Looking for a great way to market your martial arts school to a new audience? Break free of your marketing routine by setting up booths at local community events. Festivals, fairs, picnics, and other celebrations are opportunities to share the values you teach on the mat with people who’ve never heard of your services. Sitting in your martial arts school, hoping new members will walk in is a recipe for disappointment. Instead, explore these 11 tips to market your business and attract new members at community events in your area.
1. Create an Event Calendar
Create a calendar that includes every community event in your area. Research events to secure invitations or reserve booths at each of them. Don’t be afraid to try new events. When you share what you love about martial arts with a new audience, who knows who you might inspire.
2. Network with the Host
Anytime I’m a guest at an event, I aim to delight my host and be invited back next year. To do this, I make sure my message fits the goals of the event. I promote literacy and reading when at a library sponsored event. I promote health and wellness when manning a booth at a health fair. Before you leave, ask the host if they received any feedback on your booth. If that feedback is positive, ask to come back next year.
3. Dress Appropriately for the Event
Plan to dress similarly to the other vendors and attendees at the event. If you’re attending a business expo, a dry cleaned pair of slacks and a dress shirt might be perfect. If you have a booth at a local summer festival, appearing in uniform might help attract attention. If you’re not sure, ask the event host how most people dressed last year.
4. Bring a Team
Having the right team at community events can help make attendees feel more comfortable visiting your booth. Try to include team members that your audience can identify with. If you are attending a festival aimed at children, consider having a junior team of 3-6 do a 1-minute demo once an hour to draw families and kids to your booth.
5. Stand & Be Seen
Booths are not for sitting! As often as possible, you should be out in front of your booth ready to engage those who walk by. Bring comfortable shoes and prepare for long days by assigning shifts to team members to make the most of your investment.
6. Teach at Your Booth
What do you really want to be known for in your community? The guy who can split a watermelon with a Kitana? Not me! I want everyone to know I’m the best teacher in town.
I find every opportunity to teach the same techniques, skills, and values we practice on the mat. Sometimes we teach how to kick or punch. Other times, when interacting with kids, we demonstrate the importance of making eye contact when speaking with an adult or how to scan their environment when in a place for the first time.
7. Bring Fun Martial Arts Gear
I always bring bag gloves and a water-filled punching bag to community events. If things get slow at my booth, I recruit a passersby to put on the gloves and give the bag a piece of their mind. I’ve met very few people in my life that don’t smile after hitting a bag.
Similarly, blocker bats are great for little ones. I let them hit me first and only reverse roles with parental approval and careful observation of the child’s demeanor. Take care not to make a timid child uncomfortable. If done properly, the experience opens the child’s eyes to a new experience and gets them excited about martial arts classes.
8. Draw a Prize Winner
Pick a prize everyone likes and can use. (I use VISA gift cards.) A $50 gift card or prize is a small investment to ensure that you get maximum participation.
In addition to the first prize, choose winners who will receive free services from your martial arts school, which as: free week or free month programs, self-defense class for an entire office, or martial arts birthday party.
Be sure to follow up with prize winners right away if you won’t be handing out prizes at your booth during the event.
9. Bring Memorable Giveaways
Flyers, business cards, and other marketing materials are required, but these don’t often leave a lasting impression. With your other promotional giveaways, aim to create a moment or experience that people will remember.
What do I mean? When I attend a women’s empowerment summit, everyone visits my booth is invited to learn a beginner escape. While they perform the escape, my staff takes a picture with a Polaroid instant camera (I found this camera on Amazon). The photo is placed in a cardboard picture frame with my logo and contact info printed on it. Our visitor now has a keepsake to show others or hang on a bulletin board. These photos have a way longer shelf life than our flyers and they only cost about $1 each with film and frame.
10. Be Who You Say You Are
Earlier, I encouraged you to try new events to find new potential members for your martial arts school. This recommendation comes with one condition: you should attend events that are a good fit for the services you offer, the values you hold, and the culture of your school.
While you shouldn’t be afraid to break the mold, you have to stay true to yourself. Make sure your values align with those of the community events you plan to attend. For instance, if your main priority is maintaining a healthy lifestyle, then health and fitness events are perfect for you. If, on the other hand, you focus on teaching life skills to children and young adults, family-oriented events may be best for you.
11. The Fortune is in the Follow Up
If you invest in promoting your martial arts school at community events, you should have a plan that provides return on your investment. Before you step foot in your booth, decide who will make follow-up calls, write phone scripts, and prepare emails to send. To ensure you follow this process, try setting up an automated lead follow-up process in your martial arts software.
What’s helped you market your martial arts school successfully at community events? Which community events work best for your business? Share your experience in the comments below.
Rick Ellis has 25+ years of experience in martial arts school ownership and consulting. His passion is helping school owners grow and increase retention through targeted staff training and systems integration.