Marketing is a lion. It’s wild, sometimes unpredictable and,
to most of us, a little terrifying. But like a lion, there are ways
it can be tamed. Here are some tools and strategies to bring your
marketing “beast” under control.
Billboards, print and broadcast advertising still exist because
they work. But these opportunities are expensive.
If you are going to use these vehicles for advertising, make sure
your ad will get noticed; otherwise, you’re wasting
Generally, successful use of traditional media is based on the old
principle of location. You have to find opportunities that cater to
your market. For example, look for billboards placed in
high-traffic areas or — if you’re in an area with a
large Hispanic or Latino community — Spanish language
Beyond advertising, traditional media also offer public relations
opportunities. Share timely information and encourage journalists
to develop positive stories about your facility.
Online communication channels
No matter what type of facility you have, your market needs the
Internet, and likely uses it daily. First and foremost, maximize
exposure through your Website by making sure you provide ample
amounts of information. There is nothing worse than clicking on a
Website and discovering that the information you need is not
included. Focus on basic information such as facility hours.
Also talk with your IT person or Web site manager about increasing
your market exposure via your Website. Search engine optimization
(SEO) is one of the most common tools for expanding online
visibility. Strategic SEO makes a site more visible to search
engines such as Google. It involves taking your existing Web site
and tweaking wording and other factors to trigger more responses
when someone types key words into a given search
Finally, don’t overlook social media. Millions of people use
it and you should, too. It’s a convenient way for patrons to
learn about your facility.
Because social media is, by nature, an interactive two-way
communication channel, it also provides a way to develop a
dialogue. One smart way of using social media is positioning
yourself as an expert. Stay away from the “hard sell”
and focus on providing information.
Also use social media by following popular blogs in your area.
Provide bloggers with information as you would any other media
Partnerships and live marketing
Don’t underestimate the value of partnerships and
face-to-face “people power.”
Using partnerships is beneficial because it makes your marketing
team bigger. It may seem like you will be doing more work by
promoting other venues or services, but the return on your
investment will make it worth the effort. Splitting the work with
another facility fosters rapport with your shared customers,
especially if you are partnering with a complementary service
organization. Partnering with other recreation or fitness
facilities can be a win-win, allowing both operations to tap an
entirely new customer base.
Beyond partnerships, look for opportunities to communicate face to
face. Show your market you care by encouraging your staff to
volunteer at community events. You also might consider other
opportunities such as sponsoring trash pickups, coat drives or food
One of the best ways to stay connected is by becoming familiar with
the “thought leaders” in your community. Get to know
community leadership and let them get to know you, so that you can
work together to find mutually beneficial ways to increase your
People love free stuff. It’s an indisputable fact. With
budget cuts, many facilities don’t have marketing budgets and
shun the idea of spending money to market their facilities.
However, the bonuses often outweigh the costs. Promotions are
something to consider.
For example, if your market supports it, take advantage of Facebook
check-in or foursquare. These services allow people to
“check-in” at your facility and share it with friends.
When people participate by checking-in, you can reward them by
offering something in return, such as a free day pass after 20
visits. This kind of giveaway generally doesn’t cost much if
you get creative. Don’t make the prize unattainable, but
don’t let everyone earn it either.
If you can use these suggestions to create an effective marketing
strategy, then you’ve become a lion tamer.