Monday, December 29, 2014

What's So Good About Being Average?

Sometimes you get pushed, maybe even a bit intimidated to fit in;  to look like everyone else, to "dress for success, so to speak, even if its really not who you think you are.  Maybe you even get pushed to use the same tools, the same format, the same analytic mindset as your peers, but hey, what if there is another way?

They are the high school English teacher in love with his one dimensional interpretation of "Huckleberry Finn;"  it's  his way, as told to him by his teachers and his peers  Maybe its the book editor who has to subscribe to the strict rules of grammar without realizing the beauty in "other conversational grammar."

Or maybe it was your first or second job when you questioned something only to be told, "Hey bud, that's the way we do things around here and if you don't like it, find another job."

It didn't matter that you might have had a better way to get the job done that would have either saved the company money or even made them money.

They're all part of the "We know best school of management". From the productivity guru who looks to make everyone faster, not necessarily better;  to the social media guru who is driving your project with what worked in the past and is not willing to tell you his new secret formula for fear that you might fire him rather than embrace his new strategy.

After all, haven't I heard you say, "Where have you done that before? Did it work? Let me call the center?"

Maybe its a new idea and you're the first?  How does that fit?  "Nope, you say, "I don't want to be a pioneer. Pioneers get an arrow in the back and die. I want proof."  Sure you do, but when are you going to step up and do something different that just might give you a bigger reward.

The safest thing you can do is keep doing what you have been doing, to fit in. "Hey I'm just doing what everybody else does, right?"

The problem is everybody else is just average and we have an abundance of average.

Don't be different just to be different. Be different to be better

And have a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Giving Belief

I try not to get into politics in this blog or issues where emotions may tend to elevate to levels where this forum then  becomes a place for people to espouse their own biases and prejudices, but I am going to go out on a limb here.

Recent events in Ferguson, MO and in NYC where two African American men died, where two policemen were shot; where protests are a daily occurrence and where both sides chant slogans such as: "I cant breathe" to "What do we want? Dead cops!" clearly depict the negative polarized nature of certain aspects of our society.

So here's what I am suggesting you do in your community. Become a part of the dialogue.

Not by taking any one side, (because there is always validity in both sides) but by being a venue to raise money for a community project that benefits everyone.

Whether it be a new recreation facility, senior center or some other worthwhile cause, be the one who helps spearhead the project and make it known that your motivation is to bring the community together to achieve a common goal.

It is the goal that is important. It is the goal that you must feel passionate about so you can communicate that to the Mayor, City Councilman, Police chief, Village Elders or whomever is in a position of power to get your project off the ground.

Why would you listen to this advice without thinking that "I have enough to worry about, why get involved in this stuff?"

First, its always good advice to be involved in your community and become part of its fabric. Fact: people like doing business with people who give back to the community.

Second, caring is marketing. When you get involved with a contemporary issue that reaches every part of society, you tell your customers that you are modern, up to date, involved and also very much concerned about them as people and not just concerned about the pursuit of profit at all costs.

Third, you cannot be wrong if you work for a mutual goal that benefits both sides or better yet has the potential to benefit everyone.

And finally you will get a lot of media coverage if you TRULY believe in what you are doing. A word of caution though, DO NOT DO THIS FOR PR REASONS.  People are not stupid and will see through the "fakery."

Do this ONLY if you believe it; if you believe it will help the community and that you seek no economic reward for this effort.  In fact, you MUST want nothing more than a successful and beneficial project that you believe will demonstrate how people can work together for the common good.

Do it because you want people to be less angry and more giving and you want that spirit of giving to start at your center

Merry Christmas to All

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Most Wonderful Time of The Year

There will no doubt be all kinds of marketing trends, ideas and suggested hints on how to capitalize on the changing environment for 2015. Among them will be social media trends, emerging technologies about mobile content as well as how to design the new Facebook ad for your prospects.

No doubt, I will blog about one or all of these topics and perhaps a few others as well, but for today I wanted to ask you a question?

What are you going to do the next two weeks other than working in the business to improve your business next year?

if you're probably saying, "Hey Fred, I expect to be so busy that I wont have a chance to pick my head up", then you're probably with the majority of small business owners this time of the year.  And I wouldn't blame you. No doubt our people in our bowling centers are saying the same thing...I hope.

And that's simply the reason why I am asking you to answer the question over the next two weeks or so. When you will have more customers; when you will be able to measure your delivery system under pressure; how your product works and, more importantly, what people like or don't like and even what they might like in the future, then you can really get deeper into the business when you are coasting, simply because you really have to focus.  And focus intensely.

It really is the most wonderful time of the year.

But what if you (and any member of your staff) came up with one topic, one idea or one new suggestion, every day, for the next 15 days, you would have 15 opportunities to examine, 10 to consider, 5 to really think hard about and one or two that you could work on that would eventually mean more $$$ for your business. Wouldn't that be cool?

I know you might find it difficult to do, but its like going for a walk. The best time to do it is when you don't want to.

Try it, it's just for two weeks...and, after-all, it really is the most wonderful time of the year.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

It's Beginning to Feel A lot Like Christmas

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas for a lot of folks and that means more time with families and friends, more travel, more sleepovers, preparing dinners, going to dinners, more football games and TV watching, going to the movies and even going…bowling. YAY!

I know I have talked about this in the past, but it is during the next 4 weeks, that your business should see a lot of traffic.  

However, recent research has shown that these upcoming Fridays and Saturday days and nights are not as good as they once were simply because, for those people who are not celebrating at your bowling center, more people are having holiday parties at home or at other venues like restaurants, hotels and country clubs.

Your challenge is how to bring these people in either after their weekend party or during the week.

Here are two ideas to think about.

Become the “After Party” Place.  

Whole industries have grown out of this phenomenon. After the Sweet 16, the Bar Mitzvah, the Graduation Party, the Quintecera  party (hope I got that right) a whole other informal party takes place.

Here's a sample headline:  "After The Party, the Real Party Happens at Happy Lanes" 

So why not develop an after party package that includes light food snacks, beverages and of course great cosmic bowling, music, lights and your choice of your favorite music. 
Send this information to your 15 to 35 year olds.  

Price it between $9.95 and $19.95 – depending on what types and quantity of food you offer, demographics of the market and any competitive pressures. 

You will have to stay open later, even though your alcohol service goes down at 2am or so. Communicate it on your website, via Facebook and cross promo fliers in other noncompetitive retail outlets like, hair salons, nail salons, clothing stores, shoe stores and hardware stores. 

Offer a $X off admission to the after party, complements of your promotional partner.  If you live in an inexpensive radio, look at that as a medium to reach the 15 to 34 yr. old market…but do it quickly.

Become the “Family and Friends End of The Year Party Place”. 

Encourage families and friends to go bowling weekdays, weekend days any time from now thru the end of the year, but especially during the week between Christmas and January 4th (schools go back in session January 5th).  

Here's a sample headline: "Holiday Family and Friend Memories You Will Never Forget Start at Happy Lanes."

You can also turn this into a fund raiser and give $X back to the school as a way to raise money for their cause.

Create a simple 9 pin no tap bowling program, offer various food packages (maybe the same ones you have been offering for your company parties) or scale it back to just pizza, wings, hamburgers/ sliders etc. 

Price it on a per lane basis for two hours of bowling and shoe rental. Then offer the food as optional packages.  Every team gets a photo of their group that you frame in a semi-gloss cardboard frame suitable for autographing.  

Email promotions go to your KBF Moms or if you have a good relationship with schools, distribute your flier in schools. Local businesses – work places- YMCA’s, Libraries would also be good places to distribute information.

I know it’s a little late to get this going, but I know that if anyone can do it, my subscriber centers can get this together faster than anyone…by Friday at noon.  What do you think?


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

What I Learned from A Black Friday Weekend

If you or anyone you know has been brave enough to do some shopping this past ‘Black Friday Weekend”, then you might be able to provide some feedback on the level of customer service you received. 

Was it good? Was it more than you expected?  Or was it a bunch of untrained, temporary people who said “I don’t know” allot and then walked off to find someone to help you and you’re still waiting for them to return, right?

I sure hope that didn't happen at your center; that your staff was geared up and ready to service the heck out of your once or twice a year customer. 

But then again if you didn't, I hope you uttered what is probably the hardest sentence for any organization to say to its customers, “You’re right, we were wrong.” 

Ouch. It should hurt us to say that, but that one sentence doesn't say that you’re ALWAYS a bad company or that you broke the law or that you did something unethical.

It just says that in that ONE particular instance, you guys got it wrong. Or stated another way, it says that you made a promise and didn't deliver on that promise.

Owning that and saying it out loud does a couple of things.

First, it respects the customer and secondly, it allows you to make more promises down the road.

Second, by YOU saying it in front of your employees, to a customer, you remind your employees that it’s OK to admit that they are wrong, but more importantly you tell them that they can make more promises in the future…and NEED to live up to them better than they did today.  

And that’s a lesson you will be able to take to the bank.

A subscriber Speaks Out

In response to my thanksgiving planning blog, Lew Sims from Ohio sent me this response and I thought you would want to read it.

I sit here with a waiting list for lanes on Thanksgiving at 10 p.m., the bar is starting to fill up and believe it or not we have sold so much food my kitchen staff is complaining a little, but still my staff is as happy as I am when we are busy.

We do Thirsty Thursdays every week and use Thanksgiving every year to give it a big boost. You are right about shopping in the evening but using what we "normally" do keeps us an attractive option to joining the heard.

In order to fuel the fire for the holiday and for the weekend business to follow we sent out several emails and Facebook posts starting early in the month and, this past Monday, a small mailing to people we felt might enjoy the fun.

Of course outdoor signage, monitor ad's and the ever popular flyers have been in place for weeks. We also ran a Thanksgiving Eve Marathon starting at 11:45 p.m. Wednesday night that creates buzz around the center.

The extra cars in the parking lot didn't hurt sales in the bar last night either with us doing over $2400 in bar sales (most after 10 p.m.).

Not everything you plan turns out to be a winner but without a plan you are not even in the game.  
                                                                                                                                           Fred, Thank you for the blog it was spot on. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Are You Planned Out?

This is a busy time of the year for all of us. I know i have been busy in my special client land helping them to plan their marketing programs.  And the holiday season has slowly come up on us. Hey,  Its here!  Cold weather, snow, holiday TV commercials and all the goodies that the season has to offer...including more customers.

And that's a good thing.

But we need to guard against working so hard in the business that we postpone working on the business.

So here's a few suggestions that you might want to consider getting "planned out" before long.

1. I will assume that whatever Thanksgiving promotions you have going, that you have already communicated it and your customers know about it. and this year with many stores starting 'Black Friday" on Thursday night at 6pm, you're late night Thanksgiving night may be a little softer. why not send out an email saying that "Thanksgiving is for families and after the Turkey and Football, why not come out To Happy Lanes for family fun and happy memories."

2. Christmas week is not the slam dunk it used to be. With gas prices down, lots of people going to Grandma's house or spending their discretionary income on presents and gift giving could just cut into Christmas week bowling.  Make sure you have some great offers for families and for the kids who are out of school (especially high school and college students).

3. New Year's Eve parties are usually a big hit at most centers and we sometimes take them for granted saying, "oh we will sell those out."  Start selling early. Start going back to last years party goers and get those reservations and deposits in as early as possible. and keep selling in center. Put those fliers out on the settees every night, weekends, birthday parties, company parties, etc.

4,January and February have become prime time short season league starting points.  Check your lane availability and wherever you have 6pm openings, start to develop programs for 8 to 10 weeks. Go back to have a ball programs, "Free 8 week bowling" with an option to get a plastic or inexpensive urethane ball, then roll them into a 10 week for $10 program. consider adult child programs for Saturdays or Sundays at about 3pm or 4pm.  Don't forget to check with the Kids Bowl Free folks for new "done for you" league marketing programs. They have been tested and tweaked and are proven winners,

5.  Martin Luther King holiday will also creep up on you. This three day weekend gives you the opportunity to contact church youth groups, boy scouts, girl scouts, school clubs and groups and invite them into Happy Lanes for a 'lock in"  You can charge $20 to $25 a head and give $5 or $10 back to the organization

So get up early, plan it out, practice it and then execute like the professional you are.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Time for Giving Excessivly

Years ago there was a popular bumper sticker that read, "He who dies with the most toys wins."

Of course, that is not so.

What the bumper sticker should have read is, "He who dies after adding the most value wins."

With the holiday season fast approaching its kick off date, you will no doubt be besieged by various charitable offers. Instead of sitting back and reacting to these requests, why not make a plan to be involved in X# of charities and special events. 

Choose those you feel passionate about or choose one that your community is passionate about.  Just choose one.  

Here's why it is so important.

By getting involved, your customer base will realize more than ever, how involved you are in the community and IF and WHEN they think about bowling, your center’s name would register very positively in their memory bank

Not only is getting involved in a community charitable event good for your business, it will probably be good for you, personally

So here is the (marketing) mantra for the holiday season:

“Be awesome. Take action. Attract others. Remember, other people want to be associated with positive people...people who are doing good things and allowing them to be a part of something bigger than themselves.”

And that's how you separate yourself from the competition...and do good things too!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Are You Making Enough Noise?

A baby makes noise to get his parents' attention.

A teenager makes noise by getting angry, perhaps acting out and slamming doors.

Your boss makes noise by standing over your desk and telling you in no uncertain terms that your work is flagging and there are younger people just waiting to take your place.

A politician makes noise by appearing at every public function he can as well as appearing on numerous TV shows.

But what noise does your bowling center make? Is the click of your computer putting out another "selly -sell" Facebook post or email loud enough for people to hear?

What about the noise you didn't make on Halloween by organizing a parade in your home town.

Or the fund raising and volunteer event you are trying to organize this Holiday season for homeless people?

Or maybe its the Thanksgiving promotion that will offer a "price special" (yippee) that will land like a thud without making any noise?

There are a lot of ways to make noise; you just have to be creative and think about it.

But if its not on your radar, you're going to miss the opportunity to get your name in lights and your center onto people's "choice lists."

And there are allot more entertainment choices (and competition) than ever before.

So c'mon, speak up.

Your potential customers may have forgotten you are there.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The 7 Steps to Profiting from Company Holiday Parties

Raise your hand if you're one of those last minute Louie types that JUST sent a mailer to companies in your area for Holiday parties.  Raise your hand if the telephone or email has not started to ring.  Raise your hand if you didn't do anything.  .Ok, we understand…but help is on the way.

For all of you whose hands are still up, slap yourself once or twice and read these tips to gain business.

·        First of all, realize that December and part of January could add $25,000 to your cash registers if you did four (4) $1,000 parties every week over six and a half weeks.

·        Second, you can get to these parties if you have several tools such as: party menu, great cover letter and valid name and addresses of companies in the area.  Lacking these tools, you will need to invent the first two and buy the latter from your chamber of commerce or other mailing service. I have used with some success; others have been displeases.  It’s all in the way you approach it and follow up.

·        Third, once you send the information out, start calling back and INVITE THE RECIPIENT TO VISIT YOUR CENTER AND TAKE A TOUR.

·        Fourth, every day you should be posting on your Facebook page a little different story or poem or video or photos relating to the holiday season and NOT necessarily about your offer. You can mention that in the back end of the post. There are some great funny and informative videos on Youtube and great photos on Flickr (free) that you can use in your postings

·        Fifth, use your emails; one every 6 to 7 days to tell people about your little stories, your offer and any other “interesting stuff” about the holidays. Some topics you can consider are: The real story of Christmas; Who was St. Nicholas? My very special Christmas; Your center’s efforts to feed the homeless this Christmas; Your center’s Toys for Tots program.  Be creative and inform and entertain

·        Sixth, don’t forget your league bowler.  Give them coupons for Holiday parties they can give to their HR people for your center. Ask them who their HR person is and if you can call them and use them as a referral. 90% will say yes
o   You: “Hi This is Fred from Happy Lanes, may I speak to Ms. Manners
o   Them: Yes, and what is this in reference to?
o   You: Yes, Larry Morgan your first shift supervisor suggested that I call MS Manners
o   Them: OK, please hold for Ms. Manners
o   Now there is a chance that the gate keeper will push you to find out what it is about.  In that instance, just say “It is about a special event that Mr. Morgan wanted me to discuss personally with Ms. Manners. May I speak with her, please
o   That should do it

·        Seventh, as the days trickle down target companies having less than 50 employees. They are usually last minute Louies…kind of like some of you J

Friday, October 24, 2014

Worry and Wonder

“What’s happening to the industry, Fred? What will it be like, now that Brunswick is out of the retail part of the business, Fred? “When will we see the bottom of league attrition, Fred?” “When will my cosmic get good again? I used to have 175 people here every Friday and Saturday night. Now I have 47…both nights, Fred. 

As I traveled around the country this fall meeting and consulting with many new clients, these questions and worries became more apparent.  In fact, they became pervasive
So I tried to calm their worries and suggested that they start to wade into the marketing pool. Not jump in with both feet, off of the 20 ft. diving board, but just begin to do a little wading and start giving the customer what he wants.

Take a cosmic example. I know you have probably cut back on what you offer, cut back on some payroll, maybe even cut back or postponed some capital improvements to replace some burned out lights or upgrade some old ones and even tried to charge a little bit more.

But the consumer is no longer stupid. He wants what he wants. And he wants more value otherwise he will go to one of the many other entertainment options that offer a better value and more fun.  

So go back to what brought you to the dance. Get that great MC or DJ. Give away prizes for red head pins trikes, trivia contests dance contests. Give away ITunes gift cards, funny noses, rubber chickens, t shirts, free game passes, $25 gift cards, food vouchers and funny hats.  Maybe even hire a band. Or host an “open mike” night. Or host an acapella group singing Christmas songs for the holidays from a local college. 

If you’re still charging $12 or $15 for cosmic bowling, offering burned out lights, funky sound system and unfriendly “age challenged” person at the desk, is it any wonder these younger people aren't coming back?

‘Cause here’s the deal. The consumer, especially the 18 to 25 yr. old consumer wants to have “More Fun. More Choices. And More Value. ALL THE TIME.”   
So it’s time to wade into the marketing pool. Time to get off the beach and give the new marketing a try.

Here’s one clue.

Emailing and sending out Facebook posts are NOT the panacea you may think it is. Only 1 out of 10 or 12 people even open up your email. And Facebook is a scrolling billboard. Not all your Facebook friends see everything you post all the time.

You need more communication. TV is still the most popular. Why do you think so many network and cable TV shows sell out? Because nobody is watching? Radio sells out in morning drive and pm drive in many markets. Because nobody is listening?

I tell them to stop looking for JUST ONE thing to be their magic elixir, but to understand that it takes many, many pills to get better…and some of those pills aren't always free.
Time to maybe get some help, if you’re stuck.  Maybe a course in digital marketing. Or read some articles. Or go to more seminars.

Time to find out how to develop an integrated marketing campaign that includes old media, new media, digital media and social media. Time to offer a better product at a value centered price.
And then you can do it again, but louder. And larger.
It's easy to be afraid of taking a plunge, because plunging can be dangerous.
And worrying, well, that just keeps you on the beach doing nothing at all. It may be safe, but it isn't going to change anything.
Wading, on the other hand, gets you off the beach. It gives you a chance to begin.
Up. Off the beach. Stick your toes in. Ready, set, go!!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

What Does AMF Bowlmor Know That You Don't?

Last week, at the Eastern States Bowling Convention, I had the privilege of facilitating a session at lunch, entitled “The Next New Thing” in which all luncheon guests were asked to participate in determining what new venues they could put into a 24 lane box.

While there were many ideas, the various groups that were tasked with developing this “24 lane space” chose traditional and expected venues such as laser tag, arcades, tap room, expanded restaurant, sports type bar and other similar items.

Very few proprietors went outside the box to come up with newer ideas even though we “seeded the list” with such items as: laser tag, laser maze, short lanes for kids, arcade, full service restaurant, sports bar, balladium, go kart track,        miniature golf, batting cages, golf machines, hair cutting franchise (sports clips), Laundromat, day care center, build a bear franchise and a tap room selling craft beers.

So does this mean that we as entrepreneurs have become more conservative?  

Yes I think it does and I think it contributes more to our invisibility and being less bold. And being less bold means we don't stand out and therefore we are lost in the mediocrity of all the other vanilla entertainment options.

How else can we explain that, according to Bruce Davis who also conducted a seminar at the ECC, “… 5 years ago, 50% of our customers visited our centers 1 to 3 times? Today, 75% of our customers visit us 1 to 3 times".

All that means is fewer people are NOW coming back less often.     

Have we become routine, banal, unsurprising, mundane and alas less visible. And adding to our “old fashioned image,” we have almost universally rationalized our way to NOT advertise in any media, except digital and maybe, maybe direct mail.

Because if it costs money and we can’t scrutinize it for IMMEDIATE results, we just won't do it. And I almost understand that mindset.  

But then I ask, “why is AMF Bowlmor going to spend $34 million dollars next year on advertising and promotion.  Thats about $9,000 per center next year. 

What do you spend? 

Maybe they know something you don’t.  Or maybe they choose to be bolder than the average bear?

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Are You Marketing To The "USTABEE Bowler?

Over the years, at least since 1980 when 10 million league bowlers existed, I think that half the population over the age of 18 has tried league bowling in one form or the other. If 3% leave every year, or thereabouts than over 34 years that’s 102% who have tried league bowling. Obviously a flawed number.

I’ll just cut that in half and assume that half the dropouts were the same person who dropped out of multiple leagues down to one league.  I may be right here or I may be wrong.

That’s not the point.

The point is we have a whole bunch of people who have tried league bowling and for one reason or another decided to ‘drop out” and not bowl with us anymore.
Oh, we know why. There are two sets of reasons.

One set is called “the uncontrollable reasons.” We don’t control them, right?
  • ·        Some moved,
  • ·        Hurt their back,
  • ·        Got pregnant
  • ·        Changed jobs, shifts, got second job
  • ·        My friends quit so I quit too
  • ·        Decided I wanted to spend more time on other activities and had to drop something. So I dropped bowling L
  • ·        Just found it INCONVENIENT to bowl

Then there are the controllable reasons.  “We can control these, right?
  • ·        Didn’t like my team mates
  • ·        34 weeks was more of a commitment than i can make
  • ·        Wasn’t any good at it and wasn’t getting any better
  • ·        Too expensive every week (between bowling, food and beer it cost me $30 each week.)
  • ·        Every week, it was 3 to 4 hours; just don’t have that kind of time anymore
  • ·        Management at center wasn’t very helpful and service was slow and slower
  • ·         Bowling ball got mashed at the center and center did not respond in the way I wanted
  • ·        And of course lane conditions were “inconsistent” and I bowled badly there than there are league bowlers  
Here's a clue, other than moving, changed jobs and have to commute too far and sickness, all these reasons are controllable simply because the consumer made a decision that he or she would rather do nothing or something else than bowl in a league...and that's on us because we didn't make the experience valuable enough, exciting enough, entertaining enough or meaningful enough to that consumer. 

     WHY DIDN'T WE? Answer that question for yourself and your center and you wil be able to get some insights into why you lose bowlers

But back to marketing to dropouts

So again, let’s assume that there are 10 times as many people who once bowled in a league than there are league bowlers.  Do you have a plan to bring them back into the fold?
Retail stores constantly target those people who haven’t shopped with them in the past 30 days, 60 days or 90 days. I would venture to say, that in general, bowling proprietors don’t speak to these people more than once a year, during August…if that.

We all know that it cost umpteen times more to get a new customer than to retain an old customer, yet so few centers have a consolidated dropout plan; other than as an afterthought…”Oh yeah, send the flier to dropouts too! OKAY!!

Here are the six ways to market to league bowlers

First, start speaking to your dropouts more frequently, invite feedback and create a special newsletter just for them. Incidentally, if you don’t know who your dropouts are, got to BPAA website and then visit “Customer Connect.”  You will find all your dropouts there, although I cannot say how far back you can go; perhaps two years.

Second, the content should contain special seasonal offers to open play bowl as well as telling and selling a short season bowling program.

Third, if you can segment your dropout data base, you can then start sending gender and age specific offers (I.e. 25 to 44 yr. old female; send an adult child offer as well as a ladies game day offer and a mixed couples offer).

Fourth, ask questions. Do surveys. Ask what it would take to get them to bowl again.

Fifth, do something daring. Offer them a FREE 8 week program which could morph into a paid 12 week have a ball program. For the 1st part of this program, you’ll get some food and beverage income and maybe some people willing to recruit their friends because they are having so much fun.

Sixth, make sure your website has information about “USTABEE Bowlers.”  Give them a brand and find someone (representing different demographic age groups) to be a brand ambassador and feature that person(s) in the newsletters and the emails you send, using testimonials and photos or you tube videos.  Make them feel like a rock star.  Cater to them.

And bring ‘em back alive.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

People Who LIke Bowling...

When you work in any business, like bowling or family entertainment center, you can break ALL the rules at your own risk and ignore the pioneers who went before you and figured out the rules.  
But there is nothing to prevent you from breaking some of the rules and do something that gets people talking about you. 
But first you have to figure out who you're breaking the rules for
If it's for people who don’t bowl, you have a lot of preaching and teaching to do because candidly they don't even think about you and certainly don’t think about bowling for 34 weeks (besides the fact that you have probably been invisible for some time).
And if it's for your existing traditional bowlers, you can’t really change it too much, simply because they like it the way it is. That’s why they bowl at your center.
For those who have dropped out completely, well, they're just not waiting around for you to fix it how they want it fixed. 
Those who come occasionally, your open play bowler don't come that frequently to even think you have a problem.  Sure they would like it (like many other services) cheaper, cleaner, friendlier, and happier.  
You just have to be careful what rules you break and what you decide to change.   Think of it like the “Under New Management sign” at a restaurant.  
Those that liked the place, aren't going to embrace change because they know that some of those changes will cause jacked up prices and more people trying to get in for those precious tables. 
For those people who didn't like the old place in the first place, it’s going to cost you a whole lot more to get them to try you out anyway.  
First they don't even think about you and second, if they do think about you, they think about the last negative experience they had or heard about from friends.
The only opportunity you have is to create a series of events that build expectations so great that these non-bowlers, and very occasional casual bowlers, will have no choice but to try it. 
If you are successful in choosing this series of “successfully- surpassing- peoples- experiences events”, you will build a pathway that gets people from sitting on their couch to sitting on your settee seats or sofas.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Solve The Problem First. Then Worry About The Price

According to PEW Research, women now comprise 50% of the workforce. 

70% of Moms now work outside of the home and work an average of about 25 hours and of these women, 40% are the SOLE earner of the household

Twenty years ago, 50% of Moms worked outside of the home and averaged just 15 hours per week.

Yet, Mothers today spend MORE time with their kids than they did in the 1960’s and still do almost two-thirds of the chores associated with “second shift”, meals, taking kids to the doctor, cleaning etc.  

Yet women now have three (3) hours less of LEISURE time than Dads while Dads actually have three (3) hours more.

So Mom is more stressed out, more tired and maybe a little more concerned about “just relaxing and enjoying herself and her family”.  Maybe even feeling a little “guilty” about not spending enough LEISURE time with her children and husband. 

Knowing this issue, doesn't it make sense to sell family time bowling or stress free time or weekend rock out instead of $1 games that you only sell anyway to existing customers and as a surprise to customers who just walked in?

Of course it does. So what do you do?

Solve a problem. Make someone feel good about your product. Bring some joy to the target audience and they’ll come back again and again…regardless of price.

Then whatever problem you are saying you can solve; here’s headline:
Not Spending Enough Fun Time With Your Family” We Understand. We Are Parents Too.”

Now explain how you can solve this problem. 

And then, for "*^+"s  sake", please tell someone about it; your existing open play bowlers, your Kids Bowl Free Moms, your schools and don’t forget TV. Cable is less expensive today on a per thousand basis than ever before. As much as you hear about social media, TV is still the big gorilla in the room. 

Use it as a schedule or combine it with banner ads, pre roll digital ads and in subscriber media. If this is all Greek to you, call your cable ad person and speak to her. 

Then send me the proposal she sent you and I’ll be happy to analyze it FREE.

It’s my way of getting you and the bowling industry to stop being INVISIBLE…because given the lack of media exposure about bowling, we will get sicker, less visible and painfully shrink away.  

If you think I’m being facetious about price, tell me why some centers get $75 for a simple Pizza Pins N Pop program. 

Mostly because it’s delivered warm, delivered passionately and with delivered with the desire to make the customer feel like a rock star.

You can do this.  I know you can.

Friday, September 12, 2014

You're Still Doing IT!

You’re still doing it. 

You’re still sending me emails that tell me about a new league, about the need for teams, about your Tuesday night special or about your kids sign up days. You’re still using your email and Facebook like its free direct mail. 

It’s not and you’re paying a heavy price with more opt outs every day, fewer people signing up for your “newsletter and fewer people even opening your email; under 12% or lower is the national average; that’s less than 1 out of 8 people even open it. .01% click thru to your site!

Want to know why your numbers are so low?  It’s because you are not sending them meaningful content; information that HELPS THEM, NOT YOU. Educational information that HELPS THEM, NOT YOU.

Stop selling and start educating. Find the problem and fix it. And you do it by making an emotional connection.

Here Is An Example of What I Am Talking About: 
"Did you know that less than one in 7 American households eat dinner together at least twice a week. That’s kind of sad when families can’t get together and share ideas, get help with problems or just be with each other for some emotional support.

We know families that have recognized this and even make a date; at least once or twice a   month they hold a family meeting and everyone HAS to be there. No excuses.  Maybe it's a   Sunday night or a Friday after the work week. Whenever it is, there has to be a good time to get your family together. We’re Happy Lanes right her in your home town and we would be glad to set aside a place and a time at your choosing for your family to get together and share the good times of bowling together.

Unlike a movie or playing video games, everyone can have plenty of time to sit around and    talk about whatever they feel like all while enjoying America’s tenpin game.  Look us up at and stop by for some family time…and make some memories"... and of course you add the obligatory family picture of people laughing and hugging, because that's what you want your audience to believe they will get at your center....not that they got cheap bowling at 99 cent game!!!!!!!!" 

 They can get that anywhere!!!!!!!!

See, I didn’t try to sell you. I recognized your problem. I didn’t assume that you were interested in MY product. I recognized your problem and tried to connect on an emotional level.

Did I succeed?

You tell me

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

8 Ways to Have a Profitable Friday Night Cosmic Program...Even During HS Football Season

Friday Night HS Football Player
Do you remember when we couldn't wait for Labor Day because the next day, leagues started and the following weekend we had open play; we had waiting lists, we had “kaching, kaching, kaching” and we were all feeling good.

Now September is the start of Junior Soccer, Junior Football, Junior Lacrosse, Friday Night HS Football, Saturday, Sunday and Monday Night College and Professional Big Screen Hi Def TV Football Games, Sports Bars, Home Chores like raking leaves and getting the house all winterized;  Family Entertainment Centers like Dave and Busters and Lucky Strike; and restaurants, row upon row; not to mention extended shopping hours on Friday and Saturday nights as well as Sundays. 

Did I miss anything? Probably 100 other competitive venues all looking for the consumers' precious discretionary dollar

Sometimes we forget about all this competition and complain that the bowling business is dying.  No, it is not dying; it just isn't competing as well as it could.

Here’s an example of how I see centers competing
For those of you in states where “Friday Night Lights” is more religion than Sunday church, you know how tough it is to compete with HS football.

But what have you done to compete? 

Here’s what I have seen.  Don’t even acknowledge that HS Football exists. Just keep promoting your cosmic bowling at the same old price; cut price from Saturday’s cosmic special or your regular Friday special; host a two for one entry fee; offer free pizza with four or more people; and so on. All great promotions. All great ideas, but they don’t work.

What to do?

First, acknowledge that the cosmic program IS AN AFTER HS FOOTBALL PROGRAM and make sure your content specifies that cosmic bowling is something to do at your center after the game.

Second, be part of the game; distributing coupons to people in the stands or parking lots, be in the weekly “Program.”

Third: sponsor a weekly  scholarship of $100 for the athlete who achieves_________________.

Fourth; make sure very cosmic Friday night is a fund raiser for various schools and a percentage of the bowling revenue (i.e. 10%) will go to the football team.

Fifth, Offer two free games to all students if the team scores over X# of points (certain restrictions apply and they have to come to the center to show their student ID in order to get their free game coupons and give you their email address.)

Sixth, during the season, host a couple of fun events at the center comprised of 2 cheerleaders and two football players per team. Winning team gets $100 in funds towards the football team’s kitty and the individual winners get $50 in free bowling (certain restrictions apply and they have to come to the center to show their student ID in order to get their free game coupons and give you their email address.)

Seventh, communicate this in school paper on school Facebook pages, weekly football programs, email your 14 to 21 yr. old list (those born from 1994 to 2000) or your 35 to 44 female parents who would be more likely to have kids in HS and promote at local merchant stores. What store doesn't want to promote the local HS football team?  As a sidebar this is also a good way to get a short season league going with the stores to raise money for the football team. J

Eighth, in today’s society, especially if you want to reach this target audience, this segment of Millennial Generation (those born from 1980 to 2000 don’t get turned on by price specials, but they do get turned on by an AUTHENTIC CIVIC EFFORT to do good work for their benefit and will respond with positive word of mouth if you are, as the Beach Boys once said, “Be True To Your School.”

P.S. For further clarification of this new generation, please read or refer to “Millennials Rising” by Neil Howe and William Strauss.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Here's 10 Ways To Have A Happy New Year

I guess ever since I have been in the bowling business, I think of Labor day as the start of the REAL new year; forget about January 1st, that’s just mid - winter league start up.

If you have a mindset like me, may I wish you a happy and prosperous New Year and ask what you are doing differently or better to make this year the best it can be?

1.    Have you done, or at least started thinking about, a sales blitz?

2.    Have you trained your staff to be able to match a prospect with a product in center and how to sell them?

3. Have you called all of your league bowlers and dropouts?

4.    Have you trained everybody how to up sell a league bowler into a short season fun program with his or her spouse or child?

5.    Have you spoken to companies in the area about free parties to get them into an every other week or once a month “league of their own?”

6.  Even if you have no media budget, have you created a last minute traffic driver for this Friday through Monday using your email and Facebook?  You know there are a million ideas to do this, but why not implement a “Get Your Game Going Weekend”…. $1.99 price special (bowling, hot dog and 12 oz. domestic drafts). Now, please don’t get all “cheapy” on me, it’s only for four days.  If you’re paying 4.5 cents an ounce for beer, then your cost is 54 cents or 27%.  Believe me, you’re not blowing your brains out here.

7.  Or go for $5 per person per hour, do the $1.99 draft beer specials (while holding shoe prices) and then offer a sweepstakes of FIVE WINNERS OF $500 In Free Bowling (either league or open play) and call it “THE GREAT HIGH FIVE WINNER SWEEPSTAKES.”

8.    Train your staff to sell these open play bowlers on short season programs which will start in early to mid - October.

9.    You do have October short season programs planned, don’t you?????

10.    What are you doing reading this blog? You should be out there selling somebody something. Go. Now.  Forget the vending machines now. No you don’t need to go to Costco now. Sell your product with pride.


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Three Tips for Writing Money Making Headlines

I have been playing catch up the past 10 days; the hip surgery put me on the disabled list for 10 days and I couldn't get the docs to let me travel, but eventually I just had to get out to the real world and touch and feel what was going on in the trenches.

I was happy to see that many of the programs we planned in June were being adhered to as were the schedules. 

Unfortunately, the execution on the communication was mediocre at best. Headlines were filled with the names of the center or the name of the program or even just the words, “New Men’s League Starting On September 5th at 630pm.”

Really?  That's about as exciting as watching water boil.

So I decided to devote just a short blog on how to write a headline which is the most important element of your communication. As I have said in the past, “You may have the greatest program in the world, but if you cannot get people to read, listen or watch what you have to sell; its game over!!

Your headline is the first -- and perhaps only -- impression you make on a prospective reader. 

On average, 8 out of 10 people will read your headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest. The better your headline, the better your odds of beating the averages and getting what you’ve written read by a larger percentage of people.

Tip #1:  Make sure there is a clear and discernible benefit in your headline. Here’s an example, “How to Learn to Bowl Better in Just 20 Minutes a Week.” If your audience is league bowlers, the headline gets very specific about a benefit that the customer will get by reading the body copy. 

Or “The Secret To Improving Your Bowling Average Revealed.” Here’s one that may even be better; “How I Learned the Secret of Improving My Average by 20 Pins in Just 20 Minutes a Week.”  It’s a little longer than I would like, but it will work well with a picture of the person and then I would write the copy in the voice of the 1st person

Tip # 2:  Stop being cute. Save that for your kids or grand kids.  You might think that the previous headline sounds too “salesy”. Well it is. It is the same formula that Fortune 500 copy writers, world class bloggers and digital marketers use simply because it works.  It’s all about the benefits and the more of them you can show in your body copy.

Tip # 3:  Even though my examples above are more than 6 or 7 words, (there is one that is 7 words) ideally, I try to keep my headlines to no more than seven (7) words.

There is a whole art and science to copy writing and there is a reason that the very successful people who write long copy ads for publications like The National Enquirer both print and digital get paid enormous 5 figure fees…simply because their story works. 

And yours should too.