Many martial arts school owners long for a martial arts digital agency that delivers new students on demand without having to lift a finger. But Beware! This pipedream could cost you your business. Here’s the pitfalls to avoid and what to do instead.
IN THIS EPISODE:
- Pitfalls to avoid when working with a martial arts marketing agency
- Who owns your digital assets?
- Local digital marketing agency: Do they have proven, irresistible martial arts offers?
- What media should you use when running Facebook or Google ads?
- Why most martial arts schools don't need a marketing agency
- And more
*Need help growing your martial arts school? Learn More Here.
Hey, it's George Fourie. Welcome to the Martial Arts Media™ Business podcast. In this episode, I'm going to be talking about digital marketing agencies for martial arts schools. Martial arts, marketing agencies, however, you want to word that.
Do you need one? Do you need to hire an agency? And if you do, what are the pitfalls to avoid? What should you be avoiding? What questions should you be asking? What should you be looking out for? All are covered in this episode.
Make sure you stick around to the end and I'll share with you how you can download an actual checklist with everything discussed, all the questions to ask, pitfalls to avoid and so forth. All right, let's jump in.
All right. So let's talk about digital marketing agencies and do you actually need to hire one? I've got to start this one with a short story, and the story actually involves how I, one time, lost a valued podcast listener by my actions and I don't regret it. I've got to share the story. I've probably shared this in a previous podcast, but I think it's relevant if you haven't heard it. It's a relevant story for what we are talking about today.
All right. A couple of years ago, a podcast listener reached out to me and said, “Hey, George, love the podcast. Got a quick question. Which channels are the best for advertising a martial arts school? Is it Facebook or is it Google? Facebook ads or Google ads?”
And I replied, “Good question. It depends on a few factors, which it does. Facebook strategy works like this. Google strategy works like this. If I was doing this myself and trying it, this is the one that I would go for, which was Facebook in this case.”
I said, “Curious, just why are you asking?” And he replied and said, “Thanks for the information, but I'm actually starting a digital marketing agency for martial arts schools and I just wanted to know which channel works best.” And that got me fired up a bit. I said, “Hang on. You're opening a marketing agency and you are asking me which platform to advertise on. How are you going to actually take people's hard-earned money and run ads for them if you've never done it yourself?”
And then his response fired me up even more. And he said, “Oh, that's okay. I'm just going to hire someone offshore to do it for me and run the agency that way.” And that made me boil over.
And I can't recall the exact reply that I messaged back, but I said, “Look, the world does not work like that and you cannot take people's hard-earned money and charge them and think some magical person offshore is just going to know what to do.” Now, there is a way to use an offshore person, and I might share this in this episode, but that's definitely not the way to go about it.
And so I wanted to start that with caution because, well, as a warning, really, if someone is not charging you a premium fee to run ads, which is quite a hard thing to do, they're probably not going to do a very good job.
Now, I must admit the industry's come a long way and I've been doing this for a long time. Facebook wasn't around when I started digital marketing. I started by hard trial and error, wasting a lot of money. It was way harder to run ads back in the day than it is now. So things have evolved. The industry has evolved and agencies have also evolved, but there are a few pet peeves and pitfalls you got to watch out for.
Pet peeves I have about agencies and pitfalls that you should watch out for, and there's this dream scenario for martial arts school I know is you could just do what you love. You could just do the teaching. You could just show up. There are always students and you just do what you love.
That is the dream scenario and you could definitely achieve that, but is an agency always the answer to do that? And I'm going to say no because I've played on both sides of the coin. This is purely from my experience. I want to give props to really good agencies that are out there and that have really evolved in the martial arts space, but I still want to approach this with a word of caution because I've seen the pitfalls and I've seen how things adapt. At the end of the day, you as the martial arts school owner are worse off.
Another just trip down in history, memory lane. So the way I got started in this industry before I started our Partners group, where we helped martial arts school on a scale worth marketing and attracting the right students, increasing sign-ups and retaining more members, we were an agency and I started my agency with this dream idea. If we could just do everything for martial arts school owners, they would be better off and I really believed that.
And I really wanted to create something magical for school owners in that way, but as we ran it and as we had clients do this, I felt that every time things didn't go right, or worst case, we parted ways with a client, the client is always worse off. The client is always worse off running by just throwing their entire energy and faith into a marketing agency to deliver leads for them every month and month-end.
When you part ways, you're always worse off because now you're left with nothing. You've got nothing. And so again, you're looking for this magical agency to do everything for you, and that was always a big concern for me is when somebody is doing the lifeblood of your business and they are responsible for it, and they're always doing it.
What if that service is not what it is a month later, or they grow too big, and now the service starts to deteriorate and they're not on top of the strategy and they need to scale, so they need to get on more clients and they need to hire more staff. And now the person that you hired, isn't even touching your account anymore and your costs are going through the roof.
So for you to be better off, I'm going to go through a couple of things that you should be watching out for, pitfalls to avoid, and things to consider when you are hiring an agency.
By the way, if you're listening to us or wherever you're watching us, go to martialartsmedia.com/132, that's the numbers one, three, two. I'll have a checklist where you can download all these questions and that you've got just a guide for the right questions to ask if you're ever going to hire an agency.
All right, here we go. First up, let's just start with a few pitfalls. Who keeps the data? Number one, if they're going to run your ads, who keeps the data, and this goes hand in hand with, are you going to be better off? Meaning if somebody comes and they're running the ads for you, then who keeps the data? Are they hanging onto the data or will you actually get the data?
Meaning if you ever left the agency, are you going to be better off or are you going to be back to square one, back to where you were before you started with the agency and you've got no way to generate more leads? So you've learned nothing. You've gathered nothing. You've gained nothing other than, of course, the leads that you got. But when you leave the agency, you're back to square one.
And so with that, the follow-up question to ask on that, whose ad account do they run the ads from? Is it your ad account or is it an account that they have and they just run your page through that? Because if they're doing that, that means they are keeping all the data. I had a local company here that I helped out in Perth, Australia, just another nightmare story from an agency.
They had developed a website for this martial arts school and they were running the Google ads and they never handed over admin access. So they'd spend five to $10,000 on this website with combined services. Well, mainly for the website and they didn't get handed over the admin access to the website and they didn't want to hand it over when they moved. So they made it super uncomfortable for them.
So they'd paid for something that they had no ownership rights to because they had no login details to the hosting company or the website company, and I was just shocked that any company would hold a business hostage like that.
And that's the first time I'd seen that unethicalness in an industry. And I picked a big fight with them and called them for what it is because they knew what they were doing was unethical. After a long fight, they handed it over, but it really opened my eyes to realize that hang on, when agencies are trying to scale, they take shortcuts.
And so they'll take your money and they won't set up an account for you in your name. They'll run it on their account, which means they always keep the data and they hang onto all the assets. A big thing that you've got to watch out for. Which accounts are they running it from? And are you going to be better off when you leave?
All right, let's go to the next step. What type of offer are they running? Now, if you are running a niche agency that's in the martial arts space, hopefully, they've tested some offers. But if you go looking for the local agency, the problem that you're going to find with the local agency is they probably have not fine-tuned the right offer for a martial arts school.
So they don't know what strategy works and that is something that takes experience and it takes a lot of testing. And so if you are the guinea pig and you are the first guy that they're testing, they're not going to know if it's going to be a free trial, a paid trial.
They're not going to know which wording to use, which copy. They might be as experienced as they are, but they are used to running ads for corporate-type companies. And so they've got this corporate type strategy, which means the strategy they're going to use for you is going to cost you a lot, and it's going to take a long time for you to get results.
How much experience does that company actually have with martial arts schools? Are they going to get you the results that you want or are you going to have to burn through a lot of money before they get to a result? All right.
So let's talk about strategy. What strategy are they using to generate leads? And are they on top of these strategies? So here's something that's happening in the digital space right now. At the time we're recording this 2022, there's been a lot of shifts and things happening on platforms.
Facebook has still been the dominant ad platform. There are emerging platforms, more Instagram, which is under the Facebook umbrella. TikTok is doing a lot of things. So are YouTube ads. So there are a lot of things happening, but is the strategy that you are using going to work now and in the long run, or are they hanging onto an old strategy, which means it doesn't really work that much on the platform anymore.
And so you're spending way too much money to generate leads. So now you've got this massive fee for the agency and your ad costs are way higher because they are doing the wrong strategy to get you the result.
Now, maybe you don't have to touch it and that's okay, but you're burning through a lot of cash and way too much cash for something that could be actually done if it was really, really simple, because I'll go through quickly, something that we do with our martial arts school clients. We work on getting the offer right. We spend a lot of time on this.
We've helped our school-owner clients generate way more than 7,000 paid trials through our process. So it's something that we've refined and tested, so we know it works in different styles for karate, four TaeKwonDo, for jiu-jitsu. We've played around with various offers in all styles and modified it.
We know what offer works best for which style and which offer works best in a scenario. So how are you going to sign people up afterwards? Is it going to be a free trial or you're going to run a paid trial and then sign people up? What's your sales process going to be because it's all got to be congruent. Your front-end offers really got to be congruent with your sales process on the back end.
And so if an agency doesn't know that flow that works, number one, and that compliments your strengths, well, there's going to be things that break in between. That's a big thing to consider.
First up, we look at how we craft the irresistible offer? Now, you can run a bad ad with a good offer and get great results, but you can't run a great ad with a bad offer. So we know that if we craft the perfect offer for our clients, they're going to get results. And then we go through the process of how to run an ad that gets results. And how do you go by testing and refining the process so that you'll get the best results from your ads? And it's a really simple process and formula.
And then after that is, well, how do you do the follow-up? How do you follow people up and how do you use a strategy that is congruent with how the platforms work right now? Because as we speak right now on Facebook, for example, if you are sending people away from Facebook, meaning they got to click on a website link or go to a page, that's great, but Facebook doesn't want you to leave Facebook.
Your strategy to optimize for people clicking away from Facebook is way more expensive than if you had the conversation within Facebook. Got to admit, this was a hard pill for me to swallow because I'm used to being the website guy and developing landing pages.
And so it took a lot of adjusting for my mindset first up to adapt to that, but there's a simple strategy like we use our Messenger signup method where you can follow up with people within Facebook and your conversion rate is way much higher and your cost per lead is way, way less. What is the strategy that your agency's taking, and is that congruent with how things work today?
All right, let's look at another thing. Media. Okay. Media means videos or photos, for example. What are they going to use, and have they tested it? If they're going to recommend the video, well, there's a whole list of boxes to tick with the video.
Now, generally speaking, people say video is better on social media. It is, but generally speaking, not on ads. Video for the most part is not better on ads. And look, there's an exception to the rule and I'm generally speaking, generally.
If people think video is better, then everybody says, “Hey, let's go do video.” Well, can you craft a good video? And that doesn't mean a video that's got a logo circling for 10 seconds, where by that time everybody's left or it's a video that the videographer student, maybe someone that's got great intentions and they're a student with you and they created for you, but have they crafted a video that conveys a structured sales message and gets people to take action?
That is a whole different ball game. So just because you can edit on video software does not mean you can create a video that's going to drive a conversion. Completely different thing.
What media should you use and how are they going to go about that? Now, they might say, “Well, we've tested these stock images,” and that's great. Now, I've got a bit of a pet peeve with stock images because again, it's not congruent and it looks fake. People can see what is fake and what is real.
And here's the thing, they've probably seen everybody else use the same images in your area as well. Do stock images work? Again, an exception to the rule, but do you really want to portray a fake image about what it is that you offer and then people arrive at your school and there's a complete disconnect about there's no congruence with what they saw and what they're getting at your school.
What images are they going to use and what are they going to recommend? So they're probably going to say, “Look, use these stock images.” All right. Maybe it works. Maybe it doesn't, but in the long run, it's going to tarnish your reputation, and it's going to do damage to your brand at the end of the day.
We got a strategy we followed. We did a course with Francine Schaepper. We did The Smartphone Photography Masterclass, and in that, we cover the process of how do you take the photos? And it's not rocket science. It's the kind of thing that when you learn it, you know it and you know what to look for.
And there's a whole bunch of things that go into that, but it's something that you got to know. And if you don't know it, then you, depending on this agency, deliver all these results for you, but what are they going to use to get the message out and is it going to be congruent with your brand?
So we teach our clients just the basics, what to look for, what type of photos should you be taking, and how many people should be in the photos. Smiling faces is always a plus and go about the testing and then roll the ad out and just do the testing. So it's really a simple process to follow if you know what to do.
And so that for me begs the question, do you actually need an agency? Now, what I'm not saying is you have to be running the ads and be hands-on all your life in marketing. But the danger is, if you give your lifeblood over to a marketing company, you have to hope that they're around today, in 3 years, in 5 years and 10 years. So you've not only got to hope that they're a good marketer, but you've got to hope that they're a good business owner and know how to run an agency.
In the agency world, there used to be this thing of there's a breakpoint at, I think, it's 20 clients, that when you've got 20 clients and 20 ad accounts to run, the agency owner typically breaks because they just got to keep employing staff and keep employing staff, unless they're just doing a cookie-cutter approach and doing the same thing for everyone. In our experience, that is not a good strategy to go by.
One of our frequent guests, Kevin Blundell, we were chatting about running ads way back. And we were looking at ad accounts from two different locations and we were running the same offer in two different locations, with the same strategy. One went through the roof and the other one crickets. And so when somebody takes a blanket approach and doesn't assess things specifically for your location, again, you're going to spend way more to get the results and probably it's going to be costly.
And then the danger is, let's say they did deliver. So let's say you got the guy and he was a great marketer. He's a great marketer. So he is a great marketer and he's getting the results, but now he hits that benchmark. Well, he's got 20 clients plus. Now, he's got a scale. And so now employs the staff member to run it, and the staff member still needs to learn the strategy and experiment. And the person that you hired gets more and more detached from the actual process and your ads start to decline and decline and decline and decline and decline.
And so here you are, and you're like, well, this isn't working anymore and you don't know what to do because you are disconnected from the strategy. You don't know the offers, you don't know what works, and you don't have access to the data.
And so you decide, all right, well, I'm going to do the next thing and look for another agency to run this, and here you go back on the train. The lifeblood of your business is always dependent on somebody else looking after it, and you just have to have the hope strategy. You hope and pray that they deliver for a long time.
And so when it comes to the way we go about it, we know that most school owners don't need an agency. Number one, you can save a lot of money doing it yourself, but the other thing is you get an insight about your business that you will not get when you work through an agency because you know what offers work, you know what people respond to, and that is something that you don't just do in your ads, but now you start duplicating that across the board with internal marketing and running flyer campaigns or internal flyers or other advertising platforms that you want to work on.
So you've got the insight and you know what people respond to because you've got a hands-on overview. Now, does that mean you've got to always be hands-on? Definitely not. But if you've got the strategy and you know how this works, then finding the hands to do that is really easy.
We've got a few school owner clients that we work with that are growing the family business and they've either got their kids that are taking over the business, or they've got other instructors that want to be hands-on in the business.
And so slowly, they're just handing over the reins to them. They keep the data, they keep the strategy and they hang onto it and everything grows within the organization, and that way everybody's hands-on, everyone knows which strategies work, which offers work, and you can get students on-demand without knowing that the livelihood of your business is dependent on X, Y, Z business and you got to hope and pray that they're going to be around in the next five, 10 years.
Anyway, there was a lot more that I wanted to cover. I have spoken about a few of these things before, but I just wanted to give you a good perspective on what to look out for, and what to watch for. Head over to martialartsmedia.com/132, numbers one, three, two, and you can download a resource, just all the questions and all these things that we've just discussed, what to ask, what to look out for, and hope that helps.
Anyway, thanks so much for watching and listening. I'll see you in the next episode. Cheers.
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