As the overhead lights dim and techno music starts to pulsate through a monster speaker system, a disco ball begins dancing white dots around the room illuminating the wide-eyed, smiling faces as they pass. Suddenly a team of martial artists begin flying through the air with the agility that only comes from years of dedication and training.

The captivated audience claps as boards splinter from airborne kicks and synchronized acrobatics. Yet in the midst of all of these amazing athletes, my 7-year-old son becomes the star of the show. Not because he is an expert at Taekwondo, but because it is his birthday. And just when you might think that is wonderful in itself, I should also mention that this party is free and that is just the beginning.

You don’t need to be a mom to know all the details that go into each birthday: gifts, invitations, decorations, food, and the all-important favors. Even the setup takes time and effort, but it’s a labor of love and all worth it when it comes your child’s special day. So imagine how pleasantly surprised I was when that same group of martial artists set up and served all of the children at the party. I really think it was the first time I was able to talk to other adults and even eat something rather than run around making sure everyone had what they needed.

When it was time for the cake, or in this case a cupcake tower, a ritual that typically ends with blowing out candles and making a wish, my son yielded a samurai sword to cut into the top cupcake which for him was pretty “epic” in his words.

After everyone was fed, we move into a smaller training room where every party goer was paired with their parents for a board-breaking bonding experience. For the other parents who were there and us, it was a triumphant moment to share, a great photo opp, and the broken board was the coolest souvenir to take home.

It truly was a great party, not just for this group of 4-7-year-olds, but for the parents too and as the 2 hours were coming to an end, one of our very attentive hosts thanked everyone for coming, and because they were special guests invited them to sign up at a 20% discount.

I have to admit; I had mixed feelings about this. Even as a marketer I would never hard-sell party guests and now I understood why the party was free. But the guests were not offended by the pitch. And when I saw multiple people take him up on the offer, I realized it was still a great party and a brilliant sales strategy.

How smart? At least a 50% conversion rate. That means a 20-child party can potentially yield nearly $20,000 in yearly revenue. How does that translate into ROI? The only expenses they had to cover were 2 hours of the staff’s time and operational costs.

So why did I feel so compelled to share this? I have been toying around with a master’s series, seeking out those who are genuinely dedicated to their craft, experts at what they do and where they are finding marketing success. These martial arts masters are just that. Not only skilled in the art of Taekwondo but apparently in customer acquisitions too.

How are they at customer retention? Now that’s another story.