Skydivers Landing in a Swimming Pool? Now That’s Great Swim Club Marketing

Swim Club Marketing at its Finest

Swim Club Marketing at its Finest at Chartwell Swim Club in South Jersey

Talk about a great way to draw attention to your sports club — or in this case, swim club: Look what eSoft Planner client Chartwell Swim Club in South Jersey did this summer. They had skydivers land in their pool!

They cleared the idea with their local police chief and government agencies, and even got approval from the FAA. They arranged for an emergency medical team to be on-site, just in case. And then their members watched as skydivers jumped from 5,000 feet and landed in the pool on Sunday, July 27th, which they dubbed “Daredevil Sunday.”

I love the idea. I’m referring to it as a marketing tactic because it’s such a great way to get the attention of prospective members, but I’m sure it was devised as part of an already great summer events lineup for their members.

Congrats to Chartwell Swim Club on celebrating their 40th year this summer. Their club features six pools, two 20-foot slides, a diving well and a splash park, as well as sports fields (softball, tennis, basketball, volleyball, horseshoes and shuffleboard). They’re one of my largest clients — located on 10 landscaped acres. If you’re in South Jersey, check them out.

If you want to see how eSoft Planner helps Chartwell manage everything from membership sales to concession stand inventory, submit a demo request.


You’re Probably Making one of These 4 Email Marketing Mistakes

Each email you send to your clients is a chance to make a sale. Unfortunately, each email you send is also a chance to get kicked out of your prospects’ inboxes forever (which is why I only send the best content to my own email subscribers).

I get a lot of marketing emails from sports facilities. I sign up for them to keep in touch with my clients, and to find best practices for this blog. Unfortunately, along with the great stuff, I see a lot of mistakes. I know that they’re mistakes because I’ve made them myself and learned from them.

If you own or manage a sports facility full-time, you’re probably not going to become an email marketing expert. That’s fine. But it’s not complicated to just keep a few of these guidelines in mind. Here are the simplest and easiest-to-fix mistakes that I see sports facilities regularly make when they send marketing emails.

Mistake 1: Not using lists. 

When you have camp slots to fill and membership goals to hit, it’s tempting to blast your news to every single contact in your database — after all, if you really believe in your programming, you know it will help them and that a lot of your contacts will be interested. Plus, it’s a lot easier to just send an email to everyone than it is to segment your lists and risk leaving some clients in the dark.

The problem is that your clients get a LOT of emails every day, and if they decide that yours are taking up more space than they’re worth, they can easily unsubscribe, or, worse, hit the “spam” button. In either case, your emails won’t get to them again. You have to earn your spot in their inbox with useful, relevant content.

If your email is about a youth soccer league and your client’s kid plays football, the email is not useful to them. If your email is about programs for pre-schoolers and your clients’ kids are in high school, it’s not useful to them. I’ve even received emails about schedule changes for classes and teams that I was definitely not enrolled in, even though eSoft Planner allows users to quickly contact all the clients enrolled in any particular class or team.

Sending to your whole list can be OK when you have general announcements (such as the facility closing for weather) or even several programs being announced at once, but in general, try to target your emails as much as you can. I’ve noticed that on average, the open rate for my emails more than doubles when I use lists that are organized by client interest. (For more on how to select and manage client interests, check out the entire post I wrote about it.)

Mistake 2: Not paying attention to the subject line.

I get a lot of emails with subjects like “September Schedule” or “Fall Softball.”

If you’re sending your emails to very specific lists, these straightforward subjects might work just fine. But please consider this: If the subject line doesn’t cause your client to open the email, the content inside is worthless, so you should spend some extra time getting it right.

Instead of “Fall Softball,” for example, what about “Fall Softball – One Week Left to Register” (emphasizing limited time always helps spur action) or “Coach Smith Invites You to Join the Fall Softball League”? Both subjects give the client more of an incentive to open the message.

If you have a large list and a professional email marketing program, you can even split test some of your subjects to see which ones get opened more. I’ve been trying this lately myself and will will definitely keep my subscribers posted on my progress.

Mistake #3: No “call to action.”

For most of my sports facility clients, the whole point of sending an email is to let their own clients know about new programs and offers, but too many emails leave out the most important part: the registration link!

Not including the registration link in the email creates extra work for your clients when they do want to sign up, and it also hurts their chances of signing up at all. If you don’t have an web-based scheduling system (of course I’m biased toward my own) you should at least provide a very explicit next step, such as “Call us at 555-5555 and ask for Mike,” or even attach a PDF registration form so they can print it and fill it out at home.

Mistake #4: Not targeting the decision maker.

Most of the emails I get are targeted to athletes, even though the athletes are not typically the ones making the final purchasing decision.

This is something I’ve been thinking about recently in my own marketing. For example, the web page for my facility’s upcoming Baseball Throwing Strength & Velocity clinic centered on the benefits to the athlete (“What are you doing to increase your throw velocity?”).

For my most recent email, though, I decided that since most of the email addresses in my lists are those of parents, I should be writing directly to them. I reworked my message to put the parents’ concerns first. I did see a small increase in the open and click rate, but I have to do more research to see if it makes a big difference.  For a great example of a sports facility owner writing for parents, check out Greg at Champions Sports Performance’s post on “The Parent as Investor.

(If you have any thoughts on whether to speak more to the parents or the athletes, I’d love to hear them. Email me!)

In conclusion, most of these best practices for email come naturally if you’re truly empathizing with your clients. Think about the type of email you appreciate the most — info that’s timely, relevant, easy to act on when you want to, and written as if it were sent to you personally — and make sure you’re giving your clients the same.

Low Enrollment for Your Camps and Classes? Fix Your Sales Process

It’s not difficult to convince sports facility owners and managers that group programming – camps, classes, clinics, and even leagues and tournaments – is the best and most profitable option for their space. It is difficult, however, to get sports facility owners and managers to make the real effort that is required to fill those programs with athletes.

Ideas are great, but they’re nothing without proper execution. In this case, proper execution means having a great marketing plan for your group programs, and following it.

I hope you’ve already developed quality programming that sets you apart from your competitors. Now, it’s time to buckle down and really sell that programming. My background is in sales, so I understand the importance of cold, hard numbers. As a sports facility owner, I also understand the difficulty in getting your staff excited about both sales AND training. Thankfully, sales skills can be learned.

The most important thing to emphasize to your staff and to keep in mind yourself as you get started is this: The number of client contacts your staff is making directly correlates with how many athletes will join your camps. The numbers don’t lie!

So, how do you know whether your staff is reaching out to enough prospects? Here are the five steps I take. (They’re similar to the procedure I’ve outlined for purchasing sports facility equipment.)

  1. Establish your financial goals for the camp/class/clinic. Consider the cost to run the program, including the cost of the space you need (use your standard rental rate) the instructor pay, and any costs for marketing (T-shirts, for example) and equipment. Then, consider the role that this programming plays in the bigger picture of your financial plan and create a revenue goal. You should at least shoot for a 20% profit. Also, decide the lowest number you’ll accept without cancelling the camp or class.
  2. Decide what you’ll charge per athlete. Analyze your competitors’ pricing, and consider the value of your service to your clients as you establish your price, including any promotional discounts you’d like to offer.
  3. Considering your financial goals and your established price, calculate the number clients you need in the class in order to reach your financial goals.
  4. Figure out how many calls you need to make in order to get that number of clients in the class. If you don’t know your typical close rate, start by assuming that 5% off all the qualified clients you reach out to will enroll in the class. For example, if you need 10 athletes in your camp to break even at the price points you’ve established, your staff should plan to make 200 personal calls or emails to prospects that have confirmed that they’re interested in the type of service you offer.
  5. Make sure your staff has the time and the resources to make those calls and send those personal emails. Any personal outbound call or email counts – not just those that result in a live conversation. I’ve noticed that my staff makes about 15 contacts each hour. If you use those same numbers, your staff will need about 13-14 hours dedicated to selling the camp. It might sound intimidating, but that’s just an hour each day for a few weeks. Emails are also easy to duplicate from client to client for the most part – just make sure to use at least one personal note so that your client knows that you sent the message just to them.

Breaking your sales process down like this can be very freeing. Instead of approaching your camp marketing with a vague sense of how many players you’d like or expect to have, you’ll have real guidelines for success.

Have you used this type of process at your own sports facility? Let me know – leave a comment or send me an email.

3 Steps to Pitching Sports Facility Partnerships

Partnerships with other sports facilities and businesses can give you access to unique benefits that you can’t offer on your own. Those benefits can give you a serious edge over your competitors and create valuable cross-promotion opportunities – but only if you approach your partners wisely.

Here are just a few reasons you may have considered partnering with another sports facility:

They have features and equipment that you don’t. Maybe they’re not a direct competitor because they focus on a different sport – maybe they have basketball courts, for example, and you only have a general training area. Or maybe you only have basketball courts and they have a pool and aquatic training. Whatever the scenario, you can really expand your client base and service area if you get creative with these kinds of partnerships to take advantage of other facilities’ amenities.

They have a licensed program or instructor that you don’t. Certain popular programs – Zumba, for example, or The Parisi Speed School – require official certification, training and licensing. Sometimes it’s easier to find someone who already has these credentials than to seek them out and purchase them for yourself.

They have official teams or leagues that can benefit from your services. Hosting your own teams is time-consuming and might not fit into your own business plan – but that doesn’t mean you couldn’t benefit from becoming an exclusive service provider to other facility teams or leagues. For example, some of my eSoft Planner clients are speed and agility facilities that have exclusive contracts for strength training for local basketball and soccer clubs.

Your sports facility’s partnerships don’t need to be limited to other sports facilities. You’ve probably also considered potential partnerships with local businesses whose services complement your own – a pizzeria to cater your birthday parties, for example, or a local screenprinting company to supply T-shirts.

Regardless of what type of business you’re hoping to work with, you’ll need to take three steps to evaluate and pitch a partnership.

  1. Consider how you will benefit EACH OTHER. It’s natural to think first about how the other facility will benefit you, but it’s even more important to make sure you’re offering your potential partner an extremely valuable proposition that will get their attention and lock them down from your competition. Research their business and brainstorm some ways you can help them before you call.
  2. Find out who you need to call and meet up for an informal discussion. After you’ve targeted a potential partner and thought of a few great value propositions, see if you have any personal connections who can introduce you to the decision maker and try to schedule a meeting at their convenience. Get a better feel for what they really need and what they’re looking for and see if your value proposition was correct.
  3. If you reach a verbal agreement, get the details in writing. You don’t need to get lawyers involved, but an email conversation that clearly states the terms of how you will be working together and shows approval by both of you is essential. Make sure that details such as commission rates and cancellation policies (if applicable) are mentioned and agreed upon somewhere, and make sure that the conversation is saved and printed out for easy access later.

Continue to add extra value to your relationship as it progresses. Add them to sponsor lists and in signage. Send them a holiday gift. You’ll get back what you put in.

Do you have any examples of how a great sports facility partnership has worked for you? Email me about it or leave a comment and you could be featured on the blog, along with a link to your sports facility.

Sports Facility Marketing Tip: Track and Promote Records

We all wish we had more time to spend on efforts for marketing our sports facilities. But even if you’ve fallen behind on your annual marketing plan, there’s one tactic you can implement this week if you haven’t done so already: establishing facility-wide records.

Even if you’ve just opened your doors, you can start the tradition of memorializing the best performances that have taken place within your walls. The records that you track will vary depending on which sports you host, but most sports facilities should at least include records for various sprint times, vertical jumps and strength tests.

Decide which categories or records you’d like to track, then find an official way to display them prominently within your facility. Doing a Google Image Search for “sports records signage” is a good place to start. Once the records are displayed, you can make them a point of discussions with clients.

Publicizing facility records does several things to benefit your sports facility:

  • It’s great for public relations. When a local athlete breaks a record, it’s a great opportunity to reach out to local media with the news, especially if your facility has been around for a while or hosts large numbers of athletes. Here’s an example of how one facility record made the local news.
  • It builds relationships with record holders. Once an athlete’s name is posted semi-permanently in your facility, that athlete will naturally have more loyalty to your business.
  • It creates excitement for your current clients. Record holders gain a sort of celebrity status with the little kids in the facility, which is fun to watch and gets kids excited to be practicing with you.
  • It establishes your facility’s longevity. Posted records make your facility look like it’s been around for a while and will be around for the long term.

My own sports facility is home to a Parisi Speed School. Parisi Speed Schools have a great system that tracks kids’ progress as they improve their personal records for speed and agility – it’s called the “Cat Club,” and kids move up from “bobcat” level all the  way up to the “cheetah” level. Their progress is assessed at regular “Cat Club Challenge” tests. This Cat Club system does a great job of inspiring kids to do better and showing them that they’re improving over time – and it’s another way of tracking personal records.

If you have any suggestions for how to track or display facility records, I’d love to hear them. Please leave a comment, or send me an e mail.


The One Sport You Probably Forgot to Offer Strength Training

You already know that reaching out to local sports teams is essential to your sports facility’s success. You probably have relationships with plenty of school-based sports teams and coaches, and you may even attend local meets and games to check up on their progress.

However, if you’re like most of the sports facilities I’ve worked with, you’ve overlooked one type of team that could really benefit from your services: cheerleading squads.

I was reminded of this by one of my newest clients: 615 Sports Training in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee. 615 Sports Training specializes in sports-specific strength and performance training for a variety of sports. Co-owner Kevin Fitzgerald has more than 10 years of collegiate strength and conditioning experience, and has worked with athletes from all kinds of sports on the college level, including football, baseball, softball, soccer, basketball, and – yes – cheerleading.

Kevin recently created a strength training program tailored specifically for a local cheerleading squad in the Nashville area. “They don’t need to bulk up – they don’t need the benchpress,” Kevin explains. “They need to be more explosive, so we work on drills that tighten their core and strengthen their legs so they can do higher jumps.”

Maybe you’ve typically served only traditional sports teams at your facility. Cheerleading isn’t so different. You don’t need to offer cheerleading clinics or hire a cheerleading expert – you just need to make sure you’re offering your sports performance and strength training programs to them along with the other teams you regularly reach out to.

Cheerleading squads even offer several unique benefits that you may not have considered:

  1. There are a lot of local cheerleaders, and they practice ALL YEAR. Here in the Midwest, almost every local high school has two or three cheerleading squads with up to 20 girls (a few have guys, too). Middle schools also have their own squads. This means that cheerleading typically has at least as many “players” as sports like basketball and volleyball. What makes cheerleaders even more ideal as clients is that they usually practice all year long, cheering throughout the fall sports season, the winter sports season, and then ending the year with competitions in the spring. That means you’ll have more or longer opportunities to work with them than with a typical school sport.
  2. Injury prevention should be a priority for cheerleading coaches. Sports performance training reduces the chances of injury for any athletic activity, and cheerleading is no exception. In fact, cheerleading coaches should be taking even more of an interest in injury prevention as their squad’s tumbling and stunts continue to get more advanced. (Plus, because cheerleaders often must perform and practice in areas that weren’t designed for them – for example, gymnastics on a running track – they should be making extra effort to prepare for that impact.)
  3. The cheerleading market is under-served by sports facilities. Perhaps because many cheerleading squads don’t compete regularly, they haven’t been traditionally been as willing to pay for the extra athletic edge that strength training provides.  However, the athletic bar for cheerleaders continues to rise, so I expect that their strength and conditioning needs will grow, as well.  That means that right now is a good time to start building relationships with coaches.

Late spring and early summer is a great time to catch cheerleading coaches before their season starts in full swing. When you reach out, make sure to have concrete examples of how strength training prevents injuries and improves performance that will meet their goals. Explain how your strength trainers’ credentials set you apart from the competition.

Also, start to think beyond team training: Cheerleaders might want to attend a conditioning camp leading up to tryouts, or college cheerleaders might want to stay in shape with a summer fitness membership.

If you want to discuss this or other sports facility issues in more detail, call me at (513) 791-4940 or send me an email. If your sports facility has had success working with cheerleading squads, I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments.