Tennis Industry magazine


Grow Your Market!

With retention as the goal, you need to communicate and program effectively to reach the players of today.

By Sandy Coffman

The name of my company is Programming For Profit. Isn’t that what we all want to achieve? Of course. But as you become a tennis professional, you must take a good, hard look at yourself, your market, and your business.

Just like any good business — a Fortune 500 or 1000 company — after a generation of time, we must take a look at where we have been, where we are now, and where we are going. We find that in the tennis industry, our biggest challenge in the last 20 years has been to grow our sport and work at retaining our players.

We now know that our market is very different from yesterday, therefore our marketing strategies and programs must have new dimensions. Today, we must do more than create great tennis players. We need to concentrate on the enjoyment of the game and offer tennis as a sport that will guarantee a happier, healthier lifestyle. The whole concept of mind, body, spirit has come into the sport of tennis.

Today the majority of our new market is well into their 40s — and those 55 and over are coming in droves. They will be the majority of the people who want us and need us most in the next 20 to 30 years. They are said to be in the “third third” of their lives, and we will be responsible for giving them the quality of life that they will need for the next three decades.

For this market, the physical aspect of the game may take a back seat to the mind and spirit. In fact, our priorities must begin with creating positive attitudes, self-esteem, and new beginnings for people who are inexperienced, apprehensive, and feeling the physical effects of aging. The good news is that they know they need to exercise and they are looking for a way to have fun doing it. We’re here. Let’s show them that we have the answer.

Here are some simple points to consider and effective tools to make it all happen. We must first understand that our market of today is far more educated than that of yesterday and far more demanding of professional communication skills, respect, and trustworthiness. The profile of today’s member is:

The Business of Response

People respond to people, and the first people they respond to are you — their leaders. Psychologists tell us that people will make 11 decisions about you in seven seconds, so we must be able to give the ultimate first impression with how we greet our clients. It may be the deciding factor of their participation.

There are five steps to a “professional greeting” that will establish a good relationship between you and your client right from the beginning. Remember, it only takes seven seconds! Make it good.

  1. Smile: Friendliness, confidence, and a positive professional personality is a must. For the last several years, we’ve been touting the fact that we have to make tennis “fun.” In order to make tennis fun, we have to hire “fun” people. Our clubs and tennis programs must provide energetic, enthusiastic, fun experiences. Without it, people will quit. Statistics tell us that tennis participation is on the upswing. We had better make some quality changes in our welcome that will keep it moving upward.
  2. Aim your smile at somebody: Eye contact is the toughest part of the greeting, but the most important. Looking straight into someone’s eyes tells them that you are focusing on them and caring about what they are saying. It also helps you to not be preoccupied with anything else, and to learn to give undivided attention to your client.
  3. Introduce yourself — first: I want you to be proud of yourself, proud of your club, and proud of the sport and industry you represent. Take the initiative to show your client that you are there to serve him or her and that you are confident in yourself. Pride and confidence shows professionalism. In the corporate world it would called being “proactive.” Many instructors of today tell me that they want to be more “approachable.” I would rather have them be more “approaching.” Take the initiative and make a good impression.
  4. Shake hands — as though you mean it: Shaking hands is almost a lost art, but not with the market of today. They will be impressed with a professional handshake, and you will come across as a professional communicator and an educated business person.
  5. The Conversation: You are now ready to start managing your professional personality, building on your relationship, and selling your client into your lessons and programs.
    1. Learn to give a compliment. It’s easy. A compliment is given on either appearance or performance. Be aware of what to say to give your client a positive feeling of self-esteem and self-worth.
    2. Make a suggestion and take the role of a leader, not a dictator. Remember that your personality will probably determine whether your clients will “enjoy” the lesson or not. If not, you’ll never see them again. Remember, too, that leaders can’t motivate this market to practice or work by dictating to them. Leaders must create an environment that will make their clients want to motivate themselves. That will often occur as you are able to laugh with them and create a friendly, social experience.

Programming, Retention, and Communications

Let’s look at the word “social.” More and more, you will find that private lessons will evolve into “group clinics and drill sessions.” In our world of today, tennis has the opportunity to create an atmosphere of fun and friends in a fitness environment. If you can put people together in terms of interests, skill levels, schedules, personalities, ages, and genders, you will surely be developing players for life. People quit working at a sport, but they don’t quit friendships!

The goal of programming is retention. It will cost you four to six times more to get a new client or member than it will to keep one. You can’t afford not to start building your business to create the participation, growth, and retention from the market of today and tomorrow — the market that wants you and needs you most.

As you look to grow your business and to grow the sport of tennis, always be aware of your communication skills and how you encourage your members, overcome objections, and how you use one program to promote another to achieve retention.

The Professional Greeting and the 10 Magical Words are excellent tools to use as you hone your communication skills and develop a professional personality that will help manage your business more productively. Soon, you’ll be programming for profit, and making a difference in peoples’ lives and in the entire tennis industry. You are the leaders of the next generation.

Here are 10 “Magical Words” to incorporate in your vocabulary.

  1. Invite — Always personally “invite” your client to your class or clinic.
  2. Join — Invite them to “join” people with similar interests, skill levels, personalities, ages, or genders.
  3. Enjoy — People are looking for an experience to tell others about. The simple words, “You will ‘enjoy’ yourself” is encouraging.
  4. Fun — People need fun in their lives and will do anything to find it. Tell them that they will have fun. Let them know it’s part of your tennis program.
  5. Other People — The group concept creates the social element and enjoyment. In our industry, it’s called “niche marketing,” and retention is the result of people finding a sense of belonging and a social commitment.
  6. Want — Everyone needs to be “wanted.” Tell them so. It’s the power of verbiage.
  7. Need — Everyone wants to be “needed.” Tell them so.
  8. Help — People want to be part of success. Tell your clients that they will be successful in their experience and that they will help make you successful in your training efforts.
  9. Terrific! Wonderful! Brilliant! — Show some enthusiasm!
  10. Guarantee — You must be able to “guarantee” that they will have FUN, they will ENJOY themselves, and that they will meet OTHER PEOPLE like themselves. If you cannot guarantee this, you may not be ready to run your program.

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About the Author

Sandy Coffman is president of Programming For Profit, a speaking and consulting firm in Bradenton, Fla. She specializes in customer service, retention, and dynamite programming. With 30 years of experience, Coffman is nationally and internationally acclaimed as a featured presenter at USTA events, IHRSA, Club Industry, Athletic Business, ICAA, and CanFitPro. She's also authored articles and spoken at several universities. Coffman, who guarantees that her sessions are educational, motivational, and inspirational, can be reached at or 941-756-6921.



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