Internet Marketing in BJJ…Can we do better?

Internet Marketing in BJJ…Can we do better?

I’ve begun to wonder if it’s possible to make a living online in BJJ without completely disregarding the sanctity of people’s email. I think it is, of course, possible, but some recent launches of new secret-awesome-gamechanging-unbeatable-limitedtime techniques has me thinking that it’s anything but probable.

And at some level, I get that.

Making any money online beyond covering your gas bill is not easy. I do it. I have friends that do it. I’ve seen people that do it very well. Still, while some people envision dreams of going to bed and waking up to thousands deposited in their PayPal accounts as they slept, the reality is, that online income—livable, ethical, sustainable online income—is founded on brand building (personal or otherwise), marketable skills (some that take decades to develop), and a lot of leg work in the land that is the Internet.

Basically, doing it without being a carbuncle on the inner thigh of the Internet is hard. Doing it in an slow-money industry like BJJ is very hard. Doing it while appealing to the segment of the BJJ market that probably has the least disposable income coming in? Downright near impossible.

…which is why I get it. I get the link-building and the Dan Kennedy protégés out there. (It’s worth noting that Lloyd Irvin did not invent “spammy” techniques. He, like so many, if not all people doing business in BJJ, are simply applying business principles that worked in other industries, to the sale of our practice.) I understand why our biggest and most respected stars, so frequently resort to business tactics that reflect exactly zero of the principles of competition and respect that they espouse on the mats. And yet it still turns my stomach.

I’m not going to bash Kennedy’s techniques—he’s far from the only one out there using them and most are based on principles of human behavior that are as old as humans ourselves. I do though, encourage you to check out the Twitter stream from his “Insider Circle” and see if they don’t sound a lot like the last opportunity you had to get one step closer to becoming a berimbolo god (especially this post on turning your hobby into a “money-making business”). Some of the advice is good. Some is questionable. Most though, follows a theme that I think highlights an important distinction between doing business in BJJ, and in other industries.

A quick visit to any site teaching you how to leave your day job, or grow your online business, or make money from your hobby will, 99% of the time, be talking about selling products, services and information that you are not personally invested in. If I wanted to make money off Minecraft, or my love of Tolkein mythology, I could set up a site, toss up some ebooks and guides and sell to my heart’s content. If the communities themselves fell apart, I’d still, as an individual, be left to enjoy reading and playing on my own.

Jiu jitsu is quite different. An influx of a certain type of student into a gym can change your experience with the art. The perception of the community as a whole, for better or worse, changes schools’ abilities to make an income (there’s a reason Enter the Dojo exists). That’s what happens when a hobby or lifestyle is a true community. We’re all connected by more than just a shared interest. We live what we do—in competitions and seminars and every day training—so  that no action genuinely lives unto itself. It’s why, when we refer to the “community” of jiu jitsu, we use the word in its most undiluted form.

Whenever I’m annoyed by some tricky affiliate link or spammy product push (I subscribe to a few, just to see what they’re up to), I know that, regardless of how much I like the person delivering the latest instructional (I’ve definitely been disappointed by some of my favorite athletes) that they’ve ultimately gone into business without regard for either the online BJJ community (special unto itself) or the jiu jitsu community as a whole.

I believe that sometimes it’s done out of genuine ignorance of what online communities are. Sometimes it’s done with malicious disregard. Sometimes, with utter contempt. For the most part though, at least when it comes to high level competitors, I think it happens because business, and its impact on a community, is simply not on their radars. Our practice is small and money is short. Devoting your life to BJJ, is ultimately very risky when it comes to long-term financial well-being…and that’s even if you’re elite. The opportunity cost of the samurai mentality can ultimately, be quite high.

Is the spammier-set ever going to disappear completely? Of course not. I do think though, that BJJ has already has all the tools we need to, as a whole, do a little bit better.



P.S. Got a competitor/personality you love, but whose products don’t do them justice? Let us know in the comment section.

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