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5-Step Guerrilla Marketing for Martial Arts Schools

Need summer conversions at your martial arts school? Try guerilla marketing. We assure you it has nothing to do with bringing an actual gorilla along with your demo team. While that would be impressive…we don’t recommend it.

Guerilla marketing is a catchy turn-of-phrase that describes marketing techniques that stray from the traditional methods you may know—direct mail, radio, print ads, and even today’s digital marketing—to get maximum exposure and impact. Examples include putting underwear on a statue, branding public spaces (with permission, of course), and vending machines creating awareness about areas without clean drinking water.

During the summer, martial arts schools typically experience a shift in enrollment. Parents are less interested in enrolling their kids in activities that they perceive as year-long activities and more interested in filling their summer with activities that can be enjoyed without disrupting summer vacation plans.

Creating your own guerrilla marketing strategy means that you don’t have to accept that summer gets slow. You can take actions that not only keep you afloat but give you more cash flow—if they’re done in a creative, thoughtful way that sets you up later for success.

As martial arts school owner and Member Solutions sales expert Rick Ellis says, there are specific ways you can market and network yourself (and by default, your school) that build rapport, reputation, and eventually, profit. Create your guerrilla marketing strategy with Rick’s 5-step plan.

1. Get a School Contact List

Market to local families with children within your desired age group as early as February. Get a list of mailing addresses for prospective students within your school district. There are a few ways you can do this:

  • Before Spring Break—Introduce yourself as a community leader to administrative offices. Communicate your intention to provide a safe, productive summer activity for kids and ask for a list of addresses. We promise it’s legal—under the Freedom of Information Act, you can request this information as a taxpayer. Expect to pay for the list of names you receive.
  • Starting the New School Year—If your local schools are not willing to give you addresses, avoid fighting it. Your reputation as a leader is more important. Instead, find out if your school district’s PTA distributes school phone books to students. Ask your martial arts students to bring in a copy of the phone book from each school. Reward the first child from each school who gives you the phone book with prizes like a free t-shirt, a free private lesson, or a raffle ticket into a larger prize drawing for an item like a game console.

2. Be Creative with Marketing Materials

Prepare marketing materials, like flyers and pencils, with your martial arts school name and phone number. Why flyers and pencils? You’ll be ready for any kind of situation—giving you the option to decide which is best for the moment. For example, schools may have rules about allowing you to pass out flyers but be perfectly fine with your passing out pencils (which they see as less aggressive in marketing intent). Because both are easy to give out to prospective students, you will never be unprepared.

3. Strengthen the Relationships You Have

Continue to build strong relationships with parents and current students. Your existing relationships with current students and their parents are your business’s stronghold. In fact, one great way to get in front of kids of your target age group is to name a “student of the week” during the peak sign-up season. Make the award lunch with an instructor. Winners can choose their favorite instructor at your school to eat with them in the cafeteria. Parents your program will be happy to advocate on your behalf to get this scheduled with administrators.


4. Network to Expand Your Connections

Offer to be “on call” anytime a teacher wants the day off. While demonstrations are a classic way to showcase the value of martial arts and your school, some academic institutions may be wary of allowing new visitors into their space. Take a different approach by connecting with P.E. teachers and others at the beginning of the school year. Introduce yourself as a community leader who specializes in personal development and martial arts. Offer yourself as a substitute teacher.

If you are able to set this up, don’t miss making this a memorable event! Invite other teachers in the school to watch your presentation. Bring your demo team to put on a big show.

Teach something that makes the adults in the school glad you came and feeling like you are a resource to them and the community (e.g. stranger awareness, bully defense, and courtesy). Ask for permission to send students home with your school’s flyer in place of getting paid. (If you’re approved to substitute but can’t give out flyers, this is where your branded pencils come in.)


5. Create Future Marketing Opportunities for Yourself

Don’t forget to invite yourself back next year (and schedule it right away!). At the end of an in-school visit, talk with teachers and administrators who said yes to your visit. Ask them if they were happy with what happened that day. Assuming you did a great job, and they say yes, ask if they would be open to setting up a repeat visit the same time next year.

If they say yes, book it right away on your calendar. Send everyone involved an invitation through email. Don’t wait until you get back to your school to do this—do it from your smartphone!


Remember, You Define Your Success

By creating a two- to four-week summer program available at a discounted price that includes a uniform, you can get families to fall in love with your school. Add in your 5-step guerrilla marketing plan now (with tweaks as needed for your needs), and you’ll convert new students by the end of summer.