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It's time we started asking better questions. We have been measuring our business by the same metrics and segmenting our customers by traditional methodologies based on such variables as league play vs open play, frequency of use over the course of a year, age, income, zip code, etc.

But we missed something here. Who are these customers? Who are they as people? Not by segmentation definition: age; income; household size, home value; number of children in the household. No, none of that stuff.

Is past performance still valid as a prognosticator of the future? Are the benchmarks we have been using appropriate?

I think the real test of the health of our business is the number of people that come back and spend money with us after two times
. Last time I looked, that was about the median number of times the typical open play bowler came to our center in a YEAR.

And while we all have the omnipresent "price special," even these great summer offers have failed to prevent the atrocious open play summer we experienced in North America this year. Why, even with price specials like 25-cent bowling, $1 bowling and FREE bowling, was open play off?

Why? Because consumers did not have enough money? They still went to the movies and to baseball games (both minor league and major league) and vacation travel was even up a bit. But not bowling.

It sure as heck wasn't price. We gave them that. It sure wasn't because they had to wait! We had enough extra lanes open to build a new Giants Stadium!!

Here it is: we just aren't cool any more.
There's no media build-up of "cosmic bowling"; that's already old. There are no Hollywood stars or professional (non-bowling) athletes going bowling or viewed going bowling. They're at baseball games, basketball games, US Open, Olympics, Formula One races, golf, etc. But there are no shots of them going bowling. And if these shots exist, why doesn't someone share them with local proprietors?

So here's my solution. Take whatever you can, Mr. BPAA, and buy a Super Bowl spot this year. (Heck, take what you spent on Bowlopolis.) You bought it for Master Lock and it put them on the map. How about doing the same thing for bowling?

The residual effect from the advertising promotion world would carry us for months. The spot would be played and replayed in front of millions of people. It would have to be an edgy spot.

Some of the industry "fuddy-duddies" would have to get out of the way. No crash of pins, no kid throwing a ball, no hugging Grandpa and going, "Yay!"

And after the Super Bowl, we would be cool...and our centers would be busier.

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Comment by Daleena Nichols on September 21, 2010 at 2:35pm
That's a good idea. I think it would help. I also think the bowling center needs to seen as part of a caring community. We have put into place a customer loyalty program in our center. We offer cash back rewards, which can be redeemed on a future visit. We also have a fundrasing component, which operates off the same card as our rewards program. We have had this program in place now for 13 weeks and have seen several customers come back to visit us within 30 days. A few people have been back 3 and 4 times in the last 10 weeks or so. Our customers feel valued and we are being seen as a business who cares and supports the community. Building customer loyalty is important. I am very happy we are now taking the steps to do this.

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