Tennis Industry magazine

 

2012 Guide to Ball Machines

Of all the tools that can help your business, your ball machine may be the most important.

By Peter Francesconi

Are you getting the most out of your ball machine? Is it in constant use at your facility, both as an aid in your lessons and clinics, and also available in a pay-to-play program where customers can rent time on it?

Ball machines are a great investment for your business and for your facility. They can liven up lessons and clinics and keep customers hitting lots of balls, and that’s what you want — you don’t want them standing around; you want them active, improving and wanting to come back for more. And when other players see the activity, they may well sign up for a clinic, too.

But also, with a ball machine pay-to-play program, you can have customers off by themselves hitting on a machine, with no supervision or time needed from you and your staff, and they’re paying you for that privilege. If you have the space for a dedicated ball-machine court, and you keep it in constant use, your machine will pay for itself many times over.

Ball machines also are great for this sport. When players hit on a machine, they are constantly moving and get a great workout, possibly losing weight and becoming more fit. Also, ball machines provide consistent practice, so customers can “groove” their strokes and improve their tennis. All of this can help retain players and members, and it can lead your players to play more tennis — good for them, good for you, and good for the sport.

As you’ll see on the following pages in our 2012 Guide To Ball Machines, there are many different types of machines available, at all sorts of price points with all kinds of features. In fact, some machines now have apps that allow you to program and run them remotely from your smartphone. Finding a machine that’s right for you, your facility and your players shouldn’t be hard to do.

Work the Machine

So, what are some specific ideas you can use to put your ball machine to work generating more income for you? Well first, if you’ve just invested in a ball machine, or if you just upgraded to a newer model, with more features, make sure you market your new machine to your players, and even to the community.

In fact, you can even create hype for the machine before it actually arrives at your facility, through emails, newsletters, articles, postings on (literal and digital) bulletin boards, and through pros and staff talking it up. You want to make sure your players know you’re getting a new machine and all the features that it will have, and how those features can help players’ games.

Then before you start renting out time on the machine, have a ball machine “demo day” for your players. Even better, get the ball-machine company rep to run the demo day and showcase the machine and its features. Market the demo day in advance, through email lists, fliers, articles, staff, etc. At the demo day, you can also sell discounted passes or memberships to a “ball-machine club.”

Join the Club

As part of a ball-machine club, customers purchase a pass and can use the machine either on an unlimited basis, or for discounted pricing. You can set up your “club” parameters in any number of ways that work best for your facility, such as a yearly fee that allows unlimited use, or so many times per year or month, or a frequent-user “punch” card that allows them to buy 10 sessions for the price of eight, etc. — or have different types of ball-machine club memberships. Again, see what pricing structure would work best for you. Once a customer purchases a pass or joins the club, it is up to them to schedule time with the ball machine.

Also, though, have complimentary passes available, which you can use to help entice customers to buying a ball-machine club membership, or for those players who may have never trained on a ball machine before, or if you’re trying to get new members to join your facility. You may want to give a complimentary pass to some of your most loyal customers, or tie it into equipment purchases to add value for players. You can even offer complimentary time on the machine as “prizes” for tournaments or round-robins.

Crank up your tennis activity by using a ball machine as much as you can at your courts. It will liven up the activity and keep your players engaged. And it will help keep the cash flowing.

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About the Author

Peter Francesconi is editorial director of RSI magazine.

 

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