Sunday, May 25, 2014

Tell Me A Story, Please

I have missed a few days of blogging due to my Mother in Law’s passing away. An extraordinary woman who lived to almost 101 years of age, she was born one year before the guns of August were fired in WW1 – the war to end all wars. 

Instead it was the war that ended the peace, at least in Europe. And it was the war that ended the “old world” and gave birth to the “modern era.”

What remarkable changes she witnessed!

From horse and buggy transportation to a rocket flight to the moon;  from talking to someone on a party line telephones to chatting away on a cell phone or seeing them on Skype; from an agriculturally based nation to an industrial based nation and  from sulfur drugs to modern antibiotics to name just a few.

I often wonder if the bowling industry has traveled the change highway at warp speed and in reality, I think not. 

In fact, the impact changes" that have occurred over the past 60 years number just four.  The Automatic Pinsetter; the Automatic Scorer, Synthetic Lanes: and Bumper Bowling. Think about this, the product that you saw in 1985 is pretty much the same product we have today, give or take a few bells and whistles. 

That's thirty years ago!

So if you are in your 40’s now, what you saw when you were ten years old is what you see now! For some people that is a very comforting thought. Yet for others, it’s old and tired.

To me, bowling really is an American Icon and I wish more centers would tell the bowling story with passion, with pride and with some humor.

Restaurants often have the story of their founders on the inside or outside flap; stories that reflect the character, the struggles, and the story inside the story.  

These kinds of short reads help us to identify with the restaurant as part of the community and as part of our “growing up” experience.

Why don’t you do the same?

If you have been in business one year, or ten years or forty years, please tell your story on your website, on posters in your center, in a brochure or on a you tube video.  

People are curious. They want to know about your business’ history and who owns the center and how you became a 1st generation, 2nd generation or even 3rd generation bowling proprietor. 

Set the story in a way that your center is familiar, is comfortable, is safe and is a community landmark…and not an old and tired been there and done that kind of place.”

If you need an example, look at the story Harley Davidson has told or the story that  Coca Cola has told or Ford Motor Company or maybe even the story that Hershey Bars have told. 

All these companies have one element in common. All of them are American Icons.
And so is bowling. 

You don’t need to wait 100 years to tell your story.  Just tell it now and tell it like it is.  Just do it soon.

Friday, May 16, 2014

So You Want Elephants That Bowl?

If you have read about my rants on building summer revenue through indoor picnics, fund raising, team building events and field trips for day care centers and “rainy day programs” for day camps, here is another untapped way to get to  a sales force that can grow your business geometrically.

Have you overlooked the professional "Party or Event Planner?" 

Most towns, cities and counties have people who specialize in coordinating a party or a special event for a group, an organization, a company or even a family occasion. 

These folks know many venues where an event can take place, where to get specialized music requests, flowers, linen, invitations and many other accouterments (I thought you’d like that wordJ) to make their clients parties and events successful. 

But do they know about YOU? 

Do they know about your center and have you invited them in, either individually or as a group to educate them about what you can offer. 

In the past I have not only invited them as a group, but have personally called on them in their offices or invited them and an associate to visit Happy Lanes.  Lunch is on me.

After the normal and customary introductions, I always start out with a presentation; either on my laptop or similar device. One note of caution: If you are going to use a PowerPoint presentation, don't use bullets and don't read from the screen, please!!

The presentation is organized around the assumption that the person I am chatting with knows very little about bowling as “an event venue.”  I assume that because, during my phone conversation, I ask some questions about their experience with bowling centers as an event space, if they bowl or know anything about it.

My presentation is organized as follows: From a national point of view, how many people bowl and compare it to golf (only 26 million played last year) and tell them that bowling is America’s number ONE pay for play activity. 

This is followed by the demographics of bowling with emphasis on the fact that bowling's appeal cuts across many demographic levels and represents the American landscape. That's why one 1 out of 4 Americans went bowling last year. 

The next step is to emphasize the fact that 70% of those people who casually bowl are under the age of 35; bowling is youthful, it's dynamic; it's growing and it's cool :)

Now it gets personal; I get into the history of my center and its contributions to the community from sponsorships to education to fund raising and the special needs community that the center serves; my vision for what the center means to the residential and local business community; what I offer (specific examples) and how I can customize any type of event they want to build for their clients.

After that,  they will see You Tube videos of real parties or great photos of parties. They will read or hear as many testimonials as I can get my hands on and then I end with the “what’s in it for them? 

My structure is 10% of the gross when they schedule a client to have a team building event, fund raising event, corporate event or any other kind of event at Happy Lanes. But you can decide on your own incentive package.  Just make it enticing enough that your center moves up on their "brain-list."

This same presentation format is used for a "group sale." After the presentation, they bowl to the music and light show while I serve them the best food I can possibly provide...and then recruit them to be part of the team.

If you follow this plan and are successful, you will now have another sales organization that can be called upon to grow your business.  Just before they leave, I give them their sales (tools) package and let them know how happy I am that we will be working together.  Not a week will slip by, where I don't call them to give them some new information and to stay in touch.

And if they want elephants that bowl, I’ll get that for them too!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

10 Ways To Improve Your Business Now

I have been working on the pro bono marketing audit work I promised 7 proprietors and, not unexpectedly, it has taken me longer than I expected; most things usually do, but what I have been finding out is kind of interesting.

I won’t name the centers, but here are some facts, at least based on those I completed. 

Nothing will surprise you, I am sure, but taken in aggregate and then extrapolated  for the industry, we are doing a mediocre job marketing ourselves.

1.        We have bought into the website, the email and the Facebook post as our only means of communicating. It has become a substitute for direct mail and since we think it is free, we keep using it…ad nauseum Unfortunately we have no plan, no campaign goals. We just throw up a flier or type up a special, post it and expect people to come in to the center.

2.      We all have specials pages where we have coupons for all of our open play programs. Do you know how many you get?   My guess is very few, but yet you still do it. Why?

3.      Have you recently analyzed your market from a demographic and competitive standpoint Most haven’t and it surprises me that centers offer the same product to everyone. There is no target marketing. it’s from – what – you – think – of – to- the – flier – to – the – website – to Facebook.

4.      Centers are still using the one bullet pricing tactic. Now I know that during slower times (weekdays after 9pm) you run price specials. I get it. I really do. But can you make some of those nights fun. After all the folks who patronize your center during that time are probably 15 to 30 years old.  “Besides a cheap price, do you have any fun for me?”

5.      You have way too many prices and specials; you charge by the person for some specials, by the hour per lane for others, and by the game for the remainder. One center had 22 specials.  How do you think their NEW customer service person sounded on the phone when a customer called and asked, “Hi what’s your special tonight?” “Uh, hold on”…is probably the closest he or she could come before tracking down the manager or owner.

6.      Your data base is more a mailing list than a data base. you are probably missing age and gender information and if you miss that, then when you do send out your emails, you are sending a cosmic bowling email to a 57 yr old man…and eventually he will opt out of wanting to get your emails simply because it isn’t relevant to him.

7.       Here is the most amazing discovery, which I kind of already knew from informal surveys I have taken at the many seminars where I have presented my programs.  You have a piece of business called league bowling. each of these participants are worth between $400 and $600 to you, including food and beverage. If you have 1,000 of these people, you generate revenue of about $400,000 to $600,000 and yet, NO ONE SPENDS MORE THAN A FEW THOUSAND BUCKS ON THEM  I guarantee we are the only industry that spends no money to generate our biggest piece of revenue.  How is that possible?  Would APPLE or P&G or BUDWEISER or any other industry not advertise their product. Hell, even golf courses, water parks, theme parks and other similar venues advertise and they don’t have a $500 product to sell!!! Maybe that is one (of many) reason why league bowling has been declining.  Nobody knows what we have to sell. Nobody.

8.      You can read all the statistics you want about Internet usage, yet consumers still spend the most time watching TV than any other medium and that’s a fact, Jack.  Now I’m not telling you to go lay down a bunch of money on TV, but I am saying you need to invest far more in your product than just fliers, PA announcements and emails to get people to join a league. You need to put together an integrated plan for each promotion with a strong offer, guarantees, deadlines, communication schedules, inside and outside sales, signage, direct mail, website, emails, Facebook posts and you tube videos instead of just a one or two shot email.

9.       Your birthday parties are boring.  You offer either 2 games of bowling or an hour of bowling and pizza and soft drinks, paper plates and yippee.  Has anybody offered a piƱata for the kids to break? Or a scavenger hunt? Or a Baker system format where the kids get matching vests to let them know which team they are on?

10.   And finally, stop trying to be all things to all people. It never works. Stake out a position and stick to it. If you run short season leagues; tell people you are the “home of the short season bowling program.”  if you have the best cosmic show in town, tell people, “Happy Lanes, the best cosmic light n sound show in Happy Acres”. Let people know what you stand for, because right now, nobody knows you or what you sell or why they should buy from you.

And that is a damn shame.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Summer sunburn vs. Bowling

Sometimes we struggle to put art and copy together to create the best communication possible; to get our point across and, of course, to sell something.

We seek art that is captivating, makes a bold statement and uses as few words as possible.

It's either my Earnest Hemingway mentality of getting a sentence down to as few words as possible or my billboard mentality.

If you cant say it in  seven words or less, don't bother.

Pint ads are that way too.

Here's a design I found that I thought was brilliant.

Although I might have used a human being with a painful sunburn.

It makes a point in a way that is really different and attention getting.

And its memorable.

It would be great copy on your outside sign or on a banner inside of the center

Or a tag for every summer flier you develop.

And as a stand alone, it rocks.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Are You Asking "WHY" enough?

We often do things because we never ask why we do them. Instead we frequently find ourselves realizing that:

We do them because everybody else does it the same way.

We do them because we have always done them that way.

We do them because we don’t have the time to think of something better.

We do them because it feels like we should.

We do them because we’re supposed to do it that way.

We do them because people expect us to do it that way.

We do them because people would think we were “strange” if we didn’t do it that way.

We do them because it’s the only way we know.

We do them because it’s a “rule” we have always followed and we’re afraid to break it.

Maybe it’s time to ask “why” you do the things you do and if there is a better way to achieve the results you want.  

So go ahead and ask "why"...and break soem rules along the way