Click Play and Listen in the Background

When a school owner comes to me for coaching, there is usually a predictable series of events that created enough pain for them to come to me for direct help.

One of the most common is that the owner doesn’t really understand what the school is selling. Sure, there is lip service about life skills and self-defense, but who doesn’t say that today? (Most schools do a poor job with each, but, that’s a different subject.)

The three questions that challenge them are:

1. Why should anyone choose your school over the other schools down the street? 

2.  Why should anyone choose your school regardless of the price?

3. What value are you offering for your tuition? 

Graden Family Values (Scary, I know)

Presuming you watch television like us, do you use an antenna, cable, satellite, or Internet streaming? Our family uses a combination of DirectTV and Internet streaming (Netflix and AppleTV). 

Even though we pay $120 a month in association fees that includes cable, we opt to spend about the same on top of that to have the options that cable doesn’t offer. 

The value of having the variety, picture quality, and recording options is worth more to us than the $120. When is the last time you saw DirectTV, Apple, and Netflix offering discounts in a sale? Almost never.

They know that their value is in the options and entertainment they bring to homes. They do not place their value on price. I’ve been a Mac-head since 1991, so believe me when I tell you that Apple is always the most expensive.

Both Schools Lose

Every day I see martial arts schools post ads on Facebook. 99.99% of t lead he ads lead with price.

50% off! Hurry!


Of course, there are times that a school might run a special. But, if those specials run year-round, they ain’t that special. They become more like year-round pleading.

The message from the school is, “The best reason to join our school is our low price!” That’s a terrible message to attach to your school. If you and the school across the street both pitch price as the main value, then the school who can go the lowest wins. Truthfully, both schools lose.

The Misplaced Values

While you may place your school’s value on price, I assure you that most parents place their value on trust, safety, and the physical and emotional development of their child.

Instead of shouting about low prices, focus on improving those benefits and the experience you school will provide your students and their families.

Someone Has to Be the Most Expensive

There will always be the lowest, medium, and highest priced school in any area. I always positioned myself as the highest priced. Someone has to be, why not me? Why not you?

Rather than low prices, I focus on a high-quality experience for my students and their families. I placed the value on the “experience” not the “price.” 

My staff was highly trained (and beaten regularly). They were well rehearsed and professional. From public speaking skills, sales, classroom management to how specifically to teach each technique in our curriculum, it was clear as soon as you walked in my school, we were the best. 

Tons of schools talk about Black Belt Excellence, but their actual message to the market is, “We don’t really believe that we are good enough to sell on our merits. So we’re offering black belt excellence at a rock bottom prices.”

Don’t be that school.


John Graden
John Graden

John Graden is widely credited with leading the martial arts school business into the modern age. He is the founder of the first successful professional association and trade journal. MA Success editor John Corcoran first called him a “visionary” in 1995. Martial Arts World magazine dubbed him, The Teacher of Teachers. Mr. Graden’s leadership was recognized in many mainstream media outlets including a cover story on the Wall Street Journal, documentaries on A&E Network, and as a guest on the Dr. Oz Show and many others.