Biggest Issue When You Started A School

pdg

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In that case, how would I alter the public's perception of martial arts AND drum up qualified leads for instructors simultaneously so that the instructors get the following they deserve and the public quits treating the martial arts like some neat extracurricular to tack on to a transcript?

Go back a couple of hundred years to the feudal far east - otherwise I don't think you can.

For the overwhelmingly vast majority of the population it's not a life nowadays where there is a dire need for fighting ability.

Because there's no need for it, it's a hobby.

I consider my MA a way of life, but not from a fighting standpoint.

In much the same way, my uncle could be construed to consider going fishing a way of life, but he doesn't need to hunt carp to avoid starving to death.
 
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martialartsnerd

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Go back a couple of hundred years to the feudal far east - otherwise I don't think you can.

For the overwhelmingly vast majority of the population it's not a life nowadays where there is a dire need for fighting ability.

Because there's no need for it, it's a hobby.

I consider my MA a way of life, but not from a fighting standpoint.

In much the same way, my uncle could be construed to consider going fishing a way of life, but he doesn't need to hunt carp to avoid starving to death.

Challenge accepted. Guess that's what I need to figure out. It's like gpseymour and I discussed privately, community building. With a lot of 80/20 behind it. Alright, I'm getting a feel for this chaos.
 
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martialartsnerd

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It looks to me like he's saying group classes is the alternate route to grading, not the books and videos. The way I read the concept is not to reduce what's already offered, but to find a way to offer more value to those who can afford to pay more and want more. A lot of instructors already do this, though more in theory than in fact: private lessons.

Yeah, that's about right. After our discussion, it also kinda seems like the lower steps of the value ladder aren't emphasized enough to attract, and there's all the stuff you mentioned in our call, which boils down to money, time, and consistency. This is an interesting problem to wrap my head around.
 

Gerry Seymour

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The "perception is reality" diatribe. Maybe there has been enough saturation that it isn't as apparent as it was in years past but the reputation, bad or otherwise, usually made it to our school in one way or another. The preceded reputation of MA was one of my bigger battles when I introduced our public school program. I suppose if, as an owner/instructor you are able to isolate yourself it is true but aren't you missing out on a lot? Honestly, I do not even know how to water down my MA or why I would want to. We are to lift up, not water down. IMHO
In the context given, "watered down" I think meant making it easier and less "fighty". That's what some folks want, so I don't think that's antithetical to "lifting up". Is the current reputation worse for MA consumers than the semi-mystical reputation MA tended toward in the 70's and 80's? I doubt it.
 

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This bit first...

Do you know any MA school - anywhere - that is full, let alone has demand enough to outstrip supply?
Very few, but I have run into 2 (maybe 3) that had waiting lists. That it's not more common suggests there's a mismatch - it's entirely possible we simply have more supply than demand, in general. A nice situation for us as consumers, but not for us as instructors.

This is really where the analogy absolutely falls flat.

You know what places get full? Good and well priced restaurants, doctors, cinemas - places where you either need to go or where you can enjoy yourself with no effort.

You know what places never get full? Gyms, tennis clubs, MA schools...

The guy on here who teaches in a YMCA hosted school (embarrassingly, I can't remember his name) - I never remember him saying it gets too busy to run. They charge a nominal fee ($30-40 / month iirc) and I recall him mentioning discounts for the financially challenged.

So, even running as an effectively free service, demand doesn't outstrip supply.

I bet he could give away milk and cookies and still not be over subscribed.
Oddly, the largest schools I've run into are among the more expensive (adjusted for area). Free and near-free programs tend to struggle more. Whether price is part of the cause of that difference or not, I can't really say.

I honestly think you could charge whatever you want (from 0 to whatever) and still have around the same size client base. The fee would in no way determine the 'quality' of student.
Agreed, mostly (except that price does change how many people can afford something, so changes the potential client base). The fee is not to identify a specific quality (other than the willingness and ability to pay that fee) - that's the purpose of marketing. Marketing, done well, allows consumers to properly self-select into or out of a product or service offering. That's what the OP was saying earlier about marketing creating "filters". When marketing is flawed, one of two things happens in unhealthy proportions: the wrong people show up to check things out (and aren't really interested after they look), or the people who would be interested can't figure out the value for themselves and don't show up to check things out. The most "broken" marketing creates both of those situations.
 

pdg

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Oddly, the largest schools I've run into are among the more expensive (adjusted for area). Free and near-free programs tend to struggle more. Whether price is part of the cause of that difference or not, I can't really say.

I can see that actually - the school we discussed recently is expensive and nationwide (and of dubious quality...)

To draw another incomplete parallel - I was trying to get rid of a table a while back, advertised it as free to collector. Nothing for a week.

Readvertised it for 瞿50, it was sold within an hour and I had more than 5 people waiting in line if the sale fell through...

That's not the only item I've had that happen with either.

So, while I get the whole picture I really think it needs to be carefully balanced as far as price and availability goes.



As to the public perception of MA aspect of this, I personally think that price should be the least important area of focus.

Because it really is a leisure activity these days you're not going to elevate it's status with a clever pricing scheme.
 

pdg

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Very few, but I have run into 2 (maybe 3) that had waiting lists. That it's not more common suggests there's a mismatch - it's entirely possible we simply have more supply than demand, in general. A nice situation for us as consumers, but not for us as instructors.

There's absolutely more supply than demand.

The whole thing before about "it's all karate to the public" - I may slightly disagree with that sentiment, but let's say it's true.

A Google Search for "martial arts {my town} yields over a dozen results, and it's not a big town. Expand 10 miles (which takes in 2 more smaller towns and a few large villages) and you get 30+.

Search for "tennis {my town}" and you get 3. Swimming, 2. Gym, 8.

As I'm putting MA in the leisure category, it shows there is a large supply with much choice.



Edit: I forgot the entire point of this post!

This shows something strange.

Tennis is on TV (the non subscription free to air channels) for every major tournament.

Swimming gets loads of TV coverage during the Olympics and the like.

Gym membership is advertised everywhere around here - local radio, billboards, flyers in the post.

To see MA on (free) TV you need to wait for the 5 minute highlights of the Olympics - or resort to YouTube.

The only advertising for MA I see is a couple of tiny adverts in the "active kids" mini magazine the school sends out, and we've had 2 flyers handed out by our kid's school (one of which I supplied to the school for 'my' club).

So, as good as zero advertising yet enough demand to keep that many clubs operating? Would extra advertising change that or is it really that MA is an activity that people actually look for if they have an interest?
 
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pdg

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Challenge accepted. Guess that's what I need to figure out. It's like gpseymour and I discussed privately, community building. With a lot of 80/20 behind it. Alright, I'm getting a feel for this chaos.

If you really want to change public perception I think you have an awfully long road ahead of you, and it's all uphill...
 

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In the context given, "watered down" I think meant making it easier and less "fighty". That's what some folks want, so I don't think that's antithetical to "lifting up". Is the current reputation worse for MA consumers than the semi-mystical reputation MA tended toward in the 70's and 80's? I doubt it.
I agree it is a good thing to separate the mysticism from MA, a very good thing. And the reputation of the 70's & 80's where you had to register your deadly hands, absolutely. So, if you make it "easier and less fighty", shouldn't that also make the curriculum longer to achieve the same goal? I have a hard time reconciling easier not being watered down.
 

dvcochran

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That's true as of this moment. Trying to change that is my mission in life, but right now, I'm starting from scratch, with a few connections and a thorough lack of sanity. In that case, how would I alter the public's perception of martial arts AND drum up qualified leads for instructors simultaneously so that the instructors get the following they deserve and the public quits treating the martial arts like some neat extracurricular to tack on to a transcript? Or would a better idea be, as gpseymour and I discussed privately, to emphasize community building instead?
It sounds a lot like you are trying to create some kind of melting pot of all popular MA, gym, etc.. into one homogenized thing and market it with trained instructors to create this "lifestyle" product. Isn't the YMCA already doing that?
 

Gerry Seymour

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I can see that actually - the school we discussed recently is expensive and nationwide (and of dubious quality...)

To draw another incomplete parallel - I was trying to get rid of a table a while back, advertised it as free to collector. Nothing for a week.

Readvertised it for 瞿50, it was sold within an hour and I had more than 5 people waiting in line if the sale fell through...

That's not the only item I've had that happen with either.

So, while I get the whole picture I really think it needs to be carefully balanced as far as price and availability goes.



As to the public perception of MA aspect of this, I personally think that price should be the least important area of focus.

Because it really is a leisure activity these days you're not going to elevate it's status with a clever pricing scheme.
I agree with that, for the most part. I don't think the kinds of models that work for coaching (where I've seen this) translate well to MA. But I'm interested in seeing where this takes the OP. A lot of times, starting from a flawed model is a good way to get out of a thinking rut. I haven't seen a lot of change in how schools are run over the last 30 years, and maybe it's time for some changes. Clever pricing might not help, but maybe there's something else we can get out of this that'll help us provide a more valued service/product.
 

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There's absolutely more supply than demand.

The whole thing before about "it's all karate to the public" - I may slightly disagree with that sentiment, but let's say it's true.

A Google Search for "martial arts {my town} yields over a dozen results, and it's not a big town. Expand 10 miles (which takes in 2 more smaller towns and a few large villages) and you get 30+.

Search for "tennis {my town}" and you get 3. Swimming, 2. Gym, 8.

As I'm putting MA in the leisure category, it shows there is a large supply with much choice.



Edit: I forgot the entire point of this post!

This shows something strange.

Tennis is on TV (the non subscription free to air channels) for every major tournament.

Swimming gets loads of TV coverage during the Olympics and the like.

Gym membership is advertised everywhere around here - local radio, billboards, flyers in the post.

To see MA on (free) TV you need to wait for the 5 minute highlights of the Olympics - or resort to YouTube.

The only advertising for MA I see is a couple of tiny adverts in the "active kids" mini magazine the school sends out, and we've had 2 flyers handed out by our kid's school (one of which I supplied to the school for 'my' club).

So, as good as zero advertising yet enough demand to keep that many clubs operating? Would extra advertising change that or is it really that MA is an activity that people actually look for if they have an interest?
I don't know that I'd equate media coverage with advertising. Most big schools have demo teams - demos are nothing but advertising by live appearance. Smaller schools are less likely to have a dedicated team, but most still do demos. Most dedicated spaces have signs, and most are on some carefully chosen traffic-way. Nearly every school has a website, and probably half also have a Facebook page. Many have Youtube channels. Some buy advertising space in small publications (local papers, coffee shop readers, etc.). In the past, the phone book's ad section (the "Yellow Pages" here in the US) was the primary advertising method, though that's lost its power in the last 20 years.

Media coverage of the UFC drove a lot of interest in BJJ and MMA, so it does seem to matter. Movie coverage in the 70's and 80's drove a lot of the growth in those years. I'd be curious whether there's a small spike in Judo membership after the Olympics.
 

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I agree it is a good thing to separate the mysticism from MA, a very good thing. And the reputation of the 70's & 80's where you had to register your deadly hands, absolutely. So, if you make it "easier and less fighty", shouldn't that also make the curriculum longer to achieve the same goal? I have a hard time reconciling easier not being watered down.
Yes, if you assume the same goal is there. There are a lot of folks who train in MA without fighting ability for self-defense being a conscious goal. If someone just wants to be active and fit, and enjoy the challenge of learning new skills, there's no reason to measure the curriculum's effectiveness the same way you'd measure it for someone who wants to compete in MMA or Karate competitions, nor for generic fighting ability.
 

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It sounds a lot like you are trying to create some kind of melting pot of all popular MA, gym, etc.. into one homogenized thing and market it with trained instructors to create this "lifestyle" product. Isn't the YMCA already doing that?
Creating a lifestyle product? Yes. Involving MA in that marketing? Not really. Did I miss the point of your post?

Though many Y's have MA programs on premises, many of those are not Y programs, but rented space (the Y I'm trying to go back to won't host the program - too much of a headache for their staff, so it'll be rented space).
 
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martialartsnerd

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If you really want to change public perception I think you have an awfully long road ahead of you, and it's all uphill...
If you really want to change public perception I think you have an awfully long road ahead of you, and it's all uphill...

Agreed. So I either start now or never and I gotta figure things out as I go. I don't mind an uphill battle. Though it does mean I'll need to get creative. And if I've fallen short of such a lofty goal, then I don't mind that, either.
 
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martialartsnerd

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It sounds a lot like you are trying to create some kind of melting pot of all popular MA, gym, etc.. into one homogenized thing and market it with trained instructors to create this "lifestyle" product. Isn't the YMCA already doing that?

Homogenizing the martial arts would be a travesty there. I have zero intentions of turning the uniqueness of the myriad of styles into a melting pot. The idea is to be able to apply sound marketing strategies TO the traditional martial arts while building an INSTRUCTOR'S personal brand. Because learning a STYLE is one thing, but to learn from a certain INSTRUCTOR within that style is part of the overall agenda, too. I wanna build communities with those instructors as lynchpins in a similar vein to certain niche businesses, like coaching (Tony Robbins, anyone?). I'll be damned if I twist this into something like a YMCA program. May any gods that anyone believes in have mercy on me if I do, because I'll have none.
 
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martialartsnerd

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In the context given, "watered down" I think meant making it easier and less "fighty". That's what some folks want, so I don't think that's antithetical to "lifting up". Is the current reputation worse for MA consumers than the semi-mystical reputation MA tended toward in the 70's and 80's? I doubt it.

Within the context given, kind of. It's less making it easier and more restoring it to form. A martial arts school with a solid community build around it tends to involve just as much a historical aspect as it does combative. What I wanna be able to bring back effectively is the idea of "this is how it was done in the past so that you can appreciate the adaptations that got us to now."
 
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martialartsnerd

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Very few, but I have run into 2 (maybe 3) that had waiting lists. That it's not more common suggests there's a mismatch - it's entirely possible we simply have more supply than demand, in general. A nice situation for us as consumers, but not for us as instructors.


Oddly, the largest schools I've run into are among the more expensive (adjusted for area). Free and near-free programs tend to struggle more. Whether price is part of the cause of that difference or not, I can't really say.


Agreed, mostly (except that price does change how many people can afford something, so changes the potential client base). The fee is not to identify a specific quality (other than the willingness and ability to pay that fee) - that's the purpose of marketing. Marketing, done well, allows consumers to properly self-select into or out of a product or service offering. That's what the OP was saying earlier about marketing creating "filters". When marketing is flawed, one of two things happens in unhealthy proportions: the wrong people show up to check things out (and aren't really interested after they look), or the people who would be interested can't figure out the value for themselves and don't show up to check things out. The most "broken" marketing creates both of those situations.

Price can be a part of it. People don't always value what's priced at the same rate as a cheap commodity or free. I'll still have to identify the true problem with how marketing is done for martial arts these days, but I also get the feeling that because the marketing being done is somewhat cookie-cutter and more reliant on the style rather than the instructor's personal brand, that may be my starting point.
 

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Price can be a part of it. People don't always value what's priced at the same rate as a cheap commodity or free. I'll still have to identify the true problem with how marketing is done for martial arts these days, but I also get the feeling that because the marketing being done is somewhat cookie-cutter and more reliant on the style rather than the instructor's personal brand, that may be my starting point.
I think a lot of instructors (myself included) copy what others are doing - without really knowing if it's effective or not.
 
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martialartsnerd

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I think a lot of instructors (myself included) copy what others are doing - without really knowing if it's effective or not.

Birds of a feather mentality, which is commonplace with everyone. And it's become the conventional wisdom of a martial arts business. Seen that happen with Michael Massie's business plan as well, so it's why I wanna flip the script and throw the conventional wisdom of running a school out the window, especially for a business as niche as martial arts. It's time to find a way to focus on the few instead of the many, because martial artists? We are the few. And conventional business tactics for a mass market basically burn a LOT of money to produce the kinda leads that a school wants.
 
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