Let’s say that we divide all (that is, EVERYTHING, every sensible, sane, honest method) of martial arts school marketing into 4 categories:

Category 1. All the easy, mindless, essential, inexpensive, everyone-knows-this, and everyone, regardless of experience, can-do-this stuff; postcards, tear-sheet fliers, lead boxes, “VIP passes,” print ads like everyone has access to in the martial arts world, and all the, you know, standard stuff. Good, essential, common, and sort of the plate you put your food on. You need it, it serves you, everyone needs plates (or bowls) to put their food on.

Category 2.  All the stuff that isn’t so “easy,” but is, nevertheless not rocket science to produce and distribute. Add to this category just about any sort of advertising that a health club does, a Curves, a fast (fat) food restaurant, or a plumber, locksmith, or other business that needs to put out marketing to get customers.

The two categories above are the shoes, sox, undies, pants, and shirts of marketing. You don’t go out of the house naked (most the time), and you don’t go into or operate most businesses without using these easy to find, easy to implement tools.

NOTE: Many, many people try to paint the tactics, above, like there’s some kind of amazing magic to it –and certainly, it all gets better results with a bit of formula applied to it, but to be honest (as in I’m not selling those services), this is all the stuff someone with half (or less) of your experience can buy and put to work, like yesterday. Every Schmo under the sun can –and often will go head to head with you in the common tools of marketing and promotion.

Proceed knowing this (of course).

# 3. The 3rd category belongs to the man or woman with intuition, with a level of intelligence that can see and understand the difference between copying someone’s slogans and images, and a real, honest-to-goodness “unique selling proposition.” This is the actor who not only knows her lines, knows how to hit her marks, and understands how to make her character seem real, but who also knows how to exude some magic –to reach her audience viscerally, so that they forget she’s “acting.”

This is the program you design that’s all yours, that uses unique images unavailable to competitors, that has unique language –that explains what you do in a way that sets you way, way apart from the less experienced owner. This is marketing that requires many steps, a strategy, a plan, some perseverance, some style, and someone who knows how distinguish his work from all the fast-food, easy marketing blah-blah of all the other people vying for the disposable income of people in your target market.

It’s the self-defense program that’s really (maybe even brilliantly) designed; rich in content, deep in purpose, well-thought-out, and expertly, painstakingly thought out and executed.

It’s the children’s program that wasn’t bought from a box, that can’t be purchased by the school-down-the-street. It’s powerful, the teachers are well-trained to deliver what is different and rich about the work. The program is supported by great graphics, well designed lessons, a comprehensive website, and evidence is compiled and distributed that shows just how damn good and effective the program is, FOR REAL.

And then, my friends, there is Category 4.

Category 4 is, most often, the evolutionary step of the practitioner and teacher who knows steps 1 thru 3 like he knows his own name. She knows how to plan a battle, to organize a project, to execute common marketing, to build on it to make something she’s “branded” and can call her own. She knows how to proceed with a sense of style and substance.

Category 4 marketing transcends “marketing.” It’s stuff that comes from the soul, it’s mission-driven, it goes against conventional marketing strategies because marketing is the planet and this category is about the universe; no, it’s about the The WAY.