Marketing Magic!

Swan River Curling Club, Swan River, Man. © Copyright Curling Canada

Maintaining your curling centre’s online presence proves vital to user engagement and retention

As curling centres begin to shift their focus from their summer planning phases towards a modified reopening of the 2020/2021 curling season, keeping your centre’s user base informed and up to date has never been more important.

And while Curling Canada has published its Return to Play Guidelines for curling centres across Canada, odds are that the reintroduction to curling will likely take on a custom format at your local curling centre. 

The needs of each individual curling centre vary thanks to an array of differentiations in each centre’s set-up; an eight-sheet facility faces situations that a two-sheet facility may never encounter while a curling centre that is, for example, municipally owned may have differing mandates from a private members facility. 

In light of these discrepancies between facilities, it has never been more important to communicate efficiently with those curlers whom you will be welcoming back in the fall. Reaching your entire centre’s population will be essential to a safe and comfortable return to play experience.

Seamless communication from the ranks of a club manager or board of directors down to a curling centre’s core base of users can be a daunting task. Sometimes, emails are lost in inboxes while some curlers may not be checking your facility’s website consistently. It simply isn’t enough to rely on those methods of communication. 

Some curling centres, who rely exclusively on volunteer efforts or who simply don’t have staff members with communication experience, may not know where to begin.

Thankfully, with the evolution of online marketing and social media, ensuring that as many members of your curling facility return to play fully informed has never been easier or more affordable. 

It begins with your centre’s online social media and base website presence. 

Danielle Inglis, who is Coordinator of Social Media and Web Content at Curling Canada, knows the power of social media and web-based communication.

“Currently in marketing, the new trend is that people expect to have the information come to them. Social media is the way most people are digesting their information these days. You see it in all platforms, especially through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for the younger generations,” said Inglis. 

Chances are if you’ve ever seen or interacted with a Curling Canada post, tweet, or story, you’ve directly seen Inglis’ philosophies about modern marketing and effective communication at work. 

“It really comes down to not only grabbing attention with your posts, but keeping their attention as well,” said Inglis.

You may be saying: hold on – I don’t know the first thing about how to use social media platforms effectively. How can I turn my curling facility’s online presence into a budding information superhighway?

The first thing to note is that Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are all entirely free to register for and use. While there are options to purchase paid advertisements on all platforms, they’re far from mandatory. This makes them a must have series of tools in your curling centre’s communications and marking arsenal, as the days of direct mail and classified ads are largely obsolete. Every curling club can see tangible gains in both their branding and overall reach when prospecting for new curlers, all for the low price of zero dollars. 

Brand and prospecting benefits aside, your social media channels can also act as direct lines of communication with your user base for media releases, promotional materials and more. Not only can you use posts to direct traffic to your curling centre’s website (which will improve your search engine rankings and make your paid advertisers very happy, if you have them), you can use the built in “inbox” functions of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to provide a direct channel for inquires relevant to your curling centre. 

Inglis knows that most, if not all, curling centres already have these media platforms built and are already being put to use, but cannot seem to capture their user base and curate a community of followers. She offers these helpful hints:

“Be consistent with your posting. It’s important to evaluate your resources in both time and labour and then create a plan that allows you to post consistently. If it means you can only post once a day or once a week, it only matters so long as you maintain that rhythm. You want to keep people coming back for information and be predictable in your publishing,” said Inglis. 

What makes internet marketing and social media based content creation so engaging is its versatility, including the ability to embed video, polls or even interact with other accounts in a public conversation. Inglis adds that a best practice is to engage users with some creative and fun posts. 

An example of user engagement from the Smoky Lake Curling Club, Alberta, updating their followers on a successful weekend bonspiel. Photo: Smoky Lake Curling Club – Facebook

“You want to be the voice of your club, so don’t be shy to get creative and have fun with your content! Fun or creative content will be much easier for your users to recall information which will entice others to interact with your posts. Even light hearted posts work well; cute curling pets are always popular.”

With practice and a little bit of experimentation, you’ll soon be able to hone in on what style of posts resonate well with your followers and create additional content in that theme. And if you’re out of ideas on how to get creative with your social media posts, Inglis encourages you to interact with similar accounts. 

“Knowing how to use your channel properly is important but every channel is unique, so there’s no cookie cutter voice to use. Interacting with others can help boost your content all while being a customer service platform as well. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel when creating posts either – you can always reuse the content from your provincial, territorial or national curling organisation as a start.”

Ultimately, social media is about community and leveraging those channels for your curling facility is easy, low-effort and nearly mandatory if you want your facility to thrive in 2020 and beyond. 

“I love putting out posts that will brighten someone’s day and make them smile. Creating a positive message will really help your account, and therefore your messages, stand out above the rest,” said Inglis. 

With the implementation of these best practices, you can turn your social media feed from a stale bulletin board into a budding influencer in your community, driving your curling centre forward. 

For those whose curling centres are already advanced in their online marketing literacy, there are proven results to be found with bolstering paid advertisements. Curling Canada has already implemented and executed marketing campaigns on Facebook as a means of membership recruiting, which produced excellent results. 

“Facebook allows you to choose your catchment area, your demographic and the amount you want to spend, should you choose to pay for an ad,” said Danny Lamoureux, Curling Canada’s Director of Club Development and Event Operations. “And when you reach your objective, you can pull out whatever money you have to spend.”

And while not every curling centre will want to spend money on paid advertising, online platforms are a flexible media platform that will accommodate your curling centre’s needs.

“I loved the flexibility this offered our curling rinks as their budgets vary from club to club, city to city. So for four years, we ran pilots in various parts of the country to prove the efficiency of Facebook,” said Lamoureux.

These marketing pilots proved to be very effective with curling centres across Canada boasting a swath of new participants in their try curling events, including:

-Cataraqui Golf & CC, Kingston, Ontario, 85 participants

-Royal Montreal, Québec, 100 participants

-Sylvan Lake CC, Alberta, 115 participants

-Dawson Creek CC, British Columbia, 77 participants

-Strathcona CC, Alberta, 132 participants

-Orangeville CC, Ontario, 150 participants

-Unionville CC, Ontario, 180 participants

Lamoureux credits these successes to the targeting abilities of online marketing platforms and shedding the ancient recruitment techniques of the past.

“Essentially what we have done is refine and rebuild how we used to recruit Canadians to become members of our clubs. In the ‘old’ days, we would put an ad in the newspaper for an open house on a Saturday once the ice was in, for example. We would train these new curlers for an entire day, take their membership money, and finally put them in a league for the season. All the while hoping like crazy they come back the next year!”

With technology and marketing evolving as quickly as it does, curling had to modernize its techniques as well, noted Lamoureux. 

“The new way of doing things, based on a lot of piloting, is to identify your membership needs and then to enable Facebook to reach out to your choice of demographic. So, run the Facebook campaign to get people registered for your centre’s try curling program(s). Then have fun with the group while they throw stones, for the first time in many cases. Those who fall in love with our sport right there and then, will sign up for Learn-To-Curl! It’s the ultimate customer retention program!”

You can find other general resources for your curling facility, including COVID-19 information and resources, here at Curling Canada’s Business of Curling webpage.

Curling Canada