Marketing Your Club
11 Feb 2017
Bowling Clubs are fighting a battle against falling membership numbers and as a result are returning poor financial performances. Some clubs are starting to buck this trend and they are doing it by changing to meet the changing needs of people.
Marketing your club effectively will play an important role in attracting new younger people to your club. It will also play a role in keeping your existing members happy.
Marketing in its simplest form is:
The process of matching a product or service with its market
For your bowling club this means matching the sport of bowls and your club (the 'product) with members of your local community (the market).
Marketing can help your bowls club to:
- Increase membership
- Increase participation of current members
- Recruit volunteers
- Increase funds
- Create a positive image and broader profile in the community
- Increase the number of coaches and umpires
Members are the lifeblood of any club without them there is no club. With this in mind marketing can help in several ways. To:
- Retain existing members
- Turn non bowling members into bowling members
- Regain lapsed members
- Attract new members
In order to be successful with any marketing campaign you need to ensure your ideas are well thought out. Clubs should develop a simple plan for each activity they want to promote.
The marketing plan
Product: What are you promoting the club, a particular activity or specific event. What are the benefits of the club, activity or event?
Target market: Who are you trying to reach and why?
Your objectives: What are you hoping to achieve your objectives must be measurable. E.g. increase number of first year bowlers by 20% on last year.
Timeframe: Is it a one off event or scheduled over several weeks. Is it planned for the correct time of year consider weather, other activities at the club, bowls season etc.
Region: How wide to you want to promote your activities. How far will people travel, consider other clubs in your area.
Promotion: What tools will you use to promote your activities? E.g. advertising in newspapers, direct mail outs, member incentives, word of mouth, email etc.
Budget: How much money do you have to spend and how much will it cost? Do you need help from sponsors?
Marketing Plan Example:
Men and women local business / corporate. Non bowlers.
To encourage target group to a positive bowling experience and social environment within the club.
To capture names and addresses for future bowling events
To encourage return visits from the business and individuals with the aim of capturing some as members
Lead in to Christmas (alternative Christmas party activity)
Target businesses within 3km of the club
Promotional flyers delivered to businesses in the area Target specific businesses. Use members contacts to get direct entry into some businesses. Send flyer via email where possible (reduces cost).
Prepare a budget based on any advertising costs and on the day costs. Charge businesses appropriately (an opportunity to make money for the club)
NOTE: A plan for marketing your club as a whole on a yearly basis will need more detail but will follow a similar format. This is covered in the section on Club Planning.
Bowling Clubs tend to have limited cash flow and therefore limited funds available to spend on marketing campaigns.
Luckily there are many ways to promote your club that cost very little or nothing at all and they tend to produce the best results!
When you to decide to spend money ensure you do enough research to ensure you are reaching your target market and getting value out of the money you spend.
The following outlines a number of promotional tools that could be used:
- Your members (word of mouth)
Your club members are vital if you are to successfully promote any event at your club. If you have 100 members and they each tell 10 non bowlers of your upcoming Open Day for example, then immediately 1000 people will have heard about it.
Email word of mouth provides an even better way to spread information. Do you know the email addresses of your members? Email is becoming more and more popular even with the older generation!
A club member: the best promotional tool for your club
- News articles
By working with and through the media, your club has a great opportunity to raise its profile. Focus on the most interesting or unusual aspect of your club / event and write about it! Talk to local journalists about the type of stories they would like and provide them.
The most effective forms of media are:
Local newspaper your local rag provides an excellent way to promote your club. Develop a relationship with the newsletter and write interesting pieces that they will want to print its even better if you can include photographs.
Radio many stations have community notice boards where you can advertise upcoming events for free. Or a sports hour that you may be able to contribute to.
Newsletters Many community organisations have regular newsletters that you may be able to use to promote your activities council, sports trust, Auckland Bowls, NZ Bowls, schools etc.
If you choose to use one or more of this form of free promotion then make sure you:
- Are providing interesting and accurate information
- Know your subject be prepared to answer any questions
- Believe in what you are promoting editors may need some convincing
- Find out what the media wants and supply it if they want 150 words, do not write 300 words!
- Meet any deadlines.
- Establish positive working relationships with the media get to know what they want and deliver it invite them to your club and club events. Keep them happy and hopefully they will help you out.
- Be consistent in who deals with the media its much easier for the media if they have only one point of contact (with perhaps one other as a backup).
Writing Media Releases
If you can write an interesting and informative media release you will stand a much better chance of having the information published.
The ideal media release should meet the following guidelines:
1. It should answer the following questions:
- What will or has happened?
- Where will or has it happened?
- Who will or did it happen to?
- When will or did it happen?
- Why will or did it happen?
2. Put the release on club letterhead (or your clubs name at the top of the page)
3. Prominently display the words Media Release and the date of the release
4. Grab the readers interest immediately put the most important facts in the first paragraph.
5. Use both christian and surnames of the people involved (get the spelling correct!)
6. Ensure the information is current and topical old news is no news.
7. If you have a media contact use them find out deadlines, the appropriate length of your release, or if a certain angle needs to be taken.
8. At the end of the release type the name, address, contact number and email of the person in your club that can supply further information.
9. Proof read if your media release has mistakes and looks unprofessional it will be treated as such.
10. Mail, fax or email the release to the relevant journalist and follow up with a phone call.
11. Not all of your media releases will be used but dont be discouraged keep trying!
- Outdoor billboards
Is your bowling club located on a main street or perhaps backs onto a railway line is there a large amount of traffic flow past your club?
If so make sure you make use of this by erecting a good quality billboard or fence signage promoting your club and club events (this needs to be visible from a distance). Just because you know where your club is doesnt mean other people do!
There may be a cost involved with producing good signage consider allowing a sponsor to put there logo on your signage and get them to pay the bill.
Remember to ask the local council if a permit is required or if certain criteria need to be met, before erecting your signage.
There are many activities your club can get involved in to promote upcoming events or to increase your membership base.
- Be involved in local community fairs
- Stage bowls demonstrations at the local shopping centre(s)
- Develop a relationship with local community service groups (e.g. Rotary, Lions, Probus etc) with the aim of speaking at their meetings about bowls and inviting its members to come and try the sport. Consider organising an afternoon just for the group or talk to them prior to your annual Open Day.
- They may also like to hire your facilities for their regular meetings
Have you considered an internal promotion targeting your existing membership?
- Set up a promotional display at the club promoting an upcoming membership drive if your members dont know about it, how can you use them to spread the word!
Membership incentive scheme for example members get a $10 bar voucher for every new member they introduce during the month of September, with a special prize for the person who introduces the most new members.
- Promotional Material
Promotional flyers, posters and brochures are an effective way of spreading information about your club and its activities.
For example a flyer promoting an open day at your club might be placed in shop windows, community centres, medical waiting rooms, libraries and supermarkets anywhere your prime target market might frequent.
Your flyer can also be distributed via email very successfully if your have contacts relating to your target market.
Always make sure your promotional material is of a high quality. It should be easy to read, accurate and have name and contact information. Mistake riddled, hand written information will get you no where.
There are many advertising mediums through which you can advertise your club including newspapers, magazines, newsletters, radio, local cinemas and outdoor billboards.
Remember that there will be a cost involved your club will need to decide whether this form of promotion is worth the money you are spending. Sponsors can greatly assist with advertising costs many companies like to be associated with sport and sports clubs.
Your advertising must meet the following criteria:
Grab Attention grab the readers attention with a snappy headline and easy to read layout.
Hold Interest appeal to readers wants and needs quickly and concisely
Create desire how will you benefit the reader dangle a carrot to draw them to your club
Lead to action get the reader to do something with the information e.g. visit the club, present coupon for free coaching lesson etc.
As with all forms of advertising, attention to detail is crucial proof read and check the details are correct.
Budget check the cost of the advertisement or series of advertisements can you afford it?
Timing agree dates for publication make sure the information gets in the public eye leading up to your event!
Size this will be affected by your budget, but you also need to consider the result you are trying to achieve. A small advertisement hidden in the paper may be cheaper than a bigger advertisement, but it probably wont achieve the results you are looking for.
Position where in the publication is it best to place your advertisement? This will relate directly to the market you are targeting (and your budget).
Consistency if you plan to advertise on a regular basis aim to keep the layout of your advertisements the same each time develop a brand image that over time becomes instantly recognisable McDonalds have the golden arches for a reason!
Sponsorship consider the use of a sponsor in your advertisements they pay the cost of advertising and in return they receive recognition in the advertisement.
Keeping in touch with your members is just as important in promoting your club as any external campaign.
Remember club members are the best promotional tool for your club so keep them informed.
To achieve this, consider:
producing interesting and useful newsletters
develop a club brochure and application form
develop noticeboards that attract peoples attention
conduct regular club meetings
develop an email database and send out weekly / fortnightly updates
Ensure your newsletter is distributed to all members, sponsors and other interested parties.
Items you may like to include are:
- announcement of upcoming events and activities
- recent competition / tournament results
- special news about club members
- sponsor advertising
- member / player profiles
- facility development updates
- membership constantly remind people of the need for more members
- Can you answer YES to the following questions if not it might be time to make some changes:
- Does your bowls club have a noticeboard(s)?
- Is it placed in a prominent part of the club?
- Is it large enough to be of value for positive communication?
- Does it have photographs of members playing bowls?
- Is the club / centre calendar displayed?
- Does it have copies of the most recent club / centre newsletter?
- Does it have information on coaching / umpiring within the club?
- Are team ladders displayed?
- Does it have copies of the minutes from committee meetings?
- Is there a person nominated to develop and maintain the noticeboard(s)?
Keep your noticeboards in a tidy state constantly update your board to ensure the information remains current.
urvey your members to find out information that will improve your club. Whats good, whats bad about the club, how can things be improved, are they happy with playing programme, what can be changed etc. This survey should be completed on an annual basis (end of season is best).
Larger clubs might like to consider setting up a website on the internet. There are costs involved and the site needs to be constantly updated to be effective so make sure you have someone who is happy to take responsibility for your website before leaping in the deep end.
If your clubs membership database is not accurate it will be difficult to reach all of your members.