Thursday, April 16, 2009

"Your first class is free" and other marketing questions

One of the challenges of teaching a non-traditional martial art such as Sil Jun Do Bup (or than the difficulty that many non-Koreans have in pronouncing it) is the question: "how do I market this?" 
Aside from the regular challenges of marketing a martial art class, there are a few unique challenges to marketing a class in Sil Jun Do Bup.  These are:

1. Sil Jun Do Bup is indeed a martial art, but unlike many other arts it is for the most part practiced individually rather then with partners.  One obvious reason for this is that you are using a real sword, and although it is blunted along the edge, you are still capable on inflicting grave injuries if it is handled carelessly or disrespectfully.  

2. New students of SJDB do not usually begin their studies with a focus on self-defense.  Although many of the skills obtained during your study of the form help to make you a more aware, healthier, and more powerful person, most students do not assume they'll be carrying around a sword with them on the street (probably not the best idea...)

3. Many (most) people simply do not know what SJDB is.  When explaining it, I first make mention that it is closely related to the Japanese art of iaido.  Then, assuming I gauge no reaction of familiarity with the latter, I usually go on to explain that it's the art of drawing the sword, cutting, and re-sheathing that the Samurai of feudal Japan studied, "you know, like in Samurai movies such as 'The Last Samurai' and 'Seven Samurai' or even 'Kill Bill.'"  Karate?  Familiar.  Kung-Fu?  Familiar.  Sil Jun Do Bup?  Is that some kind of rice dish?

So given these unique challenges, how can I target my marketing?  To begin to approach this, I need to first identify what kind of audience I am looking for.  When thinking about this, and from feedback I've received from friends and family, I've narrowed it down to a few groups.

People who:

1. want to get into shape.  - This is similar to the yoga-set.  These are people who want to improve their flexibility and overall health but don't want to run for an hour on the treadmill.  
2. practice a non-traditional martial art. - Many of these people study eskrima, kravmaga, or other exotic forms.  
3. have a broad appreciation and awareness of global culture.
4. really like swords. - This was me.  It started with lightsabers, moved to knights, samurai, or anyone who could swing a sword and make it look really cool.

And, arguably the most important:

4. can afford to take the classes. - This is one of the most challenging, not because the classes are expensive, but they do take an initial investment on top of the class fee.  The uniform is $100, and the sword (which doesn't have to be purchased until after the first promotion test - usually 2 months) runs about $350 (and is actually a great deal).  Depending on how long you want to commit to, the classes run for less than $18 each.

So these are the issues in a nutshell.  Here's what I've done to market so far:

1.  Press release - This was the first thing I did, and got some great responses, including the feature run in the Waterfront Weekly.
2. Flyering.  I post these around Hoboken, and although they're gone within a couple of days, I'm hoping that people will begin to recognize them and take notice.
3. Facebook, Myspace, Twitter
4. I've been posting any martial arts sites and discussion boards I can find.

What other ways can I reach out to the local community?  I think that one of the best ways is to actually show people the art, to demonstrate it, but it is not easy to find the opportunity to do so - I can't exactly just go into the park and start swinging  a sword around, right?  So, any ideas?


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