Marketing for Aikido Dojos and Teachers
I have noticed that lack of financial wherewithal is a major reason that people in the Aikido community give for not doing the things they would really like to do. Teachers don't get out to attend seminars, dojos don't hold seminars or invite certain teachers because they do not feel they can afford to. Even major organizations worry that their events, such as a camp or multi instructor seminar will not break even and no one can afford "out of pocket" to hold these events.
My dojo, Aikido Eastside has one of the most ambitious schedules of any Aikido dojo I have ever seen. The schedule far exeeds what the student base can support without siginificant outside participation. So I have had to develop some basic marketing skills in order to make this schedule viable. I thought I'd share omse of this with the larger community. The efforts of the Aikido community to host events, support senior teachers, create different kinds of events with unique blocks of instruction, should not be limited by lack of abaility to market events and make them self sustaining.
This article will focus largely on the use of Social Marketing, specificaly Facebook, in coordination with your website, AikiWeb and Aikido Journal (or any other Aikido meta site), to promote your dojo's events or, if yo are a teacher who is on the seminar circuit, promote the events of the dojos which host you.
Using the Internet & Social Networking for Marketing
By George Ledyard, Chief Instructor Aikido Eastside
Events fall into two categories… those that are "one-of" events and those that are recurring. Let's focus on recurring events. "One-of "events use a smaller set of the same techniques so if you understand how to really publicize your recurring events, the "one-ofs" are simple.
Every recurring event you run should have the following:
1) A Facebook Page for itself -- within that page you can have individual "events pages" for each date on which the event recurs: example: Howard Popkin at Aikido Eastside -- this Page has three or more event pages listed under it. We host him there times and I will also post other related events he teaches that might occur at his own dojo, for instance. If he creates an event page on Facebook for something I "share" it on this page. The "Share" button is one of the single most important tools on Facebook.
Consider whether you need a separate webpage for the event on the your dojo website or whether simply having the event listed on the Guest Instructor Page and the Web Calendar Page is enough. If your event is often run in an outside space, has different hotel recommendations from the dojo's, requires more explanation than the standard events, you should consider having a separate page for the event.
Cross posting or cross sharing is a big part of building visibility for your events. So if you have a webpage, you post the link on your Facebook Page for the event. You put a Facebook Page link on the web page. You "share" your Facebook Page on your personal profile "WALL", on the Aikido Eastside Page, and on any other pages which relate. Do not do this all at the same time. Do it over a longer period. Every time you do something it shows up on the Facebook "Status" pages for everyone following you so having these changes appear regularly is important for visibility.
2) Aikiweb Announcement -- on the forums there is a seminar thread. Make sure you post the seminar there. The threads rotate down the list as new events get posted. It is important to maintain visibility so periodically add something to the thread about your event. This pushes it back to the top of the list. Examples might be the enrollment status if it's a limited attendance event, or a picture of the guest instructor, a link to the guest's own website, the Link to the Facebook page ( I never do this up front but save it to add later).
You can also post you event on their main page under the seminar listing but it is my impression that fewer people look at that and you can't do anything about increasing the listing's visibility as you can on the forums.
Also, you can do a paid ad on Aikiweb. This has the advantage of appearing all the time and it will appear on various pages as people use the site. It's a decent way to drive people to your website or Facebook page as it's very cheap (it aslo supports Jun Aikiyama's efforts to keep the site going)
3) The Organization Website (in my case the ASU site) -- not terribly important unless you are hosting one of the really "big guys", but you might as well. There's no way you can simply list a recurring event so each year you need to put your schedule on their calendar. It's not very useful for driving non-organization folks folks to your events as very few outside folks use it.
4) Other people's Facebook Pages: You can "share" your pages on other folk's pages if their privacy settings permit that. I'd stick to posting that are directly related i.e. Ushiro Sensei at Aikido Eastside might get "shared" on Marc Abram's personal page or on an Ushiro Page that he sets up for the East Coast visit. Also, you can share thing from their pages on yours to build a following. For instance, something interesting posted on Gleason Sensei's Facbook Page or his regular webpage can be "shared" on your William Gleason at Aikido Eatside Page. This is especially important because if your event is annual, there's a lot of time between visits. During that time you want to be doing things that build the Page's following so that when it's time to actually start promoting the event for registration purposes, you have a big following. It doesn't do you much good to have a Facebook Page with 35 people following it. Shoot for two to three thousand people.
5) Running paid Ads on Facebook -- the single best way to quickly build a following is to run a paid ad. Facbook will let you run an ad which appears when other folks are using Facebook. It can be highly targeted by country, language, and / or interest. For our purposes, most of my targeting is international and is restricted to folks who have Aikido or martial arts listed as interests. Since this is pay per click, you don't want to be paying for clicks for people to look at your page who don't even train.
Budgeting for this is easy. You set up your ads, you can have multiples, and they share the budget. You tell Facebook how much you wish to spend per day and your ad will run until you have reached your budgeted amount that day, then it simply stops appearing until the next day when your budget is renewed. Given the large numbers on Facebook, you may find that your ad only runs for a few hours a day if your budget is small. This just means that it takes longer to build your numbers. If your budget is larger you can build your following very rapidly it just costs you.
6) E-mail -- Your organization may have an e-mail address that is a listserve address. You send to that one address and everyone who has subscribed, gets your e-mail. The ASU has one and I would suspect that most organizations would as well. Always send to this list. To get the most out of this list, I'll send an announcement showing multiple events at the beginning of the year. Then I follow this up with individual announcements for the events when I am ready for registrations.
I am a big believer in setting up events with limited attendance. There are lots of reasons to do this but from a marketing standpoint this does two things. It creates a sense of "exclusivity: for an event. It's not just another seminar that one takes or leaves… it's special, not everyone can go. Second, it creates a sense of urgency for getting folks registered. Initially, if folks aren't used to you doing this, they might not pay much attention. But after a few folks get put on waiting lists or get shut out (and you tell everyone on your various websites and Facebook pages that this happened) folks start to realize you are serious and they get very responsive.
Develop and maintain your own list. Camps like the ASU Rocky Mountain Summer Camp always hand out their list of participants. Take those e-mails into your own list. Ask the recipients to Forward any e-mail announcements to anyone on their lists they think would be interested.
Use these mailings to help drive folks to your webpages and Facebook Pages. ALWAYS list your relevant Facebook Page link on your e-mails as well as your event's webpage. Don't just list the flyer because people will only go there once. If you drive folks to your webpage they might put it on their browser bookmarks. If you can get them to your Facebook Page, they may "Like" the page. Once they do that, they'll see it every time you make changes.
7) The key to all of this is Updated Content! -- While this is true for regular web pages, most folks find it cumbersome to constantly update their website pages. I do so, but you have to be able to do his easily yourself or have someone in charge of putting what you want there up on the server on a timely basis.
This is why sites like Facebook are so important. They are structured for ease of posting. Announcements, articles, blogs, pictures, videos, whatever. You don't have to know anything about technology to be able to do this. The learning curve is extremely short.
So, whenever you run any event, make sure you or someone is assigned to take pictures, lots of them. If a guest instructor is open to having video clips posted, take some video as well. Take the time to edit the pictures so they are good pics. Every events should be an "Album". Over time you'll have a number of years of these albums and people will develop a sense of the event as something important, having some historical longevity. Make sure you "tag" the photos! Many folks don't do this because it takes some time. I would set up your privacy settings so that other folks can "tag" people in the pictures if they know their names. "Tag" as many of the folks in the photos as you can. Every time you "tag" someone on Facebook, they get notified. The pictures of them that you tagged appear on their Pages. This will drive even more people to your page. Normally, I post the pictures right after the event. Then throughout the year I can "share" them on my various other pages to periodically remind folks of the event. Remember, the majority of the attendees for next year's event will be the folks who had a good time this year. Remind them periodically about that good time.
Do the same for videos. If your guest instructor doesn't like you posting videos of him, check on YouTube to see if someone else has posted videos of that teacher already. Periodically "sharing" those video clips on your event page can be almost as good as actually posting clips you took at the event itself.
This is really important. Take the time to update the content on your pages. Merely creating a page does very little. People have to want to go to a page, preferably on a regular basis. The fact that they "Like" your page means that everyone who looks at their page can see the pages they follow. It drives even more folks to your page.
8) Finally, get the folks with whom you interact involved. Most of the folks who are teachers have Facebook Pages. Make sure you periodically "share" things from your event Facebook Page on the personal Page of the teacher who is the guest. Make sure everyone "Likes" each other's pages. In other words all my pages list each other under Favorites. You want to have Popkin Sensei's personal page, his dojo page, the Ginjukai page, etc all under your favorites and get him to put your event page under his favorites for all his pages.
9) Blogs: If you can write, create a Blog, It's a great way to communicate with your own students. But your Blog can be set up to automatically appear on AikiWeb, so it is also a way to share what you are saying to your own students with the larger community. You can also have your Blog appear automatically on your Facebook Page. If you have your Blog appear on your dojo web page, it also helps increase your visibility with the search engines as they are looking for new content all the time.
I am sure that I have not in any way exhausted the ways which you can use Social networking to promote yourself as a teacher or your events to the larger Aikido community. I am constantly finding new ways to keep reminding the Aikido public about what I am doing and what we are hosting. I also leverage that huge network to help my various friends with their own event promotion. The more we help each other, the more the whole thing works. Very Aikido actually.
(Original blog post may be found here.)
Re: Marketing for Aikido Dojos and Teachers
Thank you so much for the detailed explanations. I was just recently talking to my teachers about doing some Facebook stuff for our dojo and trying to explain whey I thought it would be really useful. This is a lot more clear than I was able to be.
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Re: Marketing for Aikido Dojos and Teachers
here an example from the website of the dojo with the most ambitious schedule I know (there are a minimum of three, but often up to five classes per day).
The website is in Turkish, but even if you just look around you'll find a lot of different information.
Many elements mentioned by George sensei are to be found there; it is continuously updated, it has its Facebook link and is present on twitter, there is a member section with lots of videos and pedagogic material etc.
The dojo is expensive (for Belgian standards, but in Turkey people seem to accept that), but it flourishes. There are about a thousand members, obviously not all of them active, but still the number of active aikidoka is amaying enough.
What is missing a bit are the seminars; they are not so frequent in Turkey as they are here in Belgium (one - three every week-end), but I'm sure that will also come.
Wishing you all much luck with your dojos,
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