53 – [Case Study] Mike Fooks – Doubling Your Part-Time BJJ School With One Successful Campaign
Martial Arts Media Academy member Mike Fooks from Auckland is on a marketing roll! And if his new student signups stay, he's doubled his BJJ school.
IN THIS EPISODE, YOU WILL LEARN:
- How Mike Fooks has managed to balance his martial arts and corporate life
- The benefits of online advertising services such as Facebook Ads and Google AdWords
- How a single Facebook campaign doubled Mike’s student number
- How the Martial Arts Media Academy program has helped Mike implement his campaign correctly
- The one thing that Mike could have done differently before he launched his Facebook campaign
- And more
*Need help growing your martial arts school? Learn More Here.
So already from one two-week campaign. I'm going to, if not hit my goal, I'm going to be at least halfway towards it. In effect, the only reason I've pulled back on the campaign a little bit now is because we ran out of the free uniforms, or close to it. So I've got more on order. When they head, we'll be back into it. Their goal, which I thought was, these people are audacious to try and double. I have a suspicion we're going to hit that fairly quickly.
GEORGE: Hi, this is George Fourie and welcome to another Martial Arts Media business podcast! Today I'm with Mike Fooks and we're going to do a bit of a combination here. I got to know Mike through one of the online communities that I'm part of and we've built a new website for him; which you can check out at groundcontrol.net.nz.
Mike's based in Auckland and we got started with helping him with the Martial Arts Media Academy Program where we help martial arts school owners with lead generation and so forth. Besides that, Mike's got a very interesting story with things that he does in the corporate world and how that overlaps with the martial arts school. This is going to be a fun conversation! So welcome to the podcast, Mike!
MIKE: Thanks, George! Thanks for having me on!
GEORGE: Awesome! So, based in Auckland. Probably going to come and visit you September this year. So, I guess just to start things off. Who is Mike Fooks?
MIKE: Okay, so I spend my time doing a number of different things. Obviously, I'm a martial arts school owner. We run an academy called “GroundControl” where we focus on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and mixed martial arts. That's been going for about 11 years now under that name. Been training for a little bit longer than that before we named the school, but that's not my full-time gig. During the day I spend most of my time doing corporate training.
So, working with sales teams and leaders and various people. Primarily on face-to-face persuasive communication whether it's sales or influence in negotiation or even internal communication and conflict management. Those sorts of things and also a lot on mindset and resilience. I'm trained at university in Psychology and then went on and got qualified in neurolinguistics or NLP over a number of years. Then, based on that, my partner and I have a private practice where we do individual work with people one-on-one sort of coaching, counselling, therapeutic type stuff.
Obviously whether it is therapy or coaching just depends on how messed up they are when they walk in the door but hopefully, it's all the same by the time they walk out. And so that's another thing I spend my time doing.
Sometimes people say to me, wow, Mike, well that's a lot you've got going on but to me, it's actually really simple. When people ask me, “What do you do?” I'm a coach. You know? My job is to bring out the potential in others. And I just do that in various formats. Sometimes I do that in the boardroom, in the training room. Sometimes I do that in my coaching room. And of course, sometimes I do that on the martial arts mat.
GEORGE: That's an interesting philosophy. Yeah. It sounds like many things happening but as you mentioned, you're kind of trying to achieve the same result with the people that you work with, just through a different medium.
MIKE: Yeah, that's right. There's often a little bit of leakage between the two things. I get frustrated when I'm teaching corporates, for example, because I'm going, “Look, there are so many great examples of what I'm talking about if you just knew jiu-jitsu.” And certainly, on the jiu-jitsu mat, you know, there are concepts that I will teach corporates about communication or how to problem solve, which make it into our coaching sessions at GroundControl. There's a little bit of leakage involved.
GEORGE: So have you ever then cross-promoted if you feel. Do you cross promote between the corporate training that you do and jiu-jitsu?
MIKE: I have to be a little careful on that because the sponsors that get me involved too, you know, I’m with the sales team would probably take a dim view if they thought I was using that as a platform to cross-promote jiu-jitsu. Having said that, inevitably I tell a couple of jiu-jitsu stories or metaphors and it's not unusual for somebody to tap me on the shoulder afterwards and say, “Hey, have you got more information on that? I'd be keen to have a look.” So that certainly happens.
GEORGE: Alright, alright. Interesting. Now, how did you get started in jiu-jitsu, first and foremost?
MIKE: If we go all the way back, as a kid I did the standard dabbling in martial arts, I think a couple of lessons in judo when I was about six. And two lessons of karate when I was 13. But I got started, seriously in my martial arts career in another style, Aikido. Which I started in 1993. Had always been interested in martial arts, watched all the movies. But got intrigued by this idea of Aikido, based on a conversation I had with a friend of my brothers who was into judo and karate. And showed me a basic kind of immobilization arm lock. And then talked about how Aikido guys, that's what you do in anything like that, just immobilize, wow that sounds cool.
So I did some research and got involved in Aikido. Now, of course, 1993 was an interesting year to start in the martial arts because it was the same year of the first UFC. So I started in April and towards the end of that year, the first UFC came out and, of course, that just rocked the entire martial arts community as most of your listeners will be aware.
At the time, I was at university. And I was working in a video games parlor to earn some cash, part-time. So I would sit on the desk and just load myself up with five martial arts magazines every shift and just devour as much information as I could. And so I was kind of got a front-row seat. We didn't have access to any of the footage or anything like that in New Zealand but I started to read all of the stuff coming out about the UFC and what does it mean that it seems like the stand-up fighters aren't doing so well. Got curious about that.
And then I got onto Usenet. Onto the old newsgroups. You know, before we had online forums or anything like that let alone Facebook. And there were all of these debates that sprung up about my style is better than yours. And I started out 100 percent in the traditional martial artist camp. You know, “Well, a true Aikido master would never debase themselves by entering such a competition.” You know, that kind of thing.
Over time I noticed something really interesting. When people were having these debates about what works, what doesn't what I consistently noticed was the BJJ guys that were saying, well, where are you? Let's get together, let's find out.
And not necessarily in an overly aggressive way although there's always a little bit of that sometimes but for a lot of them it was just a “we can show you.” I'm completely confident that I know how this will go. And over time as I sat there, by now about I think a second degree black belt in Aikido I was thinking I'm not sure I've got that same level of, “I definitely know how this is going to go confidence that these people seem to have.” So I got really curious about that.
And then in 2001, after the first time, New Zealand showed MMA on TV. Sky TV over here ran a weekend where they played back-to-back Pride and King of the Cage events. Old ones. I was on a honeymoon that weekend. Overseas. So I had my new brother-in-law set up in my living room with a VCR player swapping tapes over. And so when I got back I just devoured it and found a BJJ school within a month or two after that. Which, at the time, was not easy in New Zealand. Because there really wasn't a lot going on. Certainly no black belts around. It was early days for sure.
GEORGE: What an awesome and interesting journey. So now you've got the school, and I guess, let's backtrack a bit. Before I met you and sort of what is the school up to at this point in time?
MIKE: Yeah. So we gave ourselves a name in 2006. Up until then, it had been, you know, the standard thing. A bunch of people train in my garage. Most of those, my Aikido students who I'd said, hey have a look at this. And then, hey, let's do more of this and come to the garage. Because I was training them consecutively at the time. That was something that we knew as my club. What we called it because we weren't supposed to talk about it outside of my club. And then over time that grew and grew and grew. We started to get more and more professional. My coach, John Will runs a competition every September called, “The Gathering.”
The first time I went to that, one of the things he had done for the school owners got a bunch of Australian school owners together, I think it was about five of them, to give us some tips. I remember, you know, Fari Salievski was there. And a few other people. Frank was there. And so I come over with like, 48 action items about how do we make this thing more professional. And then over time, we got more and more so by the time we hit kind of the end of 2017, I'm running a school which is muddling along alright. You know? It's a part-time school. I'd got to the point where I had realized that look, I'm only part-time in this, it is never going to be a huge money spinner for me. If I can, you know, break even and get a little bit of pocket money but keep the thing going, that's pretty cool.
So 30 students on contract, and then with the various people coming through, beginners trials and various sorts that we had. I was probably content to leave it sitting there. Except for a conversation that I had with a guy, Trent Rice. Who some people know as Bear in the jiu-jitsu community. He was over from Australia to do some work for his day job. And he said, yeah, I want to come train, can I come along? I said, sure.
So we met each other on the ferry from town back to where I live. And we had a chat and he was just in the process of looking at going full time into martial arts and he mentioned, you know, one of the online communities that he was involved with which is, you know, where we hooked up. And it started to occur to me that, hey look, I don't have a full-time brain to put on this.
But if I can start to connect with people that are thinking about this full time and have figured out what works and what doesn't, and just do what they say, maybe I can actually start to make some gains I'd kind of put away on the shelf. In terms of ambition, for a little while. So I started to get quite excited at that idea and over the last, even just last month or so since we've really started firing, it's really starting to get quite exciting.
GEORGE: Fantastic. And full credit to the community that's Paul Veldman‘s Martial Arts Business Community.
MIKE: Yeah, absolutely, yeah I've seen various things like that throughout my Facebook feed from time to time and I was always a bit suspicious about, you know, there's a lot of people out there making money off telling people how to make money. But don't usually make money any other way.
So the fact that Trent knew Paul personally and he logged in and he showed me some of the stuff that was going on gave me a lot of comfort that, hey this is going to be worthwhile. And, you know, the investments I've made around things like that community, the website, the Martial Arts Media Academy are paying themselves back very, very quickly and very, very easily.
GEORGE: Cool. So let's have a look. We made some changes with, first and foremost, got you set up with a new website. I mean, I'm a fan, obviously, of all the websites that we create but I'm really a fan of the GroundControl website, just how it came out in the end. I mean, it took a while for us to really fine tune and get through the obstacles, but it really, for a jiu-jitsu website it really, it brings out a lot of color and I'm using it as an example within the BJJ community, for websites that we are developing.
So we got you set up with the right tools. And then you got started in the Martial Arts Media Academy. Before you got started, what type of lead generation were you doing on the internet?
MIKE: Yeah, not a lot to be honest. Most of our stuff came through word of mouth or, you know, maybe they'll find us in a Google search. I had dabbled in Facebook so I had done the odd promotion here and there. Start of the year, come at half price or come in and your friend trains for free or something like that. And they would bring in maybe four or five people two of which might hang around and we thought that was a pretty good job.
When I did those sort of promotions I wasn't throwing too much spend at it. Very conservative. Because I wasn't quite sure how much they'd pay off. So I dabbled but it hadn't really amounted to too much.
GEORGE: Alright. So you got started in the training. So what part has helped the most? And then we'll talk about what you're doing right now that's really working as well.
MIKE: I think, in terms of what part has helped the most, I mean it's all helping but I think just starting to feel like I can never get in my way through things. So when I had dabble before, you know you go into the ad manager on Facebook and there are all these different options, you know, what's the objective of your campaign, this that or the other, and so I was kind of like, click, click, click, click. That'll do.
So to be able to kind of sit down and have you kind of work me through some stuff live and go, oh, okay, so I want interaction and I know the reasons why I want interaction now. And actually being able to figure out how those consoles work and why I would make certain decisions when we have those sorts of choices that was a huge help. Because the ability to be walked through your first time is where you get your understanding from. People can throw theory at you all day, but when you actually start you know, I literally had you on one screen while I had the thing on the other screen going, “and now what? I'll click on that? Okay, now I'll click on that.”
And so and with the content creation as well in terms of, here's how you design your ad and this is what your copy should look like, all of that stuff made me much more focused, I think, in what I was doing.
GEORGE: I guess this is the biggest pain point for me or frustration. It makes me want to rant, and I don't really rant. But it makes me want to rant, is a theory without substance.
GEORGE: There's a lot of, this is, you should do this, but there's not “here's how to do it.” And a lot of the times, the people who are talking the ‘what’ are not actually doing the how. So you can buy into a concept of coaching where you kind of can be shown how to do it, you should get another guy to do it. Us.
MIKE: That's right. You know, when I think about it, as you talked just now, that's exactly how we teach martial arts. I don't show a bunch of beginners a move and then say, good luck, go and try it out, right? I show them the move and then I talk them through each individual step to make sure they're on the same path. So it kind of felt like that. That I was being given, hey here's what you should do and why, but now here's the bit where I'm going to talk you through each step and then I can play along. And before I know it I've got an ad campaign running.
GEORGE: Of course, it's one thing to be walked through, but then that's where, and the same as in martial arts, now you know how to do it, but now you apply it, and it doesn't work the way you were … actually experienced it. And then, that's I guess where the key part comes in. You know, what we really try and focus on in the academy is, alright, you've implemented, now let's correct. Let's see if we can fine-tune, let's see if we can fix things and get them working in the end.
MIKE: Yeah, that's right and that's where I think the value of those. We've got a lot of content about here's how to set up Facebook and here's how to develop content and AdWords and all these sorts of things but the coaching calls are really, really valuable as well. Because you know, you come along and go, well this is what I'm doing right now, that's what's relevant for me, and ask you questions and there's always really good content generated either it's from my own questions or other people's. So I think that's why coaching calls are really valuable. And really valuable to get on live. Rather than just watching the recording sometimes as because you come up with questions that you wouldn't have asked, you know, other people don't necessarily ask so that's really cool.
GEORGE: Awesome. You were having some good results with your campaigns in the beginning of the year, where are you at with your campaign?
MIKE: When I first signed up to Paul Veldman's group, you know, the first thing I saw him say is, you set some goals. I thought, well, yeah, I know about setting goals. I teach people about that so I better do one and so it's been, what on paper sounds fairly ambitious, even though we're starting from a small base is to double membership and it's been done relatively quickly.
So I have 30 people on contract, this takes that to 60. That would be good. So once the website was up and I started the Facebook campaign, I ran that campaign for about two weeks. No more than that. And at last count, I think we've got close to 35 paid trials. So over the next two to three weeks, we'll start to see how many of those paid trials tip over into full membership. But certainly the feedback I'm getting from the people on the trial is that they're loving it. So we should convert a reasonable amount of those.
Already from one, two-week campaign, I'm going to if not hit my goal, I'm going to be, you know, at least halfway towards it. And, in fact, the only reason I've pulled back on the campaign a little bit now is that we ran out of the free uniforms or got close to it so I've got more on order when they head we'll be back into it. That goal which I thought was, you know, these people are audacious to try and double, I have a suspicion we're going to hit that pretty quickly.
GEORGE: That's awesome. So you've gone from, so you started up with 30 students although you've got them in the trial so you've kind of doubled but not, obviously, proved down the line where things are at. Yeah.
MIKE: Yeah, that's right. Yeah, I'm fairly confident because our retention rate from trial into full membership tends to be pretty good. Having said that, I have redesigned how that whole thing works based on the advice I've got from you and Paul and various people like this is the first we've used paid trials. Which I think there's a lot of hesitation about for people that are used to going, hey, a free week. To go to paid trial, certainly in New Zealand, I don't see a lot of that going on. But it's worked really, really well for us.
So the fact that they've got that skin in the game and I know we can give them a really good experience over four weeks. It's going to be really interesting to kind of look back in four weeks’ time or so and go, okay, what was our conversion rate? But I'm expecting it to be pretty solid.
GEORGE: That's awesome. That's really good going. Well done. That's awesome. So, and I'm thinking, though, that the fact that you've run out of uniforms, I'm like, alright, those create perfect conversations for your marketing campaigns as well. You know.
GEORGE: You've sold out, here's a waiting list. We'll let you know when the next batch comes in. And then that creates a whole new urgency campaign for your next follow-up because, yeah. People missed out, now they've got to jump on board and they've only got, you know. They missed out the last time. They better jump on.
MIKE: That's a really good point. Literally, just before we came on this call, I got a message pop-up from, because we had, like, over 200 people message us with an expression of interest so I've got all those leads that I started to go back to and say, hey, are you still interested?
But one of them popped up and said, hey, is this thing still on? So I was about to go back and say yes and just, I really hope you're not a size 5. But yeah, that's a really good point. We can go, “Well, actually we've sold out but you know, over the next two weeks we might launch it again so just look out.”
GEORGE: Yeah. Waitlist. Awesome. I like that.
GEORGE: Good stuff. Okay. Just a couple of things. And just for, you know, as part of the case study of course, of the Martial Arts Media Academy program, who would you recommend it to? And why?
MIKE: Pretty broad. Martial arts school owners that want to grow. Because I think there's a lot of people. So my school, for example, we've tried this on adults, I notice a lot of the schools around have got real kids focus. But that hasn't made any difference to me in terms of the quality of the content, it's all completely applicable.
By the standards of some schools, we are relatively small so I know a lot of people look at the initial outlay and go, oh, that must for really big professional schools. But that's not us. In some ways, I think it's even more useful for people our size because, you know, I don't have time to really think about this stuff and figure it out so I was kind of groping in the dark a little bit. And in terms of, you know, what it costs to get on the program, you know, you make that back with a couple students pretty quickly.
So I'm really interested, as I look around the New Zealand scene, there's not a lot of people taking a sophisticated approach to this. When I look at the results that I've had, part of that may be that my competitors just aren't doing it this way. So I think anyone that really wants to grow and stay up with the game or enter the game, it's really worthwhile. You do have to put some time commitment into it. You know, the financial investment is probably the easier thing. The time investment is the really important thing. There's so much great content in there that you're going to have to go through it a few times you know, I've got notes scrawled everywhere and then go back to the recording as I'm doing a particular campaign.
So as long as people are free to put the time investment in, I struggle to think of a school that wouldn't benefit from it unless the person themselves is already pretty sophisticated in not just marketing, but specifically online marketing. But I don't see a lot of that it martial arts.
GEORGE: Yeah, thanks, Mike. And you bring up a good point on time because there's time spent and then there's time well spent. I mean, either way, you're going to have to spend the time. You're going to have to spend the time to do the marketing and I mean, you can take an hour to do an okay or really mediocre job at your marketing, get frustrated, not a way to ask for help. The biggest danger of that is reaching a level of frustration where you just, this online stuff is crap or, you know, just, I don't have time to deal with this. I'm not going to do it. And you abandon the whole thing. And your business suffers.
Or, what's worse is, you know, people get a call from a company that says, hey, we can get you on the first page of Google and they have no sense of an actual overall strategy that you need for your school and again, it could be the easy way out, because you can just pay money, but if they don't know their overall strategy, they're just catering for one touch point. Which is search? The search engines. When you've got to cover for all six to eight interactions that are going to happen before conversion.
So you've got to be covering all the steps. If you get educated, get a bit of a strategy, it's easy to spend money on getting the hands to get people to do stuff, as long as you actually know what to do and what to look out for at the end of the day.
MIKE: I think that's really right. I think, if I had decided, look, I really want to put some focus into growing the school, I'm going really spend some time over generally to do that but I want to do it myself. What probably would have happened if I would have sat down with my partner Carleen and we would have spent, maybe even as much time, maybe even more time. But we would have spent it on completely the wrong stuff.
You know, there's design, there are ads, and you have to get really finicky over how the image looks and really kind of tweak that to the nth degree. Within actual fact it was much better just to go, let's just blast out five images, three for BJJ, two for MMA, split test them, see what works. And after a couple of days, we know what the winner is. And as you had indicated, it's always the one that surprises you. You know? It's not the one I would have picked. So a lot of those sorts of things but sort of sacked a lot of our time trying to finesse stuff that could have been done a lot more simply and then that time spent put back to more things.
What I like about the academy is, as you just kind of alluded to, is the comprehensiveness of it. What I'm excited about is, we've got these results already just from one Facebook campaign. Now, we've got some professional videos that have been done which are going to land sometime this week so I'm already excited about how we're going to introduce them, let alone through email campaigns and content strategy and AdWords working properly. We've got this much growth but we've really just scratched the tip of the iceberg.
GEORGE: That's exciting. Yeah, I look forward to seeing the videos and really looking at a few things that we're trialling right now with all the new changes within Facebook and how to really get that message out. Hey, Mike, it's been great having you on, is there anything I should have asked you? That I haven't covered?
MIKE: Is there anything that you shouldn't have asked me?
GEORGE: I know, it's sort of that question that people ask when they think they haven't asked enough questions.
MIKE: The only thing I guess I would add, thinking about the most recent campaign that we've done, it comes back a little bit to the commitment thing, is it's one thing to throw up an ad, and I kind of came into both Paul's group and your group hoping for, look, you can tell me how to automate everything so I can just press go and walk away and the club will just go boom. And of course it doesn't work that way so you know, we aim for interaction which means that I was, every day, once or twice a day, sometimes three times a day, having to log in and go, oh look, there are another 30 responses here, I've got to go back and respond to each one.
Now the response was pretty easy, ones I cut and paste into a PM but just be really disciplined about that. Because it's one thing to put up a shop front and say, this is a really great shop, come and look in the window but if you're not providing something quality in terms of experience when they get there, then it's all for nought.
So, the Machado brothers had an expression in jiu-jitsu, “Swim, swim, swim, die on the beach.” You know, you don't want to have to do all that work and then just follow over the last hurdle through, not doing you're follow through and your responsiveness and those sorts of things really well.
Probably the one thing that I would have done differently if I went back, and even though I had heard warnings about this from yourself and Paul, I don't think I had got my admin geared up well enough to handle the sudden influx of people. So we've given them a pretty good experience signing in but there are just a couple little things I've seen fall through the cracks. Only one's got their membership card or they haven't all been given the beginner's manual for some reason. So, looking forward, next time my site's running campaigns I'm really going to make sure that all that stuff's locked in and ready to go. Because it kind of caught me by surprise how many people signed up so quickly.
GEORGE: Very good point on a few things. The messaging, I see a lot of people want to automate too quickly and I hear, I see in communities, people get frustrated about the mundane responses that they've got to give but there's a big lesson in those mundane responses and yeah, look, sometimes people are just ignorant but you always got to look at your marketing and your message and say, alright, why's this coming up all the time? If everybody is asking what your location is, hey then just put at the end, “Conveniently located in the suburb.” That might just cover it.
o you've got to pay attention to what people are asking and those are the objections that you can turn into better marketing next time. It's all about learning and I see people too quick to want to automate it. And I always say, you can't automate something that's not working manually. If you can't sell your membership face to face or in a text message then no chatbot or anything is going to do that magically for you.
Your conversion is going to go down. So master that first, and then you can go and add all the automation but you've got to get the conversion right first. And I mean, if the … when the offer converts, everything else works. You know? You can go and you can go tweak everything else, but getting that offer to convert first, that's the real art. And that's the real work. And if you can focus just on that, then you can get fancy. And then you can start taking your campaigns to a higher level if that's really what you want to do. And really scale it up. For the next school, opening multiple schools and so forth.
GEORGE: Awesome. Hey, Mike, it's been great chatting with you. So people can find out more about you at groundcontrol.net.nz and anywhere else people can find more info about you?
MIKE: There's a little bit about my corporate stuff on my other website which is kineticpotential.co.nz. So the stuff about the individual coaching and the corporate work I do there is on there. So, yeah, those are the two places to find me.
GEORGE: Awesome. I think we could probably do a round two and go really, really deep into some psychology stuff and things that you do in your day job and how that connects with your martial arts. And if you are interested in the Martial Arts Media Academy where you watch this you can just send us a message or you can go to martialartsmedia.academy and find out more about that. Mike, great speaking to you face to face for the first time. And I will see you in Auckland this year.
MIKE: Looking forward to it. Thanks, George.
GEORGE: Awesome. Thanks, Mike.
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