Martial Arts businesses suffer from some of the worst marketing on this planet. All the ‘hype’, ‘management consultants’, ‘Leadership Programmes’, ‘upgrades’, door to door sales, mass leafleting and buzz words that have lost their meaning such as ‘self discipline’, ‘confidence’, ‘self defence’, the self made ‘Masters’, countless ‘World Champions’, clubs that throw every Martial Art into the hat with lists that they couldn’t possible supply has left potential and existing students sullied, confused and lost.
Schools wanting to develop relationships with outside sports clubs have had their fingers burned by the expansionist, badly run and heavily marketed clubs. Under the guidance of their marketing gurus these clubs used all the right buzz words to get into the school curriculum and subsequently taught poor quality and often downright dangerous Martial Arts. They then rip off the children and their parents after persuading them to join their club with upgrades of up to ten times the original joining monthly subscription.
Business and life are not separate. A Martial Arts Instructor has to decide exactly what his aims in life are and where he wants his dojo or kwoon to go. As an Instructor and Martial Artist, he has to define exactly what success is for him. Management companies and business advisors are rarely experienced Martial Artists and are therefore often prepared to sacrifice all that is holy in the Martial Arts to simply earn as much as they can from a client as quickly as possible.
To most Martial Artists that I know, success is primarily being good at what they do, so their own Martial Arts expertise and that of their students is a high priority. For that to happen they need to ensure that the structure of their dojo or kwoon is professionally run and is financially sound.
Top business guru’s recommend that any successful business requires a top quality product, the ‘salesman’ then has the confidence that what he is selling is what the customer requires. With a good service and reasonable pricing structure, the customer will remain loyal and return again and again for life. Thus a good salesman only has to ‘go out on the road’ once and with little or no attrition from his customer base and growth from the best source possible – word of mouth, does the job for him.
Just common sense really eh?
First of all, an Instructor needs to be good at what he does and never stop improving his own personal development. I know so many ’30 year’ Martial Artists that have just repeated 3 years development 10 times… Black belts, that are just ‘fitter and faster’ with a white belt standard of technique…. An Instructor needs to continuously grow and lead the way for his progressing students, constantly researching and refining his own technique. If he wants to run a successful school it’s important that he learns a sound, well acknowledged art and style under a reputable instructor and is fully qualified to grade those under his tutelage.
Being good at something is one thing, being able to teach it is another. It’s important to have the right coaching qualifications and abilities. Over the years I had coaching qualifications from a variety of Governing Bodies and as each one transformed into another, the qualifications became defunct so when the NVQ came out I jumped at the chance to get a permanent set of qualifications that would be recognised everywhere I went. Add to that an enhanced CRB disclosure, Professional Indemnity insurance, Governing Body registration, MASA accreditation, First Aid, Safeguarding Children, Equity in Coaching and Club for All qualifications leading to the Sport England ‘Clubmark’ accreditation and you have a product that is ‘quality assured’ with coaches with qualifications that everyone can recognise.
Then you have to do a good job. ‘Professional’ doesn’t just mean earning money at something – it means doing a ‘professional’ job. Turn up at the right time with all the right equipment and lesson plans and provide a good, quality lesson. Support that with structured feedback to students and parents, recognised gradings and access to continued development and competition and you’re providing the service that should be expected.
This is perfect public relations (PR) if you do this well you won’t need all the trashy gimmicks. You won’t have to become the performing monkey at all events, forever giving out leaflets and begging people to join you. You won’t find yourself cutting a child’s birthday cake with a sacred Samurai sword and acting as a babysitter, the only ‘salesman’ you’ll have to be is the consummate professional.
‘Snowball PR’ means that every time you do a good job, people will talk about you, eventually you become the Professional Martial Artist that is the ‘go to’ guy in your area for anything to do with Martial Arts. People will come to you because you won’t be ripping them off, damaging them with bad training practice and trying to ‘upgrade’ them at ridiculous prices with sham products. Respect will come when you help the children, help rehabilitate people from illness and surgery, adapt professionally for people with special needs, help people with posture, breathing, mental awareness, mental focus, emotional growth, health, fitness and conflict resolution.
When did your ‘management consultants’ and ‘business advisors’ help you with all that? They won’t, because if they turn you into the consummate professional, you won’t need them.
The onus is on you to ‘up your game’ and do what you know is right, don’t let poor quality, heavily marketed clubs take over, use the quality that you’ve developed over the years, that Martial spirit of humility, resolve and determination to get out into the community and SHOW what premium Martial Arts can do to change it for the better. Let them know what qualifications they should be looking for and match those of the other sports to be a positive part of your local community, take pride in what you do and beat the ‘snake oil’ salesman with a quality product that uses PR over marketing and utilises that Martial Arts spirit of determination and resolve to leave a Martial Arts legacy of which we can all be proud.