Marketing Tai Chi
Part one – Personal Image and Business Systems
Know yourself and your enemy, you will win 100% of the time. Know yourself but not your enemy, you will win 50% of the time. Know neither yourself nor your enemy, you will lose every time. – Sun T’zu
Now, I wouldn’t exactly say students are enemies but the concept translates. In its simplest form, know yourself refers to know very well what you teach. We’ve all heard of “teachers” who learn a form and begin teaching classes. Does knowing how to play 1 song on a guitar qualify someone to be a guitar teacher? This is common sense! Know your Art deeply and keep learning. Don’t DO Tai Chi Chuan, BE Tai Chi Chuan! As far as the students side of it, if you are that way inclined, do the Market Research, find Demographics and know who are your potential students. I don’t, but it makes sense from a business perspective.
Digging deeper, we break it down into sections:
You are a teacher first and foremost. You must see yourself as a teacher, a guide as opposed to a business owner. Yes, you will be required to “wear both hats” but the teaching is the most important. Martial Arts businesses are in a strange field. While making a living is not a crime, remember you will be guiding other people as they take their first steps, in some cases, into this world. The way you are perceived is the standard for them. My Sifu was a strong role model for me. The way you carry yourself is important. Always be accessible and fair no matter what is going on in your life. As Martial Artists we are “supposed” to live a healthy life but the reality is we are human. I know Martial Arts Teachers who smoke like chimneys and drink like fish! If that is your lifestyle, so be it, but refrain from doing it where students may see you, especially the kids. I’m not saying to act as if you are the Holiest Martial Arts Monk, that is equally as potentially damaging. Giving the best REALISTIC image of yourself is essential. Always wear clean uniforms and keep where ever it is you teach from clean and tidy.
You have a responsibility to offer the clearest path you possibly can for students to learn the Art you are sharing with them. Have a Curriculum. While I don’t have belts, gradings, tournaments etc., I do have a clear system for giving the lessons and for checking if the information is being taken in. This is not so much for marketing purposes as it is for teaching. As I said, the Martial Arts business is a strange one. It isn’t just about “offering a product or service and taking the money” like other businesses are. You are guiding people toward a better life – be it health related, self defence, confidence or whatever other reason has brought them to you. This image is the first step in marketing yourself as a Tai Chi Chuan Teacher. Have you ever heard “don’t go to a dentist with bad teeth”?
THE “OTHER HAT”
In any business you need systems. Curriculums, accounting, marketing, even a cleaning system to utilize your time as best as possible. Learn this skill and develop strong systems. Spend the time setting it up and you will save yourself a lot of time that can be used better. You have the responsibility to your students to maintain your school to keep teaching them and that requires you to make a solid living. If need be, have a “day job” while you are growing your school. Be patient and develop it the right way. I have always had a problem with the money side of things. I have this romantic notion of what a Martial Arts Teacher should and shouldn’t be and although at times it may not be realistic, I have to be able to look myself in the mirror and be ok with what I do. I am not a fan of the average Martial Arts Marketing Systems out there and do not advocate a lot of what they suggest. Maybe I read too many stories of honourable knights when I was young and never grew up. Or maybe I see that Tai Chi Chuan is one of the things in this world that is not for profit but for the betterment of mankind. How can you put a price on that? Maybe you are ok to use the mass marketing plans and that’s fine. But for those that aren’t there is another way. Neither is better, just better for you!
Pricing is a difficult one. Do you charge what everyone else is teaching? Under cut them to be more appealing or charge higher to be an elite school? I received advise from this from a Hawaiian man named Jerry Hanus who owns an International Kindergarten in Tokyo. He said if you are cheap or make too many discounts the thinking is “What’s wrong with you that you need to give so many discounts”. I don’t give discounts, but I am not expensive either. Have a fair price and keep it fair for everyone. No one deserves more “service” than anyone else in your school. Give all your students the best service you possibly can at all times. The marketing will do its own work in the form of Word Of Mouth.
– by Steve Gilshenen
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