7 Ways to Grow your BJJ Academy 2023
Source: ATOS BJJ
If you’ve considered opening your own BJJ academy or are currently running a Jiu Jitsu school, you are undoubtedly familiar with the struggle of getting new students and growing your gym.
Opening and operating a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gym is often a journey based on someone’s lifelong passion for the martial art. However, passion for BJJ can turn into an expensive affair for a gym owner if they aren’t focused on the bottom line.
Whilst making sure that you are giving top quality instruction to your students is paramount, having those students to train in the first place is step one.
In this article we will cover some traditional ways to grow your BJJ academy, slightly less traditional methods and some unconventional approaches based on the ever changing online world.
Luckily, there are many ways to approach marketing that are effective for Jiu Jitsu gym owners in 2023. Now, let’s get to it!
Traditional Marketing Methods for BJJ School Growth
In this section we will go over the more traditional methods of marketing for your BJJ school. Growth potential is everywhere around you if you know where to look.
One of the most important, and often overlooked, marketing methods is consistent engagement with your local community. There are a number of ways to go about this.
In almost every community there will be fundraisers, events, galas, conferences and more going on all year round. Take a look at the local calendar of events and see if getting involved with any of them makes sense for your gym.
It’s never a bad look for your gym to donate to a local event - it also gets your name out there into the community. You could even consider getting involved by holding an event for a local charity that has a good reputation and a lot of traction.
By helping the community, you are establishing your gym as an upstanding and active member. This will almost certainly turn the eyes of the local population to your BJJ gym. Growth within the community equals growth for your gym.
Local Lead Generation
A tale as old as time, you walk into a local shop, go to check out and there is a plexiglass box, slips of paper and a pen attached to it - plastered on the front is the chance to win a free week, month or the grand prize of one year at your local gym.
This may seem old school, but it’s a trick of the mind and still effective believe it or not. However, you need good graphics that pop as well as excellent placement for maximum effect.
The trick works like this. In reality, everyone gets a free week that puts in a slip, so everyone's a winner. I know that many gym owners don’t like to give out more than a free day for Jiu Jitsu marketing, but hear me out.
What you are really doing is building your email list for future marketing. If they have taken the time to put their name, number and email on that slip, they are a warm lead. If they show up for the free week, they are definitely a hot lead.
Another positive effect, as you reach out to local businesses to ask them to put your box in their business, you are also doing outreach and giving your gym more visibility - even just by asking staff, management or owners to place the box.
A little bit of flattery probably won’t hurt by the way. Compliment them on their business and explain to them why you chose them over others. Turn on the charm.
This is also a great way to get your existing students involved. Give them some boxes and a reward for each one they get placed in a high traffic area.
If you really want to turn it up, tell management you will give one free membership on a monthly basis if you get a certain amount of leads from the box. That will give them more incentive to push people to sign the slip and drop it in.
SEO for Jiu Jitsu Gyms
A lot of people are starting to wake up to the fact that having a well built, professional website is as, or more, important then just having a social media presence. Social media algorithms are getting tighter and tighter these days as the big boys are wanting to cash in more on their design.
That being said, having an excellent professional website doesn’t mean very much if no one can find it. This is why SEO for Jiu Jitsu Gyms is so important.
SEO, or search engine optimization, is extremely important to the growth of your gyms student base. There are some free tools out there that can help a little, but learning to do SEO properly takes years of dedication and is certainly a full time commitment.
It is recommended to contract the services of a professional search engine optimization agency that has experience providing SEO for Jiu Jitsu Gyms. Make sure to ask them for a proper case study showing the results they have achieved for other gyms.
There are a lot of people out there that say they know how to perform legitimate SEO who actually have no idea what they are doing. The SEO company you contract should be fully transparent and show you monthly in-depth reports of your website's progress.
Proper SEO isn't cheap, but you know the old saying, it takes money to make money.
Digital Lead Generation
Another approach that works is similar to old school lead generation, just with a digital box realistically, is digital lead generation. In order to get leads on social media, you need traction - in order to gain traction you need engagement.
There are a number of ways to get engagement on your posts. One of them is by creating well organized posting schedules that are targeted and released at times where there is a maximum chance they will be seen.
That is only the first step. Even if you post at the right times, unless you get fast likes, comments and shares, your posts will quickly be buried in the never ending sea of posts happening every second.
For maximum effect, inform all of your students of the exact time of your post and tell them they need to jump in there as soon as it is posted and interact with the post however they feel comfortable.
Now, that is just a post. So how do you turn posts into verifiable leads? Well, one way to think of it is that people like things they can interact with.
For instance, Facebook surveys have become very popular and people love to take them. So making a survey and sharing it out there is a good idea. But there should be a carrot at the end of the stick.
Offer a raffle to win a free week at your BJJ gym that will be drawn from those who complete the survey, like, comment and share.
If this all seems too much, then it's easy to hire a social media manager - it's a very popular job amongst this generation.
Merchandise and Swag
A lot of gyms don't put much focus on their merchandise other than a simple t-shirt or in the off case a hat. This is a big mistake. Turning your students into walking billboards is a major win/win.
Having a wide selection of different types of shirts with different art on them and your logo very pronounced is an excellent way to get your marketing in the face of your community.
You want to have enough selection that if some of your students are very into your gym, they can fill up their wardrobe with it. Don't stop with shirts, look around at what people are wearing, ask your students what is popular at the moment and follow their lead.
Next is swag. You would be extremely surprised by the extraordinary efficacy of a sticker. A well placed sticker may be the nudge to drive someone to your gym, and not your competitor’s.
Thus is the great power and reach of the almighty sticker. Get a local artist involved and make a run of really attractive stickers and give them to your students to run amuck about town and give to their friends.
Less Traditional Jiu Jitsu Marketing
Now that we have covered some regular approaches in depth, let's take a look at some more… creative approaches.
Sponsor a Local School Sports Team
Though it may seem antithetical to invest in another sport, sponsoring the local little league or pee wee football team - really any team - and paying for their jerseys will go a long way.
Think about it. These are active kids that are already engaged in sports and more than likely their parents are always looking for ways they can burn off energy - and get some time for themselves.
After school programs are often far more expensive than a monthly membership to a BJJ school. Growth potential here is high if done right.
Imagine how many parents and school students will see the name of your BJJ gym on the banners at the games and on their jerseys.
Create a Local Tournament
Who says that you have to wait for preexisting tournaments for your students to compete? Create a friendly local competition, it will obviously not be for belting or ranking. But it gives you a chance to show the community what your students are learning.
Get some buzz going around your town and those surrounding (if there are any of course). Even if no other gyms are interested, have your students compete against each other at an event that is open to the public.
Offer some refreshments and have someone manning the merchandise booth. Make it a day where the community can take a peek at your facilities, how your students perform. Maybe even throw in some belting matches.
Have your students promote on their socials and get some posters and fliers out into local businesses and see what happens.
Bonus: Guerilla Marketing Techniques
Guerilla marketing is the process of marketing something in a certain way without having to pay for it. It's not illegal, so don't think that is where I am going with this.
But why pay for expensive advertising in the free local papers when you can go on VistaPrint, get postcard sized fliers printed up and have your students go around and stuff them in the most popular section of the various publications around town?
It's a much more effective method of marketing delivery than disappearing in the ink on a page or handing someone a flier on the street.
The same goes for radio advertising. Call into popular radio shows and engage with them while quickly dropping the name of your gym instead of running ads.