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How to Build a Digital Marketing Campaign for Your Martial Arts School

Sara Perry

Digital marketing is a must if you want to attract new students, but there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy. Successful marketing campaigns balance best practices with the unique needs of your business.  

This guide will show you how to build a custom digital marketing campaign that will bring in new students. We’ll go over how to:  

  • Outline your campaign goals
  • Develop buyer personas for your ideal students
  • Build campaign essentials like your website, lead forms, and listings
  • Use the right marketing channels
  • Increase your impact through automation  

Outline Your Goals

Why are you running your marketing campaign?

When you’re building a marketing strategy, every decision you make should reflect your campaign goal. The personas you target, the tactics you use, your messaging – everything should be designed to get you closer to reaching that goal.  

Designing SMART campaign goals gives you the clarity and direction you need for a winning strategy.

A SMART goal should be:

Specific: Your campaign goal should be clearly defined. What does your ideal outcome look like? Vague goals like “sign up more students” are not specific enough.  

Measurable: Without metrics, how will you know if you reached your goal? Define what your metrics are and the values you want to hit.

Attainable: Your goal should be challenging, but still possible! Before settling on your goal, ask yourself, “Is this really possible?”

Relevant: Are you setting your goal with your resources and time in mind? Your goal should serve your overall business objectives and be doable with the resources you have.

Timely: Build your goal with a deadline in mind. Remember, your goal should be realistic and attainable, so don’t set your deadline too soon or far off!  

Example: Gain 5 new students (5% increase) over one month.

This goal is SMART because it’s Specific (5 new students), Measurable (5), Achievable (5% increase), Relevant (increasing number of students), and Timely (one month).

Pick Your Personas

Before you start your campaign, you need to know your target audience inside and out. Have you developed buyer personas for the students at your school?  

A buyer persona is a written description of your school’s ideal student(s). A persona includes details like age, gender, interest, values, location, and challenges.  

Your school may serve multiple personas if you offer a range of programs. If you offer self-defense classes for women, that persona may look very different from your black belt class persona. Your campaign should target the specific persona that aligns with your goal.

To narrow down your personas, ask yourself:  

  1. How old is my ideal student?
  2. Where do they work, go to school, or spend the most time?
  3. What do they do for fun?  
  4. Which neighborhood or part of the area do they live in?  
  5. Why do they enjoy martial arts?
  6. What’s keeping them from joining your school?  
  7. How much money are they willing to pay for your programs?

Understanding the motivations and behaviors of the persona you’re targeting will help you tailor your messaging.  

Cover the Essentials

Now that you understand your campaign basics, you’re ready to start planning your tactics (and getting new students)!  

Every successful digital marketing strategy covers the essentials: your website, online listings, and lead forms. Always make sure these are the best they can be before starting your campaign.


When a lead researches your school, your website is one of the first places they look. A study conducted by the Ecommerce Foundation found that 88% of consumers research a product or service online before buying. What they find can make or break your conversion rate.

Every great martial arts school website should have these basics:

  1. Homepage: This general page should list high-level information about your school.
  2. Instructors: Your school has amazing instructors. Make sure you show off their expertise!  
  3. Class Breakdown: Give plenty of information about your school’s classes. If you offer multiple classes targeted at different personas, try building a separate page for each class.
  4. Schedule: Your schedule should be easy to find by someone researching your school.
  5. FAQ: Do you hear the same questions from leads and new students? Try answering those questions ahead of time on your website.
  6. Lead Forms: Every page should have a lead capture form so it’s easy to gather information. Make sure to pair each form with an engaging call-to-action.
  7. Contact Us: This is one of the most important pages! It should list your phone number, contact form, and address. Include a google map plugin to help viewers find your school.

Lead Forms

Embedding a lead form on your website will let prospective students contact you. A simple Contact Us form will get the job done, but you can get more leads by promoting an offer.  

Use your lead forms to promote offers like:  

  • Try a free class!  
  • Sign up for a free week!  
  • Schedule a free consultation!  

These offers are more enticing and prompt leads to visit your location. Make sure your lead forms are highly visible on every page of your website.

Your lead forms should gather only the information you absolutely need from prospective students. Asking your leads to fill out too many fields may turn them away.  

The must-have fields are:  

  • First and last name
  • Phone number
  • Email address

Some nice-to-have fields include:  

  • Age
  • Goals
  • Mailing address
  • Years of experience
  • How they found out about you
  • What programs they’re interested in

Your target audience should guide which fields you include. For example, if you’re an elite school that focuses on training black belts, Years of Experience might be a must-have field. If you only serve a specific age range, knowing your lead's age might be necessary.  

Don’t forget about the button at the end of your form! Studies show buttons that say Submit tend to have lower conversion rates. Instead, try using motivating calls-to-action like Get Started, Try Now, or Reserve Your Spot.  

Online Listings  

Your website isn’t the only place leads look for information. Local listings are taking up more space on search engine results pages. Your local listing should be optimized so you can capture that traffic.  

Make sure your listings are up to date on these free websites:  

  • Yelp
  • Bing Places
  • Google My Business

Each of your listings should include these key components:

  1. School Name: Always use your school’s actual name. Your name should be consistent across all your listings.  
  2. Address: Use a physical street address for your school, not a PO box. If you have more than one location, create unique listings for each one.
  3. Website: Direct traffic to your website where leads can find more information.
  4. Phone Number: 61% of mobile searches result in a phone call. Don’t leave your number off and miss those calls!  
  5. Hours: Google displays your business hours in search results and on Google Map listings.
  6. Description: Keep this bit short and sweet – stay between 250-500 characters.
  7. Logo: Don’t forget to add your logo! Without it, the main image that will show up with your Google Business listing is a map of your location.  

After you’ve covered these components, spice up your listings with photos and videos. Encourage your students to leave reviews to convey your student experience.

Choose Your Channels

Your outreach tactics make up the bulk of your marketing campaign strategy. Your channels are most effective when used together, but the ones you choose should align with your goals and personas.  

For your next campaign, try using:  

  • Digital ads
  • Social media
  • Text messages
  • Email campaigns
  • Referral programs

Digital Ads  

Digital advertising can help you reach new leads and retarget those on the fence. There are three main types of paid ads: awareness, lead generation, and retargeting.

Awareness ads expose your school to as many people as possible to build brand awareness. They’re best for people who either don’t know your school exists or don’t understand which programs you offer.

Lead generation ads help you collect contact information from leads. They encourage people to fill out a lead capture form by promoting a freebie or special offer.

Retargeting ads remind interested leads that your school exists. They’re best for people who have already engaged with your school by browsing social media, visiting your website, or clicking other ads.

Your goal will narrow down which type of ad is best for your campaign. To make your ads more engaging, make sure to include:  

  • An enticing offer
  • Clear, highly-visible copy
  • A motivating call-to-action

There’s still work to be done after you hit publish! Refine your ads with A/B testing based on their performance. Avoid relying on vanity metrics that are vague or don’t reflect your progress. Instead, focus on performance metrics that’ll give you clear insight into your campaign success.

Social Media

Your prospective students are scrolling social media every day. An active, robust social media profile can give leads a glimpse into what it’s like to be a student at your school (and convince them to join).  

According to a survey from G/O Digital, 62% of respondents claimed that Facebook is the most useful social network for researching small businesses before making a purchase. Your Facebook business page should list all of your school’s basic information for those online researchers.

Make sure to include your:

  1. Short Description: This section has a 255 character limit, so just cover the basics. List the type of martial arts you teach, your location, and (if it fits) a current promotion.
  2. Long Description: Use this space to tell everyone how great your school is. Talk about your facility, programs, and students. Show off your instructors and the certifications they have.  
  3. Hours: Include an updated schedule for each day of the week so your leads can compare it to their schedules.
  4. Email: Don’t forget to tell them how to contact you!  
  5. Business Category: You’ll see the option to add your category underneath your business name. Make sure to select Martial Arts.  

Use your posts to create an emotional hook for leads. Prioritize authentic content that shares your school’s community, success stories, and student experience.

No two platforms are the same. Each has its own set of content guidelines and expectations, but video and user generated content are consistently the most impactful. Each has high entertainment value and a compelling visual hook.  

To create engaging social content, make sure you:

  • Post consistently (without spamming your followers)
  • Spend more time entertaining (and less time selling)
  • Create content for your specific audience (not everyone on the platform)

Text Messages  

Texts let you skip email inboxes and speak to leads in real time. Text messaging is the quickest and most reliable way to reach your leads. Texts have a 98% open rate, and 90% of texts are read within 3 seconds of being received.

When drafting your texts, choose your message wisely. You’re limited on characters, so clarity is key. Each text should have a clear purpose and offer value to the reader. Your texting cadence will depend on the behaviors of your specific audience. Plan to test and adjust your timing throughout your campaign.

A text should never be the first time you communicate with a lead. Always warm up your leads with other tactics beforehand, as cold texting can ruin a relationship before you’ve even begun.  

Email Campaigns

You can use email campaigns to bypass social media algorithms and search engines. A well-built email lets you speak directly to your leads and convince them to convert.  

Your email campaigns have to contain valuable content if you don’t want them marked as spam. Your leads get hundreds of sales emails, and if yours is solely focused on selling it’ll get lost in the shuffle. If you want your leads to open your emails, include content that teaches them something new or solves a problem they have. Keep in mind that this content should still serve your overall campaign goal.  

Your email campaigns should also be customized for your persona and their stage in the buying journey. Try automating your emails to respond to leads as soon as they take a specific action. Quick, automated drip campaigns let you nurture leads without hands-on management.  

To create impactful campaigns, write emails that:

  • Have a compelling call-to-action
  • Speak to a specific audience segment
  • Are personalized to the persona and individual
  • Include content that’s engaging, entertaining, or otherwise valuable

Referral Programs

Asking for referrals is a low-cost way to recruit new (and happier) students. According to Referral Candy, referrals tend to be happier and more loyal because they’ve self-selected your services using the recommendation of a friend.  

Before you launch a referral program, ask yourself:  

  1. Do you want to reward only the referring student, or the student and the referral?
  2. What will you reward referrals with? Gift cards, discounted classes, branded school gear, and free uniforms can all be compelling incentives.
  3. How will you measure the program’s success? Student management software can easily handle this by creating a referral lead source.

For your program to succeed, people need to know about it. Get the word out by:

  • Sharing it in your newsletter
  • Announcing it on your social media and website
  • Asking your instructors to mention it during class
  • Publicly rewarding students that refer new members  
  • Giving your students business cards they can share with their friends, family, or coworkers

Optimize Your Systems  

Tackling each aspect of your campaign solo can quickly get overwhelming. You can keep everything running smoothly without running yourself ragged by automating your marketing.  

Marketing automation software lets you maximize your time and effort without sacrificing the personal touch you built your student relationships on.

You can automate your:

  1. Welcome Messages: Be the first to respond to prospective students who filled out your lead forms.
  2. Texts: Schedule your texts ahead of time so you don’t forget to hit send.
  3. Follow-Up Emails: Send regular reminders to prospective students that visited your school, but haven’t come back.
  4. Check-In Emails: Follow up with current students that haven’t been to class in a while.
  5. Membership and Payment Reminders: Notify students when an agreement is about to expire or if their payment didn’t go through.  
  6. Personal Reminders: If you want to reach out personally, set up automated reminders to keep you on schedule.  

Consolidating all these tasks into one system can help you:

  • Keep your brand and messaging consistent
  • Nurture your leads at every stage of the sales process
  • Take back the time you need to focus on growing your school

On their own, each aspect of digital marketing can impact your lead generation, but the true magic happens when you build a complete marketing strategy. Being dialed in to every part of the process gives you the knowledge and direction you need to grow your school.  

Want to learn more?  

Download How to Get Your Leads to Walk Through the Door. This free, step-by-step guide shows you how to turn your cold leads into new students.

This guide is right for you if you’re:

  • Failing to follow up
  • Responding too late
  • Not asking enough questions
  • Not converting new students  

Download my free guide!

Market like a Master

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