Martial Arts Referral Marketing Made Easy – Massie’s Three-Step Method

martial arts marketing with referrals

Do you know what your biggest source of referrals is? You!

That’s right – you are (or, you should be) the number one source of referrals for your school.

Maybe you never thought about it that way, but if you’re not currently “referring” the people you meet everyday to your school, then there’s definitely something wrong with that picture.

Maybe you’re shy, lack confidence talking to people, you fear rejection, or just feel that you’ll be perceived as being “salesy” if you are constantly talking to people about your school.

Here’s my advice: Get over it.

Here’s why…

  1. You should be excited enough about your business to tell everyone you know exactly what you do and how it can benefit them. If you’re not, then you should seriously consider seeking another career. The fact is, from the moment you first decided to open a business, you entered the sales profession. Either get comfortable with the idea of selling face-to-face, or go get a job that doesn’t require personal selling.
  2. No one else is going to be as enthusiastic about your business… so who do you think will make the best sales person for your school?
  3. You are the face of your business. There’s a tremendous amount of leverage inherent there in your position as a martial arts instructor and business owner. Think about it… if the owner of a local upscale restaurant walked up to you in public and offered you a free table reservation and dinner – wouldn’t you be flattered? I know I would, and I’d be sure to take them up on it just as soon as possible.

Talking To People About Your Business, Made Easy: Massie’s “Three-Step Referral Marketing Method” For Attracting New Business To Your Martial Arts School

First off, think about how many people you interact with in your community on a daily basis. You meet people at the store, at restaurants, getting your car repaired… the list is endless. Each of these people represents a potential client – because, even if they aren’t interested in taking martial arts, they most likely know someone who does.

So, how do you approach someone to tell them about what you do? First, forget all the sales talk, and ditch any terms that the average person on the street wouldn’t be familiar with – it turns people off.

Of course, if someone asks you what you do, it’s okay to have a brief “elevator speech” prepared so you know what to say… but it shouldn’t come off as an elevator speech. Instead, it should be natural sounding, much like how you’d explain to your best friend what you do.

Here’s an example of what NOT to say:

“I’m Sensei/Sabumnim/Sifu/Guro Al Smith from Wasabi-Ryu Goshin-Jitsu Academy. I’m a godan in Wasabi-Ryu Goshin-Nin-Jitsu, which focuses on kansetsu waza and ne-waza from the Nine Hands Seven Fists Three Types of Horseradish school.”

You laugh… because you’ve either said or heard something very similar at some point in your martial arts career.

The Opener, Done Right

So, here’s an example of how to speak in a language most people can understand and relate to… the language more commonly known as WIIFM (“what’s in it for me”):

“Hi, I’m Jenny Smith. I teach martial arts classes that help people like me… I used to be overweight and afraid that I wouldn’t know what to do if I was attacked. So, I took up martial arts and kickboxing, and now I teach it to people who are like me that want to lose weight and learn self-defense.”

There’s your opener. Simple, just the facts, and with an interesting back story that is just enough to pique someone’s interest, without feeling like you’re pitching them on something.

Notice that there are no promises whatsoever in that little speech – just facts. Promises will automatically put people on the defensive, because they immediately sense that you’re trying to sell them something.

If you think about it, you really can’t promise anything to anyone, because you have no idea what they’ll do with your services. There’s no integrity there when you make promises you can’t deliver on in a conversation. So, avoid making promises when you are telling other people about your school.

The Next Step – Making A Genuine Connection

Now, the average person would take this opportunity and jump right into inviting your new prospect to your martial arts school.

And, that would be a mistake. The next step is to show the person you are speaking with that you have a genuine interest in their thing – whatever it is. So, now would be the time to ask them, “What do you do?”

Take this opportunity to ask them a few questions, and please, be sincere in your interest. If you don’t care about people enough to be genuinely interested in who they are and what they do, once again you should probably find another line of work.

Now, after you’ve shown you are actually interested in the person you are talking to, it’s time to invite them to your school.

Finally, The Invitation

Your next step after you’ve made a connection is the invitation. This is where you actually invite the person to your school.

It’s important to do this in a way that shows you like the person you are speaking with, and in a way that is both personal and without any pressure.

Here’s how you do it:

“Sam, I have to get going, but I’ll tell you what… here’s a card that’s good for one free month of classes at my school. Feel free to use it yourself or to give it to a friend. But, do me favor and hang on to it – it’s good for $150 worth of lessons and only my staff and students can give them out. You have my card, so feel free to call me if there’s anything I can do to help you with (whatever their thing is). Great talking to you!”

Easy, right? But no matter how easy or simple this seems, don’t underestimate the power of this Three-Step Referral Method. I personally have used this method to help build my school when I had almost no marketing budget to speak of, in a town where the previous martial arts schools had all been “cut and run” operations.

Quick Tip: There are dozens of great marketing ideas like this in my Martial Art School Marketing Success System. Click here to find out more… (link opens in new window)

By going out, shaking hands, and putting a friendly, personal face on my school, I was able to change the image of what a martial arts school was about in that community. Further, I got to know a lot of people in my town, made some really strong connections, and ended up getting as many students from referrals as I did from my more traditional (and costly) marketing methods.

So, go get some cards printed up that have your business card on the front and a guest pass on the back and start shaking hands and meeting people in your community today.

You’ll be amazed at what this simple method does for your business.


  1. Jason C. Brown on April 22, 2009 at 9:16 am

    Hey Mike,

    Excellent post. Our business is 90% referral and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

    One thing we’ve stumbled upon are these:

    You can print any value amount on them and people really feel special when they receive a palstic gift card from a friend.

    We hand these out to local buiness’s and give them to clients as a gift for their friends to come in. They only cost us 80 cents.

  2. Mike Massie on April 22, 2009 at 9:33 am

    Good tip!

    Those cards look great.

  3. Declan Lestat on April 22, 2009 at 10:05 am

    You may be bored of hearing this from me but… great post! :P

    Agree about Jason Browns link too. Great cards. Good cards are worth investing that little bit extra in. And it only has to be a LITTLE bit too. Leave the prospect with a good impression when they fish your card from the bottom of your wallet!

    LOVE referral systems!

  4. Mike Massie on April 22, 2009 at 10:37 am

    Oh, I never get tired of hearing people sing my praises – just ask my wife! ;)

    Seriously, glad you like it. And, I agree – making a good impression is worth spending a few extra bucks.

  5. sean russell on April 22, 2009 at 11:54 am

    This is a great article you wrote. I am a sales trainer and have an approach slightly different that may help business owners.

    I do not like to start with what I do first ever! People are more interested in themselves. If you ever wonder how to talk to someone or continue a conversation this is how I teach it. Using an accronym I learned years ago from another sales trainer has made me lots of $$$.

    I FORM people. That is F = family
    O = occupation
    R = recreation
    M = Message
    People love talking about themselves. So get them started with their family, their occupation, what they do for fun (martial arts, ski, swim,ect), they will eventually ask what you do, hit them with your message which is getting a referral or appointment at you MA- school for an intro coarse.

    Happy selling and good luck,

  6. Mike Massie on April 22, 2009 at 3:26 pm


    Great comments! And, you’re right – I should have mentioned I never lead with what I do unless asked.

    That’s why it’s a good idea to wear your school shirts – they can often make great conversation starters.

    (I know, old school guys don’t like to let their practice be a public thing, but it’s sort of something you get used to once you’re in business).

    Thanks for posting your comments, Sean – great stuff.

  7. Gavin Eastham on April 22, 2018 at 3:19 pm

    I really like this Mike. I’ve got to admit it’s very similar to the way I approach things. General chit chat first then I get asked what I do; Wham! I’m so over enthusiastic it is usually contagious! Lol

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