ATTRACTING NEW TENNIS CLUB MEMBERS
This article has been written to supplement other resources that are available on the Tennis Ireland website at www.tennisireland.ie. Resources such as the Tennis Ireland Marketing Toolkit, the Schools Tennis Initiative and the Club Development Manual are invaluable. However my intention is to focus on ideas that may not have been attempted at many clubs. The tried and trusted methods such as Open Days, targeting local schools and leaflet drops definitely work, but here I’ll attempt to add something new to the mix…
CONSIDERATIONS BEFORE THE CAMPAIGN KICKS OFF
“WHY TENNIS?” If you have a potential new member almost ready to sign up, but she asks the question “why tennis?”, it’s important to have some facts to hand:
Tennis is a non-contact low injury sport that is played around the world. It’s a sport for a lifetime that the whole family, and both sexes, can play together. Research has proven that tennis is a very healthy game to play, with players burning 400-600 calories per hour.
PUT YOUR BEST FOOT FORWARD Before launching your campaign to recruit new members, a ‘spring clean’ of the club and its environs will allow you to make the best possible first impression. Remember that people will make judgements about your club based on what they see, long before they step on court for the first time.
AT WHAT COST? Take a long hard look at the cost of membership of your club. Does it provide value for money? If your honest answer is ‘yes’ – that’s great! If your honest answer is ‘no’, you have two options: ideally improve on what you offer, or else decrease your fees…
PRESS RELATIONS Every tennis club should have a Press Relations Officer. Their mandate is simply to increase the profile of the club. In the medium to long term the objective is to make clear that the club is an integral and important part of the local community. Consequently adults will want to be involved, and will want their children to be involved.
UNDERSTAND WHAT ENCOURAGES AND DISCOURAGES PARTICIPATION
Results of survey of children –Why I Play My Sport:
1. To have fun. 2. To improve my skills. 3. To stay in shape.
Results of survey of adults – What Prevents You from Playing Tennis?:
1.Time constraints. 2. Need a partner. 3. The game is too difficult.
FACE FACTS Let’s face this one head on: many people see tennis as a middle class sport that is difficult to play and expensive to get involved in. Do the structures at your club help people of diverse backgrounds to understand that none of this is the case?
IDEAS FOR ATTRACTING NEW MEMBERS
One. Develop gift vouchers that offer three months club membership. Sell them at local sports shops, and to current members to give as gifts to friends and relatives.
Two. Allow non-members to attend coaching. This builds relationships at the club for the prospective member, while allowing them to gain competence and confidence on court, before they make the leap to membership.
Three. Ask all current members if they know of anyone who may be interested in joining the club. If a member refers a friend who subsequently joins, the member receives a reward – a free coaching lesson, a discount off their following years membership, or even a percentage of the new member’s fees.
Four. Incentivize the coaches to go out and find new members. The coach receives a percentage of the fees from each new member they bring to the club, and a smaller percentage of fees if the new member signs up again for a second year’s membership. From the coach’s point of view, new members equal new pupils!
Five. Appoint a ‘business person’ to go out and find new members. He or she receives a percentage of the fees from each new member they bring to the club, and a smaller percentage of fees if the new member signs up again for a second year’s membership. Essentially the club is appointing an ‘agent’ who operates on commission.
Six. Organize a raffle/draw around the area, with a free family membership as the main prize. Get the contact details of everyone who enters the draw, and invite them to the prize giving at the club, which then becomes an enrollment opportunity.
Seven. Encourage each member to bring a friend to a club activity. Provide the member with a small reward for doing so (e.g. a tin of balls), and a bigger reward if the friend joins…
Word of mouth is a tremendous marketing tool. Many people trust their acquaintances above any other source of information. Your most valuable marketing tool to get new members is your current members. Their level of satisfaction will be fed back to their friends, who will develop a view of the club before they ever walk through your gate.
Eight. Make the club facilities available to a charity to raise money for the organisation. This will generate media coverage (especially if a ‘celebrity’ is present) and get some new people on the courts, who can be targeted for membership.
Nine. When someone attends an Open Day, make him or her a member for a month for free. This gives you the time and opportunity to build a relationship with that person. Psychologically, it’s that bit more difficult to “leave” a club that you are already a member of…
Ten. An annual Open Day is essential, but a further development would be to advertise that the first Monday of each month (for example) is a ‘Rolling Open Day’ – everybody is welcome to attend, as at the annual Open Day, and the same benefits are available.
Eleven. Organise events where a parent and toddler can attend together. The parent goes on court; the toddler goes to the clubhouse for a session with a coach on coordination, balance etc, or an arts and crafts session.
Twelve. Use discount websites. Sign up to offer attractive deals to new members through specialist websites that provide discount prices on all types of goods and services (e.g. Wowcher). “We got 75 new members in 48 hours. It is a good tool as the age the website is geared at is 20-45 and this is certainly the age that my club has problems recruiting.” (Northern Ireland-based coach).
Thirteen. Is corporate membership a possibility? Corporate members could be given the right to play at certain times when the club is not busy. Some companies might pay for membership for their staff as an employee incentive.
Fourteen. There should be no barriers for a person with a physical or intellectual disability becoming a member of any tennis club. In Ireland, there is not a big history of people with disabilities joining tennis clubs. Welcoming people with disability as members provides an opportunity for the club to source new members, while having a very positive effect on the lives of those living with disability.
Fifteen. Do some research into the history of your club. Many of those who were members 40-60 years ago will now be grandparents. Given their great memories of the club in “the old days”, would they ‘gift’ membership of the club to their grandchildren, so that the new generation can experience the joys of tennis?
Sixteen. Offer different types of membership at appropriate price points: “The Morning Club” for those who wish to play up to 1pm weekdays, “The Weekend Warriors” for those who only want to play on Saturday or Sunday, “The Breakfast Club” for those who like to exercise before work, and will be gone by 9am…
Seventeen. Active Retirement Groups are a growing movement in Irish society. Offering membership to this sector can help fill “flat spots” on your courts, while introducing the game to those who may never have played before. With red, orange and green balls and the various court sizes, we can make the game fun and exciting for those who are a little less mobile than they used to be.
Eighteen. “New Year, New You”: January is often thought of as a quiet time in tennis. However, it is also a time when people consider health, fitness and lifestyle changes. Take advantage of New Year’s resolutions by running an advertising programme stressing the health and fitness benefits of tennis.