The Promotional Roller-Coaster

June 3, 2015

I have sold things from pillowcases and bath towels to beaded animals and stone hippos. Admittedly, I was not very good at selling any of those things, no matter my interest level, but in the end, I didn’t care all too much. With Wilmington Tennis, my interest level is at its pinnacle, and the amount of effort the team puts into promotion sometimes feels like it falls a little short.

Designing the flyers is only the beginning of the number of tasks we accumulate for promotion. Editing, printing, distribution and timing are all part of the standard equation. For me personally, whenever I received a flyer, I never actually stopped to think, “I wonder how much work went into making these flyers…” In most cases, Chinese food and patio furniture flyers were instantly tossed into the garbage. It wasn’t until I needed a balcony love-seat and was feeling too lazy to cook that I wished I had held onto those small pieces of paper.

The first obstacle the team ran into with flyer promotion was the actual delivery to the parents. Since our programs are offered at schools, we worked with them to hand out thousands of flyers to the students. When our numbers didn’t increase, I started to worry that the money and time invested in the flyers had gone to waste. It wasn’t until a couple of days before the programs start date, or even after, that I received calls from frantic parents stating, “I just found this flyer at the bottom of my child’s backpack! Is there still space for her to join?”

After learning the hoarder-like trait of so many elementary school kids, we tried a different approach, where we would speak directly to the parents. This would mean driving to specific locations, heading to parks, going door-to-door and stopping in at community centres. This approach definitely felt better and hearing parents say, “We were looking for a program like this!” made us believe they would call us the next day to enrol. These face-to-face meetings also have several factors weighing the success of the endeavour: time and day of the week, weather and neighbourhood.

For any promotion, we have learned the best time to catch the rush of parents and kids has been after school in the park. Unfortunately for us, this prime time also happens to be the exact time when our currently operating after school programs begin, which means our staff is already preoccupied with other work. Rainy days mean the parks are empty and 9 out of 10 faces we meet reflect the gloomy weather, and without the sunshine, it is hard to sell the idea of playing tennis.

City demographics are difficult to pin point, even with the online census. Residential neighbourhoods with parks and childcare centres don’t necessarily house children. More than often, we end up having conversations with grandmas and grandpas who suggest trying a different area. We do our best to listen to everyone, but with limited time and bodies, we just can’t get to all the places we need to. It feels as though the amount of research that goes into promotion takes away from our actual time of promotion. We are a very small business, with only four people in the office to cover programming, administration, marketing and accounting. Our amazing coaches look to us to build full rosters, and we look to them for returning clients. We could spend three months promoting, and no matter how elated we feel from a positive response, the feeling is dampened as the hours move on and the phone call never comes. I suppose we’re just not truly satisfied with our efforts unless we meet our goal and with the sweat and tears that go into each project, it still seems all we can do is … wait.

-CKP

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