Really? A lot of teachers I know who have done demonstrations have said that public demonstrations really don't bring people in. I've only been in one public demonstration so I can't comment too much on this since I don't have any experience in this matter personally.
Cas Long wrote:
Well-organised Demonstrations can work by sending invitations to various sections of the community.
Although my first teacher said he remembered one instance in which a person came in and said, "Hey, I remember seeing you give a demonstration twenty years ago."
When I first opened my dojo I had each student fill out a brief survey about when and where they had first encountered Aikido. The average student had seen his or her first Aikido 2 - 3 years before. Given that people are so mobile these days, that means that the Aikido they first saw was usually a demo by someone else. So demos can promote Aikido but do not usually result in students for your dojo in the short run. We have done demos for 250 people and not had a single signup in the short run.
My wife did a form of karate years ago and they did huge demos in Japan town in San Francisco with 700 + people. She said that they might get one or two students after the demo. But when an article appeared in the paper they got fifteen new students in one week. So get in the paper!
The demographics on martial arts are interesting. The pros estimate that only one % of the population is interested in doing martial arts at all. Then that small number gets divided between all the martial arts. So Aikido, which is not well understood by the populace, is at a great disadvantage.
The number one way that people find dodos is either great drive by (if you are rich enough to afford a great location) or the yellow pages. Word of mouth is a close second (if you are doing a good job at the dojo).
They say that 75% - 80% of the people who consult the yellow pages make a purchase. That essentially means that the vast majority of people have already decided to buy a particular service when they look in the yellow pages. So your ad in the yellow pages is how you persuade a student to come to your place over some other. It is not the place to educate people about what Aikido or even martial arts are about.
If you draw a circle around your dojo that represents a twenty-minute to half an hour travel time to your school, you will find that 90% of the students will come from within that circle. Many people will even pick the art they do based on ease of access, not by the art or the teacher. If you have a good central location feature that fact prominently in your yellow page ad.
A frequent complaint about yellow page contacts is that people will call the dojo and then not get to talk to anyone. They are apt to go visit the dojo of the first human being that they get through to who patiently answers their questions. Consider having the dojo phone number call forward to your cell phone. People are far more likely to come in and check you out if you are the first one they talk to.
The Web! I can't emphasize enough the importance of a good website. I have two small yellow page ads that cost me close to three hundred dollars per month. My website and two domain names costs me about that for an entire year!
I live here in the heart of high tech land (Microsoft etc.) and there are a significant number of months in which I get more people from the web then I do from the yellow pages!
My ads are these dinky little things so I appear to be a small hitter when someone looks at the yellow pages. But I feature my URL as the most prominent statement in the ad. In fact all ads, brochures, and posters are geared to get people on to my website. Once on the web I am no longer a little hitter. My website is far more extensive than any of my competitors. I have a limitless amount of space to talk about Aikido, myself, my teacher, the schedule etc. I link into another site that has an extensive video collection. So it is here on the web that you can go a long ways to educating people about the difference between Aikido and the other arts they might be investigating.
I have kids classes. While it may be the Dad of the house that wants Jr. to do martial arts, it is most likely the Mom who will make the choice of the school and do the transportation. I have paid an ad company for space in four Safeway supermarkets and one newsstand in the little ad section they have in the front of the store. I have a small sign and a brochure holder. I keep careful track of how many brochures I put into the public. I am putting out between 1600 and 1800 brochures each year. It costs me about $2000 per year to do this but it only needs 7 new students each year to sign up to pay for that. The big advantage here is that I am reaching a group that may not have even thought about Aikido or Martial Arts before. My ads stress that Aikido is a different martial art, which suggests that the viewer who thinks he or she knows what martial arts are might learn something new by taking the brochure. This is the only place I feel that I reach into the potential student market and perhaps create a potential student rather than wait for them to find me in the yellow pages after they have already decided to train (or have their kids train). The brochures are the only form of print advertising that I have ever found that works. I have never had a magazine ad work at all. My brochures are also geared to get people up to my website and my website is geared to get people to call me. Once I talk to people they usually come watch class. And almost everybody who watches class will sign up. So the name of the game is to generate a personal contact. Once you get a shot at talking about Aikido people will be very responsive. That is especially true when you talk about kid's classes. Moms are particularly fond of an art which fulfills Dad and or the child's desire to do martial arts without the aggressiveness that they associate with competition and sparring. We just have to find a way to explain what we do.
[Edited by George S. Ledyard on September 22, 2000 at 02:12pm]