What Recreation Professionals Need to Know About Marketing (Part II)

This is part two of Archie’s guest blog post. Click here to read the first.

Social Marketing: Different than social media, social marketing seeks to influence social behavior to the benefit the target market and general society rather than the organization. At one time, social marketing was considered to be exclusively for public and non-profit organizations. Primarily it was designed to promote public awareness campaigns, social causes or to introduce behavior change. However, social marketing is also used by commercial organizations. For example, for-profit fitness clubs are not only utilized for exercise and physical development, but also as environments for rebuilding balance to one’s life. 

How do you reach your target market?

Direct Marketing: This consists of direct connections with carefully targeted consumers to obtain an immediate response and cultivate lasting consumer relationships. One of the ways in which this is accomplished is by using the membership data base to collect comprehensive data about individual members or potential members, including but not limited to geographic, demographic and behavioral data. Other ways of reaching perspective individual members and your target market are email blasts, organization websites, social media, videos and electronic newsletters.

The channels listed above are great mediums of correspondence that are capable of disseminating huge volumes of information that current and potential members need to have. It is all about building relationships! If you continue to build relationships after their membership contract is signed, you will have a better chance of retaining members. Thus, it is important to continue to market your audience even after they become members. However, do not forget the traditional tried and true tools of recreation marketing and promotion; believe it or not, they still work.

Traditional Marketing: Long before the advent of technology, recreation organizations used print media, brochures, flyers, direct mail, news letters, church news letters, display media, press releases and public service announcements to communicate to members and the general public. If your facility is located in a residential community, do not hesitate to knock on doors in order to hand out flyers, brochures and promotional packages  while at the same time, talking with people about your programs. Remember, everyone or every family does not have a computer, nor do they have regular access to a computer. So the question becomes how you market them. Again, it is all about building relationships! As a society we have gotten away from the basic forms of communication. Recreation professionals can ill afford to depend solely on electronic media. Why? Because we are in the people business. That is to say, we want people to come to our recreation facilities to spend time doing the things that they like to do, and when they get there, we should talk and communicate in order to get to know them.

Next Steps 

In closing, I must say, this only skims the surface of the dynamics of marketing and its effect on memberships, membership retention and strategic program planning. Therefore, I strongly suggest that all recreation administrators and management staff take a college level marketing class and/or a robust marketing workshop. If your organization is fortunate enough to afford a marketing specialist it is obviously a plus to your organization. If your organization cannot afford a marketing specialist, it makes it more imperative for your management staff to possess a robust academic understanding of marketing.

Nevertheless, all management staff should have first-hand knowledge of the principles of marketing, it is that important. Consider this: no one in your organization (not the marketing specialist, not the director, nor the auxiliary staff) will understand your programs from a developmental perspective as you do. Marketing is the conduit by which you sell your programs to the public; it is the way in which the recreation professional takes full ownership of his/her programs.