I was asked back in 2005 to do an abbreviated Business of Curling presentation to the United States Curling Association back in 2005 in Bismarck, ND. I met Jon Wilson from the USCA who worked in club development area and he had a couple of terrific examples of new member recruitment that he gave me permission “to steal”. I’d like to share them with you as they are incredibly good and even better, they work.
As we all know, curling’s popularity in February / March is at its peak with a large number of hours of live televised curling and a lot of it in prime time. Without a doubt, this is our best recruiting tool to catch those non-curling customers who all of a sudden are hot for our sport because they’ve seen it on TV. To some extent this was happening in the States (more so during the Olympic years) and Jon’s challenge wasn’t to get people to come and try curling – because they were just that in droves – but to the get them to sign up and hopefully become lifelong customers. His first great came from what a club was doing in the state of New York (can’t remember the name now). They created an 8 week membership where these new players – who showed up for the open house during the Olympics – were charged a fee of let’s say $100 and what they received was four nights of instruction during the last four weeks of that season and then four weeks at the start of the next season. Kind of a ‘wrap-around’ membership. We talked about a couple of ways to enhance this package and you could, for example, offer to post the $100 against a full membership if they wanted to keep playing. We suggested that the $100 could come with a full money back guarantee so if you hate the sport you can get your money back (but we know they’ll love it, right!). Finally, we would encourage the club to stay in touch in the summer. Invite the ‘wrap-arounders’ to come to the golf tournament or volunteer appreciation night. It would be a nice touch and your continued contact with them will go a long way to achieving the key word in all of this “retention”. Now the second great idea to all of this centers around the instruction piece. Too often and more often than not, we’re really good at doing the one-day-learn-to-curl clinic and be done with them and hope like heck they come back. The brilliance behind this great idea is the time and effort spent on ensuring these curlers get first class instruction each and every week of their 8 week stay. These players I guarantee you, will be much more inclined to become long time members because we have given them all the tools to be decent curlers; not just letting them flap in the wind after one day of lessons. Go one step further and create a yearlong instruction league at your club where they get instruction all year. Whenever I mention this to clubs, they tell me the volunteers will never last. And yes, they are right, the volunteers would get tired and the league would die. But there’s a better way if you’re willing to change the mindset that curling instruction should be free and work towards a golf model and pay instructors for their time. Not only should this guarantee that a yearlong league or an 8 week league gets the full attention of the instructors who are being paid but it will make them better instructors as well. How do you pay them and then with what? Think about how much money you would spend to recruit new customers every year. And we have to recruit because we lose players every year. But if we lost fewer players every year would you be willing to spend money to keep players? The answer is yes of course. So, back to the 8 week league and the $100 fee. As example, we have 16 curlers signing up. That’s $1600 and requires 2 sheets of ice for 8 weeks. Take $800 of that and pay 3-4 instructors for the 8 week’s work and keep $800 for the club. If they join – and I’m convinced they will – they will buy memberships, will likely stay for more than one year and you won’t have to spend as much money to recruit. The benefits are sizable: – Better prepared curlers (and lifers we hope!) – Happy and well compensated instructors – Effective retention – New group of volunteers The second question they have is what we are going to teach. Well ask and you shall receive. Here is a curriculum for you to use with a sample of one of the week’s lessons.