Most people recognise advertising even if they don’t know or understand all the theories and techniques that are used. Most also confuse the two terms, thinking that marketing is just another word for advertising. It isn’t.
If you do advertising without marketing, you will merely waste effort and money. This is particularly true of something like lawn bowls. There can’t be many people who haven’t heard of lawn bowls so just telling them that your club exists won’t achieve very much.
Marketing is a much more strategic process that underlies the way that successful promotion and advertising works, and it includes every interaction that your club has with current and prospective members. You market to keep your members, and keep your sponsors, as well as attract new members, clients, sponsors, etc.
It includes working out your identity – one club or divided by gender, inclusive/exclusive, friendly, diverse, accommodating, retirees/mixed age/young, how you fit into the local community, etc – and having that reflected in everything you do.
It includes analysis of the services or products you are (or could be) providing, analysis of the competition, identifying possible target markets and working out how to bring them together.
It includes the manner of the club officials, bar staff, and coaches and the way they speak to members and the public.
It includes processes like how streamlined the joining process is, the method and tone of communication to the members and to the public, the telephone answering message, the state of the clubhouse, etc.
It also includes honest and critical analysis of what is working and what is not, and therefore requires ongoing statistics and tracking. The biggest danger is cognitive bias – noticing and sharing anecdotes about things that confirm your views and ignoring everything else.
Your marketing properties include
- The signs at the gate, the clubhouse, the grounds
- The website which as well as providing information, displays who you are, and how you communicate with your members with event calendars, online bookings, etc.
- How the phone is answered, the answering machine or service
- Uniforms – this works differently for representing the club at competition than it does with social games
- Screens within the clubhouse and Bowls noticeboards
- Facebook page – whether you like it or not, it needs to be there for people “checking in”, sharing, and searching via Facebook.
- Free email newsletter(s) to full, social and non-members
- Any printed handbooks or materials
- Flyers, brochures, etc
Softer marketing includes:
- Quality of Bar service
- Friendliness of members
- Friendliness of systems and processes for membership, venue hire, etc
- Attitude of members and how they talk about each other and the committees
- The content and tone of newsletters and bulletins that you send members.
Social changes have made marketing lawn bowls very difficult. Clubs are having to compete for people’s disposable income, limited time and attention, as well as sporting preference at a time when those people are tending not to join clubs and don’t want to make regular commitments.
The lifestyle of players has also changed. Grandparents often have child-minding and school pick-up/drop off responsibilities, people are becoming parents later in life so they still have dependent children in their 40s and 50s, and many retirees travel frequently.
The trend for retirement villages to have their own bowling greens means that they can be competing with traditional clubs for members rather than providing a source of potential members. As your members move to retirement villages, what are the pros and cons for them to remain members of your club.
A vital step in your marketing is taking a hard look at your offerings and asking whether they fit the markets that you are targeting. This can mean diversifying to maintain formats and traditions that some existing bowlers treasure but also running other formats that will attract new and younger members and/or retain current members.
Bowls Australia and the state Bowls associations have done extensive market research for clubs to draw on. That's one of the benefits you pay for with your affiliation fees. Read their advice and use their materials.
Your marketing strategy is also intertwined with your club's strategic plan and there needs to be good communication and co-operation between all involved.