From the standard sports development and tumbling classes to more unique programs like intramural Quidditch and water pole dancing sessions, programming options are seemingly endless. The success and profitability of your organization relies on offering diverse user groups a wide range of programs to pique their interests. However, what's successful for one organization may be a flop in another, and that's why it's crucial to have a solid understanding of who your members are. By understanding their demographic characteristics, you can formulate a programming mix that fits the generational, cultural and family lifecycle make-up of your community, college or club. Knowing your members is one thing, but figuring out exactly what programs fit their needs and wants can be the hard part. Here are some tips to help you out:
Gain inspiration from your peers
A trend starts with a single well-executed idea that gets shared with others. As they say, "two heads are better than one," so taking the time to brainstorm with your peers and learning what they've done successfully is an easy way to join the ranks of program managers who have integrated fun or novel programs.
By attending industry events that bring everyone under one roof, you're sure to find at least one person with a similar member base. Go to the event prepared to ask questions. Something they're doing may seem so obvious to them because that's what they've been doing for years, and they don't think to mention it in conversation. With prepared questions, you'll be able to lead a productive conversation in which both parties leave a little more knowledgeable.
Start by asking what they've done to identify programming gaps. They'll likely outline at least one tactic or technique they used that will be a new and insightful idea for you. Consider asking how they analyze the success of their programs, what kind of feedback they receive, the kinds of questions they ask members and if they leverage outreach campaigns to survey their users about the types of programs they're interested in. Additionally, by asking which among their programs are successful, you can gain new ideas and share with them your successful lineup of programs. Finally, don't be afraid to ask for input on an idea for a new program that you have in mind, and ask your new acquaintances to share with you. You might be able to bounce ideas back and forth to flesh out an idea you've been mulling over.
Test out new programming trends
Testing a new program not only can be a fun activity, it will also give you insight into potential participation and excitement among members.
If a nearby facility has a program you're considering or that you think might be a great add-on to your programming mix, try it out for yourself. Take note of attendance, engagement and excitement levels of participants. This will give you a good indication of how well a similar program will go over at your facility. It's also helpful to see firsthand how the program is structured and what equipment is needed or used throughout the activity.
Some industry events also give you the opportunity to participate in a trendy new class on the trade show floor or within educational sessions. You'll be able to assess the type of fitness level needed to participate, learn how the program is structured, and ask the instructor what kind of training and resources are needed to teach the class.
Learn how others have successfully implemented new programs
Once you've decided on the new programs you want to add, refer back to your network of peers. They'll be able to share the experience they had building awareness and generating excitement among community members, hiring and training staff, and purchasing needed equipment.
If your members don't know about the new program, it goes without saying that they will not register. Social media and word of mouth tend to be cost-effective channels to get the word out, but that's not always enough. Plus, marketing budgets can sometimes be a bit tight, so learning from others who were in your shoes can help you ensure the highest return on your investment in program promotion.
Gather information on the types of training programs they required staff to go through in order to instruct, supervise and referee the new program. They might even be willing to share training guides and offer input on tactics they found to be most successful in recruiting new staff.
Finally, AB's recent purchasing survey told us that word of mouth is the number-one factor in making purchasing decisions, so make sure to leverage your circle of peers to find out where they found needed equipment and how satisfied they were with their purchases.
AB Show 2019, which takes place Nov. 13-16 in Orlando, Fla., will give you the chance to build your peer network, test out new trends and learn how to successfully expand your programming options. Learn more about the specific educational sessions, expo hall features and networking opportunities AB Show has to offer at athl.biz/expandprogramming.
This article originally appeared in the July | August 2019 issue of Athletic Business with the title "Your Guide to Programming Expansion." Athletic Business is a free magazine for professionals in the athletic, fitness and recreation industry. Click here to subscribe.