Review of DojoExpert martial arts management software
I have worked in IT most of my life and even though i now work in the martial arts sector full time, i still find time for IT based projects. Combining my knowledge from my previous career with my experience of managing multiple full time martial arts centres puts me in a good position to be able evaluate martial arts management software. At a later date i will hopefully produce an article that gives an overview of the more popular martial arts management software solutions so you can compare them. This should give you a better idea of which would be the best fit for your club. Until then, here is a run down of the list of feature provided DojoExpert along with what i think are the positives and negatives.
I have been investigating martial arts management software for the last two decades. In fact, before there was online systems to manage student data, i created my own in Microsoft Access (a database application). Over the last 10 years the number of software packages available for this specific purpose has grown massively but back in 2008 when i went ‘full time’ teaching martial arts, the choices where slim.
In the past we have used the system provided by NEST Management and also MindBody. While these management systems were not a good fit for us though i am sure they are working ok for other clubs. I had a look at a few other software providers but i couldn’t find anything that would do what we wanted without having to sell the club to pay for it. I got to the point that i designed a new relational database that was fit for our purpose and I was resigned to the fact that i would just have to bite the bullet and get a new system coded from scratch. As i couldn’t afford this at the time, i shelved the project for the time being. Shortly after that i came across DojoExpert and discovered that it would do 95% of what we needed while costing next to nothing. Our clubs have been using the DojoExpert since 2013 now and I often get asked for feedback from other martial arts coaches on how well it works. This the reason i put this review together. The software is not the finished article and new feature are added each year.
The main function of martial arts management software is to help streamline the administration of running a martial arts club. For this we need a system that can provide relevant data at our fingertips while requiring the least input from the instructor.
DojoExpert uses a SAAS (Software As A Service) model and therefor you need to have access to the internet to be able to use it. As well as logging on direct via a web browser, staff can also use the new Club Management app. Students can also logon via a Student app to view their progress between grades and see their payments, class attendance etc.
DojoExpert stores all the usual personal information such as name, date of birth, phone number, email address etc and you can also add custom fields. All this information is accessible logging on via the web interface or via the martial arts management app. There is one feature that is useful for getting an overview of where your current customers live and that is the Members Map. This displays the location of all your customers on a map. I review this information periodically before planning my audiences for facebook marketing campaigns.
When you login to the system via the web site you are met with a basic dashboard. From here you can see your basic key performance indicators for important areas such as Members, Leads and Finance.
Students (or parents of students) can logon to DojoExpert via a student management app (both iphone and Android). From here they can view any announcements, invoices, competition results, student metrics, club calendar, attendance, past grading dates and progress toward the next grading. The app is already pretty functional but could be improved further by adding a further three features:-
1. An internal messaging system using push notifications
2. A booking system to allow members (or parents) to change their session bookings
3. The ability to be able to shop from the app using the integrated ‘Online Store’ feature
Martial Arts Management App
The Club Management App is a new addition to DojoExpert and allows staff members to view student details, create attendance registers, view / modify classes, view / add payments, manage leads, send SMS text messages to class members via your mobile and add student Milestones. The great thing about sending SMS messages via the app is that if you have free texting on your mobile contract, you don’t have to pay the usual 5p per message. What would really go well with this feature is a quick and easy way of sync’ing the names and mobile numbers of your students (within DojoExpert) against your phone. At the moment you know who you are sending the messages to but when you receive a reply, you do not know who it is from unless they put their name in the reply.
Prospect management is an important feature of any martial arts management software. The ‘Leads’ feature in DojoExpert is pretty customisable. You can add your own list of custom lead sources so you can track the sources that are producing the best results. You can also add custom fields such as martial arts program, date of birth, training objective. Where available, the content from these custom fields can be mapped to the fixed fields provided in DojoExpert. This means that when the enquiries are converted to members, the data from the custom fields (that are mapped) is also carried across along with information from the standard fields such as name, phone number and email address. The forms you create are customisable and you can add and remove fields from your forms to suit your particular needs.
Another useful addition is the Lead Status field. This allows you to create your own process flow for your prospects. Each time you progress a lead closer towards becoming a member you can alter their current status. We current use the following but you can create your own flow to reflect your current processes:-
|1.||1st Session Booked|
|2.||1st Session Confirmed|
|3.||1st Session Attended|
|4.||2nd Session Booked|
|5.||2nd Session Confirmed|
|6.||2nd Session Attended|
|7.||Signed Up, Ready To Process|
We use option 8 when we have a class that is fully booked but that is the only day that a prospect is available to take part in a class. As students change their bookings or occasionally stop training we can then contact the people on the waiting list to see if they want the space.
Reporting is pretty good too and gives you a full breakdown on how many leads you have from the various sources and most importantly, which of those leads converted in to members and which were lost. The time period you want to report on is also customisable too.
As well as adding leads directly in to your martial arts management software you can create a web form that can be embedded in your web site. This then allows prospects to enter their information directly into DojoExpert. The system can be configured to send you an email every time you receive a new lead. You then simply logon to DojoExpert via your browser and manage your leads. Each time you progress a lead you can change it’s status and you can also add an ‘action’ note documenting any changes. If you have more than one person managing the leads, this helps you keep track of who is doing what. Everytime a staff member contacts a prospect they should add a note with their name and the action they took.
Tracking student attendance can be done via a collection of different methods. Students can log their own attendance using cards with QR codes or via a self checkin kiosk (via a tablet, mobile or laptop / PC). Staff can register attendance direct on the web site or via the Club Management App. All this information feeds through to the central martial arts management software database. We have an ipad mounted on the wall in each training room where the instructor can perform a register at the end of each class. We have also tested using a touchscreen PC on reception so that students can check themselves in. Moving forward we will use a combination of these two methods.
Through DojoExpert you can setup a web form for events like gradings, seminars, and competitions. The format of the form is fully customisable and you have full control over the formatting of your text. You can also insert tables, photos add buttons etc. The events can be configured as a free event or you can take payment via Paypal or Stripe. You can set registration period, send confirmation emails to yourself and / or the registrant and you can also state if the event is for members only (this would require the student to login) or for anyone. You can customise the fields in the form as you require and you can also offer reduce fees via discount codes.
Once you are happy with the configuration of your event you can copy the link provided and email it direct to your mailing list, customers or embed the form on your web site.
This is an area where DojoExpert shines and helps you create an audit trail for all of your gradings. You are able to create multiple custom belt systems and each of them can have their own restrictions such as minimum age, time between grades, minimum number of sessions etc. You can even create custom requirements which DojoExpert calls ‘Milestones’. We mainly award these when students have met the minimum requirements for each section of our syllabus. They could also be used to measure requirements such as having the correct equipment or getting an instructor recommendation. Once a student has met all the requirements you have set, they will show as ‘Eligible’ for the next grading in the Student App.
After a grading you are can promote individually or promote in bulk. The bulk promote feature really saves time and allows us to finish all the paperwork by the end of our gradings even when this maybe for up to 90 students in one day. If you wish, you can even give each student a star rating out of five. DojoExpert also has templates you can use for belt certificates.
This feature is quite well thought out but as martial arts instructors, we are always looking for opportunities to reduce our admin overhead. What would really improve this feature is that once a student becomes ‘Eligible’ for the next grading, they are able to click on ‘Eligible’ (or a button) from inside the student app and register (and pay) for a grading event created using the Event Bookings feature.
You can create custom ‘Metric’ fields that you can use to record measurements for your students. An example of this maybe recording the vertical jump height for specific students or angle to which they can sit in the splits. If you have students that are focused on losing weight, you could use this feature to monitor their weight each week.
The recently updated calendar enables you to create one off or recurring events that can be seen by your students in the Student App or shared on your web site. You could use this function to allow students to see a full list of martial arts classes or even list events outside of your regular classes such as gradings, seminars and competitions. You can also now export the calendar (in ICS format) and import in to applications like Google Calendar, Outlook etc.
You have a few different options for taking tuition payments. Invoicing can be configured based on a set number of weeks, months or even sessions. Payments can be taken automatically via Direct Debit using GoCardless or SmartDebit or by debit / credit card using Paypal or Stripe. You can even use a combination of these payment methods. An example of this would be to take a monthly payment via Direct Debit and use Stripe to take for missed payments. The students can login to the Student App and pay the outstanding invoice from the comfort of their own home. The invoice would then automatically be shown at paid in DojoExpert.
If you attend competitions on a regular basis you will like this next feature. You can add an event to DojoExpert for each competition you attend and then input the results. As well as viewing all competition information logging on via the web site, students can also see their results in the Student App.
Using the inbuilt finance manager you can manually add all your running costs (expenses). If your regular tuition payments are set up through any of the connecting providers (Paypal, Stripe, GoCardless or SmartDebit), the revenue can automatically be added to the accounts part of the application. The financial summary reporting tool can show you a snapshot of you finances over a specific period. There is also an option to create a financial plan.
We have created a seperate login for our accountant which means he can login and see all he needs to be able to produce the annual accounts. Everything is already broken down into to categories making the process much simpler.
TIP: If you are going to use the finance part of DojoExpert with a Direct Debit company like GoCardless or SmartDebit, i suggest you put aside some time one day a month to cross check the bank transfer payment into your bank account against the total of individual payments showing in the accounts section. Now and again our staff make a mistake with the Direct Debit reference number which can create a discrepancy.
Backup your data
Unlike many of the other martial arts management software, DojoExpert lets you export all your student data to a CSV file. Be aware that this is only the basic information (including custom fields) but makes a welcome change to the usual struggle you have getting access to your own data.
Even with the basic package you can administer up to 5 locations. You can even set up seperate staff members to look after the administration for each venue. We also have a user that logs in and adds results from competitions and another for our accountant so he can gather the information he needs to submit the accounts to Companies House. You are able to set Read & Write or Read permission for each section of DojoExpert. You can Hide different sections if you only want them to see the parts they will administrate. The best part is that as the main user you can see everything for each venue. This is especially useful when looking at the finances across all venues.
For bigger clubs with quite a few members of staff making changes to the system, it would be good to have some form of audit trail so when a specific user makes a change on the system, it logs their name and the date / time of the change.
The software comes with the ability to set up your own basic web store. This enables you to sell items online and also includes a full inventory stock control system. This is one of the only features on DojoExpert that i have not tried yet. For this reason i will not comment on how well it works though i will return to this review and update this review once i have tested it.
In DojoExpert you currently have the options of sending an announcement to a venue or group or you can SMS or email your customers. To use the SMS feature you will need to setup an account with BulkSMS. Sending messages from DojoExpert via BulkSMS will cost you around 5p per message.
Although the open rates on emails are lower than text messages, the flexibility of sending an email is much greater. There are over 20 different variables that you can use in your email to insert personalised information and you can even add attachments. If you send out emails on a regular basis it is useful to know that if an email to a customer bounces more than 3 times that email address is automatically removed from the students record. Another great feature of the email system is the automated emails. These can be used for all manor of tasks such as sending a welcome letter, follow ups about missed classes, invoices due or just sending a Happy Birthday message.
All the communications methods work fine thought it would be better if they were all shown in one console. The system could also do with some form of internal direct messaging that uses push notification. This will add to the number of reasons that students should use the app.
Pro’s and con’s
I have given a description and my views on each of the different features of DojoExpert. Please keep in mind that i am an ex IT professional that currently runs two full time venues with just over 500 students. As long as you document all the processes you use so that staff are following the same procedures i am sure the software would scale higher that we are currently using it for. That said, with the low cost entry point i am sure it would be just as useful for smaller clubs just starting out too.
What DojoExpert does well:
- Good set of functions
- Lots of different ways to record class attendance
- Great value for money
- A number of ways to integrate the software in to your website
- Very customizable
- Both student and admin apps available
- Inbuilt finance management
- Scalable to multi venues
Areas for improvement:
- While you can add details of contacts (emails, phone calls etc) to the record of a ‘Lead’, you lose this functionality when they are converted to a member. We need the ability to be able to put a note on a student’s record when one of the staff members have communicated with them.
- A students attendance percentage in DojoExpert is based on the attendance / non attendance of classes they appear on a Class Register. If you allow students to attend ‘make up’ classes they can look like they have poor attendance at the same time as attending the number of weekly session they are booked in for. *They are currently working on a new bookings feature which should solve this problem.
- Currently if you take a payment using Stripe, the invoice amount will be entered as revenue but the payment to your bank will be less the Stripe fee. If you use the built in accounting system to generate your annual accounts, this means you need a little manual intervention to make sure your DojoExpert accounts reconcile against your bank account.
- They don’t charge enough for the software. Seriously, if they charged a little more they would have more cash to spend to bring in a designer to improve the aesthetics while also giving them a bigger pot for marketing and improving the current functionality.
- The overall look at the software could be improved. The company that code this software have obviously prized functionality over design (which is part of the reason we chose it). It would be nice to have both, but functionality comes first for us.
If you are interested in taking a closer look at DojoExpert, head of over to the DojoExpert website and sign up for a 14 day free trial. If you have any question, the guys are DojoExpert are pretty good at answering questions. If you have any questions about my experience of using it, please feel free to drop me a message on social media or here.
While i do like the DojoExpert software and i have met Goran and his developers, i don’t get paid to promote the product and this review is just an honest overview of my experience with the software. If you use some club management software that has this kind of functionality or better for around a similar price (or even a little more), i would be interested to hear about it.