Wondering how to get more martial arts students to become members of your academy or dojo? Here are some ideas that will help increase awareness and make sure your business is visible to people who may be interested in learning a martial art.
1. Make sure your website is ranking for relevant keywords.
The most important thing you can do by far to market a martial arts business is to have a well-designed website that comes up when your ideal student (or their parent) Googles to find a martial arts gym. If your gym doesn’t come up when you Google “[name of your martial art] in [your city]”, you’re missing a huge opportunity to get in front of people at the exact moment they’re looking for you.
Websites typically don’t rank #1 on their own but require Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to get them to appear at the top of search results, a process that can take weeks or months depending on your competition. If you’re in a particularly crowded market, paying for Google Adwords might make sense as a way to appear at the top while you’re waiting on your website’s rank to increase.
2. Regularly ask members for online reviews.
If you Google “martial arts near me” you’ll find that Google displays business listings along with how their star ratings before the top website result, so it’s super important that 1) your school shows up here, and 2) your school has lots of reviews averaging five stars.
You can get initial reviews by asking everyone currently training at your academy to write a review (that ideally mentions the name of your martial art as well as the word “martial arts”), but it’s important to continue adding fresh reviews over time. The easiest way to do this is to set up an email or text message that goes out automatically to new students and asks them for a review after they’ve been training for a few months.
3. Maintain up-to-date Facebook and Instagram pages.
Make sure you have set up an account on both Facebook and Instagram and that you keep them up to date. Not do active social media pages improve your search engine rankings (and sometimes rank in Google themselves), they are also one of the first places prospective members often look to get an idea of what training at your gym is like. Be sure that when people visit your social media pages they see lots of photos of all kinds of people (all ages, races, sizes, genders, etc.) smiling and having a great time at your gym.
4. Post shareable content on social media.
While social media can be a great way to communicate with your current members, it can also help you get more martial arts students if you occasionally post content that would be of interest to people who are interested in self-defense or martial arts but don’t currently train, especially if your posts are helpful enough that your members naturally want to share them. These posts can later be boosted and used to retarget people who engage with paid ads.
Here are just a few ideas of the types of content that might be of interest to potential students or their parents:
- Videos of a small person performing an impressive technique on a larger person
- Videos of students talking about how they’ve benefited from training
- Videos showing how techniques taught at your studio can be used in a real-life self-defense situation
5. Become an active participant in your community.
Being visible at community events is a good way bring awareness to your business so that when people think of a martial arts school, your gym’s name comes to mind. Here are some ways to market your martial arts business through participation in your community:
- Do a martial arts demonstration at schools and community festivals
- Have the members of your gym volunteer together (also great for building community)
- Have a float in a holiday parade (or walk together in uniform)
- Attend local networking meetups and get to know and support other business owners
- Sponsor a kids sports team (with your name on the back of their team shirt)
- Have a booth at a fair, festival or trade show
6. Utilize community bulletin boards.
A community bulletin board would be a good place to hang a flyer to advertise special events such as a beginner bootcamp, a women’s self-defense series, or a summer kids program. Some places to check for community bulletin boards include grocery stores, libraries, coffee shops, fitness centers, and community centers.
7. Hang flyers on doorknobs.
Doorknob campaigns are a tried-and-true marketing method that, while labor intensive, can get more martial arts students into your gym as long as you are targeting the right people with the right offer. For example, instead of advertising your martial arts business generally, you might advertise a special summer program for kids to neighborhoods close by your studio. Just be sure you follow your city’s legal requirements for this martial arts marketing idea.
8. Post signage for people passing by.
If your martial arts studio is located somewhere that gets a lot of foot traffic, such as a downtown city block or a shopping center, make the most of your location by hanging an advertisement such as a poster or flyer that lets people passing by know what types of classes are offered and includes a QR code that people can scan to get a free trial.
9. Incentivize word-of-mouth referrals.
Your current students can be a great source of new members, but it may not occur to them to tell their friends about your gym unless you give them a reason to. One way to incentivize your gym members to advertise on your behalf is to offer your students a reward for referring new members, such as a free private lesson or even a free month of training after the new student starts a membership.
Another idea (that I can’t take credit for!) is a “Bring-a-Friend” week, where members can bring their friends to train for free, and the classes during that week are all focused on beginner-friendly techniques. This combined with a generous discount for the friend as well as the member who invited them recently brought in quite a few visitors to my home Jiu Jitsu gym.
10. Run a Facebook ad campaign.
Facebook ads can be expensive, but as long as you have an effective lead follow-up system in place, they can be a profitable and effective way to market a martial arts business without having to march in a parade, hang flyers door-to-door, or pressure your students to advertise for you.
However, the technology setup to get a Facebook ad campaign running is not for the faint of heart, and getting your add to convert a profitable cost per lead requires a lot of learning (and expense), so we would recommend hiring an experienced marketing agency to handle your Facebook ads once you have a solid program in place and are ready to scale your martial arts business.
Until then, these martial arts marketing ideas will help you get more martial arts students and start increasing and growing your business.