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Recent reports around the industry are confirming what we all know, “open
play is down and league starts this fall were off by more than 5%."
Proprietors all over the country are calling each other to find out "how
the other guy” did and if his/her numbers are the same as ours.
OK, so now you know that your numbers are equal to, slightly lower or
slightly higher than the other guys. Does that make you feel safe?
It’s easy to take solace in the fact that there are other people worse off
than us. I guess that’s why we slow down when we see a traffic accident; to
feel better about ourselves and thank the universe that it isn't us in that
car wreck (and hopefully to pray for the people in it).
But it may be a false sense of safety. Even though November and December
numbers are showing some improvement, it is way too early to say that the
business is “back to normal.”
I don’t think "normal” will ever return. Not in a market that has been
viewed as economically shell shocked; an unemployment level that is stuck
at 9.7%; and the threat of looming inflation.
What to do?
• Double down on your best customers. Go after your best customers with
special offers if they bring a friend bowling; provide them with food and
beverage specials; develop offers for families ("Hey Moms and Dads, bowl at
the same price as your kids”).
• Create more fun. Get that fun person to MC your cosmic bowling nights.
Add fun prizes, trivia contest, dance contests, bring in a local band and
split the door charge with them (charge $7 or so and give them $3.50). Have
your staff dress up in funny hats on Saturdays and Sundays; hire a magician
for the kids/families on weekends.
• Get your employees pumped up. You’re selling team building company
parties and holiday parties to the corporate market, but what are you doing
to keep your employees motivated during your peak season? Are you
constantly preaching customer service??
• Get out of the building. You can’t make any money sitting on your *%^@*!
Whether it’s you or your manager or your husband or your wife, somebody has
to go out and do a sales blitz in your community. Sell short season 8 week
leagues, team building events, adult child programs, and distribute lots of
coupons offering $5 off, $10 off bowling (based on a purchase of $XX). Just
• Advertise. Tell somebody you are out there; that you have an
entertainment option for families, young adults, and kids. Cable TV is your
best buy. Buy prime time; target 18 to 34 yr olds for weekday open play
after 9pm or for cosmic bowling or females 25 to 44 for family programs.
• Social marketing. Learn it. Study it. Get good at it and use it to build
relationships with your customers. Continue to build your data base and use
it (don’t abuse it) to communicate the benefits your center offers.
There is no safety in numbers. The only real safety is between your ears
and your ability to do 21st century marketing.