Not all your martial arts marketing has to be digital. While digital marketing is a mandatory channel in today’s online-focused climate, there are classic tried-and-true methods that will amplify your marketing campaign’s effectiveness while also helping to keep marketing costs down. In this article, we’ll discuss one of the most old school promotional techniques available to martial arts school owners: event-based marketing.

Event Booths

If you want to combine your booth setup with a demonstration, or with an educational “clinic” of some sort, you can sometimes exchange your performance in an entertaining capacity for a free booth. This can also work if you have some sort of charitable angle, such as anti-bullying education.

Some possible events might include:

  • Fairs
  • Festivals
  • Marches
  • Parades
  • Charity events
  • Runs
  • Sports games
  • Public church or other religious functions
  • Theater premiers of action or martial arts movies
  • Parks & recreation events
  • Cultural celebrations

For marches, parades, and local sports games, demonstration teams might be more useful than a booth since you can actually be part of the proceedings.

If you want to run a successful event booth, you must first make sure that you have something to offer. In fact, it’s best to have multiple things to offer.

Secondly, you need to ensure that you have a system to gather contact information from people who come to partake in what you have to offer. Pen and paper are fine, but a tablet with information capturing software is more convenient, efficient, and professional-looking.

You can mix and match any of these ideas for how to attract people to your booth and collect their contact information:

  • Raffles
  • Free items
  • Mini-seminars
  • Free classes
  • Items for sale
  • Free online courses
  • Private/intro lessons
  • Charity promotions
  • Board breaking

Sales and signups for courses are obvious ways to capture information. But if you run micro-seminars and clinics as part of your booth display, having parents and adult participants sign a liability waiver is a less obvious way to capture that contact information.

Gymdesk provides forms fully integrated with our gym management software that you can place on your website or activate through our useful Front Desk Mode to easily capture information. You can customize those forms to capture event-specific information, and you can automatically designate each conversion that comes through that form as a lead so you can segment them for specific marketing to develop them into members. If you need to use liability waivers at an event, we also allow total digital handling through our software.

(For more information about how we serve martial arts school specifically, check out our Gymdesk martial arts page.)

Demo Teams

Demo teams are an excellent way to draw attention to your business, for cheap, at any number of events. They come in two types: traditional and modern.

Traditional demo teams string together demonstrations made to display the curriculum of a traditional martial arts program, often with the express purpose of communicating the culture behind the system. 

Modern demo teams combine martial arts, popular music, acrobatics, board breaking, and modified traditional weapons to create a spectacular entertainment experience.

While there is overlap between the two types, which type of team you build depends on the type of school you run and the culture you want to convey to potential students. If you run a very traditional, authentic Okinawan karate program, you will want to run traditional demonstrations that show the discipline and beauty of kata, kobudo, and self-defense techniques. If you run a more modern or hybrid martial arts program, a modern demo team might be best for you.

Demo teams should be made up of your most talented and able students. Because demonstrations take a lot of coordination, practice, and creativity, you should also create a special class time every week dedicated specifically to practicing demos and skills related to them.

For traditional teams, it might be prudent to develop one or two demos that don’t change. For modern demo teams, you can choose to put together new demos for changing “seasons” or you can choose to have one main demonstration if your team’s main function is promotional and does not engage in any other activities, like demo team competitions.

Self-Hosted Events

There’s no reason why you have to wait around for events to market at, nor spend money to get booths at an event. Leveraging your own space, or a public space that you’re able to procure, there are any number of events you can host throughout the year:

  • Charity drive or “kickathons”
  • Strip mall events partnering with neighboring businesses
  • Back to school bashes
  • Halloween parties
  • Christmas parties
  • Parents’ night out
  • Movie and/or game nights
  • Birthday parties

Beyond that, you can create just about any event you can think of to capitalize on current events, local culture, or anything worth celebrating. The only limit is your creativity and promotional ability.

How to Promote Your Event

Flyer distribution and word-of-mouth are two no-brainer promotional activities you should be engaged in. Beyond that, social media is going to be your best channel for reaching your community on a mass scale to invite them to your event.

The unfortunate reality of social media is that Facebook and Instagram pages do not get you free, organic reach like they used to. These platforms are “pay to play” if you want to reach both your audience and new audiences. To make things even worse, advertisements are becoming more expensive and less effective. 

Fortunately, Adam Kifer of the Relentless Marketing consultancy, has a clever way to make your ads more powerful and as cheap as they used to be many years ago. First, create a separate Facebook page from your business’s page called “[Your Town’s] Best.” If you operate inside of Charlotte, NC, for example, name the page “Charlotte’s Best.”

Second, create an event to promote rather than an advertisement (although advertisements from this page will still usually work better than from your business’s page). According to Kifer, the events function seems to work better than ads. 

If you’re using a program other than Facebook to gather signup information, place a link to the portal you’re using so that viewers know where to RSVP for your event. With our software, you can place the custom forms you create on an event-specific landing page for attendees to use.

Conclusion

There are tons of ways to leverage events as a low-cost, high impact way to promote your martial arts school. You can get a booth at events, engage in the entertainment at events with your demo team, or create and host events that you control. Regardless of what method you use, make sure you give a reason for prospective members to approach you and give you their information. From there, you can develop them into members through follow-up marketing campaigns.


This article is part of a broader series on martial arts marketing. Click here to check out our guide, “Martial Arts Marketing: The Ultimate Guide.”

To find out more on how our software helps enhance marketing for martial arts schools, check out our Gymdesk martial arts page.


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