You’ve got to market and market and market and market and market and market and market…

This year to date I’ve enrolled 20 students… roughly 6 per month.

Guess how much I’ve spent on marketing during that time?


I’ve been lazy.

(Actually I’ve been extremely busy with another business. I just have fallen behind in marketing my dojo this year.)

The funny thing is that even though I’ve done nothing in terms of dojo marketing, it’s nice to know that my school is at a point where it just ticks over like clockwork bringing in new students without lifting a finger.

And I am extremely grateful for that.

However it wasn’t always that easy.

You see when I first started I was working my tail off, promoting left and right. I was doing events, posting ads, doing demonstrations, joint ventures, mailings, and doing loads of internal marketing.

I was doing exactly what a mentor of mine says, “You’ve got to market and market and market and market and market and market and market <take a breath> and market and market and market and market and market and market and market and market.”

martial arts marketing

But with so many different people telling you different things on what works and what doesn’t, how do you ever know what’s true?

Here are a list of things I’ve done over the last 12 years in terms of martial arts marketing:

  • Flyers
  • Door hangers
  • Direct Mail
  • Demonstrations
  • Joint Ventures
  • Signs
  • Bring a friend day
  • Karate parties
  • Cold calling door to door
  • Vendor booths
  • Hand out business cards
  • Web site
  • Coupon books
  • Online ads
  • Newspaper articles and ads
  • more

And you know what? Guess how many of those things I do now?


That’s 3 out of 15.

Or 20% of the things on that list.

Funny how the 80/20 rule works.

80% of your students will come from 20% of your marketing!

And I estimate the other 20% takes 80% more effort, more money and more time to acquire.

Seems like a good idea to focus on what works best, right?

But how do you know?


Test it.

What works in my community might not work for you in yours. So test what works and what doesn’t. When you find the things that work best for you, invest your time, energy and marketing budget into the things that bring you best results.

However, before you start marketing drinks for sale in 100° F weather, you might want to consider if it’s hot cocoa or ice-cold lemonade you’re going to sell.

Same holds true for martial arts. You’re not going to have a hugely successful kids program in a 55+ community. (In fact you’re not going to have much of a martial arts program at all in a 55+ community, but you understand my point!)

When I first started teaching here in the US, I didn’t want to teach kids… but because of the location where many adults commute and get home late, getting them into class has always been a challenge. However, getting kids has been easier than shooting fish in a barrel. My dojo demographic is about 20% adults (16 years and up), 80% teens and kids.

Yet back in Australia, friends of mine run dojos where their adult / kid ratio is about 50:50.

It just depends on your market, and how well you position yourself in that market.

“But I just want to teach karate… enough of all this marketing stuff!”

Yep, I hear you. But that’s why your dojo hasn’t grown in 4 years….

Truth is, if you want to grow your school or have a full time club, you’ve got to market and market and market and market and market and market and market <take a breath> and market and market and market and market and market and market and market and market.

Until you get to a point where your dojo is self-sustaining through passive marketing methods.

It took me 3 about years. Then a funny thing happened. I reached a stable 100 student strong base. And now it just seems to take care of itself with minimal effort. My active student count is around 125 right now and it goes up to as high as 140 and drops back down with seasonal changes.

And it’s been like that for the last 9 years.

Could I grow it bigger?

Of course.

Do I want to?

Not particularly. There’s a point where you need more infrastructure and employees… and it takes a lot more effort to take it to the next level. I would rather serve 125 students to the best of my ability and maintain high skill standards, than have an overcrowded dojo with massive classes and poor skills.

But if I did want to grow bigger… can you guess what I’d have to do?

I’d have to market and market and market and market and market and market…

3 thoughts on “You’ve got to market and market and market and market and market and market and market…”

  1. Sounds very similar to my own experiences and I enjoyed reading it. I teach around 180 students of which 60 are serious karate ka and train frequently to enter all the competitions we do. Im sure you haven’t time but my website is check out news then competitions. My ratio is 97 % juniors.

    • Hi Mitch,

      Thanks for your post. I checked out your web site. Looks like you have a great group. Well done!


  2. Anything to do with marketing is always of great interest to me, I had very successful Karate clubs running up to 4 years ago, mainly infants and junior’s, My adult classes were mainly made up with parents and students from my kids classes becoming Teens and moving up to the adult class, I rented school halls, but my big plus was my garden Dojo, a large wood building that would hold 8 adults or 10 kids at a time, weekend specials were booming, Unfortunately A marriage break up put stop to that, everything went wrong, I left my so called trusted black belts in charge of my clubs as I had to take a year out up north to get my head around things, and I practically lost everything, my black belts left in charge lost two thirds of my students and stole the student fees, even my website closed down, I was devastated on my return, The point being I now feel I have to start all over again, After 20 years of hard graft to build a great reputation in the area and get very well know it has been destroyed, I feel marketing has now changed dramatically, A few posters in the local sweet shops, library, local news paper and street hand outs dose not seem to make it happen anymore, So ideas on modern marketing, flyer designs, web site design, or any other positive method would be of great interest to me, sometime I feel like a lost course or a chicken running around with a lost head as far as modern marketing is concerned, So this E mail I received on marketing has certainly made me sit up and take interest.
    Colin 6th Dan (Karate Warriors)


Leave a Comment