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Kovar Systems
Business Tips Point to Ponder Marketing Tips

You Make Your Market

By Bryan Nay

“HELP! There’s another dojo opening up right across town, what do I do?”

At Kovar Systems, we have the distinct honor of working with martial arts school owners all around the world, helping them to grow and overcome whatever challenges they may face in their business. One of the most common concerns we hear is about how to respond to what their competitors are doing – the other martial arts schools in town.

While it can be easy to think that another martial arts school opening up could be a bad thing for you – less students to enroll, tougher marketing, etc. – our experience is that it’s just not the case.

First, let’s consider the idea of your competitors being truly BAD at what they do – they don’t run great classes, their business practices are clumsy if not flat out unethical, etc., etc. They make your school look amazing by comparison, so that’s great, right? Wrong. If a martial arts school is bad, for ANY reason, it reflects poorly on us all. The students who go there and leave won’t tell their friends, “Don’t go to Dojo X at 1234 North Ave. because we had a bad experience” they’re going to say, “We tried martial arts, it was AWFUL, don’t do it!” For this reason, we find it’s far better for the competition to be GOOD at what they do, whether they’re close to us or not. We want more people having great experiences in the martial arts everywhere, period.

Next, think about your current students for a moment. As you mentally run through your student list, consider this question: how many of them would still be enrolled and training in martial arts today if YOU and your school had never been there to meet them? What percentage of students were so set on finding ANY martial arts program that they would be training no matter what school they found? Usually, when owners really reflect on it, the answer is around 10-15%. That means the other 90% of your students are training because they met YOU. They saw you, your school, and through one interaction or another decided what YOU did was the right fit for what THEY needed. They may not have even known what they were looking for, but you helped them to find it. And they continue to make that choice today. This is what we call “creating your own market.”

Most often, successful schools in our industry create their own markets within their community. Rather than competing over the same 1% of the population training in the martial arts, we focus on educating the other 99% about the merits of martial arts training and why it’s the best possible thing for them and their family. Instead of trying to get a bigger slice of the martial arts pie, make the entire pie bigger! This abundance mentality approach to growing our surrounding market has proved a much more successful approach over the last 40 years of running schools and is what led up to share our success strategies with other school owners through Kovar Systems. Rather than thinking in terms of competing directly, we’ve found greater success in working together and sharing information. This doesn’t just “feel” better, it’s also helped our top and bottom lines perform better, too. There is a phrase that sums this view up well: “The rising tide lifts all boats.” In other words, what benefits one of us is good for all of us.

While this may seem overly optimistic to some, we thoroughly believe that our biggest competitor isn’t the school down the street (and we have lots here in Sacramento) but rather seasonal sports, video games, overbooked schedules, or even general anonymity are our stiffest “competition.” So while yes, it might better in the short-term to have fewer martial arts schools in your neighborhood, to keep the water-related analogies going: you have bigger fish to fry.

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Speaking of working together, this May 3-5 we have an amazing industry event happening in Denver, CO – the International Professional Martial Arts Conference! Join hundreds of fellow martial arts professionals for 3 days of training, learning, and sharing ideas with industry leaders from around the world. Get more information HERE. Register before April 15th and save $100 on general admission with early bird pricing. See you there!

Martial Arts School Owners!

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by Bryan Nay