Tennis Industry magazine


2016 Guide to Ball Machines: Money Machines

With some attention to how your ball machine is used, and our exclusive guide, you can hit a revenue winner.

By Peter Francesconi

Is your ball machine in constant use? It should be, because when it is, it’s a cash machine for your business.

Chances are, you probably have that ball machine sitting in a corner, unplugged and covered, with a bin full of dead balls. It gets pressed into service only when someone rents it by the hour or half-hour. It’s great that you offer rental time, but this pay-to-play program means your players need to open their wallets each time, so they need to budget for it. That, in turn, might cause them to not use the machine as often as they should to improve their game.

Consider creating a ball-machine “club,” where customers purchase a pass to use the machine regularly, or even on an unlimited basis, without having to pay each time. Once they purchase a pass upfront, then it’s up to them to schedule time with the machine.

There are many ways you can set up this ball-machine club. The pass could be a simple card that players buy, which then gets punched or stamped each time they use the machine. You could also incorporate the purchase of the pass into your club management software. Pricing can be on a sliding scale, so the more time a customer buys, the cheaper it is per hour. However you make it work for your club or facility, your players will benefit and groove their strokes by regular, more frequent use of the machine.

Lessons and Clinics

A ball machine also should be a key tool for teaching pros and incorporated into lessons and clinics. With a ball machine across the net, the pro can stand next to the student to provide coaching and encouragement. At the same time, the player gets consistent feeds, can work on a variety of strokes and shot sequences, and gets plenty of repetition. It’s all about hitting a lot of balls. Plus, the machine provides an opportunity for videotaping the student hitting a specific shot. When a teaching pro uses a ball machine in lessons, the student often shows quick improvement — which means he or she will be excited to continue playing and improving!

When you or your staff use a ball machine with lessons and clinics, it helps to promote the machine to your players — and even to others who see what’s happening on the court. This can, and should, work hand-in-hand with your ball machine club pass. The pro can give students “homework” — shots he or she should work on using the ball machine. (Another plus is that using the machine in lessons may save some wear and tear on teaching pros themselves.)

Ball-Machine Essentials

There are a few things you need to make sure you have handy when it comes to promoting ball-machine use among your players. First, make sure it has fresh tennis balls. For a player spending good money to improve his or her game at your facility, there’s nothing worse than having the ball machine cough up dead balls. It’s frustrating and can be a sign that management has little regard for its customers.

Also get a ball mower, especially if the player is paying by the hour. People get tired of picking up balls long before they get tired of hitting them and, within reason, no one wants to feel they’re losing time and money picking up balls.

Have a sign-in/sign-out procedure for ball-machine use. This will help to keep track of the machine’s remote control (players pick up the remote when they sign in at the desk for the ball machine; they return the remote when they sign out). You can also use it to monitor and calculate total hourly use, important for keeping up with maintenance intervals.

Avoid tangles by putting the ball-machine extension cord on a reel. This may sound trivial, but if staff has to spend time untangling the cord, it will take a longer time to set up, and your members won’t want to hassle with it.

So, how do you pick the right machine for your facility? See our exclusive chart on the following pages, which lists all sorts of features, statistics and details for ball machines on the market now, including suggested retail prices.

Once you have your new machine, or a revitalized ball-machine program ready to go, consider holding a demo day that showcases the value of the machine, especially if it has new features your players never used before. Then market your demo day with a sign-up sheet, email blasts, etc. At the event, promote your ball-machine club passes.

With a little promotion, you can easily turn your ball machine into a revenue machine for your business.

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About the Author

Peter Francesconi is editorial director of Tennis Industry magazine.



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