Many martial arts school owners have to make a tough choice when it comes to marketing: Continue doing what they’re doing and hope for the best OR look for ways to improve their marketing skills.
And, one of the first places martial arts school owners look is at joining a martial arts marketing association to help grow their school.
But is joining a martial arts marketing association the right thing to do?
The Need for Martial Arts Marketing Associations
Stephen Oliver of the National Association of Martial Artists (NAPMA) said he recently sent out a mailer to 18,000 martial arts schools across the USA and 3,000 were returned because the studio shut down. That’s roughly 16% in closures. Ouch!
Clearly, there is great demand for marketing education to help keep martial arts schools open and to help those just starting a martial arts school. While these closures may be attributed to other factors, I would venture to say that a lack of marketing competence was one of the biggest reasons those martial arts schools shut down.
Why Join a Martial Arts Marketing Association?
When you join an association, you typically have access to a variety of new instructors who are all have varying levels of experience. Having different points of view and a network of people to bounce ideas off of as well as share experiences is never a bad thing.
There are two main marketing associations in the industry: the National Association for Professional Martial Artists (NAPMA) and Martial Arts Teachers Association (MATA). Both were started by John Graden. However, now he is focused exclusively on MATA while Stephen Oliver is at the helm over at NAPMA.
They provide several networking opportunities including conference calls, seminars, and conferences. They also provide marketing templates for direct mailers, newsletters, ads, fliers and more. In addition, they offer forums where you can share your experiences, ask questions, and get new ideas. Some have newsletters and/or magazines that shares personal success stories of many of their members which can be very inspirational.
From what I’ve heard, there are also many teaching, curriculum, business, and other useful tools they provide for both the new martial arts school owner and the seasoned martial arts school owner alike.
How to Evaluate a Martial Arts Marketing Association
Make sure you do your home work before joining. Go to their website. Sign up for their magazines and/or newsletters. Read the forums. Find testimonials. Scour the Internet for reviews. Ask your peers if they belong and if they recommend one over the other. Then decide whether if the cost will outweigh the benefits you will receive.
Is a Martial Arts Marketing Association Right For You?
Whether you self-educate or join a martial arts marketing association, you need to have one thing in mind with respect to your marketing: You need to have an empty cup.
A university professor went to visit a famous Zen master. While the master quietly served tea, the professor talked about Zen. The master poured the visitor’s cup to the brim, and then kept pouring. The professor watched the overflowing cup until he could no longer restrain himself. “It’s overfull! No more will go in!” the professor blurted. “You are like this cup,” the master replied, “You are full of ideas. You come and ask for teaching, but your cup is full; I can’t put anything in. Before I can teach you, you’ll have to empty your cup.”
You need to be ready to learn and be ready to try new things. If you’re not willing to have an empty cup when it comes to your marketing education, like you had to have when you started in your art, then don’t bother signing up to an association. You will waste your money. Same goes if you go it alone. It’s all about your mindset.
And, you have to realize that not every marketing tactic will work at your martial arts school. Some things will work. Some won’t. The only way you’ll know what works is by testing. Realize that you might try 5 things that don’t work but maybe on the 6th you find a gem.
Will Joining a Martial Arts Marketing Association Make You A Sell Out?
I’m of the belief you don’t need to comprise your art to grow your school. I think you can have the best of both worlds. And, joining a martial arts association also doesn’t mean you have to sell out, either.
Don’t do anything that will comprise your integrity, but at the same time, be ready to push yourself and know if it’s not making you a little uneasy, it’s probably not a big enough push. In order to grow, you have to take yourself out of comfort zone and push things past what you normally do.
Martial arts marketing associations aren’t for everyone and I’ve heard mixed experiences. For some, it’s exactly what they need to grow or start their martial arts school. While for others have a hard time benefiting from them. Personally, I don’t belong to any at this time but wondered what others have experienced.
Do you recommend joining a martial arts marketing association? Share your experiences and thoughts in the form of a comment below!