Growing the Sport of Curling in 2020
These are interesting times for Canadian curling rinks with many clubs re-opening with a flourish while other clubs will wait until January before opening, and some clubs have chosen not to open at all. Regardless of your situation, it is important to keep selling your product making sure people in your community know your club exists and is still in business. So here are some tips and best practices to raise awareness and recruit new customers!
Our objectives are simple:
Focus on the interest. Curling will be a popular winter activity even during the pandemic. Use that heightened interest to build awareness on what you do and where you do it. Personify curling; tell your potential customers that we are a safe, family-based, recreation business.
Best practices. The key to your success will be your efforts in organizing events that invite new customers to your building to try curling. When they show up, have them throw a stone or two and then work at convincing them to commit to a Learn-To-Curl program!
Here are two videos you can use in your promos:
Host them on your web page so you can send links. Market them to your new customers using Facebook. Finally, use this guide to assist in your planning.
This planning piece is designed to help capture the public’s attention by emphasizing how easy and how much fun it is to get involved in curling. The concept is to encourage people to investigate and then experience the enjoyment of the game first hand. We firmly believe that, when a new customer tries the sport for the first time, they will become curlers for life!
What should be in place before you start:
- Make sure you have a Facebook page for your club.
- Host a Curling 101 event. This ‘marketing tool’ will ensure the “first contact or first impression” to your club is positive one. Personal contact is a powerful tool in encouraging new memberships. Make sure you have your friendliest people up front!
- Have your Adult Learn-To-Curl program in place and ready to go.
- Follow-up: as simple as a postcard to let people know you have not forgotten them or, as detailed as inviting them to join your Learn-To-Curl program. Take advantage of the fruits of your labour; getting new customers into the building is only the first step!
- In 2020, the number of Facebook users in Canada amounted to 25.19 million and is projected to grow to 26.75 million in 2025. The current Facebook usage penetration in Canada is about 64% of the population. With a Canadian average of 338 “friends” linked to each Facebook users’ network, the possibility for exponential growth as one user is converted to curling is impressive.
- Identifying Facebook friends: A designated club employee or a member/volunteer would be the ideal party to be responsible for updating your club’s Facebook page. This will ensure that the information is kept accurate and current. Send invitations to your entire membership to ‘like’ your page.
- Facebook content: It should reflect the club’s look and feel with content specifically written towards your members and potential new members. Creating a fan page your members can join, while inviting others in their own networks to join, will allow you to take advantage of the viral capabilities of the site.
- Identify your ‘target’ market (see next section).
- Determine date and time for your Curling 101 event.
- Plan, deliver and monitor your Facebook campaign (or other media if you want).
- THE EASY PART – the day of the event! Lights, camera, action!!
- Post-event publicity. Let your membership, the public and media know what happened. Photos are an excellent way to emphasize the fun aspects of curling especially on your Facebook page!
- If you focus your attention specifically on the group of people you want to attract to your club, you will greatly enhance the possibility of success. Two important areas to investigate before you start.
- Concentrate your efforts in those areas where you may be weak. Consider the following sectors: couples, families, women, commercial league curlers, occasional renters, or any organized group that will increase participation and build membership in your club.
- Look at your community to see if there are any other opportunities. Look for groups of people that are not using your facility but could be if the invitation was extended (i.e. Chamber of Commerce, 4H Clubs, Girl Guides, church groups). Knowing who you are hoping to attract and then concentrating on them makes it easier to choose and plan activities.
- Check Statistics Canada’s 2016 Census for information about your community.
More best practices!
- When your recruits arrive for Curling 101, they may be unfamiliar with the ways of your club and may have limited knowledge about the game itself. To lessen any anxiety and ease new people into life at your club, it is important to do everything possible to extend a friendly and informative welcome. Remember Curling 101 is a marketing tool. The total experience should be no more in length than one (1) hour which includes throwing stones!
- Orientation sessions and tours: Take time to talk to newcomers about your club. Finish the explanation with a tour of the facility. Show them as much of the club as possible including lockers, the ice area and even the refrigeration room (if allowed)!
- The club should be spotless and sanitized. This is the first contact with your building and if cleanliness is an issue, you will have made a poor impression and chances are good you will never see those customers again.
- Give every newcomer written details of how your club operates. Include contacts, information about Adult Learn-To-Curl leagues, instruction, social activities, and any other services offered by your club. Note: this information should be on your web site too!
- Incentives: consider start-up incentives such as trial or provisional memberships (e.g. a one-month membership), equipment packages and group or family rates.
- The age-old problem for Canadian curling clubs has always been what to do with new players who join as singles. Where do we put them? They are very inexperienced and they are by and large shy and often intimidated in their new surroundings. Yet, we continue to take their money and hope like heck they will return year after year. Help is on the way with the instruction program called Getting Started for Adults.
- The greatest challenge with any recruitment campaign is placing these new curlers in your league. Generally, they are novice curlers and it is difficult integrating them into existing leagues. If you do not have a draw-from-the-board or a pick ‘em league, then the chances are your club will not be able to keep many of these new recruits. They will be frustrated because their skill level is not up to the standard of the league. They will be overwhelmed and eventually (after the first year at the latest) they will quit. All that hard work in recruiting new customers will go down the drain.
- The premise behind it is to offer up superior customer service to your new recruits by immersing them in a year-long instruction program using trained (and paid!) instructors. It works! Novice curlers are graduating from this program as experienced and well-taught members and they are ready to join regular leagues!
Here are a couple of tips:
- Trial Memberships: Most people prefer to ‘test drive’ a product before buying and why not test drive the sport of curling. Many facilities have introduced the concept of trial memberships allowing new recruits the opportunity to play for a few weeks or more before settling in to becoming a lifelong member.
- Novice Instructional League (Spring Season): For this marketing strategy, the league should 4-8 weeks in length with a two-hour session once a week. It should be in place before you start your recruiting. During the two hours, the novice players receive up to 60 minutes of lessons that are a little more advanced than the standard one-day novice clinic (lesson plans here). The rest of the time can be used to play a few ends. Follow the curriculum.
- The fees generally range from $60 to $120 for this short period and almost every club allows the fee to then be applied to a full membership if and when they choose to join the club then or in the Fall. If they choose not to continue, then that is their decision.
- One of the difficulties with this type of league is the shortage of trained instructors and the volunteers to manage it. For example, we have noticed that many clubs are ‘hiring’ their instructors and paying them a portion of the fee they collect. Now you have paid instructors (like at the golf course) and the league will have a better chance at succeeding because of the strengthened commitment.
- Hint: Be careful when you schedule this league. Giving them the worst time on your weekly calendar will not do much to help your image. If you have an evening slot open, use it. If not, look at a weekend time that will not inconvenience the residents of your community. Check around and see what other activities are scheduled and when.
- Wrap-Around League: This is one of the better ideas we have encountered as a recruitment strategy. Scheduling your recruitment campaign in the spring when awareness for the sport of curling is at its highest is a great tactic. Many people will show up in February / March to try the sport and sign up for four-week instructional program. The Wrap-Around Membership consists of 6-8 weeks of instruction in the Spring wrapped around the first 3-5 weeks in the Fall. No longer have to worry about the new recruits returning in the Fall because they have already paid a membership for this league.
- The fees for this league could be anywhere from $75 to $125. The amount could also be applied to full membership fees when they join. The leagues should offer the same combination of instruction, game time and fun as the basic novice instruction league. Hint: Even though they will return in the fall to complete their membership, try and stay in touch with this group over the summer. Invite them to the club golf tournament, summer social or whatever you do at the club in the off season.
- Rookie Leagues: Season-long leagues / programmes for novice curlers are popular and can be found in a few clubs under different names: Greenhorn, Getting Started, etc. The stories we are hearing from these leagues are inspiring and we believe this is the way of the future for recruiting. The objective of this league is the same as the first two examples except it operates year-round and new recruits – who can call on your club at any time of the year – can start to play right away in an environment that is suitable to an enjoyable experience. The interesting trend is that more often than not, instructors are paid (avoids volunteer burn-out). As in other instruction leagues, timing is critical so do your research. If you want a how-to-manual, please click here! Finally, if your club has a success story in this area of recruitment and development, please share it with us and we will share it with the rest of the curling world as we grow the sport together! Email them to Danny Lamoureux at [email protected]
On behalf of Curling Canada and our country’s curling community, we would like to extend a very big thank you to each of our curling facilities for the work they do in growing the sport at the community level.