionate about martial arts, speaking to its benefits and life lessons – especially for children – should be relatively easy. It’s just a matter of getting people to stop and listen.
3. Make your website SEO-friendly
While it’s always important to pound the pavement and work your local connections in person, don’t sleep on the importance of a good website. When a parent considers signing their kids up for martial arts classes, the first thing they’re going to do is do a quick Google search of martial arts studios and instructors in their area. You want to be sure that your website is one of the very first search results that appears for them. That’s why it’s so important to have an SEO-friendly website up and running. Some major factors to keep in mind, especially in the martial arts business, is to use localized keywords and maintain a thoughtful, engaging and valuable blog. There’s a lot that goes into optimizing your site for Google rankings, though, and you may need to get some outside help to make sure all of your site pages are set up correctly.
“Consider what appeals to people and tweak your messaging accordingly.”
4. Capture – and nurture – leads
Some martial arts schools excel at grabbing the attention of potential students but just can’t seem to close the deal and get them enrolled. Maybe they put on a killer public demo, had a bunch of great chats with engaged parents and their kids and seemed poised to bring in the next crop of excited students. But then they never sign up. If this scenario sounds painfully familiar, take a hard look at your process for handling leads. If it’s pretty barebones, don’t worry – that just means there’s plenty of room for improvement.
Lead management software helps you capture and nurture potential leads and dramatically increases the likelihood that an intrigued prospect becomes your next student. Once visitors to your site have filled in their information, you can track them as prospects and easily follow up whenever appropriate. This way, you keep the ball in your court, and you aren’t left twiddling your thumbs waiting for interested parents to reach out to you.
Speaking of which …
5. Personalize your marketing campaigns
Whether they’re nationwide or strictly local, the best marketing campaigns know how to pique the interest of particular demographics. Don’t just send out blanket newsletters or email blasts to your leads and hope for the best. Really consider what will appeal to specific people and tweak your messaging and offerings accordingly. Even the best promotion for tae kwon do classes won’t matter much to someone who is solely interested in karate. A personalized approach to marketing has a much better chance of generating interest and eliciting a positive response from your leads.
If there’s one takeaway here, it’s that there are endless opportunities to improve enrollment in your martial arts classes. By following these tips, you too can run a wildly successful martial arts school.