3. Market yourself and communicate
Promoting and marketing can be a highly effective means of:
* attracting more members, volunteers and funding for your pool club;
* increasing the number of supporters at your events;
* improve the social aspect of your club; and
* integrate it more fully within the community in which it is based.
However, it is important that your marketing strategy is at once holistic, coordinated and integrated into the overall development of your club.
All successful promotional campaigns are based around one key principle – communication of clear benefits to a clear target group (or “market”). Your target market needs to be those individuals most able to fulfil aims and objectives, so work out who these people might be, keeping in mind it may be more than one group and so you may need more than one message.
Have a clear image of who you are targeting when producing your promotional material – by understanding who you are addressing and then communicating with them as individuals and in the right language, you stand far more chance of producing something that has impact and sounds really attractive to them. Think about dividing up your market or “segmenting” it into groups, which enables you to tailor both the message you put in front of them and the offer itself.
For example, if you are hoping to run a successful mixed-doubles tournament as a regular social event and as part of a recruitment drive for more female involvement in your club, you may decide that you need to “market” your event both to existing male competitive members and to new (perhaps novice) female students, and so very different messages will be needed for each group.
This is a key point – bear in mind that your club is about two things: pool AND enjoyment. Both are needed for any new member to join and old members to stay, and so BOTH need to be integral parts of your marketing campaign, i.e. it’s not just about pool! Practically, this may involve promoting the social side to the club, and the wider benefits it brings, and not just focus on the competitive element.
Another example might be that you decide that your club needs more volunteers. Some people interested in volunteering will be involved in pool and some will not. To attract:
* those already interested and participating, you might talk about helping to provide more opportunities for people to play their sport or receive other benefits (e.g. free practice time); whereas for
* those not involved, you may want to emphasise the chance to meet new people and make new friends, or get some experience of business admin or club management to gain transferable skills useful in the workplace, post-graduation.
Try to match the message to the group.
You may also find it effective to target people indirectly – for example, contacting other clubs, or the local hall bars, and challenging them to form teams to participate in a social event (which you can subsequently recruit from). Such cross-marketing is a great way to not only diversify your membership but also have fun in the process.
Why not challenge one of the various international or cultural groups to a match? You may discover a hidden 9-ball champion!
But what do you tell them?
Let your target market know what is in it for them – talk in terms of benefits, as it is the benefits that sell things. An example maybe that you want to make the point that your coaches are trained, accredited or experienced – the benefit is that your players receive coaching that is matched to their requirements, in order to get the best from them at whatever level.
But take care to focus on only one promotional message at a time; too many competing messages can dilute the proposition and confuse the reader. Apply the “so what” test – ask yourself “so what benefits does this offer?” If any further explanation is required, you are not being explicit enough about the benefits.
In some instances, you may need to create new incentives/benefits to use in promotional activity, and this is most clearly the case concerning prizes. Fundraising was covered in the previous section and outlines some options there for you.
What type of promotional medium you use will also be key to the message delivery. Choose a medium that your target audience uses, and maintain a consistent look across your material, repeating key messages – the response will increase as readers begin to recognize your image.
It’s very likely that your club will want a simple leaflet, poster, or flyer to advertise its activities. The key to success with printed materials is getting them displayed in the right places. Try to define where your potential members spend their time, and look for ways to distribute your materials in those places. Moreover, particularly with posters, only use pictures that fit with and complement the headline and text and use a clear “call to action”.
Press releases (e.g. in your SU magazine or on your student radio station) can be a great way to promote your club – however keep these short and to the point (the first paragraph should contain all the vital information) and ensure the story is interesting and that the content does not come across too much like an advert. Most important – end the piece with your contact details! This needn’t be personal details, simply where and when events occur or your committee meets.
Maintaining a simple club website can also be an effective way of attracting newer members, and many club websites are hosted on the free space provided by Internet Service Providers to their members. Your website will be more prominent if it is linked to other relevant places – make sure it is linked to/from your AU, SU, and other such places, both internal and external. Key principles to remember here are:
* keep the site interesting so to draw people in;
* ensure all the important information is clearly displayed or easy to find;
* keep the site simple and up-to-date;
* avoid irrelevant or time-consuming graphics; and
* promote your site on all your promotional material.
In recent years, social networking has been a powerful tool and the student population has been one of the quickest to embrace this. As such, any pool club should link into their students’ union Society Facebook group and sub-groups (i.e. set up a specific one just for your pool society/club). As well as a useful tool to build numbers (through linking into regional networks, and other clubs), which can also be used to "sell" the club to sponsors (who like to have access to large local populations), it helps you to share ideas and experience instead of re-inventing the wheel. This can be amongst your pool club or between groups – perhaps the snooker or football clubs had a great idea which you can use? It is all about sharing good practice.
Of course, social networking isn’t simply confined to the virtual world – your actual pool events and subsequent word-of-mouth will often be your most useful tools in promoting your club, and this is why it is important to ensure many of your events (if not all) take place on campus if there are tables available, as it will provide you with a regular visible presence and opportunity to market yourselves to the student body.
Specific non-pool promotional events are hard work and complicated to plan, but the key here, with not only promo events but all material, is to maximise the use of what you have at your disposal:
* get a stall at your Freshers’ Fairs and AU/SU markets;
* use society forums;
* attend and promote stuff (perhaps submit motions) at your Union General Meetings;
* if your SU has networked TV advertising space, get an advert for your weekly competition up there; and
* compile email lists and send people updates (taking care to limit this and to keep it relevant with benefits – spamming will get you ignored!).
These are just some of the approaches you may like to take. As stated elsewhere, it can be a rewarding but challenging experience, and spreading the workload amongst your committee is highly recommended.
Moreover, universities are a rich source for useful skill-sets – you may like to proactively recruit a marketing undergraduate to undertake these responsibilities and gain some personal experience as a Marketing Officer. Similarly, most IT undergraduates need to create and maintain a website from scratch as part of their coursework, and so why not recruit one to take the lead on your website?
Remember to review your promotional material regularly (e.g. ask your membership what works and what doesn’t, particular new members who were subject to it) and adjust your approach for next time. Also ensure the lessons learnt and knowledge gained is communicated to your committee, particularly those continuing the club into the following year.