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Marketing versus curriculum: can you tell the difference?

Marketing versus curriculum: can you tell the difference?


When you’re shopping for self defense training and information, you’re likely to be faced with clever marketing more than program quality. What’s the difference, and why should you care?

An interesting thing happened in social media this week: a particular shooting instructor, well known for playing up his law enforcement background and experience to sell classes, was faced with a prospective student who had been exposed to someone else who played up his impressive military background to sell classes.

The prospective student pitted one against the other: did the cop have experience in Special Forces? If not, the prospect wasn’t interested; he’d prioritized the military over the police, for whatever reason. Surprisingly, the instructor in question was upset that someone had out-marketed him!

This is where a lot of self defense training stands today: sold by association, not quality; innuendo, not content. That’s great for the trainer, who stands to make a lot of money if he/she has the right resumé, but not so great for the student who is honestly looking to keep him/herself safe!

Defensive shooting in the private sector is different than hunting, target shooting, competition shooting, military action, or law enforcement. They’re different from each other as well, and though there are some things which overlap (there are only so many ways to insert a magazine into a pistol) the context in which the skills are used, and often the skills themselves, are different between each category.

Can a Special Forces veteran or a career cop teach private sector defensive shooting? Certainly, as long as he understands what he did in uniform is different than what the single mother standing in front of him is likely to need to do — and teaches her the skills she needs, instead of the ones that fit his background.

When you’re looking to learn skills to keep yourself safe and you’re presented with a military or law enforcement-heavy marketing pitch, ask one question: “are you going to teach me the mad skills you learned in Special Forces or on the SWAT team?” If the answer is “yes”, you’ve probably run into a marketing machine!

The answer, ideally, will be “no, because what I did in uniform isn’t what you need to do when your family has been attacked in a restaurant. You need different skills, and what I’m going to do is use my knowledge of motivation and training discipline to help you learn skills that fit how you’re likely to use the gun.” You’re probably not going to get that answer, however, because it’s bad for their image!

This isn’t to say that a weekend spent playing soldier or cop isn’t a lot of fun; it is. But if your motivation is learning real skills that fit into the life you really live, you need more than someone leaning on his/her past to sell tickets. You’re looking for skills in context, skills that are relevant to how attacks happen in the civilian world, attacks which come when you’re busy doing something else and really not expecting them.

Ask good questions, make good decisions.

-=[ Grant ]=-

  • Posted by Grant Cunningham
  • On April 22, 2014

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