Branding, Websites, UX, & SEO: Use What We Learned to Benefit Your Business

Branding word cloud on chalkboard: design, value, strategy, logo, marketing, advertising, identify, trust.

Navigating the rebranding process and launching a completely new, optimized website wasn’t easy. But it gave the Member Solutions team valuable insight into the kind of planning, techniques, and development required. To help you out, we asked our marketing department, “What did you learn from our recent rebrand and the launch of our new site?”

Meetings: Use collaborative communication tools. Be open with your team.

CLAIRE, Marketing Specialist

Aside from a having a positive attitude, open communication and having various ways to communicate really helped. One strategy we used was creating a group chat on Skype where everyone could talk and submit their observations. Another was having smaller meetings in between our scheduled large group ones to discuss specific topics, like SEO.

UX: Create a website that offers a positive, intuitive experience for your customers.

CHRIS, PPC Manager

We only have a few seconds after a user arrives at our website to grab their attention. Wasting any of those seconds can turn a potential customer away for good.

People fall into the trap of trying to pack their website full of information, keywords, and resources. These actions are things you think should help, but they hurt the user experience instead. Knowing when, where, and how to provide information is as valuable as the information itself.

Branding: Bring in fresh perspectives. Grow through flexibility & willingness to learn.

CAITLIN, Brand Manager

It was interesting coming into this project as someone who doesn’t have long-standing familiarity with the product. Because of this, I could view the content with a fresh perspective and place myself in the shoes of a potential client. Tackling the project from this viewpoint allowed me to take a step back from the content developer mentality and remember the top priority of any website our team creates: our audience.

Be flexible. No matter how much you plan and plan again, processes and strategies evolve over time. You learn from mistakes, gain new insight, and even spark fresh ideas. It’s all part of the challenge and what drives continued growth—both professionally and personally.

SEO: Plan your website’s optimization from the start. Know your industry & involve key stakeholders.

MIRANDA, Brand Manager

Consider SEO up front. At the early stages of planning, consider how SEO will play into your website structure and content. As a vital part of your strategy, you need to make sure that any decisions you make will align with your SEO goals.

Collaborate during planning. Involve all key stakeholders and team members to gather information about what your customers want and look for. Each person has a different experience with your customers, so it’s important to get multiple perspectives on the structure and content you’ve proposed for the site.

Know your industry. Research key opinion leaders, your product category, competitors, and customers so you can appropriately reflect the current needs of your industry. Take the opportunity to address present challenges and preferences with your new website rather than simply updating the appearance of your old site.

Websites: Design for clear, branded messaging in a mobile format.

LAURA, Senior Graphic Designer

It’s not enough to create a new logo and call it a day. You must update your website as well. As a designer, I cannot stress enough just how crucial it is to make your homepage clean, visually interesting, and to have a clear message. Ask yourself, “What type of company am I? What do I want to say?” You may think you’re getting your message across to the right target audience, but in the end, you may be missing the mark.

You literally have 5 to 10 seconds to make your first impression when a new visitor lands on your site. If a prospect cannot figure out who you are and what your company does in that short window of time, you’ll lose their interest or worse, future business. They are already moving to the next thing.

If your site isn’t visually appealing and built to adjust to all the different devices out in the world, your prospects will lose interest and instantly move to a competitor. People are not surfing the web on a desktop computer anymore. In fact, not being mobile friendly will even affect your rankings in Google’s search engine. It is now known that their preferred configuration is mobile responsive sites.

Another other important aspect to remember is your opinion isn’t the only one that matters. Invite friends, family, coworkers, or someone in the same industry to look at your newly refreshed website and logo. Get an outsider’s perspective. Their opinion may be completely different than how you view your company.

Content: Be authentic in your tone & brand voice. Show your audience that you’re human, too.

JENNIFER, Marketing Specialist

Your website may be the first introduction someone has to your business. Think of how you would greet someone in person: authenticity and friendliness usually open the opportunity to build rapport. Today’s savvy consumers are going to take their business to companies that speak to them personally, that make them feel valuable as individuals.

Appropriately using emotion builds that value with your audience, even when they’re not ready to purchase. Human-voiced content should not only translate through your website but through social media and advertising as well. Blogging is a great way to create and demonstrate your brand’s sense of community. Categories are a subtle way to create authority in your areas of expertise.

5 Budget-Friendly Ideas for Your Business’s Grand Opening Event

Client Question: I am opening a new business soon. Can you provide some ideas to drive traffic to my business on our grand opening day?


Chances are good that you have invested a lot of money into starting your new business. Here I’ll provide some low-budget ideas for a grand opening celebration.

1) Rent an inflatable jumpy or bouncy to place in front of your business. If you don’t have a front lawn, rent a sky tube. Add balloons, yard signs, and gigantic banners out front that read, Grand Opening—anything that will make people look at your location. Use your connections, too. Know someone that owns a hot rod, race car, or chopper? See if they’ll let you borrow it. Place it out front to draw attention.

2) Offer free hot dogs and sodas throughout your event. Have visitors go inside your martial srts school or gym to get a coupon for the free food. In order to get the coupon, have them fill out an info card.

3) Create grand opening postcards or flyers. Donate $250 to your local high school football, soccer, baseball, or basketball teams. In return, ask them to put the postcards or flyers out in the neighborhood they live in. This is an easy way to get cards out for little to no money. It’s also a win-win for you and your local schools and sports teams. They need money, too, and will appreciate your donation.

4) Have hourly giveaways for gift cards to local restaurants and movie theaters. Have visitors fill out an info card to enter the drawing for the prizes. Make sure you keep their information and enter it in your member management software so you can follow up with them about joining your martial arts school or gym.

5) Giveaway t-shirts with your business name and logo. Drive around to local businesses, parks, and supermarkets. Invite the people you talk to take a class. Have an appointment book on hand. Make sure they know about the Grand Opening celebration.

Remember that your grand opening doesn’t have to be just a one-day or evening event. Make the most of your new business opening. Consider running a one- or two-week celebration to keep the excitement and the momentum going.

Hope this helps,

Chuck


About the author: Chuck Heacock is the owner of the Fitness Compound, a training facility that provides unparalleled fitness activities including Martial Arts classes, special boot camps, personal training, baseball, basketball, spinning, Zumba, cardio, and more. Chuck is also a sought-after fitness industry consultant.

Planning & Preparation Tips for Opening Another Business Location

Question: I”m thinking of opening another location. What are the most important considerations to keep in mind before taking this big step?

In my previous post, I recommended taking a long hard look at your business ― well before taking the plunge to open a second business location.

After your self-assessment, if you can honestly answer that your business is built on systems ― that your business would function efficiently and effectively without you being there — then, in my opinion, you are ready to seriously consider opening a second business place. In this post, I’ll cover some of themust-have elements to successful expansion and the benefits of running a multi-location business.

Based on historical information, owners opening another business location must lay out a very detailed business plan

I sit on a board of directors for CDR (Community Development Resources) and for the SBA … and I am still shocked at how many small businesses apply for a loan and do NOT have a business plan. The same is true with most martial arts schools and fitness businesses … they have an idea but not a true business plan. Some put together detailed class plans and curriculum, but then leave the business to chance. You can still have a profitable (though not maximized) operation in this way, but it will definitely be built around you, not the system or a plan, and this can be even more dangerous as it leads to false assumptions and beliefs.

As part of the business plan, the owners must carefully consider the actual budget.

A unique benefit to opening multiple locations in a surrounding area is the concept of cost sharing. For example, two locations that are somewhat close to one another can share:

• Advertising expenses
• Operational staff expenses (some duties can be handled by the same staff for both locations)
• Event and seminar expenses
• Insurance expenses
• Inventory expenses
• Legal expenses
• Accounting expenses
• And more

Of course, some of these areas depend on the actual ownership and business structure so be sure to check with your CPA and attorney in planning this process.

If the locations are not in a close proximity to share some of these expenses, the second location can still benefit from the historical data and records of the first in the business plan. Additionally, the first location can serve as a source for more staff, instructors, and support for the second location. Take advantage of what you know from your first location to provide for a very realistic and accurate plan for your new facility and location. The more planning and preparation that goes into the second location, the greater your chances of success will be.

The final area I will mention is the idea of capital. Though there are some cost savings in shared expenses and efficiencies we have developed through experience (also known as making costly mistakes in our past), we all get the idea that we will be able to do our next location “cheaper.” This is good in theory, but it rarely happens.

We need to be sure we have enough capital up front to really make things happen.

Lease space, utilities, build-out, advertising costs and other expenses are always on the rise. These areas offset many of the savings.

I opened my first part-time club in 1994 and my first full-time “school” in 1997. The cost comparison to my more recent openings or moving facilities to new locations is an increase of about 3-5 TIMES the amount it cost before! Then consider the potential cost of employee turnover which generally has a greater risk of occurrence with multiple locations.

Ask yourself what roles must be filled to make that new location fully functional. If you put a key person into a role at the new facility and that person quits, do you have a contingency plan? These can be alarmingly large costs of doing business, so I would generally recommend that once you figure your capital needs to make the second location happen, double it, or at least raise it by 50% because experience in multiple industries shows that this is generally the reality. This is not a negative thing, but rather a positive because when you are fully prepared for a new location and have the capital you need, you can fire off the marketing campaigns you need and do the things necessary to make it successful versus cutting corners and hoping that you somehow make it.

In summary, plan for the worst, budget for the worst, realize you will not likely be doubling your profits, and then get ready for a lot of work to make your next location a real success story.

I say these things not to be “Mr. Doom and Gloom,” but mainly because I know that when you prepare properly, you come out the other end a lot better off and can avoid stepping on the land mines that destroy all the hard work we have put in to get to where we are now.

Some people imagine becoming Black Belts and that when they are Black Belts they will be able to fight off one, and maybe even multiple attackers and never even get hit! Reality says that in a fight you are going to get hit, and it’s those of us who are prepared to deal with the hits and keep fighting who make it through. Business is much the same way. We are all going to take hits, we just need to be prepared and train our people to win whether it’s a fight or a sale or the grand opening of your next location!

One of my favorite quotes I will leave you with is from Rocky:

“The world ain”t all sunshine and rainbows. It is a very mean and nasty place and it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain”t how hard you hit; it”s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward. How much you can take, and keep moving forward. That”s how winning is done. Now, if you know what you”re worth, then go out and get what you’2013-10-17 18:50:44’re worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hit, and not pointing fingers saying you ain”t where you are because of him, or her, or anybody. Cowards do that and that ain”t you. You”re better than that!”

Rocky Balboa Speaking to his son in Rocky Balboa (2006)


About the author: Jeff Dousharm began his martial arts training over 22 years ago with Senior Grand Master Bert Kollars, one of the founders of Tiger Rock Martial Arts International. He’s a 7th Degree Black Belt and a certified instructor in different programs ranging from Taekwondo to CDT. He currently operates seven Tiger Rock Academies in Nebraska and Florida, www.tigerrockmarialarts.com.

Jeff is also a member of the Member Solutions Business Advisory Team and owns several companies outside of the martial arts field including: Tomorrow”s Online Marketing (websites, SEO and online marketing), Paradigm Impact Group (speakers, professional development and business consulting), J. Victorian Development (commercial properties), Point Blank Tactical Safety and Firearms Training, and a few other startup companies being launched in 2012. He can be reached at JDousharm@windstream.net or Jeff@paradigmimpactgroup.com

Make Direct Mail a Part of Your Back-to-School Marketing

"Back to School" chalkboard on desk with school supplies

I’m a huge fan of using direct mail to market my martial arts studio. Being just outside of Boston, Massachusetts, I’ve always had to find creative, low-cost alternatives for my marketing. My overhead historically has been high, so a costly marketing plan has never been an option for me.

When I first started to use direct mail as part of my marketing plan, I did everything wrong and wasted a lot of money. The difference between then and now is that I have a strategy. My ads work, my list is hot, and it’s coupled with an email.

Think of your marketing plan like your fighting plan. When you first started, you closed your eyes and just went in swinging. As your martial arts skills developed, you became a smarter and more strategic fighter. You picked your shots wisely and with laser-point precision. In the end, you were less tired, less beat up, and more victorious.

Thinking through your marketing plan is extremely important. It will take some time to execute properly, but the results will be worth it. Here’s what to consider.

1) Mail to a Good List of Prospects

The first step of having a successful campaign is to keep a good list of prospects. If you are just starting out, purchasing a list is always an option. However, if you can create a list of people who have visited your school through special events or have taken part in something you’ve offered, you will find that your results in turning them into students will be much higher.

2) Create a Professional-Looking Advertisement

Once you have your list in place, it’s time for your advertisement. I create my own because, over the years, I’ve become pretty good at graphic design and making my ads more specific to our offerings. If you aren’t at this point yet, Get Students has some really nice, professional-looking cards that will help you get started.

3) Keep in Mind You Have to Pay for Postage, Too

Regardless of what you use, there are some important tips to remember with direct mail. First, you need to understand that in addition to the cost of printing the cards, you’ll also have to pay for postage. A postcard stamp is cheaper at $0.34, but if you mail 5,000, you’re still looking at $1,700 in postage. It still may be worth the cost, but I personally try to keep my budget lower and more focused on the hot leads I mentioned above.

4) Consider a Bulk Mailing Service

What’s worked best for me is to create oversized postcards and mail them through a bulk mailing service. Standard rate postage is much cheaper—the only drawback is that it will take a couple weeks for your pieces to be delivered. With a little planning, it’s worth the money you’ll be saving versus mailing first class. Plus, you don’t have to be the one putting the labels and stamps on each card.

5) Present an Attractive Offer

I’m getting ready now to start my mailing for the Back-to-School rush. My postcards are set to hit 500 mailboxes on or around August 29th. The 2nd set of 500 will be delivered to the same prospects two weeks later on or around September 15th. We’re offering a $100 discount on enrollment if they sign up prior to September 30th.

6) Include a Call-to-Action and Testimonials

It’s very important to have a call-to-action, or CTA, on your postcards. If you don’t have an expiration date, there is no sense of urgency for them to call you now. Figure out what type of promotion works for your school and make your offer. Always include a testimonial from a happy student or parent. Testimonials are worth their weight in gold when it comes to marketing your school.

7) Send Emails Between Mailings

In addition to the postcards being delivered, send emails to the prospects between mailings. This helps with reminding them that you are the one extending an offer.

8) Look at Your Return on Investment

Lastly, always review your return on investment prior to spending any money on marketing. My direct mail campaign will cost me roughly $700 from start to finish. One student who signs up from the efforts will bring in $2,600 for the year. I’m confident I’ll get more than just one new student from this campaign, but regardless what that actual number is, I think it’s a pretty good gamble.

If anyone has questions about direct mail marketing at your school, please don’t hesitate to ask. I’m happy to help.

About the author: Steve Giroux has been training in the martial arts for 30 years and is a 7th Degree Black Belt in Chun Kuk Do. In 1999, he graduated from Bentley College with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Accountancy with a minor concentration in Law. After founding his studio in January of 1999, Steve has successfully grown revenues over the years after starting at only $7,000 in his first year. You can contact Steve via email at Steve@GirouxBrosMartialArts.com

How to Start Using Facebook Ads for Martial Arts Marketing

Facebook login screen on mobile device with social media in tiled letters on wooden desk

Confused about Facebook ads? You’re not the only one.

Back in 2010, I began using Facebook ads to get likes on one of my Facebook business pages.

I went in determined to get results, but as a direct marketing student and practitioner, I also knew I wouldn’t keep doing it if it didn’t work. I read through numerous Facebook help sections and did my due diligence, but I was still a little arrogant and impatient. I thought: I’ve been marketing my martial arts schools and other businesses since 1998. I’ve been using internet marketing and selling online for almost five years. Running a Facebook d will be a piece of cake.

I quickly learned that running a Facebook ad is not like search marketing. Being big on the call-to-action or CTA (words that prompt your readers to take immediate action), I thought my same CTAs would work with Facebook Ads. However, I was wrong.

Facebook ads are more strategic. They require more patience. The Facebook user is not looking for you as in search when someone types martial arts program in Chicago into Google. You have to get their attention, but you have to get their attention in a way that doesn’t make Facebook mad at you. Before I truly understand Facebook ads, at least one out three of my ads were rejected.

Then, I turned the corner and got serious. I dove in to learn everything I could (and I’m still learning). Most importantly, I quickly implemented what I learned. As test results came in, I made adjustments to my ads.

The truth is the adjustments will never, and should never, stop. That’s the real fun of Facebook advertising: you always can make adjustments to the text, to images, and to the web pages to which you drive prospects in efforts to improve ad performance.

After two years of testing, tweaking, and writing my own book on Facebook advertising, I”m still learning. While none of this Facebook ads marketing is “cookie-cutter”, the initial approach when first launching Facebook ads is relatively the same.

Let’s explore the first step a martial arts business needs to take when marketing with Facebook ads.

Get Your Students & Your Non-Students to “Like” You on Facebook

After your network of friends, colleagues, and students “like” your page, you will likely end up stuck at a certain number of likes. I call this the “Like Barrier.” Fortunately, there are a couple ways to beat it.

The fact is your Facebook page really must be used for more than just telling your students that you are closed due to the weather. Your school’s Facebook page must be a mix of students – those who will cheer you on while being your core audience in addition to non-students who will become students.

If your current students don’t already follow you on Facebook, make sure you frequently encourage it. One way is to communicate that you have a Facebook page. Add a notice to your student eNewsletter, mention it before and after class, and hand out flyers to students.

Facebook Ads to Reach Prospects

To reach prospects, you first need to determine if your goal is to increase your likes or if it is to generate leads for your services and programs. You could run a Facebook ad to promote your introductory programs or seasonal offers, such as a Back-to-School promotion or a New Years’ Get in Shape special.

Alternatively, you can run Facebook ads to increase your likes. What’s the benefit of increasing likes? The more likes you have, the more interaction you will have on your Facebook page. The more interaction you have, the more social proof you build for prospective students who are considering joining your school.

Be warned: Increasing page likes – whether with current students or with prospective students – comes with the added duty of consistently updating your Facebook business page. A Facebook ad strategy must have a content strategy behind it.

Once you’ve determined your goal (to promote your business offerings or to increase likes), identify who you want to target with your ad. Do you want parents? Good. Determine your geographic radius and age group. Think about the interests of your best target market and act.

Remember your ad text must have a simple message. Avoid “salesy” phrasing.

Every ad must lead to a landing page (also called a lead capture page). It’s a web page that includes persuasive sales copy and an embedded form to “capture” the lead’s contact information.

To review:

  1. Get the word out to your current students to increase your likes.
  2. Build an ad to reach prospective students. If you need some help, give me a shout.

About the author: Mike Dolpies has been helping martial arts school owners with Marketing and Internet Marketing since 2006. He started his first school in 1998 when he was 18 years-old. He’s the author of 5 books and operates Martial Arts Business System. His latest book, Don’t Suck @Facebook Ads! is available on Amazon.com. For complimentary ad training, visit http://www.cyberspacetoyourplace.com/fb/

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