by Cris Rodriguez, Mike Metzger and Shane Tassoul
At the macro level, you have to implement just three systems to achieve success in your martial arts academy. If you’re thinking that sounds too easy to be true, know that Tony Robbins teaches something similar in his business-coaching programs. He says a business must do these three things to grow:
1 Get customers.
2 Get those customers to pay more.
3 Get those customers to pay more, more often.
At the Martial Arts Industry Association, our recipe for success focuses on the three R’s: recruitment, retention and revenue. In this article, three of the industry’s leading consultants — Cris Rodriguez, Mike Metzger and Shane Tassoul — will explain how this simple strategy can help you take your school to the next level in 2021.
Recruitment • Cris Rodriguez, MAIA Consultant
One year on vacation in Hawaii, I was relaxing at the beach when a fisherman, obviously a local, drove up in his pickup truck. He got out with a dozen fishing rods, baited the hooks, cast all the lines into the ocean and set the rods in the sand.
Intrigued, I wandered over and asked him for an explanation. “It’s simple,” he said. “I love fish, but I hate fishing. I like eating, not catching. So I cast out 12 lines. By sunset, some of them will have caught a fish. Never all of them. So if I cast only one or two, I might go hungry. But 12 is enough so that some always catch something. Usually there’s enough for me and extras to sell to local restaurants. This way, I live the life I want.”
That local in Hawaii had figured out the No. 1 cause of business failures: too few lines in the ocean. Hop in any martial arts group on Facebook or become a fly on the wall during any consulting call, and you’ll find that school owners usually have one focus that leads to one question: How can I sign up more students?
While this is a very important aspect of our business, it’s not the only important aspect. It’s one piece of the puzzle we have to work on. For many school owners, however, it’s the only part they focus on. Later in this article, you’ll hear from Mike Metzger and Shane Tassoul on two other essential aspects, but right now, I’ll focus on recruitment.
While there are a ton of internal and external marketing strategies that we can implement for recruiting purposes — such as buddy days, referral contests, ambassador programs, B2B rack cards, festival booths and so on — I will concentrate on my specialty, which is online marketing.
As a rule of thumb, before I set any future goals, I always look back on the previous years to see how far I’ve come and to recap the lessons I’ve learned. While most of us never want to experience a year like 2020 again, there are many important business lessons all of us should have learned.
For the majority of schools that focused on internal and external marketing, COVID hit hard. Most of our traditional marketing strategies were stripped away overnight, leaving online marketing as the only viable alternative. For schools that were already up to date with respect to social media presence and online advertising, this was an easy pivot. For those that weren’t, this potentially meant a steep decline in business — and possibly the permanent closure of doors.
The pandemic showed us that we cannot keep all our eggs in one basket in terms of marketing. It also showed us that we have to be a fixture not just in our communities but online, as well. So what does the landscape of digital marketing look like in 2021? It’s a question I get asked on a daily basis. Here, I’ll break it down as I explain how the new year brings new opportunities.
More people are online than ever before, and in response, more people are engaging in digital marketing than ever before. Ad costs have been rising and will continue to do so — especially with the changes that Apple is making and the negative effects this will have on retargeting marketing.
Some people will continue to get results from minimum expenditures, but the majority will find that their CPL (cost per lead) and CPA (cost per acquisition) will continue to increase.
What does this mean for you? It means that you have to stand out in the newsfeed and that you should adjust your expectations. You can do that by being authentic with your posts (which entails, among other things, posting more pictures and videos of your students and team members) and by entertaining your audience with fun content (Who doesn’t love a good Cobra Kai meme?).
SMS (essentially, messaging) is king right now, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t leave voicemails and blast out emails. Your goal is to be omnipresent in the lives of your prospects, and utilizing only one form of correspondence will hinder that effort. While artificial intelligence can make automation a great choice, you still have to call your prospects.
Envision a friendly competition between a school owner who sends only text messages and a school owner who sends text messages, makes phone calls, leaves voicemails and sends e-mails. Who will have a better chance of converting prospects into appointments?
Automate when you can, but remember that people are hungry for human connections. So get your follow-up game on point.
It’s no surprise in this instant-gratification society in which we live, people are impatient. In fact, studies have shown that 74 percent of cellphone users will wait no more than five seconds for a webpage to load. This means your website and especially your landing pages must be optimized for mobile users and they must load quickly. That’s why I recommend martial arts schools go with a company like Market Muscles. It’s among the best in our industry when it comes to optimizing websites for mobile and getting them to load quickly.
The most successful marketers spend 40 percent of their budget on content marketing. The average, however, is just 26 percent. In case you don’t know, content marketing is a methodology that involves the creation and sharing of online material (videos, blogs, social media posts, etc.) that doesn’t explicitly promote a brand but is intended to stimulate interest in its products or services. You need someone on your team who can assume this responsibility. It’s important to understand that just creating content isn’t enough. Content marketers used to rely on organic reach on Facebook, but that has plummeted — I’m sure you’ve noticed. If you haven’t, take a look at the Likes, Loves, Comments and Shares your Facebook business page is getting. More than likely, you used to enjoy higher vanity metrics. Facebook has really pulled back the reach it gives to business pages, which means you’ve got to promote your content.
These days, it’s not great content that wins; it’s great promoted content that wins. There aren’t many times I recommend hitting that “boost” button on Facebook, but to get more reach with your content in 2021, it’s something you have to do.
One of my favorite books is The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy. It was the first personal-development text I read. It presents a simple formula for achieving success in any area of life: Small, smart choices, made consistently, yield drastic results.
Apply that to your workouts, your nutrition, your finances or your business, and you’ll achieve the goals you desire. How does this pertain to digital marketing? It has to do with consistency. One of the biggest struggles that school owners have is staying consistent with their content marketing, their posts, their replies and, in general, their online availability.
Approximately 71 percent of consumers who have had a good social media service experience with a brand are likely to recommend the business to others. The way you treat prospects who walk in through your doors should be the way treat prospects on social media.
If you’re struggling with what to post online, check out MAIA Edge. It provides a done-for-you monthly social media calendar that will save you hours each month while it spares you the headache of trying to figure out what to post.
Retention • Shane Tassoul, MAIA Consultant
Over the years — and after several hundred onboarding calls — I’ve noticed a common theme in our industry: Martial arts school owners insist that they need more students. After digging deeper, I find that the real reason they think they need more students is so they can have a greater impact on their community and earn more money.
Although attracting new students is a must for any school, often it’s not the first thing you should seek when you set out to boost your bottom line. I advise school owners to focus on improving their internal business systems so they maximize student value. It’s a matter of beginning with the end in mind.
Internal business systems frequently need an overhaul before new students are added; otherwise, you’ll be plugging them into a broken system. Part of that overhaul is looking at your school’s attrition rate to determine whether it’s acceptable or in need of improvement.
Business owners usually claim they don’t lose many students. That may be the case, I tell them, but let’s trust and validate. After we go through the numbers, we normally find that they’re not retaining as many students as they thought they were.
Let me give you an example based on “Mr. Smith” and his school of 110 students. He started in January with 100 students and averaged $10,000 in revenue per month. He set a goal of getting 50 more students this year. He went about his business and worked hard on new enrollments, which yielded a record number of 96 signups.
In December, he took a look back and felt proud of what he’d accomplished — then began scratching his head when he discovered that he started with 100 students, enrolled 96 new students and now has only 110 students. That’s when Mr. Smith learned about attrition. Let’s see what attrition means financially in this case.
Recall that he started the year with 100 students and added 96 — regular students, not trials. If he had perfect retention, he would have ended the year with 196 students. Unfortunately, as much as he or anyone else tries, perfection is never achieved.
Consider how many students Mr. Smith lost over the course of the year. With perfect retention, he would have had 196 students, but he ended with 110 students, meaning that he lost 86 students somewhere. That’s an average of 7.16 students lost per month. Stick with me here. …
Now, we need to look at Mr. Smith’s average active count by taking January’s active count of 100 students plus December’s active count of 110 and then dividing by 2 to determine the average. (Alternatively, if Mr. Smith kept great numbers, we could add up each month’s active count during the year and divide by 12 to get a more precise number.)
In this case, however, we see that Mr. Smith has an average active count of 105. We also know that he lost an average of 7.16 students per month. If we simply divide the average lost (7.16) by the average active count (105), this gives us a 6.8- percent attrition rate.
To put this in perspective, here are some guidelines for attrition rates:
6-10% — Needs attention now.
5% — Average but requires work.
4% — Above average.
3% — Unbelievable.
2% — You’re a superhero.
1% — You’re simply the best.
Let’s see what would happen if Mr. Smith dropped his attrition rate from 6.8 percent to 5 percent. By losing only 5 percent of 105 students, he would lose an average of five students per month, much better than the seven he was losing. This means he would keep an additional two students per month, which equates to an extra 24 paying students over the course of the year. If each has a student value of $100 per month, that comes out to $2,400 per month — or nearly $30,000 more per
To increase your retention rate, you need more than just exciting classes; you also need a system that allows you to determine how and why you lose students.
Once such a system is in place, you’ll be on your way to earning tens of thousands of dollars of extra income per year.
Revenue • Mike Metzger, MAIA Consultant
The majority of people who get into business typically start by doing something they love. A man who loves to cook might go into the restaurant business, or a woman who loves to dance might open a dance school. People like us, who love the martial arts, wind up opening martial arts schools.
When we decide to take the leap, we typically think of our passion first. Very quickly, however, we find that we must think about how we can pay the bills while doing what we love. Turns out most people are very good at their craft but not so good at business. At MAIA, we believe all business owners should be good at both.
Revenue is ultimately what keeps you in business. To generate the most revenue, you must understand that the foundation of a successful school is composed of three parts: class schedule, programs offered and pricing structure.
Knowledge of these keys will make it easier to maximize your business profitability. The majority of school owners, however, know only the way their instructor ran his or her school and tend to copy that formula. This is why so many schools struggle financially.
Your class schedule must be convenient for your customers, designed to produce the highest-quality students and capable of generating revenue for the business. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say they want to expand their school or open a second location because they feel like they’re busting at the seams — when in reality, they just have a bad schedule that’s causing the problems.
The difference between a great schedule and a poor schedule could mean the difference between having 150 additional students and having no additional students. The secret is not just to add more times or shorten classes; it’s to create a schedule in which the quality of instruction stays high while the most students are accommodated.
If you wish to generate more revenue, you must offer programs (upgrades) just like any other business. Not all students are created equal, so why would you try to teach everyone equally? The 50-year-old doesn’t typically have the same reasons for training as the 20-year-old does. That’s why you need to offer different programs to meet the needs and wants of your varied customer base. If you can offer different paths for your customers to choose from without interfering with your core curriculum, why not do it? This will enable you to create more value, which in turn will generate more revenue.
Finally, consider offering programs rather than just memberships. Establish a price and spell out what customers get for that price. This allows them to decide how they will finance their program — for some people, it’s easier to put more money down and have lower monthly payments. When you have a flexible payment plan, you make it easier for customers to enroll, and collecting more money upfront is
never a bad thing — if that’s what your customer prefers.
There’s a system for running a financially successful martial arts business, just as there’s a system for teaching great martial arts. Most martial artists who excel at their craft excel because they’ve spent years training. Unfortunately, most don’t spend years training in the business of martial arts, which is why many schools fail.
There is plenty of great information out there for school owners in need. Find it, study it and implement it —MAIA Growth makes that easier than ever — and you’ll have all the success you desire.
In Conclusion -
One of the biggest differentiators between school owners who excel and those who don’t is initiative, the willingness to take action. Often they’ll read an article and think, “I already knew that.” Maybe they did know it, but intellectual understanding of a subject is different from mastery of it.
It’s the authors’ hope that you gleaned some valuable tips from this article and that they’ve given you a game plan for success. If you need help with anything, check out the new MAIA Growth group-coaching program. It’s more cost effective than one-on-one consulting and every bit as powerful. Visit maiahub.com/coaching. If you’d rather book a free 20-minute coaching call, go to maiahub.com/connect.
Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.
Don't worry, your information will not be shared.
Fill in your information below and we'll send you new blog content when it's released.