What Recreation Professionals Need to Know About Marketing (Guest Post)

This is a guest post from Archie Trader III. For 7 years, Archie has been the Recreation Program Manager at the Stanton Community Center (SCC), an Annapolis Recreation and Parks Department facility located in Annapolis, MD. He has a BS Degree in Physical Education (concentration in recreation). He chose this career because it gives him the opportunity to affect the lives of youth in the City of Annapolis and surrounding areas. 

Archie’s ACTIVE is walking, biking, exercising and swimming.
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For-profit, non-profit and all institutions in between spend billions of dollars each year on marketing. Beyond all the reasons you can think, there is one more why organizations devote budgets to marketing: more than any other management function, it deals with people.

Gone are the days when community recreation departments, non-profit recreation organizations and community-based fitness centers operated as “social service” entities. Today, the recreation professional and the agencies/organizations that they represent must understand the importance of the “business model”. This concept must be applied to strategic program development plans and to comprehensive marketing plans. An important concept of the “business model” is to know your competition and target market. It is imperative for the recreation administration to apply these concepts to the development of marketing strategies and program development. Marketing strategies are at the core of any successful recreation program and membership campaign.

For the purpose of this discussion, marketing is defined as the process of human exchange whereby people exchange money for something they need. Therefore, marketing cultivates desired exchanges.

One of the first steps in the cultivation of this exchange is to establish a market research and information system. This may sound ominous especially to the management of a low budget recreation center. But this system is crucial to both the international recreation organization and the single, small town community recreation center. The irony, this can be established by a computer system with online capability and database software.

How do you define your target markets?

Developing Information: Every recreation organization should build extensive internal databases – computerized collections of information obtained from data sources within the organization or agency. A manager can use this information to identify marketing opportunities and problems, plan programs and evaluate outcomes.

Marketing Intelligence: This is the systematic collection and analysis of publicly available information about competitors and developments in the field of recreation. A marketing intelligence system gathers, analyzes, and distributes information about the recreation organization’s competitive, membership, membership retention, budgetary, demographic, and political conditions. Its goal is to improve strategic decision making, assess and track competitors’ actions, and provide early warning of opportunities and adversities.

Another very important aspect is target marketing. When concerned with attracting new members and retaining old members, it is absolutely necessary for managers to define their target markets and then decide how they will go after these markets. The ultimate goal of marketing is to influence behavior. An essential component of marketing is determining what specific persons or groups of persons (a target market) need and then provide programs that meet those needs. What are some target markets for recreation program planning? Recreation & Parks programs attract diverse populations that are all waiting to be targeted.

Another way to help define your target market is to establish a diversity committee. The objective of this committee is to develop and implement an on-going organizational diversity policy to educate managers and staff about the recreational needs and social differences of diverse groups. Hence, program planning can be done to create programs to meet these needs. Most likely, you and your administration are currently doing this. Nevertheless, this is a concept that should be revisited when considering how to retain members and to acquire acquire new members.

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This was part one of Archie’s guest blog article. To receive the second part by email, subscribe here.

One thought on “What Recreation Professionals Need to Know About Marketing (Guest Post)

  1. In addition to marketing, public relations are also vital to an organizations success. Public relations can assist in not only retaining members and acquiring new members, but it is also of importance in protecting relationships with the organizations greatest resource its own employees. The following are all key to quality public relation practices and organizational success; government relations, employee relations, donor relations, investor relations, industry relations, community relations, media relations and consumer relations.

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