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Even though Halloween is creeping up on us, one group we definitely don’t want to scare off is potential students.  Now, I talk to a lot of Martial Arts school owners over the course of a month and something that comes up fairly often is the issue of Paid Trials vs. Free Trials.

Some school owners believe that Paid Trials scare off potential students because the potential student doesn’t know enough about martial arts to make a purchase decision upfront, while others believe that Free Trials devalue the art and service and thereby scare off quality students leaving them with a bunch of “tire-kickers” or people not really interested in martial arts.

So for your benefit, I set out to figure out which actually performs better in reality. I don’t like to base my findings on “feelings” because I am a numbers guy. Just because something “feels” like it’s working doesn’t mean it’s actually working.

So, we tested it out with the good ole scientific method. Here’s what we found…


 The Observation

After talking to countless martial arts school owners and watching the conversations in various groups online, we found that the industry is split on the issue of Paid Trials vs Free Trials.

The Hypothesis

We expected the Free Trial to do better at enrolling paying students because we observed the current business world. We looked at some of the most successful companies in todays market like Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, HBO, and Uber. They are all offering free trials, and we noticed that everyone on our staff has tried at least one of these services and stuck with them past the trial on purpose and became a paying customer.

The Experiment

We ran 2 ad campaigns on Facebook™ back to back with the exact same targeting and almost the exact same wording with one difference:

  • One ad had an offer for a Free Week
  • The other had an offer for a month trial for $49 with a Free uniform

Both campaigns ran for 10 days with the same daily budget of $10 so we spent $100 on each campaign. 

The Analysis

Both campaigns had about the same number of impressions and relevance score (that’s just Facebook’s fancy language for the number of eyeballs that saw the ad and how well the ad was received by said eyeballs).

This is where all the similarities stopped. There was a definite stand out winner and loser in this experiment.

The Paid trial generated exactly ZERO leads. That means not a single person in 10 days was interested in even asking a question about the paid trial. So needless to say our analysis was pretty easy. No leads means no appointments, no trials sold, no new students, and we’re not really willing to spend more than $100 to get a new student enrolled so that was the end of that campaign.

The Free Trial on the other hand generated 14 leads (that’s name, email and phone number of 14 people who want the Free Trial).

From those leads, we booked 7 appointments, 5 actually showed up, 4 upgraded to a paid trial on the first visit (instead of the Free Week), and 2 upgraded to the monthly program a couple weeks later.

So that added up to a grand total of $776 collected on the first month and ended up being over $5,000 over the life of the students. All for a measly $100 investment. 

The Conclusion

Clearly, we were right in our hypothesis but we couldn’t have guessed at how much of an extreme difference it was.  

Now, not all the leads were good. Half never answered their phone, some hung up on us when we called, others claimed that they never filled out any form on Facebook. Those are all part of the process. We ignored those and focused on the ones who were actually interested and it paid off.

The Free Trial crushed the Paid Trail in every measurable regard. Obviously the one that matters most is cash flow, followed by profit/return on investment. 

We live in an age right now that is incredible. The idea that you can spend $100 on a marketing campaign and see that money come back to you within a month is amazing. In the old days you would have to spend thousands and wait months for a return on marketing dollars, but with the speed of the internet and the connectivity of social media, we live in an age where so much is possible, but it all relies on strategy. 

As you saw in our experiment, you can’t just spend $100 on Facebook and guarantee that you’re going to get new students. You have to have a strategy that works.

What this means for You 

The good news is that we’ve been specializing in marketing specifically for martial arts for long enough to have tested all sorts of campaigns all over the US and found a few key strategies that are working like clockwork.

We’ve been able to duplicate these strategies for all sorts of different kinds of schools with relatively consistent results. We’ve worked with schools in small towns and schools in big cities. We’ve helped small schools get big and big schools get bigger.

Recently we generated over 300 leads in one month for a school owner and he brought in over $2,500 in PAID trials (that’s about 50 paid trials for those of you slow at math), PLUS he added 25 NEW students to his program which added $45,000 in annual revenue to his school. All by following our proven system for lead generation and enrollments.

If you’re sick of wasting time at community events and kids expos trying to “get your name out there” only to return with a couple names… 

If you’re tired of getting bogged down in all the technical stuff of marketing or trying to “figure it all out” …

If you’re ready to find out how to get a steady flow of new martial arts students in your doors consistently and on autopilot, so that you can focus on what you’re good at (teaching martial arts)….

Then, I want to share with you how we consistently fill the mats at martial arts schools with PAYING students on my Free Case Study Webclass. (CLICK HERE TO REGISTER FOR THE FREE CASE STUDY WEBINAR AND SEE FOR YOURSELF)


About the author: Jon Evans is an author, entrepreneur and owner of, a marketing agency that specializes in helping Martial Arts Schools grow.