How to Develop a Unique Selling Proposition for Your Martial Arts School

Make Your Martial Arts School Stand Out from Your Competition with a Unique Selling Proposition 

unique selling proposition (USP) is a necessary step when telling people what your martial arts school is all about. It gives the a preview of what they can expect and how you’re different than all the other martial arts studios in town.

Having a rock solid USP is a powerful marketing tool when used correctly.

A USP separates you from your competition and helps get your prospects attention. It can even help persuade someone to choose to contact you rather than the martial arts school down the street. It must be compelling and encompass your most desirable attributes.

Ideally, it would be something that would difficult or impossible for your competitors to offer, however, that is not always possible. To have an effective USP, you should also frame your statement around the needs of your target market and then how you can fulfill that need in a unique way.

How To Find Your USP

There is an unlimited number of possible USP’s that you can use. Some possible directions to explore:

  1. Who you teach
  2. Your facility
  3. Hours of operation
  4. Student to instructor ratios
  5. The guarantee you offer
  6. Being a specialist
  7. Processes you employ
  8. Your trial program

You can even combine these to make them even more powerful.

Don’t be shy to tell people this when they ask about your martial arts studio is all about. A good USP can either attract students or repel them. Pick a good one.

What is your USP and how did you arrive at it? How has it impacted your martial arts school in attracting more students? Share your experience by leaving a comment below.

How to Identify Your Martial Arts Schools Target Market

Know Who Your Customer Is… and Who Isn’t. In marketing, your “Target Market” refers to the segment of the total market you’re going to market your service or product to in order to make a profit. This segment can also be referred to as your “target audience.”

As a marketer, it’s never a wise move to try and market to everyone. The old adage is “you can’t be all things to all people” is a very smart statement. In addition, it can get extremely expensive to try and sell everyone on your martial arts school. You just have to accept your studio is not right for everyone. It’s not.

The most savvy of business owners know exactly who will pay for their service and who will not. That’s because they understand their target market.

What You Can Target

Typically, marketers target based on demographics like…

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Education
  • Marital status
  • Income
  • Geography

The more specific you can be to identify your target market, the better. Don’t just stop at “adults with money.” You need to break it down further… Adults ages 18-45, some college, single, in good health, making $35,000-$50,000, own property, have internet access, who live within a 15 block radius of the martial arts school, and own a car.

Adding this level of specificity will help give your school direction and help you craft more targeted messaging.

How do you Determine Your Target Market

For starters, look at what you like to teach and what you’re good at. Then you have to determine if there is an audience willing to pay for it. In other words, if I’m really good at the nunchakus, will people seek me out to teach them and are they willing to pay me top dollar? Not likely. You also have to make sure that the people in your geographic area are interested in what you have to offer. It’s a process and takes time to find the right combination so don’t get too frustrated.

Don’t just go after the same market as your competitors. It’s not always a good strategy. By looking at who your competitor is marketing to, and more importantly who they are not marketing to, can lead to a potential market niche. Everyone in my area taught either just kids, or adults and kids. No one was just teaching adults. To me, it was the perfect fit, it was profitable, and so I became a specialist.

Ask yourself such questions as…

  1. Who is most likely to pay for this service? Men or women?
  2. What is their income level?
  3. How far away do they live from my martial arts school?
  4. How educated are they?
  5. What is their marital status?
  6. What appeals to them the most? Self defense… demo teams… character building… self confidence… etc.
  7. Are they price sensitive or wiling to pay a premium?
  8. Etc.

You need to know who you’re marketing to so you can build your marketing message around them. If you don’t know who you’re talking to, your messaging won’t resonate with your prospects and you will loose out on attracting the right people to your martial arts school. Spend the time and find a profitable target market that exists in your local area. Once you do, it will be a lot easier to speak their language.

How did you determine your target market? What steps did you go through? Leave your thoughts in the form of a “comment” now by clicking the link below!

Is Being a Part-Time Martial Arts School Owner a Bad Thing?

In my opinion, there seems to be an extreme focus on becoming a full time, multi-school owner when I read martial arts school owner related magazines, email newsletters, and websites. The “little guys” always seem to looked at as those that need the most “help” … like there is something that is wrong with them.

While having the goal of being a full time multi-school owner is for some, it’s not the goal for everyone. That is what seems lost on the chain marketing gurus that have made it big – not everyone wants that. There are different levels of “success” out there.

I understand these marketing and business associations point that you can make a lot of money and become wealthy from their business methods and marketing tactics. I’ve seen it and respect those who have achieved that but clearly that is what they wanted. Kudos to association that helped them realize their dream.

However, that is their goal and I feel like sometimes they’re projecting their beliefs a little too much onto the rest of us who might want different.

I’m not saying being a full time chain owner is a bad thing, either. To each his own. My beef is with those that tell you what you’re doing isn’t success in their eyes. I don’t know about you, but I’m perfectly happy being a part time school owner at this time and have more students than I can handle. To me, I’m successful for what I’ve set out to do.

I’ve had several people tell me I’m nuts that I don’t have a full time studio. Don’t get me wrong, I love teaching and want to help as many people as I can. I have 8 black belts instructors at my school and have run out of room and time to teach more students. Clearly, there is demand and I’m leaving money on the table.

But, I’m ok with it. My goal was to get a strong studio with great students and get them to black belt – not open a dozen studios in a year. Now that I have the black belt staff, it would be much easier to move into more hours and days. I have a growth plan and I’m sticking to it. Its gotten me this far and I’m happy with it.

I think there is a way to be an effective marketer, make good money, still be part-time, and never feel like you’re selling your soul. I say, grow and succeed in a way that aligns with who you are and what you want to do.

Me, I’m proud to be part time. If you want to stay part time, then that’s the best thing for you and your studio. There’s nothing wrong with it my opinion and you can be incredibly successful – however you personally define it.

Agree or disagree? Let me hear from you in the form of a comment below!

The Art of Martial Arts School Lease Negotiation

If you’re considering opening up a stand alone martial arts school, you’re about to enter into a whole new world when you go to sign a long term lease on a commercial space. It can be a daunting process and one that can leave you cross eyed. I should know, I just went through it recently and wanted to share my experience.

Starting My Martial Arts School

The decision to start my own stand alone martial arts school with a dedicated training space location was easy.

I had the money saved. There was enough students to make it happen. I had the instructors and assistant instructors I needed. I didn’t need to write a business plan.

The lease was the only thing that had me staring like a deer caught in the headlights.

The Nuts and Bolts of a Martial Arts School Lease

There were three elements to documentation I had to sign before getting started:

  1. Lease – The agreement between the lesee and property owner which includes the details of the lease including lease amounts, terms, dates, parking, specs, what’s allowed and what isn’t, and more.
  2. Guaranty of Lease – This document assures the property owner that you will pay for the space even if your business can’t pay for the space that you or your spouse will. The property owner wants to make sure they get paid no matter if you succeed or fail.
  3. Addendum – In my case, this included all of the specific changes I was going to make to the space (walls, windows, etc.) as well as the addition of a sign.

Each document posed its own challenges. My lease document was 13 pages long, the font size alone was microscopic, and the amount of times each section referred to another one was overwhelming. It was very difficult to keep things straight.

I read and reread that thing I don’t know how many times. I even read a ton online about lease negotiation. I read the martial arts business books by John Graden that had chapters on lease negotiation. I spoke with other martial arts schools to find out the “gottcha’s” that they experienced in their leases to make sure I avoided them. And more.

This is not legal advise. Be sure to consult a professional attorney and commercial Realtor before signing any lease.

Get Help From a Qualified Professional

I’m a marketer, not a commercial Realtor so I decided to get help. I wanted to make sure I was as protected as possible before signing and recommend you do the same. It will save you a lot of time, frustration, and is well worth the investment.

I made my notes and then sent the lease to a friend who was a commercial Realtor. I was lucky to have a friend in the business. That was a key move given that I’m no expert in lease negotiation. He gave me a ton of tips and ammo to go back with. There was a few things missing that I wouldn’t have ever known to ask about or would have ever really thought of.

He made sure they spelled out the type of lease (gross/full service lease) instead of it being vague and somewhat contradicting… what specifically they would pay for and what they wouldn’t… extending the due date to the 5th instead of the 1st… clearly spelling out how many parking spaces I had and which one… and more.

After going back with his recommendations, I got everything I wanted and was very happy with the final lease. They pushed back on a few things but overall were very fair. However, I’ve heard of other martial arts school owners not having such a smooth process and am glad to have avoided that situation.

Martial Arts School Lease Negotiation Tips

  • Get educated. Read about the basics of leases and the various types (Full service, Net lease, Triple Net lease, etc.). Know the language before starting the process.
  • Talk with other school owners who have leased commercial property. What would they do differently?
  • Get help. Consult with a professional Commercial Realtor or Attorney. This is critical and necessary step.
  • Everything is negotiable. And I mean everything.
  • Ask for more than what you think your property owner will agree to; understanding that they will likely meet you half way.
  • Ask for stuff you don’t really care about so you have things to give up in the negotiation process to get the stuff you really want.
  • Understand each lease is different and there is no standard or universally accepted commercial lease documentation and agreements.
  • The longer the lease, the more they’re willing to work with you on tenant improvement reimbursements. This can range from 10%-30% of your total lease.
  • Get as much free rent as you can to build out your space before you open. I got 40 days which is perfect for what I needed.
  • Decide whether you want to do the work or have them do it for you. I decided to do it myself as I was able to make the money stretch further (highly recommended).
  • If it’s not in writing, it doesn’t exist.
  • Remain patient. It takes a while to go back and forth. I think I paid more attention to this than when I signed for my mortgage!
  • Read and reread everything. Be sure ALL of your requests make it into the final document. Don’t rely on your property owner to make sure everything is correct.

My martial arts school commercial lease worked out well for me and I was happy with everything I got out of it. It took some time, nearly four months when it was all said and done, but was well worth the effort. Now I’ve got a great location and have a great space.

What was your experience when signing your lease? What suggestions would you give a new school owner about to sign a lease?

Building a Defensive Blockade in Google Search Results

While search engine optimization can take a long time to kick in, there are two ways you can get in the Google search results listings in a day.

One is free while the other will cost you a little.

The three things you at least want to have are 1) your organic listing 2) your sponsored listing and 3) your Google maps listing.

Just as you don’t want to have only one line of defense in self defense, the same goes for Google’s search results.

Having at least three points of reference to your site in Google’s search results is a great way to build a defensive blockade against your martial arts schools competitors.Chances are, your competitors aren’t even aware this is an option for them so you’ll be way ahead of them.

Search Engine Optimization Takes A Long Time

Most search engine optimization experts agree (including myself) that it can take anywhere from 6-12 months to get anywhere in the search engine rankings. If you haven’t started yet, get started now!

The greatest thing about search engine optimization is that it is free so any student you get from your site will more than pay for the return on your investment of time to get it to the top. It’s one of the best returns on investment you can make.

Search engine optimization is a long term process with no real short cuts. Even if you do all the things right, you’re always 100% at the mercy of the search engines and if and when they include you and rank you well.

Google is the King of the Search Engines

Google is the leading search engine. Hell, it is even a verb (i.e. “I think I will Google it”). As you might suspect then, the most coveted place is on page one of Google in the #1 spot. Most people don’t click through to subsequent pages.

And, getting in spot one on page one of Google isn’t likely going to happen by accident. And, it sure as hell isn’t going to happen over night.

However, there are two other areas on Google you should consider to help immediately speed up the process.

How to Get Into Google In A Day

There are two quick ways to get into Google in a day; each of which fall outside of search engine optimization and more into search engine marketing.

They are 1) Google Adwords and 2) Google Maps. Let’s look at each on real quick.

1) Google Adwords
Adwords is the “sponsored links” results in any search results and works on an auction basis. Adwords is an advertising vehicle where you run ads where you bid on keywords on a pay per click basis. In other words, you don’t pay until someone clicks on it and compete against anyone else who wants to bid on the same keywords.

ADWORDS TIP: The higher you bid, the higher you will be in sponsored links area. The lower, the lower your results will be. Start low and see where you rank for your keyterms then adjust as necessary.

Adwords allows you to target locally to your city and state… even down to the zip code. So, you don’t have a lot of wasted coverage and expense because you can select everything. In fact, you can decide when and how much you’re will to spend each day and are willing to pay for each keywords. You can bid higher or lower for each term depending on how well they convert for you.

One of my next posts will be on pay per click advertising and breaking out the basics of Adwords more in detail. Suffice it to say, you should create an account and start looking around.

2) Google Maps
Welcome to defensive blockade #2.

Every martial arts school relies on local residents to keep their doors open. Do a search on Google for your city, state and add “martial arts” at the end and you will likely see a map of all the competitors in your area. Hopefully it even includes your martial arts school. If not, you can set up an account and be included in the listings in a matter of hours.

GOOGLE MAPS TIP: Be sure your phone number, address, and domain is current. Set up an account and get everything accurate so you can maximize your presence.

On the Google map from your test, you’ll quickly see it lists three things for each martial arts school:

  • School name (which links to your website if you have one)
  • Domain name
  • Phone number

If you see yourself or your competitors there it’s likely because their information was pulled from a phone book at some point or some other major data source. However, it might not be optimized. The good news is that you can update the information and get everything current should it be out of date.

In most searches, the Google Map is at the top search results and where a prospects eye is immediately drawn. Google Adwords typically resides in the right hand column. Then you have your organic listing in the natural search results giving you three lines of defense.

Blocking out your competitors by having multiple listings for one search is the panacea. If you’re in the Google map, you’re #1 in the organic search, and you’re #1 in sponsored links, I’d say you’ll have it pretty good when it comes to blocking out your competitors.

Are you building a defensive blockade in Google?

7 Free Local Online Directory Listings for Your Karate School

Most karate schools only have one or a handful of locations. Typically, all in the same metropolitan area. This means that you only want to market to a smaller local area as that is where 99% of your student base is going to come from.

This is important to remember because you don’t want to waste your efforts on people that aren’t either in your town or close enough to become potential students.

A good way tap into your local audience online is to make sure you’re listed on all the top online local directories and should be a big part of your local search engine marketing efforts.

Most of my students came from my website followed by referrals. Surprisingly, my studio isn’t listed in the yellow pages (more on this later) and my classes are full. I even have a long waiting list.

My existing students, and those on the waiting list, found me when they performed a search online in either Google, Yahoo or MSN. If they didn’t find my website directly, they found me on a directory that pointed them to my website.

Obviously, the most important website I worry about is my own. In online marketing, it’s all about how many clicks a prospect is away from your website to close the sale. The fewer the clicks, the better chance you have to get them to choose you instead of your competition.

I spend a lot of time trying to rise up to the top of the search engines with my site on important keywords. However, it’s nice to have these other sites high in the search results as well. That said, the trick then becomes making sure you outrank them.

If you can get visitors to your site first, because you come up in the top of the search results, all the better. However, as a marketing strategy, it’s also good to be in as many listings as possible in case they click into another listing, missed it by accident or if they recognize that site and want to go to it first.

In addition, if you don’t have a website yet, these directories will help still get you some additional online exposure until you do.

There are a few other major online local listings you should make sure you’re listed. If you aren’t yet in the yellow pages or are in the process of developing your website, this is a must to ensure you’re getting your karate schools contact information is getting out to the broadest audience possible.

The good news is that all of the online directory listings I’m going to share all 100% free!

Online Local Directories

  1. Google Maps
  2. Yahoo Local
  3. Yelp
  4. InsiderPages.com
  5. CitySearch.com
  6. SuperPages.com
  7. Local.com

Do a search on these and see if you’re already listed. If you have a yellow pages ad, typically you get included in these directories automatically. However, it’s not always the case so be sure to double check you’re listed.

I know in my area, four of the seven listed above are in the top ten search results. What’s great about this is that not only do I have my listing for my site, I’m also listed on these other top ranking directories as well.

Do a search for “martial arts” in your city and see if you come up. If not, click the link that allows you to add your karate school. You will likely have to verify that you own that business; typically with a phone call or email to the business contact information you provided.

Do you use local online directories? Share your experience in the form of a comment below!

Marketing Your Martial Arts School on CraigsList

I am a big fan of CraigsList and often search for martial arts related items. I also use it to market my martial arts school. If you haven’t tried it yet, its a great place to get the word out on your martial arts school.

Read on for tips on how to get started using CraigsList and why you should market your martial arts school on it.

Never used CraigsList?

Craigslist is a central network of online communities, featuring free online classified advertisements – with jobs, internships, housing, personals, services, for sale/barter/wanted, services, community, gigs, resume, and pets categories – and forums on various topics. — Wikipedia

What is CraigsList in Craig’s own words:

Craigslist provides local classifieds and forums for jobs, housing, for sale, personals, services, local community, and events. – Craig

Why List on CraigsList?

  • It connects you with people in your local area. The whole site is divided up by geography.
  • It’s free. Enough said.
  • It’s popular. Start asking your friends if they use it. You’ll be surprised by how many say “yes.”
  • It attracts a lot of eyeballs. It is one of (if not) the largest online classified site out there.
  • You can list your heart out. You can pretty much post as many times as you want.
  • Google loves it. Search engines crawl it so your listing may come up in local searches.

How to Get Started on CraigsList

  1. Visit Craigslist. Find your state and click on it. It will then present you options of major cities in your state. Click the link for your city.
  2. Go to the search box in the left hand column. Type in “martial arts.” From the drop down menu, select “services.” Click the arrow “>” button.
  3. Click on the ads to see what your competition is doing. Evaluate what you can do differently. Write a compelling ad with a good headline and short, descriptive body copy. Make an offer people can’t refuse. Make it easy to respond.
  4. In the upper right corner, click the “Post” button. Click the “lessons & tutoring” link. Proceed to the posting page.
  5. Create an account. Enter in a username and password.
  6. Point your cursor in the “Posting Title” box then add the title of your post.
  7. Point your cursor in the “Posting Description” box and write your listing.
  8. Enter your email.
  9. Submit your listing.Once you submit your listing, you will receive an email confirmation. To post in the “lessons & tutoring” category, you will also need to provide a valid phone number to verify your account. They will send you a text or call you to verify in order to proceed.
  10. Verify your listing. Edit things if necessary.
  11. Click the link in the email to post your listing to Craigslist. It will take at least 15 minutes for you post to appear. You should receive an email once it’s live.
  12. You’re done!

CraigsList is a great place to test offers and messaging. You should also consider making ClaigsList exclusive offers so you can measure its effectiveness later. Test for at least 120 days with four different listings and offers. Once you find something that starts to break loose, begin refining your listing.

Keep in mind that your posting will only last 30 days so you’ll have to keep on top of relisting every month or so if you want to continue to have your listing live.

Did this post help you? Let me know in form of a comment below!

How to Create an Irresistible Offer Your Prospective Students Can’t Refuse

Plus 5 Ready to Use Offers You Can Use at Your Martial Arts School Today

As martial arts school owners, we all want more students. And, there is something that might be getting in the way of us achieving this.

It’s called an offer.

I’ve met a lot of martial arts school owners who don’t make an offer of any kind in their marketing efforts. They think that because they’re great martial artists, people will naturally want to train with them.

Wrong.

It doesn’t work that way and I think they’re missing out on a lot of revenue because of this common misperception.

All an offer does is help a prospect justify acting today instead of going to a competitor or doing absolutely nothing (the all too common choice).

Giving your prospects what they want will help you get what you want. By offering them something they want and can benefit from, you’ll get them to commit much quicker because they’re getting something they perceive as valuable in exchange for their decision.

With a call to action, we ask people to do something. With an offer, we incentivize them to take action. When you combine the two, you have a powerful and dynamic duo.

A good resource for this subject is Mark Joyner’s book The Irresistible Offer: How to Sell Your Product or Service in 3 Seconds or Less (John Wiley, 2005). You can find this book at Amazon.com or your local Barnes & Noble.

The Irresistible Offer Defined

The trifecta of the irresistible offer must include all of the following:

1) High ROI offer – Must be extremely valuable to your prospect.
2) A Touchstone – A summary of your offer as a frame of reference.
3) Believability – If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.

A common example citied by virtually all marketing authors include Domino’s “30 Minutes or It’s Free” offer and FedEx’s “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.”

5 Irresistible Offers You Can Try Today

  1. See if the martial arts are right for you. Receive two free hours of instruction! (trial program)
  2. Free uniform when you join today! (state retail value here)
  3. Join today and we’ll waive your sign up fees! (state value here)
  4. Pay for two months, get one free! (state value here)
  5. Try it for 30 days. If you don’t like it, you don’t pay!

Be sure to test various offers in different mediums to see what works and what doesn’t to find the right offer for your martial arts school.

What irresistible offer are you making at your martial arts school? Share your thoughts in the form of a comment below.

Break Through By Doing What Other Karate Schools Aren’t Doing

Stop Doing What Everyone Else is Doing and Get Original

I’m a big fan of “The Big Idea” hosted by Donny Deutsch on CNBC. Last night he had on his show Russell Simmons who, in my humble estimation, is a master marketer.

Russell Simmons is the co-founder of Def Jam records who signed the Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Public Enemy, Run-D.M.C. and other breakout groups. He also co-founded Baby Phat and Phat Farm clothing lines, Def Comedy Jam on HBO, and more. He knows his stuff and continues to break through on just about everything he does.

He has created an empire by doing what he loves and by doing what no else was doing. This requires some research and guts, which is what this post is all about.

As karate school owners, we’re already doing what we’re passionate about. However, that alone isn’t enough to make a successful karate school.

Many karate school owners decide to follow rather lead thinking that is the easiest way to get more students. If their competitor down the street starts offering after school programs for kids, a black belt club, and are open 6 days a week they feel they need to do this in order to be competitive.

However, that isn’t always the case.

Like Russell, I like to do what others are not doing. Look at your competitors to see what they’re doing, compare it to what you’re doing, then look to see what neither of you are doing. Then start testing to see if people respond to it. You might be surprised to learn what exactly is missing and what you can do to break through.

Is anyone specializing in weapons training? If not, maybe you can fill that void. Is everyone else teaching (or focusing) on kids? Perhaps you can focus on just adults. Is everyone emphasizing competition and tournaments? Maybe there is an opening to be the self defense specialist. And so on.

Don’t be afraid to do things differently. In marketing, it’s never best to just blend in.

And who knows, by finding what others aren’t doing you might end up on the Big Idea yourself someday, like Mr. Simmons.

How do you stand out from your karate school competitors in your area?

Read this Blog Post Now to Learn About Making an Effective Call to Action!

Use A Call to Action To Prompt Your Visitors to Respond

So you’ve got this great website and you’re wondering why people aren’t ever doing anything once they get there. The simple answer is that you might be missing one key element that could make all the difference.It’s called a “call to action.”

A call to action isn’t simply providing your phone number or your domain name. A call to action asks your prospect to take some sort of action. It can be to pick up the phone… send an email… fill out a form.. print out a PDF brochure … basically any action you deem most valuable to your martial arts prospecting process.

Crack open any yellow pages and you’ll see thousands of ads that just list a phone number. However, most don’t say anything like “pick up the phone and call us today!” You’ll also so see some that just list a domain name. You’ll also notice they almost never include “Visit MyKarateSchool.com to learn about our free trial program!”

KEY CONCEPT: If you don’t ask people to take action, they won’t. In sales, you’re taught to always ask for the sale. Why would your website be any different?

On every page on your martial arts school website, you should be asking people to either pick up the phone, send you an email or fill out a form. This can be done in the header, side bar, or at the end of each page. I recommend doing it once at the top of your page and once at the bottom using the same exact call to action.
Call to Action Pointers:

Use as many of these in your call to action as you can to help build their effectiveness:

  1. Keep it simple. State one and only one thing you want them to do.
  2. Be specific. Tell them what action you want them to take.
  3. Tell them how to respond. Give them the info they need to immediately act.
  4. Ask them to do it now. Do you really want them to wait? Ask them to respond while they’re still on your website.
  5. Make it all about them. Tell them what they’ll get if they respond.

Sample Calls to Action:

  • Call us now at xxx-xxx-xxxx to learn more about our award winning karate program for kids!
  • Want to learn more? Request a free, no obligation brochure today! (with link to sign up page)
  • Ready to get started? Sign up now for our free, no obligation two hour trial program! (with link to sign up page)
  • Email us now at rates@yourstudionamehere.com to learn just how affordable our family friendly karate programs can be!
  • Call Mr. Jackson at xxx-xxx-xxxx now to reserve your two free trial lessons!

Calls to action can help dramatically improve your response rates from all your marketing materials. Take a look at your martial arts school’s website and see if at any point if you ask your visitors to do anything. If not, print this out and start crafting your very own call to action!

So what are some examples of calls to action you currently use at your studio?