How to Market and Grow Your Club Team
The coach's guide to growing a club or program
When it comes to running a sports program, the sport is just the half of it. In order to field a strong team wherein payers are developing their skills and parents are happy to pay fees, a club has to run efficiently as both a team and a business. And these days, in order to run a business that’s firing on all cylinders, you’ll have to dip your feet into digital marketing. Websites, social media, email and other digital technology (such as NCSA Team Edition) are all part of a strong sports marketing strategy and help elevate the profile of your club or program, maximize retention and boost income.
Every month, hundreds of people in your area are going online and looking for nearby sports clubs on Google and other search engines. They are all potential customers, and without a strong web presence, you’ll simply miss out on their business. However, it can also be intimidating to get started with digital marketing, so that’s why we’ve compiled this handy checklist for coaches and administrators.
Your website is the face of your team. Not only should it contain important information, it’ll largely be responsible for conveying the image of your club or program. Your website is the place where you’ll want to direct traffic and collect contact information that can then be used as leads. When does the season start? When can kids try out? How much do fees cost? What does the travel schedule look like? This is all pertinent information that can be communicated on your website and can help sell parents who do not want to spend time emailing or calling back and forth to get the information they’re looking for. So, in addition to providing useful information, your website should:
- Collect email. There should be an email sign-up form somewhere on your website. Not every visitor to your website will be ready to pay fees right off the bat, but they may be interested enough to leave their contact information. This will come in handy.
- Present an intriguing brand. The design, logo and copy of your website should all work together to present a fluid image of a brand that lingers in peoples’ minds. It’s all about making your club or program look professional, successful and a bit different.
- Have a memorable About page. This is your opportunity to stand out from the pack and present your club or program as something that parents will want to have their kids involved in. Try to be authentic and sympathetic to the concerns of parents and student-athletes.
- Include social media links. Yes, you should have social media accounts, and they should be linked to your site, ideally through easy-to-recognize buttons. More on that later.
- Collect metrics. Analyzing metrics can help you determine where your website visitors are coming from and what you can do to improve traffic. While many website providers offer built-in metrics features, you can also utilize the Google Marketing Platform to get robust insights.
- Have a blog. While not absolutely necessary, adding and updating a blog on a semi-regular basis can drive more traffic to your website.
- Account for mobile users. The web is getting to a point where, in many cases, mobile users are surpassing desktop and laptop users. Your website my look great on a computer screen, but if it doesn’t work well on a phone screen, you might be accidentally turning away half (or more) of your audience.
- Add a Team Edition public roster page. It’s a great way to highlight your athletes and your club’s or program’s commitment to recruitment. As seen on the Midwest Prospect Academy website, an NCSA Team Edition logo can guide visitors to a public roster page that features athletes and their NCSA recruiting profiles.
While a professional website developer and designer will get you set up with a modern website, services such as Squarespace, Strikingly and Wix can be used to build a great-looking website at a fraction of the cost. Just remember that your website is the cornerstone of your digital marketing efforts, so don’t neglect it.
Gone are the days when billboards on the side of the highway and TV commercials were the main ways of reaching consumers. Nowadays, business owners can reach out to their customers (and potential customers) directly via social media. While there are several different social media platforms out on the market, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are still considered to be the big three, with platforms such as LinkedIn, YouTube, Yelp and others also available. Here’s what you’ll want to do to get started with your social media strategy:
- Claim your business name. Find out what profile name you’ll be using on social media and set up accounts on different platforms in order to claim it. Also do this for platforms you’re not planning on using right now, as you may decide to move to that platform at a later date. Make sure the name fits your brand and is recognizable.
- Build your brand. Whether it’s Facebook or Instagram, make sure to use the same logo, colors, bio and banner images in order to stay consistent and remain noticeable.
- Focus your efforts. Don’t have time to post updates on six different platforms? Then don’t! Stick to one or two and try to post regularly. Expand to other platforms when you have the time to do so, but make sure you don’t start posting and then neglect them—you don’t want to have a social media account that looks abandoned.
- Engage, don’t sell. Users want to see engaging content that piques their interest about volleyball and your club or program. Think: highlight plays and sports-related memes. Followers don’t want to see a barrage of promotions and to be constantly sold to.
About one billion people worldwide use Facebook and another 100 million use Instagram. But those numbers still pale in comparison to the number of people using email: 2.6 billion. Email has simply become ubiquitous, and email marketing will allow your club or program to reach a wide audience, regardless of whether they use social media or not. Follow these steps in order to elevate your sports marketing:
- Get sign-ups. In order to reach people via email, you’ll fist need their email addresses. Make sure that your website has a sign-up form where you can collect email addresses and consider offering website visitors an incentive for signing up. Building a sizeable email list can be a lengthy process, but it’s well worth the effort to have direct access to potential customers.
- Pick an email marketing platform. There are several options out there, with most offering a free version or at least a free initial trial. Consider MailChimp, VerticalResponse, SendGrid, Constant Contact and Emma, among others.
- Make a newsletter template. The aforementioned marketing platforms provide templates that you can customize with your club’s or program’s branding. You can reuse this template to send email campaigns to your subscribers.
- Keep in touch with newsletters. Newsletters are a great way to keep parents and athletes in the loop, but they’re also effective at keeping potential customers interested and helping them reach the tipping point to making a purchase.
How to get found on Google
Known as search engine optimization, SEO is all about optimizing your website and online presence so that your club or program can be found on Google and other search engines by the right people. There are many ways you can improve SEO and the process can get pretty involved for beginners. Stick to the basic strategies to start seeing sports marketing results, including:
- Create a Google My Business listing. This will make your club or program more searchable on Google and provide basic information, but there are several ways to also improve your listing.
- Do keyword research. Tools like the Moz Keyword Explorer can help you find out what words and phrases potential customers are using on search engines.
- Optimize your website. Those keywords you researched? Use them to fill out the copy on your website and any other content you make. This will improve search results on Google and other search engines.
- Try out SEO tools. A keyword explorer is just the tip of the iceberg, as there are many SEO tools out there that can help your business expand its online reach. Give some of them a shot.
- Try out ads. Google Ads can help your club or program show up in more search results and reach more potential customers. Facebook Business can help you do the same on Facebook and Instagram.
- Get positive reviews. After setting up a Google My Business listing, try getting people to write your club or program a positive review. This can help boost your online image.
All these tips can seem overwhelming at first but take things one step at a time and you’ll be surprised at just how much your club or program can grow. The important part is to put in the time and stay consistent.