Inbound Method Part 1, Gurus Step Aside

marketing Jul 31, 2015

In this article I'd like to introduce you to a marketing model that has not yet been discovered by most industries coming online but will completely change the face of how studio owners pursue success if used correctly. By name, inbound marketing is relatively new coming from the online and digital marketing space, but conceptually it's a marketing method that's antique and based off the premise that if you consistently deliver quality content to an audience ready and willing to consume it, your audience reach will grow. 

Many studio owners are sold a bundle of goods that range from $100 - $2,500 per month and are worth less than the paper they’re printed on. These goods are the template posters and flyers they get in their monthly subscription kit, that includes a DVD with some business guru telling them how to use this flyer to create a stellar event that will bring in hordes of warm bodies ready to sign a contract. They will go on to teach some base-level sales tactics, then invite them to purchase the equipment needed for the event from them. Do you see the tactic?

I’m sure I’ll get some heat from this article with some fellow studio owners telling me that many of these cookie cut initiatives sold to them by their consulting agency have in fact made them money.

Great, me too. But that still doesn't mean that there is a fundamental error in paying professional consultants to deliver templated models of obsolete marketing methods.  

If you are paying top dollar for professional coaching, you should be getting educated on the most effective means to attract an audience in today’s game.

Collectively, we must stop using the same regurgitated tactics of labor loaded outbound marketing that were used to sell gym memberships in the 80s. Most of the gurus came from that space, it’s what they know and what they sell.

The paradigm for marketing a studios must change rapidly in order to adapt to how today’s consumer is being educated and influenced on purchase decisions and lifestyle commitments such as training in yoga, dance or martial arts.

Sorry, but hosting a Pokemon Pizza Party does not have gravity any longer.

Can it work? I suppose, maybe.

But the time / resource trade-off doesn't justify the gain, in fact it's ludicrous when compared to applying those same resources into a properly designed Inbound Marketing campaign.

Consider changing your perspective and stepping beyond the status quo of how you promote your Dojo. It’s no longer about going out and trying to get people to see you. Stop doing that.

Especially for the traditional martial art school owner who squirms at the idea of having to do a “Mutant Ninja Mania Parents Night Out.” It’s over, put the turtle costume in the garbage and get back to doing what you do best. Teaching martial arts.

For anyone to compete in the coming years, the time is now to break through this very linear model of marketing their studios. For the sake of collectively bettering our reputation in our communities, it’s time the self-proclaimed business consultants, who haven’t sat in lotus, struck a makiwara, spent countless hours on the floor or  the last time they worked out was 4 years prior to their last botox treatment, step aside.

Am I being harsh? I don’t think so.

I’m intolerant of the disservice being served to well intentioned school owners who rightfully seek out guidance in trusted business advisors the industry has recommended, only to be sold outdated and recycled systems that don’t hold up.

I sincerely want to fix this concept and start moving us forward again, genuinely serving those who both want and need what qualified teachers do, not some carnival show to sell baby sitting contracts and ninja toys.

But I’ll warn you, it takes time and effort on your part to learn. Are you ready?


First some good news.


By shifting your paradigm to an inbound marketing methodology in your promotional strategy, you are able to reclaim or manifest even further what you're most passionate about.

You will be able to market what you love to teach, in multiple modalities, and get immediate results from personas you want looking at your studio with peak interest. What’s extremely exciting, is that you no longer have to beg for students from a five-mile accessible market radius. Six hours prior to writing this article, I taught two private lessons in California, one in Texas, answered several questions from students in two continents, spoke with my Sensei in Japan and then taught three classes at my Dojo in New York. Does that sound interesting to you?

It should, and I truly believe that this is the beginning of an entirely new age for teaching authentic movement arts without risk of losing it's purity. Combine the advantages of global communication and commerce with a desired service from a global audience, add a solid inbound marketing plan ... and you've got you've got yourself some extraordinary opportunity to serve the exact audience you want. 

Let’s get to work.

Inbound marketing refers to marketing activities that bring prospective members in, rather than school owners having to go out to get prospective students’ attention. Inbound marketing earns the attention of these prospects, making your school more easily found, and draws an audience to your school and online properties by producing value based content.

Content is the absolute foundation of your marketing efforts in today’s ultra transparent world. As martial art teachers, you know the effect that web transparency has had on our world.

Yes, it sucks bad for the washed up fakers and allows those who have put in their time on the mat to carve a reputation they deserve. Stack that reputation with value based content syndication that supports your promotional campaigns and you will stand above the rest with market authority. Authority in your space builds trust from your market.

Getting your head around content for your studio will first be pretty linear. You’re most likely thinking about technique samples, demonstrations and curriculum. As you’ll soon see, this becomes much more diverse. And yes, there’s a system.

There are many platforms to deliver content pieces on such as your physical location, websites, blogs, social media properties, e-commerce, affiliate sites, etc. What is important to understand is that without content, none of these platforms, from your studio to Facebook, would exist.

Examples of content pieces can include,

  • Printed curriculum
  • Blog posts
  • Video instructionals
  • Infographics
  • Slide-shares
  • Articles and white papers
  • Ebooks
  • Curated reports
  • Interviews
  • Mobile apps
  • Podcasts
  • Webinars
  • Newsletters
  • ..... you get the point

The traction you get from your content inside any of these platforms depends on couple of criteria you must understand.

First is having message synergy with your audience. Choosing what content piece suits the specific audience segment and where they are in their current relationship with your studio. Are you feeding them what they want to consume at that time? We’ll talk more about this in a second, but what's important is recognizing that the value you deliver to the right audience will build momentum for growth within that specific platform and audience group.

Second, are you delivering relevancy... consistently?  You may have the best content in the world, but if it’s being published once a year or without any sense of schedule, you’re losing massive visibility.

Third, no content piece should be without a call to action. After someone watches your video and wants to take the next step in building a relationship with your studio, you must show them the next step, be it a lead magnet on a landing page, sales proposition baked into your content, anchor text guiding them to a related post, or invitation to the next sequence video. This is a big topic alone, but just know that no content piece should exist without a CTA or you're leaving your reader on the edge of a  cliff.

Last, benefit centric content is a must. Too many martial art gurus spend hours on video talking about how great they are, how they were awarded secret scrolls by their master in the 70’s. Nobody gives a shit. In order for your content pieces to have any traction, they must be centered on serving the desired outcome of the person you want consuming it.

Simply put,

Value centric content + Accurate distribution = trust in all areas of what’s known as the buyer’s journey. This is critically important stuff. Correctly crafted content will, 

  • Attract new interest
  • Incentivize visitors to become leads
  • Nurture leads into becoming students
  • Retain students to become your strongest supporters (and promoter)

Content is the fuel for attracting, gaining, growing and keeping students. Students not just at your studio, but anywhere your message is valued.

I hope you now see the potential in building an inbound marketing strategy into your studio.

In the next article, I'll summarize the Content Strategy and Content Process, which are the first steps in building a powerful inbound model. From that point forward, you'll have some super alignment with your current and future audience, delivering your teaching and the message of your art to the appropriate faces and allowing the opportunity to engage with you.


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