Martial Arts Business: How to Market Your Martial Arts School

A friend of mine, on Facebook today, asked me to chime in on a marketing issue being discussed there…regarding martial arts schools –and I offered to give my 2-cents about martial arts school marketing (Well, what a surprise! Tom’s offering his opinion!).

Martial Art
Martial Art

My Opinions About Martial Arts School Marketing

Too many martial arts schools only plant marketing crops meant to grow as fast as possible, so that they may be harvested and consumed immediately. They do that, most of the time, because they’re starving for cash flow –and when you’re starving, you need food RIGHT NOW.

Junk Marketing

When a schools starving for cash flow, it wil eat just about anything put in front of it –and so junk marketing, like junk food, which is cheap and easy and abundant, becomes the schools main source of “food.” Junk marketing is cheap to produce; it doesn’t take much money, time, thought, creativity, and/or effort. Pass out fliers (quality be damned), do birthday parties (“They’re so easy, anyone can do them!”), host yet another Buddy-Day, hell, go wave signs in front of the local elementary school as the kids are getting out, and do it all like yesterday, because we need to “get the gross up!”

The thing about junk marketing, like junk food, is that the stuff will fill your immediate needs. Your belly will get full on junk food –and you might fill your school up with junk marketing, but in the long run, junk food deprives the person who consumes it of his/her vitality and heath. Likewise, junk marketing eventually steals a schools vitality, creative spirit, ingenuity, and reputation.

Junk marketing has, literally, laid waste to the martial arts industry. We now have an entire generation of school owners and teachers who think that junk marketing is just about the only way to do the work. Instead of taking the time to create marketing programs of substance, of genuine hard-earned value, programs that don’t “sell,” but actually inspire, far too many schools go right to the lowest rung on the marketing food chain. They resort to cheap, degrading, and common “marketing” strategies that diminish the schools reputation, its marketability, and most of all, its ability to think up, create, and execute marketing campaigns with soul, with genius, with meaning, mission, and purpose.

Listening to the marketing methods of many martial arts school owners is just about like listening to the manager of a Popeyes Chicken franchise or an Everything’s Just $1 store or the local Big Al’s Tire Shop. These aren’t educators selling their wares, these aren’t MASTER TEACHERS full of wisdom and experience, these folks sell fried chicken, $1 spatulas, and Dunlops.

The right way for a MASTER TEACHER of a kind of art full of wisdom and life lessons, rich with mentoring and leadership experiences, something that transcends the obvious and becomes a life changing experience, times 10, is to market with a sense of mission. To teach, to affect, to solve problems, to become an integral part of the community. To market is to be in the meetings, to go after the people who need the most help, to see that bullying, for example, is a REAL problem –and instead of giving it the old superficial one-two, going into your community armed, prepared, and ready to work the issue until it is no longer an issue.

The way to market in the coming year is to take your martial arts off of the mat, our of your dojo, out of the box you teach in, and into your community —and in way that only someone who doesn’t take NO for an answer could do. Someone with tenacity, someone with guts, someone who won’t quit until they win —someone on a mission.

Marketing Has To Be Smart

Leave the crap-marketing for the dumb and blind. Let all the other schools fight over who’s flier was left on which windshield in which strip-mall parking lot. Let all the other schools jockey for the best place at the flea market. Your marketing has to be smart. It ought to be as complex and rich as your intellect will accommodate. There are problems, right here in River City, right in your own town. Solve them –or at least become a more integral part of the village that’s seeking to solve them. People need help, they don’t need to be pitched, they need help. Can you supply it?

I think you can, but to do it, you’re going to have to delay some of your need for instant gratification –and start putting your energy into marketing strategies that the 24 year old subscriber to our industry’s illustrious trade magazines can’t easily replicate. You need to initiate strategies that can’t be bought or delivered in a box. And if you run into one of your competitors in the same parking lot as you, passing out fliers, see it as a sign that you’re playing checkers in a world that only really respects chess.