70 – How To Scale Your Martial Arts Business Through The Mathematics Of Kindness - Martial Arts Marketing For Martial Arts Business

70 – How To Scale Your Martial Arts Business Through The Mathematics Of Kindness

Adam Meyers from Story Martial Arts shares his sprint from 0-250 students in 12 months.

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IN THIS EPISODE, YOU WILL LEARN:

  • How checking the population and demographics has helped Adam grow his school.
  • Building a connection with parents for improving customer retention.
  • Being humble enough to admit that you're not always the best person to do every single job in your martial arts business.
  • The importance of having a business mentor and attending business seminars.
  • And more

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

Download the PDF transcription

TRANSCRIPTION

I mean, any big school owner and what we get into now being a big school is that they realize that even if you're teaching good classes, the parents might not see that they’re good classes, because there are 30 kids running around. Even though you're a good instructor, it might not look like you're a good instructor to them and at the end of the day, they're paying the bills.

GEORGE: Hi, this is George Fourie. Welcome to the Martial Arts Media business podcast. I have another fantastic guest with me today and someone I actually met… I believe it was in Sydney, we met at The Main Event, maybe about a year or so ago?

ADAM: Yeah, a year ago, yeah.

GEORGE: Yeah. All right, so Adam Meyers, welcome to the call. I’ll give you a quick introduction. Adam has a diverse martial arts experience. Began training in kickboxing, age of 15, eventually moving on to taekwondo, where he quickly found success on the domestic competition circuit.

He's an 18-time State Champion in sparring, he's also the 2015 and 2017 Australian National Champion, member of Australian taekwondo team and a number one ranked heavyweight in the country. Besides the martial arts achievements, Adam's also a really successful school owner and within a short time span of 12 months, he managed to hit 250 students, I believe Adam?

ADAM: Yeah, in just over 12 months, yeah.

GEORGE: Fantastic. So a lot of knowledge, and especially for anyone that's starting out, and even if you're not starting out, if you've been going for a long time and trying to hit those big numbers. This is going to be a valuable interview, just to hear how Adam went on that journey. Welcome to the call Adam.

ADAM: Thanks so much George, really appreciate you having me on the show. I'm an avid listener and a big fan.

GEORGE: Perfect. So you better listen to this one then.

ADAM: Hahaha! I’ll download it straight away.

GEORGE: All right, perfect. So I gave a bit of an intro, but just expand a little – who is Adam?

ADAM: Yeah, so, I've been training martial arts a little bit over 10 years. Taekwondo for 10 in this coming February, it will be 10 years in February. I've trained at a lot of different martial arts schools, a lot of different taekwondo schools especially, throughout my sparring career. I've been on the national team since 2014, kind of going overseas and fighting in opens and at the Oceana championship, so I went to the world university games, where I came 9th.

Came 5th in the Asian Games last year. I just have kind of a wide array of international experience with taekwondo and I guess what a lot of people didn't know, as I was fighting and travelling all over the world for taekwondo is, I've actually been coaching since 2011. So I know that doesn't seem, maybe it doesn't seem long to some of the older guys that are listening to the podcast, but as I was training full time, I was also pretty much teaching full time, 25 hours +, helping run a couple of seminars, a couple of really big taekwondo schools here in Melbourne.

So yeah, my taekwondo experience has been really wide ranging, I guess with different mentors and different coaches that I've had. I guess that's probably the key to the success I've had in my business, is that I've kind of seen what works over here and seen what works over there and kind of pooled all that together into my business, Story Martial Arts.

GEORGE: All right, so if you can elaborate on that: so you were training for how long before you started the coaching side?

ADAM: So I was training… I think I had my black belt for about 6 or 7 months when I started coaching kids’ classes, beginners, intermediate, that kind of stuff. So I was training for about 3 years, I think before I started coaching. Yeah and by training I mean I was doing 6-7 classes a week of training and preparing for competitions. We would have state team training at Box Hill, here at Melbourne as well also. We kind of had the club training and then state team training on the weekends. So yeah, I was doing a lot of hours, a lot of hours in the car too.

GEORGE: Hahaha! All right, cool. So there's an old saying about, the quicker you start teaching what you know, the quicker you learn, because the quicker you sort of articulate everything that's been taught to you. Do you feel that helped you a lot, being able to coach from an earlier age?

ADAM: Yeah, definitely. It definitely helped with my martial arts skills, because I wasn't the most naturally technical person. I was never the most athletic in high school, I didn't really play a lot of… I played a lot of sports, but I wasn't really kind of the super star, I wasn't like, “Let’s have Adam on our team,” that kind of thing. I was always in the middle of the pack. I just realized that, I guess due to my parents, I'm just the hardest worker in the room, in most rooms that I'm in and that's probably what I attribute to my success in coaching and in competing as well.

GEORGE: OK, so what was the big drive that just, starting with the martial arts side: what was the big drive that really got you in the whole wanting to compete and really getting that taste for, all right, I've been your 18-time champion – what was that drive to take you to that point?

ADAM: In 2009 when I started competing, so I was like a yellow belt right at the bottom, beginner level, in the juniors, under 17 division. I watched a little of UFC, I watched the Ultimate Fighter, the reality show they have. And I saw a lot of these guys were black belts in a couple of different martial arts. They’d have black belts is Brazilian jiu-jitsu, or a black belt in judo, big division national wrestler, black belts in taekwondo, karate etc. The list goes on. So I was, I really admired the athlete Edson Silva, who was the UFC middleweight champion at the time. He is a black belt in taekwondo, in judo and Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

So that was initially my plan, was to just get the three black belts. I thought, if I got three black belts like him, I'm going to be the champ of the world, that's how it works, right? I was 16, it's as simple as that to become a champion. So what I did was, it was just a complete fluke. I was already doing kickboxing a little bit, training 2-3 times a week, just fitness and enjoying myself and kind of watching rocky movies and stuff like that, which wasn't really serious. It was just kind of training for training’s sake.

A complete fluke in a shopping centre one day, there was a taekwondo booth, signing people up to a trial offer. I think it was like $25 for two weeks, or whatever it was at the time 10 years ago. And I was like, you know what, hey, taekwondo, that was one of his black belts. That's the way to go, we’ll start here. And again, 10 years ago, there wasn't a lot of MMA schools, or Brazilian jiu-jitsu schools around. So when I was kind of coming into my desire to be a martial artist and to be a competitor, there wasn't really a lot of taekwondo and karate around.

So I would have to travel to the city, or pretty far away. I didn't have my license, I mean, I was in high school. So it wasn't really feasible to ask my dad, who works 6AM until 4 to drive me all over the city to go to jiu-jitsu classes, when there's only two clubs really around. You know, St Kilda and things like that. It was just a bit too difficult. Hall’s taekwondo opened up a centre in Sunshine, where I'm originally from, in the western suburbs of Melbourne. And it was just a perfect match.

I went in, I've been doing kickboxing like a said for a little bit, so I just got right to it and started training a couple of times a week. Within I think 5 weeks, I got my yellow belt, it was kind of halfway though the term. Three weeks later, we had the Victorian Championships, I just had the one match and I won by knockout. I knocked my opponent out in my first ever match and I probably, maybe thought a bit silly, but I was just like, you know what? Let’s go to the Olympics, let's do it.

I'm obviously the best in the country already! I’m a yellow belt, it's time to do it. So I just realized, I'm starting late, I'm 17 years old. A lot of these guys had black belts and were on the national team by the time, they’ve been training since they've been 5, they’ve been black belts for 10 years already and I was just a yellow belt. So how am I going to beat these guys in Olympic trials or London or Rio, or anything like that. Kind of looking ahead and I just thought, well you know what? If they're training 5 times a week, I will train 7! And if they train 8 times a week, I will train 9.

And eventually over time, that bridge is going to gap, I'm going to bridge that gap. So that was kind of my initial plan, it was just keep fighting, keep training as hard as I possibly could, like I said earlier: just being the hardest worker in the room, you have a lot of guys in my club who were at a higher belt rank than me, there weren’t a lot of black belts, because it was a fairly new centre, so there weren't heaps of black belts to train with. So what I did was just make sure I turn up every day, did 2-3 hours of classes and got after it.

GEORGE: Great. So, simple plan, right? You just get your 10,000 hours first.

ADAM: Yeah. Yeah, I'm just going to get my 10,000 hours fast and they can get theirs. That was my initial plan really.

GEORGE: Ok, great Adam. So let's jump into your school, Story Martial Arts. A questions I actually wanted to ask you the first time: why the name, Story Martial Arts?

ADAM: Oh, that's a good question and not the first time that I've heard that question either George, it's not an easy name to kind of assign to a martial arts school. There's two reasons: the first is that my university degree is actually in writing, so I did literature and composition at Uni. I've written two novels and two collections of poetry, which most people don't know about either. Because I've been so busy posting all about kicking people in the face for the last 10 years. The second one is that my Brazilian jiu-jitsu coach and very good friend Ninos from the Australia Elite team always tells us to get our first page.

So that was kind of like his coaching method, if you start the match the way that you want to start it, you write your first page, it's likely that you'll be able to write the rest of the story of the match too. And I just thought, first page martial arts is a bit of a mouthful, so let's go with story, because it was kind of the end of the coaching line and I've been writing stories for a long time as well. So that's how I decided on the name.

GEORGE: That's pretty cool. So your coach, was he referring to story sort of really having a clear game plan with just that first couple of minutes type of thing?

ADAM: Yeah, so if you for example, if you want to pull guard, get in there and pull guard. If you want to get a takedown, get in there and get that takedown. If you want to get a certain grip, or play a certain game, you have to take control of the match. I think that really applies to jiu-jitsu, but I think it really applies to all areas of martial arts, especially in taekwondo. You know, if I want to establish a certain distance, or a certain style of play or a certain pace, I think every competitive martial artist will agree that if you start the match right and the way that you want to play, then the rest of the match is a lot easier to control.

GEORGE: Definitely. All right, fantastic. All right, so we have Story Martial Arts and let's break this down, right? Because, I mean 12 months is a real sprint to 250 students for a lot of people. I mean, I've spoken to people that have been going for years and they're at 70-80 students. To be fair though, a lot of those school owners, that's their sweet spot, right? It's their hobby business, they're happy with that.

But then, I've been speaking to a lot of people that… I mean, if they were really honest with themselves, this is what, I mean, who doesn't want that lifestyle, right? They want that successful school, they want their life to be martial arts. And you've done this in a very short sprint. So let's go back to the beginning, it's only 12 months ago – how did you get started with it all?

ADAM: So, I started with my business partner, who was my business partner at the time, Lee, we opened up a center just kind of near our houses. We knew there were a lot of kids around, there were a lot of primary schools and kindergartens, so we kind of already lived in an area where there was a bigger population density. We looked at the census, which I think a lot of people maybe don't do so well. We looked at census and see how many people live in the area, within 8km of the centre.

How many children under 14, so what percentage of those people are children under 14, which – this is all free information on the census website, you can search every suburb. And one of those, what's the populations density in the surrounding suburbs, you know, people who will travel 10-15 minutes to get to class, that kind of thing. So we settled on that location, we were kind of looking at 3-4 locations, but we kind of settled on that due to convenience, so it was near our houses and it was pretty easy to get to for us, after work, because I had a day job at the time as well, just like everyone else. What we did straight away was establish a policy that I think is really, really, important.

It's a question I ask myself when I decide anything in my business, is, will this work at 500? So, will this policy work at 500 students? For example, we have a grading checklist, so sign up on the checklist. If I have two pages of checklist, imagine going through 40 pages of checklist, trying to make sure everyone's paid for grading. So that's not going to work on 500. If I have one instructor and I don't have a leadership team, it's not going to work on 500.

If I have a certain amount of mat space and I don't want to open on Tuesdays, because I like having dinner with my wife, or my girlfriend, whatever it is, it's not going to work on 500. So that policy at the start really laid the foundation, in building that size. Because from the start, we were behaving and acting as if we already had 500 students.

GEORGE: All right. I love that! Firstly, just for American listeners and anyone not based in Australia: the census website is basically a data website. Is that the best way to explain it? It's the…

ADAM: Yeah, it's a website that has the profile of each area. So you'll have for example a suburb, this is how many people live here, this is how many people are male and female, how many kids arrive, etc. The average weekly income, which is also…

GEORGE: The population, yeah.

ADAM: Yeah.

GEORGE: All right.

ADAM: So, yeah.

GEORGE: All right, perfect. So yeah, just wanted to clarify that. So really just the population and data of a local area. So what I really like about this is it's really a very clear beginning with the end in mind. We run a program called the Partners program and one of the first things we do is we try and map out a game plan and with that, one of the questions we always ask is, what's your goal at that student number? And then, what's going to break?

Like, when you've got that, how does life really look? I mean, it's always good to say, yes a I want that amount of students, I want this, but then you really got to peel things back, because what does life look like…, what's going to break, who are you going to need, can things ošperate the way they do. And the first thing that normally breaks is the school owner, right?

ADAM: The first camel to break is the school owner, because like a lot of people in the martial arts business, they think they can do everything. Their black belt in karate or a black belt in taekwondo, or whatever you're an expert in, is not a black belt in marketing. You know, it's not a black belt in sales, it's not a black belt in web design, it's not black belt in any of these things.

I think that's the greatest thing to overcome is, you spend so many years of your life earning this ranking, and earning this respect from your community and from your students and from the parents, that you kind of… I feel like a lot of martial arts business owners don't want to give that respect up, or give that responsibility to someone else, you know? Take control of your lifestyle.

Now, for me personally, I've spent a lot of money learning how to do Facebook ads, not just from the obvious sources, but I was in Benson Mastermind for 6 months and spent nearly $20,000 learning how to do Facebook ads, because that's something that I'm really good at. But if I did it for 6 months and wasn't getting any results, you'd better believe I would have hired someone else to do it, because you need to be humble enough to admit that you're not always the best person to do every single job.

GEORGE: Yeah, it's such a valuable skill and the way I find it is, you know, I personally think everybody should understand and know their own marketing. You know, we come from a done-for-you background, where we used to do everything for school owners, but I really feel that for and it's an old top marketer, Dan Kennedy, top copywriter. You know, he always had this philosophy of, there's two things in your business that you don't hand over: one is the checkbook – the old term, we don't have those anymore. Some youngsters will be asking what is that.

So the checkbook and the marketing. And I'm not saying that you should do everything, but if you have the strategy, finding the hands is a lot easier. But you know, the reverse side a lot of school owners are trying to do is find the cheapest resource to do it all for them and if that cheap resource had the strategy, they would not be cheap. Right? So it's good to always have, get the top knowledge from the top person and then finding the hands within your own organisation is much easier.

ADAM: Yeah, I agree. I think another place that a lot of martial arts business owners go wrong is that they might say, well, it's easy for you to say hire a marketing agency, you've got 250 students. But really, I didn't have it at the start. I put $500 on a Facebook ad when I didn't have $500 in my bank account, in the business account. That's just the truth.

Because in my experience, I knew with my knowledge that I will be able to get the paid trials, that it would create the income that would cover that ad spent. I think a lot of martial arts business owners don't charge enough for their services, that's for sure. Someone told me once they were charging like $50 a term, or unlimited classes, but I could have 500 students. Well, on that price, I probably only need like 90.

GEORGE: Yeah. You know, we – and I'm storming you on this topic, because this is probably the most important part of it all. I did a video yesterday about the toughest martial arts stretch in business. It's that discomfort of actually doing the discomfort, you just mentioned something that really, it's something that I had to go through, you know? You're saying that you spent $500 on ads and you knew there wasn't $500 in the account.

I remember 10 years ago when I started doing Google ads and I was on my last cents and I was like, this is it. I'm actually just going to leave this, until I made a sale. $37 was the best sale I ever made, someone in America bought an ebook. That was… the fact that somebody bought an offer that converted – and that's the hardest part, right? Having your offer, a valuable offer that people respond to and they actually buy, that's one of the hardest things. But then, to get to that point, you're going to have to take an uncomfortable step, there's no doubt about it, right?

ADAM: Yeah. I think the uncomfortable step George is especially when people have day jobs. They say that's an easy way. It's an easy excuse, I have a day job, I work till 3 o'clock, I go straight to the club, teach classes till 7-8 o'clock, whenever it is. To be honest, if you didn't want to have a day job and teach classes, maybe this isn't the business for you. Maybe that's my youth speaking, I’m not sure, but I went into it fully knowing that I was going to work 14 hours for as long as it took, until I could get a full time centre, until I could train my staff. Until I could have a little bit more freedom, like I do now. For example. I have time to talk to you today, because I don't have a day job.

GEORGE: There you go. And I guess just to be clear right? I mean, if that's the life you want – perfect. But it's really easy to believe our own bs, right? To really believe our own excuses and justify a reason. Because that's always the first thing I pick up in a conversation: I don't have this, because of this. But it's really a choice, because I mean, it's the story that – sorry, excuse the pun.

ADAM: Hahaha!

GEORGE: But the story you tell yourself to justify the reason why you're not there. But that's where you've got to really challenge yourself and really challenge yourself to say, all right, well, is that really true? I mean if this is thing that I really want, then hey – do the uncomfortable thing. Whether that's spending money on the ads, or quitting your job, or whatever that is, but do that thing that's holding you back.

ADAM: Yeah, I’ll add contrast to my athletic career. In competition, I was gearing up for the 2016 Rio Olympic games. I got onto what's called Olympic shadow team. So it was essentially, it's the team that you kind of get put into and then they select the Olympis athletes out of that team. Now, I didn't end up going to the Olympics, I was just on the shadow, that was the end of the journey for me, in terms of Rio.

On the way up though, it was, I saw it after the games – my mistake: after the games, it was you know, it's not like oh, they didn't pick my weight class. Or I didn't get to go to as many competitions, or it was based on your ranking points and I didn't have the money at the time to go to all the events. Well, I also went to holiday with my girlfriend at the time. I also went out with my friends on weekends, spent $30-$40.

On a cheap night out as well. So it was… you kind of have to be OK with saying, you know, it's my fault. I didn't go to the Olympics and I 100% take the responsibility for that. If I go and start blaming Australian taekwondo, or start blaming the Olympic committee, soon it will be my whole life hating people when really I caused the situation. I think the martial arts business is the same, because I could've stayed on 50 students and only worked the classes, gone home, had dinner, gone to sleep.

But I went home, I wrote more messages, created more flyers, created more social media content, entered all the direct debits in – I was doing everything, until 10:30-11:00 o'clock at night, for at least the first 9 months, because I had a day job at a special ed school, where I was at from 8 till 3:30. And before any of that would start, I was at the gym training for competitions. So I think, if anything went wrong, even though I was working 12-15 hour days, I still said you know what? That parent didn't know about the grading, or this person didn't get the email, because we entered their email address wrong in the system – that's my fault.

Because I didn't train the receptionist to double check, right? I didn't train my instructor to remind every single parent every class, instead of every second class. No matter what happens in your business, eventually it all leads back to you, the owner. The CEO essentially, it’s all on you. So I think that's an easy escape when you have a day job, I definitely don't think excuses good enough.

GEORGE: Yeah. That's awesome. Ok, cool, so we start with the end in mind, right? So you're building up your systems, 500 students, does this work with 500 students. So what's the next step? You get to, you've gone from 0, you've gone to the easiest few to track,right? The first 50, or the first 100 students?

ADAM: Yeah, the first 3 months we got 60 sign ups, the first 3 months. We were at a community centre, so the rent is like a $100 a week, so 60 is plenty. We started looking at a full time centre. We found a full time centre quite quickly, permits take a little while as they do, but we get in there for. So we spent one term in a part time location, wasn't going to work with 60 students three nights a week. Open up a full time, 5 nights a week. Fitted it out, etc.

Now, you go from that local point, I think 50-60, past our next breaking point, which was 100, that's an obvious goal, to get to a 100 students. The thing was, finding people who knew more than me. So I'm a big proponent and anyone can ask me at anytime any questions they like on Facebook: if you are not in MABS, you are losing your mind. Paul Veldman and Rod have such an excellent program. I did the work, but I base a lot of my success on coaching from people like Paul and Rod.

I also spent the money and went to The Main Event two months after opening my business. It wasn’t, oh, that will be good to do next year when we have more cash – how are we going to get the cash? I'm going to The Main Event to learn from all these guys. To learn from guys like you. I've been in the business a grand total of 8 weeks, so yeah, I actually presented at that main event on coaching. Not on business, but on coaching.

GEORGE: I actually didn't realize that when I met you, that was your, that you had just actually started your martial arts school.

ADAM: Yeah, it was hard in the round table I think, because it's kind of hard to listen to someone who's had a total of two months on business, but I had more students than most of these guys I think.

GEORGE: Well there you go. Again, the discomfort. The discomfort of, you know, you're in a situation and, I mean, you're being true to what you know, it's not like you're deceiving anyone, but you're pushing yourself that extra step. And that's just so important, in everything that we…… it seems to be the topic we sort of hammer on every year.

ADAM: What I was going to say was, after The Main Event I actually, I remember something that Paul was saying, Paul Veldman was saying about taking action. So I didn't want to be one of those school owners who fills their notepad full of notes, or fills their computer full of notes, goes home and says, geez, it was fun catching up with everyone. Business as usual. That's ridiculous, right? What a waste of time and money! I just went right to it. Every single note in my main event notebook has been actioned. Every single one. I did the 7-word email that you talked about when I had only 20 people to send it to. And I still got three of them back.

So every single thing that happened at The Main Event, I implemented straight away. Every coaching call that I had with Paul, everything that someone would ask in the group at the time, every question that someone asked, I wrote a note and implemented it in my business, that day. And not, oh, I’m going to do this next week when I have more time, or,  geez, on Sunday I'm going out with the family, I’ll do it another time. You got to get stuff done.

GEORGE: So going from the part time school, you made sure that you had some cash in the bank, so you made sure there was some directive that's coming in and that was the first step to get you to the full time location. And then pushing through that 100 students and past, how did things look from there?

ADAM: So yeah, when we were at the full time centre, we had I think 55, there was a couple of kids… even if you move 3-4 blocks down the road, a couple of kids don't really want to drive the extra distance, that's OK. So we came in at 50-55. We knew we needed 70 to pay the bills.

So we actually moved into the full time centre, without enough students to pay the bills for the full time centre. So as soon as we moved in, we were about a month away from closing down the business entirely and stuck with a three year lease. So what I did was, we ran a big media open day, talked to all the business coaches, all my other friends who have martial arts business, all my former coaches. What do you do at an open day… I mean, I used to work at these open days when I was a trainer at schools as well, so ran the open day, got 25 on the day. Hit 75, bills are covered – beauty. Then we immediately went into term 1, so we went through referral, we did a bring a friend week, nerf gun nights, all that kind of stuff.

And this is stuff that everyone who listens to the podcast have heard before, but I think they probably should do it more frequently. So we were doing nerf gun nights once a term, open day, we would do family day in term 4, which was kind of an open day on a smaller scale, you know? You would get 10-15 sign ups for a very small advertising budget in term 4 and we hit a 100  just after September. So it took us a little bit less than 9 months to get a 100 students.

GEORGE: Ok, cool. Were just breaking up a little bit there. Ok, so 9 months, you were at 100 students, right?

ADAM: Yeah.

GEORGE: Ok, cool. So lots of events, open days, nerf gun wars and really involving the community within the school at that time.

ADAM: Yeah, and I think a really important point to make on the rapid growth after that point was, we really started realizing we were on to something special and that was probably my first mistake in the business, was, we got to a 100 so quickly, 200 was going to be so easy. But we just got to a 100 in less than 9 months, 200 is going to be a cinch. We hadn't even ever had a term one back to school special, because we opened later.

So we never even got that big kind of initial boost most martial arts business owners hope and pray for the entire year. So we were kind of looking forward to term one and $6000-$7000 ready to spend on Facebook ads, we had only $1000-$2000 in the bank at the time, we were still only just scraping by, we had to hire another instructor. Because of the rapid growth of the club, so we had another instructor on the mats and we were really looking forward to that term one boost.

We get to term one, come back 91 students on the books in January, I know it was specifically 91. I was like, you know what? This is going to be the last time that I ever have less than a 100 students. It's going to be the last time ever that I have less than a 100. So we put a big amount, I think we spent $14,000 in 2 months, and we got 135 paid trials in one location. So we had a huge amount of kids, we ran the open day again, so a campaign ride up to 200 straight away.

So the biggest mistake we made was not adhering to our own rule, which is, does this work at 500. And the systems that we had been in place at the time were working and we thought they were going to work at 500, but all of a sudden 130 brand new white belts in the door in the first kind of six weeks of the term wasn't a very good idea. So we probably should have been less aggressive with our marketing, even though it's kind of hard to give up money and students and enrolments. We should have set a limit, where 60-70 trials – we stop selling trials, because we ended up losing I think like 60-70 of those kids anyway.

So out of a 135, I think we only kept like 50. So we ended up under 140 students, whereas if we had better systems and maybe more things in place for retention of new white belts, not just retention of the whole club, but white belt retention specifically, we would have done a better job at keeping a larger number of those 135 trials that we got in that month.

GEORGE: Ok, and so that's a good point there, you know, it's always good to say, if only I got an extra 100 students or something, but again, how does the system fall apart on that? How does it impact your existing students and of course your new students. So if you had to, let's say, depending on when you're listening to this, but let's say the new year, you run another campaign and you get another influx of 135 students – how will you structure this differently? What would you have in place to make sure to have a smooth onboarding?

ADAM: To be honest, I’m going to try and stop it before it got to that point, because in the business now, there's a lot of color belts obviously, there's kids going through the advanced levels now that we’ve been open for a little bit and I really think that I would stop at 70-80 trials and then just stop the ads right there. And you know, those kids are going to join eventually, those extra 50-60 kids that I haven't sold the trials to, but if I could get 80 and keep 65-70 of them, it's a lot better and also, I haven't spent a lot of money on ads for kids that are going to have a negative experience in my centre, just because it's so jam packed with white belts.

Everyone knows, you have to give those white belts extra special attention, it's very hard to give extra special attention to 22 white belts in a new class. It's just impossible, in a 30-40 minute class. It's not possible. I mean, any big school owner and what we get into now, being a big school is that they realize that even if you're teaching good classes, the parents might not see that they’re classes, because there's 30 kids running around. Even though you're a good instructor, it might not look like you're a good instructor to them and at the end of the day, they're paying the bills.

So I think that's what we’re really trying to curb, is making sure that the parents know that I’m teaching good classes. I'm obviously teaching good classes, we have this many students, we’re taping a lot of them. My recent boost for this, we had 97% sign up from trials, no word of a lie. So anyone who's listening I can send a screenshot. So all those kids that are staying in, obviously we’re running a good program. But the challenge now becoming a bigger school is, can you run a good program at 500?

So back to that initial rule again – is this going to work, even though it's worked up until now, is it going to work with 500? And the way that I'm teaching the classes now, I'm making the mat chats a bit more vocal. I'm making the kids laugh and go and give their parents a high five and that kind of thing. Come back into the class, go tell your mom that you just had a good time, that kind of stuff. So we’re really working now on making the parents part of the experience.

I've listened to a really good podcast about Airbnb launching their experiences platform, where instead of renting a house, you can rent an experience. So you can go horseback riding in Utah, or do a samurai show in Tokyo and those kinds of things, so I think the challenge for us now is what's the Story Martial Arts experience look like? For a student, everyone knows what it looks, they're learning martial arts, they're building their character, they’re building up their skills.

But what does the Story Martial Arts experience feel like for a parent watching a class? For a parent who's at the end of the day deciding what happens to the child, the child might be getting better at taekwondo or getting better at karate, that's the truth. They might be getting better at their martial art. They might be having a lot of fun. But does the parent think they’re getting better? Does the parent think that they’re having fun? Does the parent see the value in paying whatever it is you charge a week, because if you believe it and the kid believes it, it doesn't matter. Because the most important missing link in that chain is the parent who decides.

GEORGE: That is… that was pure gold, that was awesome. Adam, before we wrap it up, I do want to ask you just, how do things look now and what's going to be your prime focus from 250 through to that 500 student mark that you've been, that's been on the goal?

ADAM: Like I said earlier, the prime focus is working at a big business scale now where we’re at. It's moving from a medium size martial arts school to a very large martial arts school. And what I’m doing is listening to a lot of podcasts and reading a lot of books about people who own gym franchises, so Anytime Fitness has 500,000 members nationwide, so imagine the retention they have to put on a gym. Obviously, there's no martial arts school anywhere near that, so what my sign up experience was, I've been kind of going around the gyms and trying to sign up, I would literally spend an hours of my day going to gyms, asking about membership plans and seeing how they treat me as a potential client.

And I've been taking the best parts and leaving out the worst, preparing for that big influx in January. Like we said at the top of the show, I think I’m opening a pilates business as well, so not really the topic of this podcast, but pilates and martial arts running together under the Story group company, how will we give that experience to the customer? How are we going to improve their life through this signup process? Not through what were teaching on the mats, because that's obvious, everyone knows that. It doesn't need to be repeated a 1000 times: good classes, make sure you’re good at martial arts, invest in the staff training – everyone knows that.

But how pleasurable is that signup process? How do they go away thinking, geez, I can't believe I got away with that value. How can we even offer more and more value, not on the mat when they come in, because everyone is already working on that. But what we’re not working on in an industry I believe is giving out those gift bags and offering free sausages to the community, going around, giving out things like at shopping centre's and things like that. Things that big gyms do, because they work. Martial arts businesses, I think, miss out on the signup experience a lot. So I guess that's my focus, is making sure the parents and the students enjoy the classes, obviously they have to enjoy the classes to stay, but also enjoy the process of purchasing a trial, how easy is it to buy it. Come into the class, how welcoming is my staff, that kind of thing.

GEORGE: Fantastic, I love it. Adam, we should have done this sooner, thanks for being on the show, it was really great.

ADAM: No worries.

GEORGE: And I think a lot of people are going to get a lot of value out of this, just, I mean, the beginning of the story and it's all value, but I think really focus on what you said in these last few minutes of the experience – that's true gold and it's something I haven't really heard a lot of people talk about, yet, I’d really take that on board. If anybody wants to get a hold of you, you mentioned as well, you’re bringing out an ebook, can you just tell me something about that?

ADAM: Yeah, so the ebook is called ”Offering value – how to scale your business through the mathematics of kindness.” So it's really about the journey from 0 to 250, the last 12-18 months now and how are we planning on offering even more value, not taking more monetary value, but offering even more value to our customers and really building an experience inside of our martial arts business.

We’re also going to go over a lot things about irresistible offers, so how have we been able to attract all the leads and more importantly, how we have been able to sign up a staggering rate of those trials that have come up. I don't think we’ve ever had below 80% except for that one time where there was a big rush. So yeah, the book is called offering value. It's going to come out at the end of January, just in time for the back to school marketing. It's going to be on Amazon, there's no courses at the end no paid groups, it's just me, offering value to the martial arts business industry.

GEORGE: Fantastic. And I will link to that in the show notes, depending on when you're listening to this, that will be available. And Adam, thanks again.

Awesome. Thanks for listening. If you want to connect with other top, smart martial arts school owners, and have a chat about marketing, lead generation, what's working now, or just have a gentle rant about things that are happening in the industry, then I want to invite you to join our Facebook group. It’s a private Facebook group and in there, I share a lot of extra videos and downloads and worksheets – thing that are working for us when we help school owners grow and share a couple of video interviews and a bunch of cool extra resources.

So it’s called the martial arts media community and an easy way to access it is, if you just go to the domain named martialartsmedia.group, so martialartsmedia.group, G-R-O-U-P, there's no .com or anything, martialartsmedia.group. That will take you straight there. Request to join and I will accept your invitation.

Thanks – I'll speak to you on the next episode – 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.

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