Keep 'Em Interested!
When it comes to promoting lessons and clinics, don’t take a “wait and see” attitude.
By Joe Dinoffer
Over four centuries ago, Sir Francis Bacon is quoted as saying, “Things alter for the worse spontaneously, if they be not altered for the better designedly.”
This is certainly true in the tennis business. Left to their own devices, programs you’re running will most likely decline in quality and participation over time. But if you are proactive and constantly work to move your programs forward, you’ll reap major rewards.
Let’s take a look at just one area of your activities: tennis lessons and clinics. Posting lesson rates and nothing else is the norm. The game plan at clubs like these is “wait and see.” Unfortunately, according to Sir Francis Bacon, “wait and see” precipitates a downturn in business.
On the other hand, some successful clubs gross over $1 million a year in lesson revenue. How do the best ones do it? They are proactive in regularly offering a wide variety of new learning and practice opportunities. And, importantly, they make sure club members and players know about these opportunities. Getting the word out is fairly easy. Some of the most common approaches include:
- Postings on bulletin boards
- Bag stuffers
- Newsletters (email and print)
- Email a weekly schedule of activities
How to get the word out is clear. However, becoming highly successful year after year requires more. After studying successful programs, there are common threads among all of them. Use this as a checklist against your own recipe for success.
People are individuals
Since no two players are exactly alike, it makes sense that their hot buttons on a tennis court are unique as well. Age, playing level, work schedule, competitive goals, social desires, and whether they prefer singles or doubles are just a few of the variables that will affect the level of interest each person may have in a particular program.
Identify a need
When you offer a program that suits a player’s interest and schedule, you’re only halfway to getting them to sign up and participate. The other half of your offering has to include “identifying a need.” In simple terms, this means offering a program or clinic with a theme that reminds a person of a need that they have thought about before. Then, entice them to sign up by presenting how they will benefit from the experience.
Establish the benefit
We don’t normally think of tennis pros as salesman, but when you identify a need and then show how someone will benefit, you are selling the idea. If you’re a purist, you may not like to think of yourself as selling anything. But selling is not a bad word. Think of it this way: How will you share your expertise unless you have people to share them to?
Here’s an example:
- Target audience:
- Male weekend warrior
- Playing ability:
- Playing style:
- Powerful but inconsistent
- Power with more consistency
- Selling point:
- “Add control to your power game in one lesson.”
League team drilling
One of the mainstays of tennis teachers across the U.S. is running drills and workouts for league teams. In many places, working with these teams represents nearly 50 percent of the annual gross teaching revenue. It’s important enough that if you don’t have a local inter-club league, start one! It’s not that difficult.
One way to get started is to invite all your local pros to a meeting and outline the costs and benefits of starting a league. A good start is to model your league after another region about the size of your own community. How can you find out what’s out there? I just googled “community tennis leagues” on my computer and came up with more than 4 million listings! Also, the USTA, PTR and USPTA all should be able to assist in some way, with information or suggestions.
In today’s world, people are so busy and pulled in so many directions that to commit to a regular weekly activity is difficult. That is the genius of the “drop-in drill.” The concept is simple. Set up a weekly time, such as Saturday mornings from 11 a.m. to 12:30 pm. This is a time when court bookings start slowing down, but people are still interested in getting out. Then create weekly themes so players know what they are signing up for.
Since there is no established ability level, have enough pros on hand to allow you to divide up the players on different courts according to their ability. Charge a reasonable amount to give good value for the 90-minute drill, a time frame that is neither too short nor too long.
With consistent effort in running these “drop-ins,” you’ll probably find that interest and participation will build, and that players from this group will spill over and sign up for your other programs as well.
See all articles by Joe Dinoffer
About the Author
Joe Dinoffer is a Master Professional for both the PTR and USPTA. He speaks frequently at national and international tennis teacher workshops as a member of both the HEAD Penn and Reebok National Speaker's Bureaus. He is president of Oncourt Offcourt Inc. and has written 16 books and produced more than 30 instructional videos.