Subject: Dojo Biz Tips: How Like Attracts Like...


This is kind of a follow up to my recent email series on tribal marketing. Folks, the martial arts industry - and martial arts instructors in general - are an interesting bunch of people.

Some of us are nerds.

Some of use are jocks.

Some of us are peaceniks.

Some of us are police and military types.

Some of us are into counter-culture.

All of us are geeks. (You say you object? Seriously, your hobby has you running around yelling in your pajamas and speaking in a foreign language. If that's not geeky, I don't know what is.)

And sometimes, this gets in the way of growing our schools. 

See, you have to be careful that the culture you build in your school isn't exclusive of everyone who you don't relate to, whether you're a nerd, a jock, a tactical-as-hell guy, a peacenik, or a hipster.

This all has to do with what I call, "The Full Buy-in."

Part of what defines you IS going to help you attract your tribe. But a lot of it is just baggage that will drive a wedge between you and the people who come to you looking for a slice of what you're offering.

Now, if you DON'T run a commercial school, you don't have to worry about this. You can be as hardcore or weird as you want.

But if you are growing a commercial school (and that's not a bad thing, despite all the mutual exclusivity bullshit arguments that get thrown around to the contrary), then you need to realize that only a small percentage of your students will be there for the full buy-in...

Meaning, they are with you all the way, for all the crazy crap. Training five and six days a week? Yep. Two-hour training sessions? Yep. Full-contact stick fighting? Yep. Sparring in the dark? Yep. Breaking bricks? Yep. Sparring with shock knives? Yep. Live weapons training? Yep. 3-on-1 sparring? Yep. Full-contact anything? Yep.

I could go on and on, but I'm sure you can relate this concept to something that you do in your style or system, that makes the average person cringe.

That's the full buy-in, and it's a place most people won't go.

So, you have to accept that less than 10% of your students are there for the full buy-in, and the rest are going to pick and choose what they want to take away from what you're offering.

That might mean they only make it to green belt or whatever in your system. Fine, that's cool. Accept that they are only willing to go that far, and support them anyway.

It may mean that they don't want to do full-contact sparring, or stress-response training, or the special two-hour sessions that you offer on Saturdays. Some will, some won't. Don't judge them for it, or pretty soon you're going to find your school is emptier than synagogue on Super Bowl Sunday.

And guess who'll be left?

That's right, your full buy-in people, who don't generate enough income to even pay your electric bill most months.

So, keep doing all the crazy stuff you like to do, just realize that the majority of your students aren't coming to you for that. 

The key to keeping your doors open is welcoming people who aren't as crazy as you, and who aren't necessarily there for that stuff. And also, realizing that you can still give those people something valuable while they're with you.

That's all for today. Take this to heart if you're struggling to keep students, because it's a tough lesson to learn through direct experience.

Until next time,

Mike Massie

Quick-start Guide to My Books and Resources:
- Looking for a list of books and resources I've written? Click here! 
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P.S. - If you read between the lines here, what I'm saying is that you don't have to water down your art to make a living running a school. But, you do need to realize that not everyone is there for the full three-course meal.
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