Marketing Fundamentals

29 June 2017

A strategic marketing plan is essential for clubs wanting to stay ahead of the pack.

There are many critical elements to consider in marketing and, to promote your club effectively, you need to fully recognise the core aspects of your product and service offering. This involves your desired brand positioning, customers, primary objectives, and what is relevant in the ever-evolving field of marketing today. The key then is to target your customers as individuals while at the same time taking a holistic approach, which can be a fine balancing act.

Logistically, marketing requires significant behind-the-scene preparation and there is rarely reign on marketing spend, so stretching the precious marketing dollar needs to be wisely considered. Implementation should be precise, the message seamless and the content needs to cut-through. Most importantly, you need your customers to engage. So how do you achieve this - plan it!

Do you have a strategic marketing plan in place for your club that is tangible, documented and available to primary stakeholders to view and collaborate on? Does the plan offer specific strategies formed by addressing clear business objectives and detail tactics through a well-structured timeline against an allocated marketing budget? While a marketing plan is crucial to business success, many businesses surprisingly do not have one.

Marketing is one of the most important areas of your business and is no longer seen as a cost centre as it attracts customers - ideally the loyal, frequent and return patrons you want - and therefore dictates the bottom line. A marketing plan doesn't necessarily have to be a mammoth wad of data and information but it does need to be documented in some form. The plan will make you and your team more accountable, drive revenue and increase the likelihood of achieving your marketing and organisational goals.

If you already have a marketing plan in place you should constantly measure your activity against Return on Investment (ROI), refine and review that you are achieving core objectives. Challenge your marketing ability, take ideas to the next level and get creative without missing the point. In today's business environment the game may look easy with so many accessible and free marketing platforms available in the expanding digital era, but don't be fooled. With accessibility and freedom comes savvy customers and a change in consumer behaviour that demands a new wave of respect from business. As a club you have the advantage to really know your members more personally through membership information used correctly within the parameters of privacy laws. How well are you using this opportunity?

Does your marketing strategy detail your method of activity, target a specific audience or segment, deliver key messages effectively, provide compelling content and leverage a foundation to create campaigns that will be absorbed? The club industry is so competitive that there is little room to leave it to chance and hope that your members "get you". It is up to you to "get them"....understand them, where and how they live, work, what interests them, their social and community needs, desires, problems, objections and what form of marketing promotion they are likely to respond to best. You should have much of this vital information already at your fingertips through your database, so if this is not being used efficiently for good old fashioned market research, now's the time to get started.

Once you have established these essentials you can get busy implementing campaigns around your customer segments and events calendar. You haven't even necessarily had to spend a cent yet! Marketing is about strategy and process so mindfully utilise your other key resources - time and people. There is no excuse not to set a comprehensive plan with at least a year lead time, calendar or financial, and in some cases longer for major events and business forecasting purposes. By planning ahead you will not be tempted to promote the wrong events to the wrong audience and customers will be inclined to respond with more targeted communication. Plenty of forward planning will allow you to use your downtimes wisely and not throw a barely adequate campaign together at the last minute.

So, lets investigate your specific goals and marketing objectives. What do you want to achieve from your efforts? For example, do you want to achieve quick sales, loyal customers, brand recognition, promotion of a new product or service, increased market share, or become the go-to venue destination? As importantly as setting goals, you need to set a realistic timeframe that allows measurability. It also helps if each goal includes some form of quantifiable criteria.

Promote your club's services, facilities and events specifically to your identified target audience providing powerful messaging, with relevant headlining and visuals, compelling content and a strong call to action. If you spend the time and effort planning your approach correctly, you are less likely to waste budget in the wrong areas. Most businesses have more than one customer segment yet still try to send the same message to them all, clogging up their emails, social media channels and 'shouting' at them. Be wise and tailor your campaigns. No-one wants to be seen as a number.

If you are strictly driven by budget, then treat it like an organic garden as you need to start from somewhere. Carefully nurture what you have and it should develop well. Then use that return to build on your next phase. Test your efforts and revise your plan constantly, allowing yourself to be flexible and fine tune it where required.

There isn't always a silver bullet to successful marketing, but the good news is that you can promote your club effectively and obtain better results if you have a clear strategy in place. You need to get smart with real direction so you have the best chance of achieving your goals.

(SOURCE: Sandra O'Neill, ClubLIFE, June 2017)

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