Tennis Industry magazine


Turn your ball machine into a money machine

By Stan Oley

When it comes to generating revenue for your business, your ball machine should be throwing money at you like an ATM. If it’s not, then you may need some help turning your ball machine into a money machine.

Chances are you probably have a ball machine and an existing hourly rental program. We call this a “pay-to-play” program, where customers pay to train with the ball machine on a time-incremental basis. The national average for pay-to-play programs is $8 a half-hour and $12 an hour, averaging about $1,000 to $1,200 a year in total income from rentals.

Play to Play

Pay-to-play requires the customer to spend money each time he or she trains with the ball machine, causing them to budget their usage with the machine. The result is that customers often don’t utilize the ball machine as much as they should be, and they fail to realize the benefits the machine can provide. (However, the pay-to-play program still works well at resorts where customers cannot always find a game. In this situation, the customer is usually on vacation and does not mind paying a fee to work out on the unit.)

Ball-Machine Club

When you decide to buy a new machine — whether it’s because the current one has seen better days or you just want a machine with a few more features — you have a great opportunity to create a new program around it as well. One of the most effective programs to generate revenue is creating a “ball-machine club,” where customers purchase a pass to use the machine on an unlimited basis.

A ball-machine club allows a customer to utilize your machine more frequently without having to pay a per-usage charge. Once customers purchase a pass, it is up to them to schedule time with the machine so that they can get the most from their investment. When organized and marketed properly, this method generates an average of $3,000 to $4,000 annually. (See the section below for some examples of ball-machine club memberships, which should be able to accommodate your customers’ various needs.)

Demo days

Many clubs purchase a new ball machine with updated features and begin renting it out immediately, with no change in programming. You need to market your new ball machine, and create hype about it, even before it arrives.

For instance, one of the best methods for marketing a ball-machine club is to run a demo day that showcases the value of the machine. Get the rep from the ball-machine company to run the demo day, as he’s been trained on how properly to showcase the unit. You need to market the demo day with a sign-up sheet, handouts, and telemarketing to ensure attendance, then use the demo day to sell Platinum Ball Machine Club passes.

One quick way to see if you’re doing all you can to promote the use of your ball machine is to check the list of “Ball-Machine Club Makers or Breakers” below. How many “breakers” exist at your club?

Create a ball-machine club at your facility and properly promote the unit to players and your ball machine will become a money machine in no time.

Create a Ball-Machine Club for Your Players

The ball-machine club program outlined here may appear quite easy to implement, but proper organization and ongoing marketing are important to keep the club going. For more on smoothing the way for members to enjoy the club, see the list of “Ball-Machine Club Makers or Breakers” below. (Pricing is based on $12 per hour and $8 a half hour in the pay-to-play program.)

Platinum Charter Membership Card

Suggested price: $200 for two-year pass

This is the most prestigious membership and represents a charter or original ball-machine club member. Limit the spaces for Platinum members to guarantee exclusivity. It’s best to sell Platinum memberships at a demo day introducing your new ball machine. You can give this person special perks such as 48-hour sign-up instead of 24-hour, and they can renew for $125 annually instead of $150.

Gold One-Year Membership Card

Suggested price: $150 per year single membership; $175 for families up to three people; additional family members are $25 each

Offer the one-year Gold membership once the Platinum charter membership has been filled.

Frequent-User Punch Card

Suggested price: 10 punches for $100

This card is for players who do not wish to purchase a ball-machine club membership. Also, this card fills the void for customers looking to use the machine a limited number of times who are also seeking a value. Many times a customer is focusing on a single aspect of his game or is only in town for a limited period of time and cannot reap the benefits of an annual membership. Each punch should represent a normal usage increment.

Complimentary Daily Pass

Use this pass as a vehicle for selling ball-machine club memberships to customers in the lesson program, or to those who have never trained on the machine. After a lesson or when someone inquires about the ball machine, offer them a complimentary pass to try it, and make sure you explain the benefits of joining the ball-machine club.

Ball machine club makers or breakers

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About the Author

Stan Oley, a member of the USPTA, PTR and Cardio Tennis Global Speakers Team, has been working with and teaching with ball machines for 24 years. He is a product marketing specialist for Playmate Ball Machines and founder of FBT60 (Fit By Tennis in 60 Days), a tennis/fitness program combining nutrition and a series of ball machine drills. He is sponsored by Adidas and Babolat.



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