The Most Effective Martial Arts Marketing Methods

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The Martial Arts Marketing Survey Results Are In…

Roughly 100 school owners participated in the survey I posted last week. In case you missed it, the survey asked just one simple question:

“What’s your most effective martial arts marketing method?”

The Results

The results were really no surprise to me. After all the answers were tallied, the top three contenders for the number one most effective marketing method were:

  • Website and online marketing – 45% of respondents said that their website or other online marketing method was the most effective lead generator for their schools;
  • Guest passes and referrals – 28% of school owners participating in the survey cited guest passes and referral programs as being their top source of leads;
  • Fliers, brochures, and poster distribution – Another 12% of participants said that fliers, posters, and brochure distribution got them more leads than any other marketing method.

Incidentally, snipe signs (political signs, yard signs) came in at a close fourth to fliers and posters with 9% of the votes.

(Update September 2021… This survey and article originally ran in the summer of 2010. I recently ran this survey again inside my private online business coaching group, and these were the results:

  • Facebook ads – 50%
  • SEO + website – 21%
  • FREE social media posts – 21%
  • Google Ads – 7%

This was no surprise to anyone who hasn’t been under a rock for the last decade. Yet, it greatly illustrates the shift from print to digital marketing, and the tremendous impact social media has had on local marketing in general.

I’m sure in 5 or 10 years we’ll see another shift, but who can say what it’ll be?

One thing that did surprise me was how little school owners are using referral programs and guest passes. It’s one of the cheapest forms of advertisement, yet I think it’s underutilized in today’s dojos.

In my opinion, that’s been the chief disadvantage of digital marketing—that it’s made small business owners lazier and more impatient in their marketing habits. Everyone is always looking for the easy button, these days.

This has led to school owners passing up offline marketing methods for faster, easier online methods, but I can’t say I blame them. Still, there has to be some opportunity there for offline marketing that’s done well. ~M.M.)

Analyzing The Results – How Times Have Changed

This was a really short, simple survey and it doesn’t take a genius to interpret the results. However, what bears consideration is how much martial art school marketing has changed in the last decade.

Ten years ago I was running a successful school (my first Small Dojo Big Profits school) in a town of about 40,000 people just north of Austin, TX. Although I had built a website for my school around that time, my main source of leads was from running newspaper ads and direct mail.

My, how times have changed. Several advances in internet technology have greatly increased the utility and popularity of internet shopping and research, including:

  • The advent of the modern internet roughly five years ago (sometimes called “web 2.0”) –
  • The widespread use of broadband internet access –
  • The creation and adoption of “smart phone” technology and mobile apps –

In short, technology has advanced far enough over the last decade to transform internet use from a mere novelty to an integral part of everyday life.

We get our news on the internet. We communicate with our friends and socialize on the internet. We get work done on the internet.


We now shop and research the majority of our buying decisions on the internet.

I’ve been studying marketing online for almost a decade now. This was mostly out of simple geek curiosity, although I had a sneaking suspicion it was eventually going to pervade many aspects our daily lives. And, thank goodness I did!

As it turns out, all that geeky knowledge of internet marketing came in handy a few years ago. By focusing completely on my online marketing when the recession first reared its ugly head in 2006, I was able to continue to grow my school and eventually thrive during a very tumultuous economic period.

That’s why it’s no surprise to me that survey respondents listed internet marketing as their number most popular and effective source of lead generation for martial arts schools.

“So, If I Want To Market Online… What’s The First Step?”

Obviously, you need to have a website. Ideally, your website should be professionally designed by a web designer who understands small business lead generation.

It should provide ample means for site visitors to contact you (prominently displayed phone number, lead capture form, and site contact form). And, it should integrate modern social media.

If you’re a “techie” person, this may be something you want to take on yourself. However, I’ve had several web design clients who were tech savvy (one was a professional web developer) who still hired me to build their sites.

Why? Because it takes a very unique skill-set to merge technology, design, and marketing know-how in order to develop a successful online marketing platform for a martial art school.

So, be sure you choose carefully when getting your site built, and select someone with a proven track record of building high-performance lead capture websites for martial arts schools.

If you need more help on these steps, click here and here.

Now, you know where to start… so get marketing!

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