Marketing Your Club
The marketing committee of Bowls USA has developed a Club Marketing Handbook based on proven practices of successful clubs across the country. Download your copy from the link at right.
Start your own club checklist. Don't wait for the president to do everything... if no one has made a marketing to do list yet, then maybe you need to step up and do your part to help save bowls.
Many of these items are small and a few volunteers can quickly implement them and start to raise the visibility of a single club.
At the same time, a national press release was sent to the media nationwide announcing this program. We are assisted in these efforts by a professional PR firm for the first time, but they will be focusing on big national efforts to help raise awareness of what is often an invisible sport, as our budget for them is very small. Clubs and Divisions need to still do their best at their own levels. Do you have a marketing board position? Committee?
Proven club marketing strategies and tactics
- Your prospective new members are outside the fence, so most programs should be community outreach focused.
- Most bowlers join initially for the social and fun aspects, so make sure they get a warm social welcome too... they can always learn the finer points of bowls later.
- Most people are shy around a new sport. So encourage them to try it with their friends and families.
- Most bowlers are not good salespeople, so equip them with some basic marketing tools starting with a handout flyer.
- The most consistently reported low-cost successful tactic is to to put a box of flyers on your club gates and make sure it is always stocked. Encourage people to help themselves. Make sure the flyer is in a fun, friendly tone and tells people what they can try, rather than all the things they can't do. Make sure it has proper phone and web contact information. A great idea is to put the basics of the game on the back of this flyer..since most people don't know the sport. (See download from Learn to Bowl page).
- Somehow or other get yourself a simple club website. Even as you read this someone might be searching the web to find a club or new sport in your area.
- Put the website address on your gate box in case you run out of flyers. Also on all your club booklets and newsletters.
- Schedule some Open House weekends. Publicize them in local newspapers, parks and recreation departments, mayoral letters, inserts, etc. Then have volunteers on hand to let all and sundry try their hand at bowls for free. Cookies and lemonade are optional. Newport Harbor LBC has kindly documented in detail how to run a successful Open House. Download the PDF Open House Guide here.
- Make yourself a big sign or two (like realtor Open House) signs, and put them out on tournament and open house and other days. They are amazingly effective, especially if they only have 3 or 4 words so people can read them as they drive by at 40 mph.
- Invite your local city newspaper and photographer to come down to one of your regular social events.
- Schedule a series of formal classes to learn bowls. Many people prefer this more formal setting. Works best if done in conjunction with city parks and recreation department or similar organization.
- Remember, the next generation of bowlers have not yet retired, so schedule most recruiting events for non-working hours. You want to catch them before they lock-in on other retirement activities. This means you should also review your normal bowling hours... working people are not free 9 to 5 during the week, nor at 12noon on weekends (as that is when they are all used to eating lunch).
- Rent (or take donations) for small groups to use your clubhouse and green for small parties and office off-site meetings, then have a few volunteers show them the very basics of bowls. If you get them competing early, they will enjoy the fun and hopefully return later. In particular, show the ladies how they can finally compete against their male partners in a sport, and still enjoy a sociable time. Make sure everyone goes home with one of your flyers. Even if you don't get many takers initially, you will make some money that you can then use on a marketing campaign.
- Have a special members dinner after an afternoon of bowls, where people can only sign up and stay for the dinner if they brought a new friend or contact to try bowls. Didn't a friend invite you down once to play bowls? Isn't that how you got into the sport?
- Institute a regular social calendar (if you don't already have one) with at least one social party/dinner or similar event every quarter. Call to invite all members, as well as recent prospective members.
- Check your signs Work with the city to put up street signs pointing to bowls green.
- Check your hours. Are you accidentally discouraging working people. Make sure you bowl at least once a week regularly after work hours. E.g. 5pm wed nights, or Sat or Sun at 1:30pm. Schedule regular draw games for morning or afternoon, but not over lunch hour... so people don't have to waste whole day for bowling.
- Consider having a Bowls and Breakfast promo day. Good for hot climates anytime. Good for everyone in summer. For special attention, make it Champagne breakfast, and don't forget to invite your local radio and TV news shows.
- Put out a press release whenever you have some news, tournaments, events, etc. There are many free services for this nowadays, all with hints on how to write it.
- List your events in the free Weekend Events, Weekend Sports, Things to Do Around Town in your local papers and their websites. Put an ad on Craigslist or wherever too. All these are free.. you just have to sit down and do it.. because they all expire quickly.
Divisional Marketing Outreach
Get your region together and do some marketing programs. Don't wait for nationals... support is not the same in all parts of the country. You know the sport best. You know the local clubs and contacts!
The SW booth at a recent AARP Expo. See the website listed here on the edge of the indoor green: www.trylawnbowling.com
The SW had its own Bowls Day in May with coordinated promotions across the region. See SWLawnBowls.com.
Ads and Posters
The Bowls USA Membership Committee has worked with the Lake Hodges Club and their advertising agency to develop a set of new posters suitable for use anywhere and for any reason. Some of these were shown in the Spring 2004 issue of Bowls magazine. The headings are: "If you think pitchers throw good curve balls, you haven't tried lawn bowling," "Mind if we throw you a curve," "Lawn bowling. It just looks expensive," "Lawn bowling. It's not just for seniors anymore."
The posters can be had by contacting the Membership Committee. Be sure to include the message you wish to display on your posters. Suggestions would be the date of your open house, the name of the person to contact for lessons, the days your club is open for bowling and your location or street address.
Ads for your local newspaper can be prepared by contacting Larry Hirsch at www.hdesign.com Larry will include your message in the ad and forward it to your newspaper in the proper form for printing. This service costs very little and saves all sorts of time and aggravation.
Similarly, when working with kids, posters have been designed with titles like "If you think pitchers throw good curve balls, you haven't tried bowls," "Mind if we throw you a curve," "Bowls. It just looks expensive," "Bowls. It's not just for seniors anymore."
California Bowls Day a Big Success
The SW and PIMD Divisions joined forces to make a statewide effort all on one single day of recruiting. It is estimated that as many as 300+ (in SW) and 100+ (in PIMD) new members will result from this one single effort.
PIMD was a bit late on getting going, but it still worked wonders for most of their clubs. Now is the time for all divisions to start thinking how they will push together next year (or even late this year if that is when your season starts).
Recruiting is fast becoming the major imperative to stem the dramatic fall off in memberships we have been seeing these past few years. Let's keep bowls alive and competitive... and not just for the same old handful of tournament players.
Is your club growing?
If not, it is probably shrinking as people age out of the programs.
Don't wait for some committee or region to do something drastic when the emergency alarms sound. There are many simple low cost things you can do locally to grow your club and help promote the sport nationwide. Listed below are some items from clubs that have successfully grown their membership in the last few years, but the most important item is ATTITUDE.
Yes, we have found that when a few key members change their attitude towards welcoming newcomers, then the whole club's attitude changes. And instead of scaring off beginners that none of us "experts" want to play against, we find away to embrace and include them in the social games. After all, we all were beginners once. So don't bother with these marketing tactics unless this matter is addressed first, or you will get new members who don't stick around.
If you feed them they will come! A recent Aussie themed bowls/eve had the lawn full at Palo Alto
and over 80 people enjoyed the dinner and music. A great chance to meet spouses, friends and new members.