5 – How To Use Facebook For Martial Arts School Marketing

George Fourie speaks to Rod Darling about using the power of Facebook for Martial Arts School Marketing.


  • What you must have before you start advertising on Facebook
  • A tried and tested ‘irresistible offer’ that you can model for your first campaign
  • 3 steps to follow when creating your irresistible offer
  • The power of strategic targeting that no flyers and papers can match
  • A sneaky cheat you can use with Facebook to discover what your target market is all about
  • One vital change that you can do to your martial arts website right now to boost your conversions
  • And more

*Need help growing your martial arts school? Learn More Here.

Download the PDF transcription


GEORGE: Hi, this is George Fourie, and welcome to the Martial Arts Media Business podcast, episode number 5. In this episode, we're going to change gears again a little bit. And today, I have on this show Rod Darling. And Rod Darling has been doing a few interesting things and strategies worth Facebook marketing. And we're going to go down to the real basics of Facebook marketing, and really how any martial arts business owner can jump on and start playing around, and getting your message out, getting your offers out to specific audiences, by doing simple strategies. So we're going to be talking about that.

First up – I do want to acknowledge a few reviews that we have on the podcast. Now, when you go the actual podcast episode, we number it according to the episode so that this one would be martialartsmedia.com/5 and on that, you'll find a link that goes to iTunes. And very much appreciated of course, when we get reviews, especially when they're 5-star reviews. But hey – an honest review is all that matters.

So I've got two reviews here and one from Robbie – apologies if I butcher any names because it can happen – Robbie Castellano. So Robbie says, “Great inside to the martial arts business schools with successful school owners – highly recommended.” So thanks for that Robbie. And then, “Great podcast on two inspiring martial artists,” by Shawn Allan. I'm going to tell you who Shawn Allan is in a second, but let me first read the reviews.

So, “George, great interview with Graham and Phil from WAIMA. I enjoyed the attitude that the boys have in challenging themselves over and over. They do provide us with an inside into their work ethic, professionalism, and ideas. Especially rewarding for me, as I was their employer/instructor back in the day. I clearly remember the reasons behind my decision to employ Graham above all others and that move has been the start of a journey that has benefited the martial arts industry. Then my decision to combine Phil with Graham has been a joy to follow. As an instructor, I've made many mistakes: choosing Graham as a young green belt to groom as an instructor has been a good choice. Helping Phil move into my old school as an instructor; then the owner has been equally beneficial. Of note is the reaction by the boys when I occasionally pass across. They always show me the heartfelt respect and genuine interest in my life journey. My response to them is reciprocated. It seems the WAIMA story is only just starting.  I'm sure you can appreciate this as a dad sitting on the sidelines, watching classes. Anyway, great interview, regards, Shawn Allan.”

So, if you didn't get that from the actual comment, Shawn Allan originally started the WA Institute of Martial Arts, before Graham and Phil took it over. And Graham and Phil was the interview that I did. It was broken up into three episodes, so episodes 1, 2 and 3, which you can get of course at martialartsmedia.com/1, /2 and /3. So there you go, two great interviews and very much appreciate when you leave a review, of course, because that's going to help us get up in the rankings and get the podcast out to all the other martial arts business owners out there.

Alright. So, that's it from me. We're going to jump into this episode. In this episode, we're going to dig over to the Facebook marketing. And Facebook is the prime hangout spot for everybody in the world; everybody's on Facebook. And doing a few things, when you've got your Facebook page up there, doing a few things strategically to get your message out, is not that hard to do. Now, obviously, you can get somebody to do that for you, that's something we specialize in, here at Martial Arts Media. Or, if you're just starting out, and you want to take it on yourself, Rod also offers his help and has a great few strategies to share on how you can get going by yourself. So that's it from me, let me welcome you to the interview, Mr. Rod darling from International Goju Karate Schools.

GEORGE: Cool, so are you ready to rock n roll?

ROD: Let’s do it mate!

GEORGE: All right! Good day everyone, today I have with me Rod Darling and we're going to be talking about Facebook marketing, how you can use your Facebook, or how you can promote your martial arts school through Facebook marketing. How are you doing today Rod?

ROD: Yeah, good, thanks mate, how are you?

GEORGE: Good, good. So just before we get into all the meaty stuff, just a bit of a background, who's Rod Darling?

ROD: Me, pretty much, I've been in the martial arts industry for… I think we started our club in 2002. And we used to do all the normal marketing methods, flyers and school newsletters and stuff like that. And we grew our school to a pretty big size; we're up to about 7-800 active now. Mainly in Perth and I've just moved over to Newcastle, 18 months ago, to get things happening over here as well, moved back home. Got tired of the slow pace of Perth. And we've also got kickboxing fitness studios, which we started up a couple of years ago, and it’s just going gangbusters, obviously cause the fitness industry is a massive market, compared to martial arts. So it’s much easier to grow, to get growth that way.

GEORGE: Ok, so you've got the location in Perth – come on, Perth isn't that bad! I mean, you're stuck, you have to stay there. So, and then how many locations have you got over East?

ROD: I have it here, in Newcastle office, just got one full-time location.


ROD: And I've got a couple of, I've got three, four satellite locations where we run kids karate. And in Perth, we've got four, five full-time location now. One's a stand alone fitness kickboxing studio, the rest karate dojos, with fitness kickboxing in them as well.

GEORGE: Ok, excellent.

ROD: We've got about satellite locations started throughout Perth as well.

GEORGE: Ok, great. Ok so, the meaty stuff would be Facebook marketing. Now, a lot of people talk about. I guess there a lot of confusion about Facebook, how to go about it, what you should be doing. So I guess just for, to sort of backtrack before we get anywhere, with how to go about the advertising and so forth, how would you define the difference? If we talked just about social media stuff and the Facebook marketing?

ROD: Yeah, I don't do Instagram or anything else, so I don't know about that. My theory is that it’s the same as with my martial arts – just do one thing and do it well. So, Facebook as far as marketing, is the go right now. It will probably change in a few years time or so, and something else will come along. But right now, Facebook is the best way, as far as I'm concerned, to get students in, and to grow any business for that matter.

GEORGE: Ok, so let’s go to the start. Now, where should you begin? You've got a business, you've got a martial arts school, and you want to start promoting it on Facebook: what would be sort of the first steps to where to start?

ROD: Make sure you've got a fan page, obviously, cause you can't run boosted posts or ads unless you have a fan page or a business page, is what they call it now I think. But also, the trouble I see with the most martial artist, is that they don't know they market. They don't know their target market. And so we niche it down to, we have a kids karate program called Kanga Karate, so we'll have a business page for that program in that suburb as well.

So we niche it right down, and then we'll have a fan page for fitness kickboxing as well, and we'll have a fan page for junior karate also. We haven't hit the adult market for karate that hard, we just mainly focus on kids and then get the parents training. But that's a good start, just know your downloadmarket and do a lot of research on your market. And niche it down, so my Facebook coach said to me just the other day, “If you try and get everyone, you'll get no one.” So just niche it right down, just target.

At the moment, I'm just targeting fitness kickboxing; I'm just working on that. My karate grows with referrals, so I’ll just target just the normal fitness kickboxing, and then we'll also target moms and dads as a separate, cause they're a completely different anima. They think differently, they've got different wants and needs, so you can make your ads much more effective if you do it that way.

GEORGE: Ok, so that brings up something interesting because most martial arts schools will have several programs, all under the one roof. They'll offer Jiu Jitsu; they'll offer maybe, they'll offer Muay Thai. And then, of course, the kid's programs. With all of those segments, you're talking a different language, as you would when you see them face to face. So you go and create separate pages for those markets?

ROD: Yeah, for instance, in Perth, my main focus is Kanga karate, our kid's karate program. So we have a fan page for each location, even the little satellite locations. And that way, if you do an ad for that location, they can see through Google maps and with the addresses of your location, it comes up on the fan page as well. And you can target people in those suburbs a lot easier. And you know, it’s local.

GEORGE: Yeah, that's a good point. I guess there could be a way to go about that, a different way if you just had the one fan page. And then, that'll probably be a conversation way beyond this call, which you would be specific about your ads, on how you're going to target the market. Which is probably, I think we're probably going to go way beyond that conversation at this point.

ROD: Yeah, yeah. You could have a fan page for each program, and have all your locations included on that fan page. It’s just the way we do it because we're like franchise setup and we leave the fan page up to control to that franchise, run his ads. The biggest drama I see with having the one fan page with all the different programs is the content. Because you want to be putting out content to the people, and you're not going to put out, like krav maga, self-defense style content to a 4-6 years old kids program for karate. It’s a different type of content.

GEORGE: Very cool. Ok, that was a good learning point for me as well, cause we are also kind of try and put everything into one roof a lot of the times. But then, the only way to get people to the different segments would be with content promotion and so forth.

ROD: Yeah.

GEORGE: So, ok. So moving on, when you do your ads, what are you exactly doing? Are you putting up something on your website and promoting that? Are you promoting events, or are you creating a specific offer on Facebook – what's been working for you?

ROD: Yeah, we have what we call an irresistible offer. So we do a paid trial, and for most of our karate locations, our biggest offer that we sell is, we do 5 classes and a uniform for $29.99, and we have websites and landing pages where people can buy that, and we're just directing them to the website to buy that offer.

GEORGE: Ok, so, first and foremost: you're building your audience, so you've got your different page, and then you're putting up a specific page for the offer.

ROD: Yeah.

GEORGE: Right. And do you vary those offers, or do you sort of run with that, and then chop and change, or?

ROD: We've been running with that offer for a few years now, and we're too scared to change it because it works pretty good. We do have a formula to come up with our offers, and we do the same with kickboxing, we do three classes and a pair of gloves for $26.99. And I've also done different offers, just playing around over here, where I've done a six-week kickboxing program for a $127.

And I've been selling them straight off the bat, straight off Facebook. Cause I've always tried to keep it a low barrier offer, which is usually below $49, cause they'll buy it straight off the bat off the internet then. But I'm doing it for a $127 now, and we've done $169 as well, an absolute beginner course for adult karate as well. We've just done that recently, had over 60 people take that offer. As we get more confidence, we try bigger and bolder offers.

GEORGE: Yeah, that's it. Ok, I don't want you to give away all your secrets obviously, but do you mind sharing what's that formula that you take to create your offers?

ROD: There are 15 steps, but the main steps are: it needs to be unique, it needs to be different from everyone else, it needs to have lots of value. So free –  there's no value in two weeks free, there's nothing in it. What we do is, we try to give away a tangible product, which for kids karate would be a uniform, or adult karate would be a uniform, or for fitness, kickboxing would be gloves. And whatever the retail value is of that product, we keep the offer at 50% that retail value. Say if your uniform were worth $80, you'd keep your offer at $40, but I'd make it an oddball number and say $39. So the five classes in uniform for $39 and I’ll always put the value of the uniform in that offer. A uniform is usually valued at $80, or whatever your uniform's worth. And that works every time.

GEORGE: Ok, interesting. And I just want to clarify that: so you're basing the value also on something psychical, so not just the class, because two weeks free can be very, sort of “Great – what am I getting?”

ROD: Yeah. And that's another point, I try and do it as a specific number of classes, rather than four weeks and a uniform, or 2 weeks and a uniform, because then there's still a gray area – how many classes does that get me? So we try and keep it specific, so then there are fewer questions that're going through their head. So, two weeks – how many classes do that equal? Is that one class a week, or is it three classes a week – what does that get me? So we keep it specific, so they know what they're getting.

GEORGE: Yeah, really good point. Cause you don't want the prospect to be answering questions in their head, or give them hard work to try and figure out what is this offer. You want to make it easy for them just to make the decision and go with it.

ROD: Yeah. And once you have that offer, like we've been running with our offer for I don't know how many years know. It was the biggest change we ever did; it made a massive difference to us. Once you have that, that would do most of the heavy lifting in your marketing for you. Most of the work is done, once you have that irresistible offer, you just have to put it in front of the right people, and that's easy on Facebook.

GEORGE: OK, right, so I guess that's the crunch of it: if you're going to have a bad offer, it doesn't matter who the audience is: your offer is not going to work, and nobody's going to respond to your ad. So the first step is going to be, obliviously create your fan page. Get that if you're using profile for your martial arts school, it’s not going to work. Then create a good offer, so something that's going to work. And then start running the ads. Now, what are you doing to expand the fan base? Cause obviously, if you're running the ads just from your Facebook, is there anything that you're doing in particular that you can get more people to the fan page, or you're just doing that with the boosted type posts that's attracting friends, or friends of people in your club?

ROD: When I run my boosted posts – so I find boosted posts work better then a Facebook ad for martial arts. The ads will still work, but boosted posts just seems to work better every time we do it. So we don't target people that liked our page: we create an audience and so, if it’s kids karate, I’ll target moms, cause they make the buying decision most of the time. And I’ll just pick the suburbs in the surrounding area; it’s as simple as that. See, what happens is, this is another mistake that a lot of the guys make, cause I see ads – when I lived in Perth, I used to see ads from martial artists in Melbourne, popping up on my news feed.

It's either their targeting was crappy, or they're targeting people who liked their page and their friends. And this is another mistake they make: they invite all their martial arts friends to like their page. So, we get likes just from running those boosted posts, people will like your page anyway. And what you can do, once they've liked your post, or commented on your post, you can go through and invite them to like your page, so we're getting likes like that. So I don't run posts to get likes, I just do it sell more web special.

GEORGE: Right, interesting. And a good point to mention there, it’s still good to build their fan base, because your ads will be a lot cheaper. So you'll get more. But hang on, that doesn't apply to a boosted post.

ROD: I don't run ads to those people, I run ads to new people. And the people that do like my page will most probably see it anyway, cause they're in my target audience.

GEORGE: Right, OK. So you're not that concerned about running ads just to do your fan base: you want to expand it and get the message out to new people.

ROD: I’ll just run it, cause it’s so good on Facebook now, you can run a boosted post, and you can target women between 25 and 45 who live in your suburbs, who have kids between 3 and eight years old, you know? And you can't do that with flyers or a newspaper.

GEORGE: Exactly! And that right there is gold, that's what makes this direct response type marketing gold because it gives you this, Facebook has got all the data of everybody. Everything that you do on Facebook, I mean, you are literally the product on Facebook. You are the free user, you give them the data, and that data is obviously a way for you to customize ads and present an offer to those people. And you bring a point there is, again, how specific it is, if you're targeting somebody that's 25-45 and you know you're targeting women, then what is the conversation in your ad? What are the pictures that you're going to put in that ad? Do you get a woman to create that ad for you?

Rod DarlingROD: We do a whole exercise now. And we've only just learned this recently, but it’s making a massive difference, where for instance, I've just done that for fitness kickboxing, and I've spent three weeks going into my target. And there's a whole process that we go through; it’s called taking a stop. And we try and get into their head of that person and so, what are their problems, what are the causes of their problems, what behaviors are they doing because of these problems that they have in their life? And then you can speak their language. And when you start doing that – I forget who it was, but somebody said “If you can describe somebody's problem to them better than they can put it into words, they'll always run with you.” they'll always come to you to solve it, and that's what we do, pretty much. But I can't explain how we do that here! It takes ages to learn it!

GEORGE: For sure. I guess for someone that doesn't have access to those type of resources, the quickest way to make that discovery is I guess, really pay attention to what people are telling you that walk through your doors. The people that are coming through the doors and the people that are joining, and if you can get down to the reason why they're joining and what they are trying to achieve through their martial arts, not just kicking and punching stuff. But the real hidden benefit, the real REAL benefit – what are they going to get out of it? What type of transformation they are after?

ROD: And it’s a really good point, but be careful who you pick, because you want to pick your favorite clients. Because you want to attract more of those clients. So I pick my favorite ones, with my fitness kickboxing, there were a couple of ladies I asked questions to, and I modeled it on them, cause I want more of them. And now when ladies come in here,  it’s like they've been here for 12 months already on their first night. They just click with everyone. But there is a cheating way that you can use Facebook to do your market research. Once you have your fan page, and you now have people give you reviews, I’ll go through all the reviews on my fan page, and I’ll look at the wording that they're using.

So, for instance, when I did it for my kickboxing fitness studio, everyone said it was a great workout, and they had fun. And fun was the theme that kept coming through. So then I started to use those words in my ads as well, and I got better results. The other thing that you can do to get better targeting is, I go through those people that have given me a five-star review, and I’ll stalk their Facebook profile, and I’ll have a look at their interests, what pages they've liked. And you'll find a theme in there. It’s a bit harder with kids karate, but with fitness, it was easy. The pages that popped up all the time were Lorna Jane and the Biggest Loser and Michelle Bridges and things like that. So now I can target ads to those people. So it's a bit of a cheat way on Facebook to do it quickly.

GEORGE: OK, cool. And that brings up a good point, and I don't know if it’s going a little more advanced, but Facebook has other features, where you can create a lookalike audience. So it’s taking people that you have, and then Facebook uses their data to create a lookalike audience, which is mimicking all those features that you're talking about. The similarities and so forth, they try and base an audience on that, which expands on that. Have you used any of those features?

ROD: No I haven't, cause I just have my audiences saved, and I just keep hitting the same audience unless I'm doing a different campaign or a different offer. Then I’ll change it up a little bit. Or if I find I'm getting people starting to come from a different suburb, a little bit further away, I might expand the data a little bit further. But that's it. Just keep it simple, that's what it means to have a great offer if you have it articulated in a  way that they understand you and target the people who you want.

You can also target income now. I don't target people that can't afford me anymore. Cause when you have an irresistible offer, it’s like Groupon. We've done Groupon before, and there's a lot of bargain hunts out there. They'll just come and, you know.We did it for karate years ago, and we had like 60 kids come in, but none of them could afford us. It was a way to get uniforms.

GEORGE: And they've got the uniform hanging out the pub.

ROD: Yeah, for their dress ups.

GEORGE: Dress up party uniforms. Alright, cool. Anything else that I haven't asked you that you feel is important? What I like about this conversation is, it’s all about the basics. We're talking about getting your Facebook campaign sorted and really just keeping it simple, making sure that your audiences are well segmented through your pages, so that you can target accurately, that you're not talking about Muay Thai  fights to the mom who's trying to sign up her kids and sharing that type of content, so you can have a relevant conversation with your target audience. Is there anything that you feel, any other tips that you feel we should cover?

ROD: The basics are knowing your target, have a great offer and put it in front of them. That's all you need to know and do. But one problem that most businesses have and martial artists are really bad at this, is, your product is an obstacle to what they want. So for fitness, for example, they want to lose weight, but they don't necessarily want to go to the gym and sweat and workout hard. So your product is actually the obstacle, so you gotta talk to them about what they actually want, so don't talk about yourself on your website, cause I see martial artists, oh, we've been around for x amount of years, and we've won all these world titles, and we've done this and done that – they don't care. They don't care; that's not going to help them give their kid confidence. They just want to know how you're going to do that.

GEORGE: That opens a whole other interview. Cause that is the biggest mistake that I see on any martial arts website is, being us-centric and not you-centric. It’s all about we, and everything is we. We, us, we believe. And nobody cares, and nobody cares what you believe because…

ROD: You're weeing all over yourself!

GEORGE: Alright, that will be the tagline for this episode – don't wee all over yourself! Alright, awesome. So, Rod, I believe you also have a course that is in the making, and by the time that you listen to this interview – for anyone listening, it will probably be available. But for anybody that needs help with this and wants to take on this challenge, and they don't have the confidence, or they don't have someone that can do this for, do you have a website that they can go to?

ROD: I will have for this soon, I’ll have a landing page. But the best thing to do is contact me through Facebook. I've put together this course because I've been getting contacted every day by people wanting to ask all this stuff. And I help them, no worries at all, but I'm like, I need to put it together in a course. And it'll be a short course that'll get them results. After a week or so, they'll be generating page rise.

GEORGE: All right, awesome. So just contact Rod Darling through Facebook. And once the course is live, we will have it in the show notes so that it will be available in this episode. That will be at martialartsmedia.com/5. So that's it. Thanks a lot, Rod, I've learned a great deal and I'm sure everyone else did as well, and I hope to connect with you soon.

ROD: Yeah, cool!

GEORGE: Alright, thanks.

ROD: Thanks, bye.

GEORGE: Alright, there you have it – thanks again Rod for the great tips and we're going to follow this episode up. I'm going to be talking about a few different strategies and things that can add to what you're doing. And there's something that they came up with, the way Rod is approaching it, which is awesome and working well for them, how they are splitting their target markets through various pages. And I got thinking after the interview: there's a lot of brands, it would be very hard for them to restructure that format. So it would be very hard to go and, if you've got your brand and you've got a few locations out there, and you're serving a few target markets, you might get stuck with that approach. In a future episode, we'll get on and discuss a few alternative options that you can go about doing.

Rod, thanks a lot for the interview. Shared some great tips and some great things about the offers – if you just picked that up, the way they structure the offer and the value – there's some gold in there. Little things, but little things is what counts and what makes offers convert. And if you need Rod's help, you can just contact Rod, so rod, R-O-D Darling, just search for him on Facebook and connect with him on there, he'll be happy to help you with anything you need.

Coming up next week: I've got so many cool interviews lined up, so I'm very excited about that. There's a few topics that I'll also be discussing solo, so it's exciting to see this podcast evolving and I'm just going to continue interviewing people from all aspects of martial arts, maybe even get guests on board not from martial arts which we can learn from, obviously talking about the marketing aspect and so forth. But anything that can help build a better martial arts school, a better martial arts business at the end of the day.

Alright, that's it from me. For the show notes on this episode, you can go to martialartsmedia.com/5.  So, martialartsmedia.com/5 and I will catch you on the next show. Thanks a lot for tuning in, chat soon. Cheers!

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George Fourie

Hi I'm George Fourie, the founder of MartialArtsMedia.com. When I'm not doing dad duties or training on the mats (which I manage to combine when my son is willing! :), I'm helping Martial Arts Gym owners grow their business through the power of online media.