by Eric P. Fleishman
You started this journey years ago as a student with a deep desire to learn all the beautiful subtleties of your martial art while simultaneously capturing its grandness. Eventually, you transitioned from student to teacher. In this new role of instructor, you implored your followers to embrace the martial arts with the same passion and commitment as they would a spouse. It was your mission to be the best, to communicate to others the form and function, and to keep ancient traditions alive with you as their advocate and protector.
And now, as the proud owner of your own dojo, you not only have the ability to shape the minds of those around you, but you also can impact their lives physically, emotionally and spiritually.
However, to impart your teachings, you must have students. They are the lifeblood of every martial art and every school. In this day and age of smartphones, digital media and increased stress, attracting and retaining students can be a daunting daily challenge. But with the right marketing strategy in place, you’ll boldly defeat this worthy opponent.
To begin a strong marketing effort, start with low-hanging fruit: Enlist a celebrity. Now, I’m not saying you should mortgage your house and hire one of Hollywood’s elite. Instead, reach out to a local celebrity, perhaps a newscaster or weatherman. Invite him or her to your dojo for a special guest appearance. Make the person a part of your dojo’s family and share the power of martial arts! A celebrity presence may help you get on the air. From a marketing perspective, having an influential person telling the public how great you are is much more powerful than having you sing your own praises.
You also can take your message directly to the masses with a demo team that performs at street markets and local festivals. Often, the visibility of a school will rise dramatically when members participate in community events. Many times, this is a catalyst for extended media coverage. Look for opportunities to attend meetings as a guest performer/speaker so you can share your art and your ways of achieving success. Remember that the martial arts represent a fascinating, foreign universe to those who don’t train. Sharing lessons and traditions in a public forum is an excellent tool for drawing in those outsiders.
Another fun and creative way to promote your dojo is to post short-form videos online. These take a little work — you’ll have to shoot and edit them yourself, unless you plan on hiring a service. Either way, the videos will help showcase your school. If you happen to make a video that goes viral online, the value will increase exponentially.
Videos can be powerful marketing tools. They also provide an exciting platform to issue a challenge to your local community and the larger online audience. It could be a kata, an exercise or a charity-based activity — everyone loves to accept a fun challenge. Encourage people to share their results online. It’s a simple way to garner interest, get lots of views and expand your online community. Once you have more viewers hooked, you can offer them more content.
In times of stress or natural emergencies, answering the call for help can distinguish your dojo from other organizations. The martial arts teach us strength, discipline and order — all excellent qualities that are needed to tackle big problems. Establishing partnerships with local academic schools or nonprofit entities can bring potential students your way, and it gives you and your students a way to give back to the community.
Sometimes, seeking nontraditional partners helps gain media exposure. For example, aligning with a popular local coffee shop doesn’t seem like a slam dunk, but it could be a goldmine for recruiting new members.
Finally, working directly with parents can be the most effective method for filling kid and adult classes. All schools and sports teams have active associations for parents. The parents’ desire to provide the best for their children becomes your gain.
Eric P. Fleishman — aka Eric the Trainer — is a Hollywood-based trainer of celebrities. In the 28 years he’s worked in the industry, he’s taught actors, musicians, MMA fighters and military personnel. He hosts a popular TV show called Celebrity Sweat, which is available on Amazon Prime. His message of healthy living has been adopted by many groups, most recently the American Culinary Federation.
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