Keeping your club alive and vibrant relies heavily on your approach to gaining new members. Having played for a number of clubs over the years it’s really interesting to reflect on the different attitudes I have witnessed from committee members.
I have sadly been involved in a club which despite 30 + years of history had to fold due to decreasing numbers – why did this happen? Quite frankly this was due to a head in the sand mentality; we don’t want to bother with a junior section, we certainly don’t want to make it easy for prospective players to find out about us and a website, well that’s a bit techy isn’t it?
On the flip side I have also been involved in clubs where the only concern is whether to register another team in the league due to having so many new members – a great place to be.
If you want to have a profitable and thriving club you have to treat it like a business because members pay fees and that money keeps our clubs alive:
1. Agree your objectives
It is really important that before you blindly start promoting your club you know what it is you are trying to achieve. Some examples of objectives may be:
-To be a premier league team within 5 years
-To start a junior section and have 4 age group categories within next 3 years
-To gain promotion within next 3 years
-To expand from a single sex club to a mixed club by next year
-To increase total number of adult teams by 3 in next 2 years
-To maintain current status
2. Select your target market
Once you have agreed your objectives you are then in a position to decide who it is you should be targeting. So for premier league status you may need to start looking for young, up and coming players and players already playing at that level (for example those coming to the end of their premier league days with the experience you require). Starting a junior section, clearly you will need to target parents, schools and the local community.
3. Understand your competition
Now you know what you want to achieve and who you are going to target you need to understand your competition, basically so you understand what you can offer that other local clubs can’t.
-Look at their website
-Phone up and ask what they offer to your target market (mystery shop), so for example if you are trying to attract 16 to 21 year olds to your club find out what benefits they offer to that age range
-Attend a training session, what sort of welcome did you get, what information did they give you?
-What are there fees, how does that compare to your club?
OK, so now you know who you want to talk to and what you need to be saying you can start to focus on your advertising strategy
What are your USP’s (unique selling points), basically why should I join your club instead of XYZ club down the road? Make sure you incorporate your USP’s into your advertising.
Do you have a budget to advertise? OK so most likely you have no budget but you must price up the essentials for example you may require leaflets, you definitely need a website, and you might even feel that an advert in the local community magazine is worth a small investment. Agree your budget with the committee and stick to it!
Can you do any reciprocal deals – e.g. allow someone to advertise in your club house or newsletter if they advertise your club in their premises or newsletter?
Where are you going to advertise and what are you going to say? This links back to earlier points in terms of who you are trying to attract. If you want students then a day at freshers fair may be a day well spent.
Word of mouth is one of the strongest forms of advertising, do your members know that you are on the look out for more members, enlist their support in talking to their school friends, university friends, work colleagues etc.
5. Make the sale
Once you have attracted some attention and inquiries are coming in, don’t just wait and hope they commit! Make the sale, make them feel wanted and valued, invite them to training, make sure someone is ready to meet them and to introduce them to others, ensure they get involved and at the end of the session catch up with them and see how they got on. Remember they may be trying out a couple of clubs so make sure they leave yours with the impression of professionalism and friendliness.
6. Retain your members
Once you have your members you need to keep them – if a member leaves then that leaves a gap in your club, both in terms of players and of course a financial gap. So keep your players happy, give them a voice and as a committee listen to your members needs.
Review your objectives, if you wanted to achieve promotion within 3 years then have you achieved this? If not how will you retain those members you recruited for that purpose, they may get frustrated and look to join a club playing in a higher league. You will need to refocus regularly and communicate your new goals to the member base. Include relevant parties, make them know how important they are to you to keep your club on track and maybe refocus them to help in other areas, for example can they help with the club talent pool? Getting them involved in other aspects of the club will help you to keep them motivated and supportive of your club.
To succeed, treat your club as a business, take your committee role seriously and have an understanding of where you are going and how you are going to get there and you will reap the benefits and become a successful and thriving sports club.