The Top 7 Martial Arts Advertising Mistakes

martial arts advertising mistakes

…And How to Avoid Them

In the business of martial arts, marketing is paramount to your success. Martial arts instructors and studio owners who forget or ignore the fact that student turnover is a constant (making marketing your martial arts school of the utmost importance) will soon find themselves out of work… because they won’t have any students!

If you want to see how this works out in the growth and success of a martial arts school, I suggest you read my book, The Profit-Boosting Principles: How to Dramatically Increase Your Martial Arts School Profits Without Increasing Your Overhead.

And, if you want to learn more about how to market your school effectively, I suggest you visit my martial arts marketing system website and purchase the course you’ll find there.

Now, let’s get on to our discussion of The Top 7 Martial Arts Advertising Mistakes…

#1: Spending Money On Yesterday’s Advertising Methods

What worked twenty years ago simply doesn’t work in the internet age. And, I’d also like to say that what worked even two or three years ago on the internet doesn’t work anymore, either.

Take online yellow pages and online business directories, for instance. They’re costly to advertise in, and besides that no one uses them anymore because consumers now have Google. Google on their desktops, Google on their laptops, and Google on their smartphones. And Google also makes a free online business directory that beats any online yellow pages directory by a mile.

So why do martial arts schools still spend money on yellow pages ads? They’re stuck in the past, and quite frankly things move way too fast these days for some school owners to survive in the technological age. So, get with the times and adapt, or die a prolonged death. The choice is yours.

#2: Committing Too Much Money to a Single Advertising Method

Your monthly advertising budget (you do have one, don’t you?) should be divided up like a pie, not like a package of Twinkies. Why? If you have all your marketing dollars for the month tied up in just one or two advertising methods, then that’s all you’ll be able to do. See mistake #3 below for more on why this is such a gamble.

#3: Relying Too Much On a Single Advertising Method

Relying too much on any single advertising method is risky, because if one stops working and you have all your eggs in that basket, you are going to be in deep trouble. I speak with school owners all the time who rely on just one or two advertising methods for the bulk of their leads, and I cringe to think what will happen when that one lead source dries up or goes away.

Maybe they’ve gotten into the local schools, and spend all their time and effort doing school talks. Maybe they have good search engine ranking and get all their leads from their website. Or, maybe they have always placed ads in the local paper (in areas where that still works) and they spend the majority of their ad budget on print ads each month.

Whatever the method, I want to emphasize that focusing all your money and efforts on just a single advertising method is placing your school at risk. If you’re the owner of a school that’s in this precarious position, I suggest that you start branching out by adding other lead generation methods to your repertoire immediately. That way if your main lead source dries up you’ll have something to fall back on should that occur.

#4: Committing to Extended Advertising Contracts for Untested and Unproven Methods of Advertisement

Yesterday an ad rep called and tried to get me to commit to an “exclusive” advertising package on a popular local website. The contract was for twelve months at about $400 a month. I told him the most I’d commit to was three months to try it out; he said they couldn’t do it. I told him to send me some contact information from other clients in my industry who had used their services successfully in the past. I’m still waiting to receive that information.

In the past, I’ve wasted my advertising dollars on:

  • Bus stop bench backs –
  • Local business maps –
  • Off-brand yellow pages directories –
  • School book cover distribution –
  • Banner ads on local sites –

…and a whole list of other duds I’ve since forgotten about (purposely; it’s never fun to recall how you’ve wasted money). What have I learned from 20+ years of testing advertising methods?

For starters, NEVER spend more than ten percent of your monthly ad budget on an untested or unproven form of advertising. Just like when you go to Vegas (I don’t anymore; my idea of a good vacation has nothing to do with losing money), you set a budget for how much money you feel comfortable losing for good and you stick with it.

Same thing goes for testing new marketing methods. Write that money off before you even spend it. And, if a particular new method you tried fails it shouldn’t cause you much concern if you only spent a few bucks on a dud method.

#5: Not Following the Basics of Good Ad Design and Structure

Good ads follow a very simple structure:

  • Headline
  • Sub-head
  • Sales copy, supporting images, and bullet points
  • Contact info and call-to-action

That’s it. That’s all you need in an ad (along with copy that sells). Anything else is superfluous. Your ad should not include your curriculum vitae, it should not be a list of all the trophies and medals your students have won, and it should not inform or instruct in any way (and in case you’re wondering, the same rules apply to good martial arts website design as well).

The only purpose of your ad is to tell people, “This is what I have; this is why you should buy it; here’s how to buy it.” That’s it. Stick with what works and stop trying to be so clever; you’ll sell more that way.

#6: Not Studying Marketing and Advertising On a Continual Basis

You should study the top marketing experts like you study The Art of War and The Book of Five Rings; with an eye for creating strategies that will give you the edge in battle. I suggest that you read at least one book that pertains to some aspect of marketing and advertising each month, whether it be on the topic of ad copywriting, ad design, online marketing, promotions, or marketing strategy. Study all aspects of marketing, continuously.

And to paraphrase Musashi, “If you want to learn the science of (marketing), meditate on this…”

#7: Relying On Images Instead of Copy to Make the Sale

Images are there to support the ad copy, not to supplant it. While Madison Avenue may be concerned with winning awards for beautiful ad design, you don’t have that luxury. Focus on the ad copy, not on using impressive images in your ads.

Good copy sells; good images merely attract the eye. So, images do have a purpose in your ads, but remember the purpose is merely to draw the eye to the ad; once you have the consumer’s attention, it’s up to your ad copy to close the deal and get them to respond.

– – – – –

So there you have it, the top 7 martial arts advertising mistakes. Again, if you want to learn more about how consistent marketing is necessary for growing your school then get my latest book, The Profit-Boosting Principles. And if you want to find out more about how to market your school effectively, get my martial arts marketing system, then study it and actually put it to use in advertising your martial arts school.


  1. Dave Giddings on May 2, 2013 at 8:07 am

    Does your ideas work in the UK market as well as it works in the US? Some ideas, language and social / cultural differences could make a big difference? I’d be interested if it had a track record of UK success

  2. Mike Massie on May 6, 2013 at 3:06 pm

    Most of the business principles I teach are universal, especially the online marketing info.

Leave a Comment