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Zen Planner's Annual Martial Arts Benchmark Report

continuing education Jul 02, 2019

Zen Planner is the leading software suite for martial arts businesses. The company’s Annual Martial Arts Benchmark Report is the most comprehensive collection and analysis of business data in the martial arts industry. 

The purpose of the report is simple: to provide valuable insights to martial arts school owners, so that they can master their businesses and transform more lives. The data from this report is backed by 465 survey respondents, and helps school owners make better business decisions — whether you’re just starting out or have been in business for decades! 

How does Zen Planner determine what questions to include in its survey?

When we first launched the Benchmark Report, we formed our questions based on conversations that we had had been having with school owners for a decade. We have a good understanding of what martial arts schools are thinking about, from sales to customer support, what their pain points are, and what things matter most to their businesses.

We pair this perspective with in-house expertise, too. We have a passionate group of martial arts students and instructors at Zen Planner who bring a unique perspective to every conversation.


How has the Benchmark Report evolved over the years?

The survey evolves every year thanks to feedback from school owners and readers. Each year, we send out a survey to see if we’re missing anything business owners want to address. We review our data annually to see if there are new takeaways waiting to be uncovered, and we review our questions to see if anything should be rephrased.


What value does the Benchmark Report provide for martial arts school owners?

The Benchmark Report provides the most comprehensive collection and analysis of financial data in the martial arts industry. It helps school owners make better business decisions — whether they are just starting out or have been in business for decades.

The survey helps us find opportunities for software improvements which can benefit the thousands of martial arts businesses we serve. Whether someone already owns a martial arts school or is opening one soon, the survey provides a startup template and an insider’s view of best practices related to facility size, staffing, class schedule organization and detailed financial management.


What motivated us to take on this project?

The Benchmark Report is fueled by our passion for helping our customers master their business operations. When our customers master their businesses and delight their students, we impact more lives. The motivation here was pretty simple: To provide more value to, and improve, the martial arts industry.


What were the big takeaways from this year’s survey?

Our big takeaway this year was the importance of student engagement and having the ability to drive student engagement in a variety of ways.

’Referral marketing’ was another big takeaway. The most profitable schools, which we dub our ‘Champion Schools,’ spent the most on referral programs.

An engaged and loyal student base is more likely to share satisfaction with a school with friends and family, with or without a financial incentive from the school. Small school owners wear many hats and don’t have time to deploy a traditional marketing strategy. Referral marketing spending is generally based on sales only, not the hope of a future sale. Marketing that relies on a loyal and vocal student base is effective and easy, and it is what propels many small schools into the ranks of the Champion Schools.

The ability to manage family memberships was a strong takeaway this year as well. Youth and family memberships are a large source of revenue for many martial arts schools. Using software to seamlessly manage family memberships has a huge impact on a school’s bottom line.

Along those same lines, we also found the Champion Schools automate as much as possible. Automations, from communication to payments, allow a martial arts school to grow without spending more time and more money. Beyond scale, automations also ensure a better student experience through consistency and quality.

We know testing and promotions are debated topics from discipline to discipline, but our data shows a massive focus on skill-based and attendance-based testing criteria. Our software allows you to completely customize what your testing criteria is, and allows both you and your students to track attendance in a detailed way.


What were some of the other takeaways from this year’s survey?

Each year, we see the Champion Schools charging the most for memberships and avoiding discounts. A school’s pricing impacts its public perception. We want martial arts schools to sell on value and not on price.

Higher-valued martial arts schools are healthier businesses, and healthier businesses can better serve their students. It’s much easier to go “down market” than “up market.” That is, it’s much easier to add a basic service after you’ve offered a premium service than the other way around. Furthermore, it’s much easier to lower your prices than to raise them.

One thing we’d like to bring to the conversation this year is the annual trend of small schools not charging enough. One could argue that, except for having fewer amenities, small schools are actually more valuable because of the more personalized experience.

There’s some assumption there, obviously, but we want to empower these schools to charge what they are worth or even what they’re going to be worth down the road. This is a barrier martial arts schools have to leap over in order to achieve long-term success.


Make sure you read the full story in your August edition of MASuccess, in print or digitally!

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