Quickest Way To Get New Students?

get new martial arts students

You know, I spend a lot of time on this blog explaining how to get new students in your martial arts school.

However, there’s one really simple way to get new students that many school owners overlook or dismiss offhand…

We’ll get to that in a minute. But first, let’s quickly list all the various ways you can market your school these days:

  • Website/SEO
  • Pay-per-click ads (Facebook ads, Google ads, etc.)
  • Business cards and VIP guest passes
  • Direct mail
  • Door hangers
  • Email marketing
  • Print ads
  • Signage (school, auto, yard signs, banners, etc.)
  • Facebook
  • TikTok
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Linkedin
  • Nextdoor
  • Blogging
  • Local classified ads sites
  • Guest column in local publications (offline and online)
  • Fliers (you might think this doesn’t work, but it does if you do it properly)
  • Public events
  • Radio ads
  • Youtube videos

And that was just off the top of my head. That’s over 20 different ways to get the word out on your business. Phew!

Focus On The Most Effective Marketing Methods

But seriously, most of you don’t have time to use all the above methods to market your business each month. So, you need to apply Pareto’s Principle (which I’ve been harping on since I wrote Small Dojo Big Profits ten years ago) and focus on the top 20% of marketing methods that are going to bring you 80% of your business.

No idea? No worries, I’ll let you know so you don’t have to waste your time, energy, and money figuring it out. In my experience (and according to feedback from my blog readers) the most effective marketing methods for martial arts schools are online marketing, guest passes, flyering/door hangers, and snipe signs.

But What’s The Quickest Way To Get Students?

But what’s the quickest way to get new students?

Some of you might say, “online marketing.” And you would be wrong, although it is currently the king daddy of all marketing methods for martial arts schools as far as results go. It’s just not the quickest…

Direct marketing? Again, effective but not necessarily the fastest way to get new students.

Social media? Nope, but we’re at least in the general neighborhood now.

Tired of guessing yet? Alright, I’ll spill the beans. The absolute fastest way to get new students in your school is…

Having highly satisfied customers.

Crazy? Like A Fox… Here’s How To Double Your Enrollment Overnight

I know, I know… you’re thinking I’ve flipped my lid. However, this is in fact the fastest way to get new students.

Think about it – if every single one of your students was so satisfied with your school and the service you provide that they told all their friends about it, and that resulted in each student referring just one new member –

Yep. You’d double your enrollment this month.

“Now wait a sec’, hold on Mike, because you’re not accounting for attrition. People drop out you know.”

Uh-huh. They do, but that’s most often because they’re dissatisfied with the service they’re getting. So, not only is customer satisfaction the quickest way to get new students, it’s also the best way to plug those holes in your retention.

Getting Raving Fans

So, how do you ensure that your students go out in your community and rave about your school?

Three things:

  1. Ask
  2. Listen
  3. Respond

Let’s examine each and see how this simple three-step process can lead to greater customer satisfaction.


In order to know what your customers want, first you have to ask them what they’re looking for in a martial arts school. This starts from day one when you follow up on that lead and schedule their first lesson. You should be asking every prospective student what they want to get out of training at your school.

And, the process should continue by asking for feedback frequently from your members. You can easily do this with online surveys (using Survey Monkey or another service), by using email surveys in your email newsletter, or by posting surveys on your school Facebook page.

In addition, you can simply ask your students what they’d like to see more of in your school, and what they’d like to see improve. Then…


Listening is a learned skill, and it’s not learned or practiced often enough. Listening to your students, and I mean really listening, and then unpacking that information into actionable intelligence, is the best way I know how to please my clients.

There’s an old saying in marketing: “Sell them what they want, so you can give them what they need.” This goes doubly true in our industry. Martial arts training is difficult. Getting a black belt is difficult. Learning to protect yourself is difficult. If you only sold the difficult parts, you’d never have any students.

However, if you listen to what your students say they want from martial arts training, and then deliver that along with all the difficult stuff they need, you’ll end up with a lot of satisfied customers.

So, listen to your students. And especially, listen to the “negative” feedback. Negative feedback is a gift – don’t discount it. Often, people we want to dismiss as “difficult” are actually early warning signals that we’re slipping, or that we have room for improvement. Granted, you can’t please everyone, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make an attempt.

Okay, so gather up all that feedback, good and bad, because next it’s time to…


Notice that “respond” comes after listening. This is an important point. You can’t listen while you’re responding. Moreover, I would like to make it clear that by “responding” I don’t mean talking. I especially don’t mean telling your clients why their ideas are of no value to you. And, I certainly don’t mean arguing with a dissatisfied customer.

Nope. What I really mean is taking all that useful intelligence you collected in the “listen” step, and acting on it.

This could mean taking extra care to keep your school clean. Or it could mean adding a few classes. Or teaching more exciting classes. Or spending more time working students out than expounding on the history of your art during class. Or whatever.

The main thing is that you act on whatever your clients are asking for from you. Sometimes, this can mean swallowing your pride. Do it. Otherwise you are going to be the proudest owner of an empty dojo, ever.

Meditation Time

I want you to consider what it would mean to your school and your bottom line if your enrollment doubled over the next few months. All it takes is doing such a fantastic job that every single student goes out and tells their friends about your school (of course, giving them free guest passes to hand out doesn’t hurt, either).

So, this very week I want you to set up a customer feedback survey for your school, using one of the methods I mentioned earlier in this article. Make sure it’s anonymous, so you can be sure you’re getting honest feedback.

Put this into action this very week, and by next week I assure you you’ll have a ton of ideas on how you can improve your school and better serve your clients.

Feel free to post your questions and feedback in the space below (and incidentally, if you let me know what you’d like to see in future articles, I’m likely to show my appreciation by writing on those very topics).


  1. Sensei Bryan Knotts on May 17, 2019 at 6:15 am

    I really enjoyed, and agree with your article! I have a small start up school. I just started looking for students on Saturday May 11, 2019. I am using a social media page, and a website as a my main marketing tools. Any idea about how long on average these methods may take to generate first potential students? I am aware that any new social media page, or website can take time to generate interest. Any useful feedback wou5 be appreciated. Thanks!

  2. Mike Massie on June 20, 2019 at 6:16 am

    You have to send paid traffic to your site these days. Organic traffic isn’t generally enough to generate sufficient leads to grow a school.

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