For sports facility start-ups, developing a community network is critical
Owners of sports facility start-ups are probably well aware of these business basics: choose a unique market, know your customer, and target your marketing directly to their interests. These tenets are particularly important to businesses that are just starting out, and you’ve probably taken time to consider them.
But is your niche marketing niche enough?
My own sports facility, DNA Sports Center, serves families whose school-aged kids are serious about getting better at sports. However, we’re always striving to develop that niche market even further. The more we can appeal directly to very specific needs, the more advantages we’ll have over our competition.
Within our sports performance offerings, we offer instruction for particular sports. But we don’t just slap sports labels on our classes and hope they’ll catch the eye of our clients. We develop a marketing plan for each sport as if it’s an individual business. Each plan starts out with a list of important community groups and coaches, then identifies their top needs and creates a plan to approach the key players with solutions.
Take baseball, for example. Our goal is to go beyond basic cage rentals and standard classes to offer things like offer umpire training, coaching clinics, and lessons for catching and fielding. To promote these services, we reach out to local schools and programs and offer tailored plans to their coaches and coordinators. Before we call, we make sure to do our research. For example, youth baseball coaches and high school baseball coaches have very different needs, and won’t necessarily be interested in the same services at the same times of year. While it seems like common sense to develop such individual plans, it’s a step that is skipped by many owners who are trying to reach out to potential clients.
Contacts in your community are essential. Talking to them will help give you a better feel for any new needs your business can address, and creates the foundation of your client base. As any experienced salesperson knows, developing a good network requires being proactive. This is especially important when you’ve recently opened, and news of your facility hasn’t had time to spread by word-of-mouth. It’s never too early to develop a list of niche-specific contacts. If you’ve already reached out to the high schools in the areas immediately surrounding your facility, try the middle schools, or expand the area you’re looking in. Try searching www.coachesdirectory.com. Ask friends and family if they have contacts who might be interested in your services. The bottom line: Coaches are not likely to seek out or stumble across your facility without a lot of effort and planning on your part, and they’re only likely to respond to an offer from you that is useful and respects their time.
As your effort to contact new clients continues, make sure to keep track of your relationship details and interactions so you can refer to them later to better cater to the client. And don’t forget to add them to interest-specific e-mail marketing lists (the software my company developed, eSoft Planner, has a functionality just for this purpose).