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Get a Lead on Your LeagueApps Launch: 3 Tips From a Launch Coach

Best Practices, Tech Specs, Value of LeagueApps

Before I get started, we’re a fan of the phrase ‘there is no such thing as a stupid question’ so let’s get this one out of the way: What does launch mean?

In business, launch is a word used to describe when a product is being released – or launched – into the market for public consumption. Coca-Cola launched their original cola in 1886. Ford launched the Model T in 1908.  Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook in 2004. When an organization has designed, built and tested a product and they’re ready to start selling it or have people use it, they launch it.

Launch is no different with LeagueApps – our launch service is designed to help your organization launch your new registration system and website.

My name is Bryan Esslinger and I execute and optimize the launch service at LeagueApps. I’ve helped hundreds of organizations through the LeagueApps launch process – from trampoline dodgeball leagues to little leagues to CrossFit competitions and everything in between. I’ve worked with all kinds of people – everyone from developers who’ve built their own software to volunteers with day jobs and no computer experience. I’ve also seen dozens of different organizational structures in all kinds of unique situations.

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned, it’s that each organization’s personnel and current situation is unique, but the formula for launching the right way on LeagueApps is always the same.

I’d like to take this opportunity to pull from my experience and share the top three ways to get the most out of your LeagueApps launch package:

1. Use the launch checklist (especially before your launch call)

  • This is by far and away the #1 best thing you can do before your launch call – log in and start to use your account!
  • Set aside 30 minutes to an hour before your launch call to get familiar with the console.
  • Look around the console – look at the menu items and different settings on the site.
  • Follow the steps in the launch checklist! The checklist is what launch is all about – it’s the focus of your launch call(s) and it’s the to do list for getting your site set up. Follow the checklist and you’ll be in great shape.

2. Be in front of a computer for your launch call(s)

  • Buying a launch package gives you access to live screen share training – take advantage of this!
  • You’re able to view your launch coach’s screen and / or your launch coach can view your screen if needed.
  • Launch calls are all about live training so if you’re headed into your launch call and you don’t have access to a computer, stop and reschedule! You won’t be able to accomplish much if you’re not on a computer for the call.

3. Set hard but realistic deadlines

  • LeagueApps is a sophisticated system with a lot of features, so it takes time and practice to get comfortable with it. With this in mind, it’s important to be realistic about your launch timeline / deadline.
  • Set a hard date that you want to have everything completed by – that’ll help you accomplish it.
  • If you don’t set a hard date then it’s almost a guarantee that the launch will take longer than it should.
  • Do not rely on your launch coach to get started! The launch coach is there to help answer specific questions and troubleshoot issues that you can’t figure out on your own. Their ultimate goal is to teach you how to use the system on your own, so use your launch coach as a resource not a crutch.

 

 

In summary, LeagueApps is a self-serve software – which means that you have the freedom to configure, edit, maintain and manage all aspects of your LeagueApps account on your own. This is good news people! A lot of software companies out there control their customer’s accounts and require that any changes or updates go through their team. There are no strings attached with LeagueApps – you control everything, so embrace that!

 

LeagueApps Partner Day in DC — August 1st, 2014

Company News, LeagueApps In Action, Press, Value of LeagueApps

LeagueApps is excited to announce our upcoming LeagueApps Partner Day on Friday, August 1, 2014 in Washington DC. We’re planning to get 8-10 partners to come visit us for an afternoon, get to know our team and learn what the company has in store for the next couple of months. The event will take place at the Uber Office location at Dupont circle. It’s our 2nd Partner Day in DC, so we’re excited to connect with a few familiar faces, as well as meet some partners for the first time!

The LeagueApps team is eager to share what we’ve been working on and learn more about how our partners are using LeagueApps and other technologies to organize and enhance their sports programs and activities. Check out this video that recaps our most recent LeagueApps Parter Day on May 9th in Chicago.

The agenda will include some of the following activities and events. We’ll kick things off around noon and plan to end around 5pm.

  • One-on-One coaching sessions with Partner Management Team
  • Lunch and Introductions. Meet the LeagueApps Team and Meet Each Other!
  • LeagueApps Platform Best Practices
  • Mobile Vision from the Product Team
  • Raffles, Contests and Prizes
  • Happy Hour Bar Event (We’ll drink some beers all afternoon!)

The theme of this event will be mobile! The entire LeagueApps product team will be in attendance and looks forward to sharing our mobile vision with our partners. We are also interesting in learning how our partners and their participants can best utilize mobile technology in their own operations. It should be an insightful afternoon!

Please complete this RSVP registration form if you are a LeagueApps partner and you are interested in attending LeagueApps Partner Day. We’re on a first come first serve basis and are expected to fill up quickly. If we do fill up, or if you can’t make this date, please let us know and we’ll be sure to share our upcoming event schedule with you.

There is a $25 fee to attend; however food, drinks, and prizes are complimentary. This charge is merely to secure commitment from anyone who plans to attend, and all of the money collected will be donated to a local charity.  Unfortunately, we can’t cover travel or hotel accommodation costs.

Lastly, make sure to bring a few of your league t-shirts that we can hang up on our wall. We look forward to hopefully seeing you in DC!

 

Play Forever,

The LeagueApps team

How Players Can Opt In And Receive Text Message Alerts

Best Practices, Feature Highlight, Product News, Value of LeagueApps

In our latest release we’ve added the ability to send text messages to participants. Sending a text message is a great way to get time sensitive announcements such as field changes or game cancellations to your players.  Many times email notifications can get buried in your inbox.  Studies have shown that 90% of text messages are read within 3 minutes of receiving them. Using this feature will help make sure your players don’t end up in the wrong location or show up for a cancelled game. (Learn how to enable the Text Messaging App here.)

At the same time we want to make sure that we are following industry and legal standards in regards to privacy.  Taking that into account we’ve built an opt-in and verification process for players to grant leagues permission to send text messages to their phones. We’ve also created tools to help make the opt in process as quick and easy as possible. The following tools highlight the features we’ve created to help get your players signed up.

Dedicated Opt In Page, URL and Phone Number

Your pubic site(s) will have a dedicated URL for players to opt-in to receive text messages.  The page will only be available if you have enabled the the Text Message App on your particular site.  The URL for the page will be CustomURL.com/sms.  So if your domain is PlayLeagueApps.com your dedicated opt in URL is PlayLeagueApps.com/sms.   This page has been mobile optimized as well, to allow your users to easily opt in while on the go.  You can post this link on your website, send it out via an email, or ask participants to visit it when seeing them in person at a meeting or on the field.

All messages from your site will come from the same phone number. When you setup your app you will be able to enter your area code and select from a list of local numbers to use for your site.  You can encourage your players to save that number in their phone’s contact list so they know that the message is coming from your league.

2 Step Verification

After a player enters their phone number and opts in to receive text message notifications, they will immediately be sent a verification code to that cell phone.  In order to complete the opt in process they will have to enter that verification code on the screen they are viewing in their browser.  This is an industry standard for security and privacy – and helps make sure the player is guaranteed to receive the notification on their proper device.

Easy Opt Out

A player can easily opt out of receiving text message notifications by simply sending the text STOP to the number.  We only want to send text messages to those people who want them and we have to respect their decision to opt out.  If they want to stop receiving text messages – then all they have to do is say so.  The user can also opt out by visiting the same dedicated url used for opting in.
 

Website Notifications

We’ve created an automatic banner and call to action that displays on  the bottom of your LeagueApps public website when text messaging is enabled.

If you want to turn off the banner, you can add the following to your custom CSS in the Theme Editor:   #apps-enabled{display: none;}

We’ve included an additional call to action on the registration confirmation page.  After player signs up for a new program they will be encouraged to opt in to text message notifications from your league.

Widgets

If you host your site outside of LeagueApps, you can include a call out to sign up for text messaging using one of our widgets.  The widgets are available on the configuration page of your Text Message App.

We are excited to roll out text messaging to our partners.  We hope you and your players will find this new feature as exciting as we do!

If you have any questions, be sure to check out our Help Site, including our FAQ page for Text Messaging.

 

New and Improved Communication Tools – including text messaging

Product News, Release Notes, Tech Specs

Today we’ve released a number of updates and new features that will help leagues communicate with their players in a timely and accurate manner.   We’ve rebuilt the broadcast messaging (Compose a Message) tool from the ground up by adding more powerful filtering options.   The LeagueApps platform now supports text messaging for admins to send messages to their players and a voice call in line for players to receive updates from the league.   We know that communication with your participants is extremely important and can be time sensitive.  These features where built with that in mind.

Broadcast Message Tool

We’ve totally reworked the way this feature works and added text messaging options. There are new filtering options that allow you to target specific groups of people based on a variety of search criteria.  You are still able to filter recipients by sports, seasons, programs, and teams.  We have added the ability to filter on the following criteria:

  • Gender
  • Game Date/Time Range
  • Game Location
  • Game Type (regular season, playoff)
  • Waiver Status
  • Payment Status

You can also use these same filters to export your contacts.  You can use this CSV export to integrate with other applications, such as MailChimp, Constant Contact or other eMarketing Platforms.

We also added a feature that allows you to “exclude” programs from your search criteria.  For example if you wanted to email all the players from last seasons program to remind them that registration is open, without sending the note the the players that have already signed up – you can now do that with our “Exclude” filter.

Sometimes you might just need to message a single team.  You have always been able to make that selection with our filtering options.  But now if you are viewing a team record there is a shortcut link that will take you directly to the broadcast message tool with the appropriate filters automatically selected – so you can message that particular team directly.  You can take this action from both the team listings view and the team details view.

Game Change Notification

When changing games information there is now an option to automatically notify players about the game change. The notification will be sent via email and will show the changes to the game in red for easy reading.  The appropriate participants from the two teams playing will be notified.

Introducing the App Center

The App Center is a new section where you can browse and enable various “apps” to become available in your LeagueApps account. An “app” is a feature that provides additional capabilities which extend and complement the core features of the platform. Some apps are premium and have a small usage fee, while others are built-in and free.

Apps are currently built internally by the LeagueApps team, and we plan to eventually offer 3rd party built apps. Use of these apps is optional. It’s up to you to decide whether an app is of value to your organization or not. If you’re wondering, reach out to us and ask.

We used the concept of an app to build our two new communication features – the  “Text Messaging”  and “Voice Line” app. Because there are costs associated with delivering text messages and enabling phone lines, we must bundle this into a small usage fee.

Text Messaging App

Text messaging capabilities, if enabled, are built directly into the broadcast messaging tool.  First you will select your recipients, then select the method of communication.  You have the choice of sending an email only, a text message only, or both an email and text message.  It is important that you respect the privacy of your participants.  Text messages are a great way to communicate last minute game changes due to weather, but are not particularly useful or desirable for marketing.  We have built in an opt-in process where your participants can choose to receive text messages from you.  Check out the following blog post to learn more about how players can opt in to league texts.

Voice Line App
We’ve created a rain-out line built directly into the LeagueApps management platform. You can create a voice message that your participants can dial into to get updates on game status and any potential weather delays.  Local numbers will be available for both the voice line app and text message app.

Console Design and Navigation

We continue to make the back-end of LeagueApps more user friendly and follow best practices for the web.  These changes make navigating simple and even more intuitive. The biggest difference you’ll notice  is in the Navigation dropdown. You will need to click on a particular menu item (e.g. Manage, Messaging, Reporting) in order for the dropdown menu to appear below it.  The Nav dropdown now stays open until you explicitly click anywhere outside.

Additional Items

We’ve made a few tweaks to other parts of the system as well based on user feedback. Most notably we’ve increased the maximum hour limit on the strict payment enforcement option from 24 hours to 96 hours.  Plus we’ve added the ability to export admin only custom profile fields.

We hope these new tools will provide value to your league and your players.  As always feel free to let us know what you think and Play Forever.

 

When LeagueApps Partners Move On…

Best Practices, Company News, Press

Last month, a couple of long-standing LeagueApps partners chose to move on from the LeagueApps platform in favor of another digital solution.  We were disappointed that they no longer realized value in our partnership. We do wish them the best and hope they continue to deliver great sports programs and activities to their communities.

We realize this stuff happens. LeagueApps does not have contracts and we only want to have partners that recognize value from using our tools and features.  We try our best to ensure customer satisfaction through both our product and our service.  We value long-term partnerships and strive to have partners “for life”. In the past, partners leaving the platform has been a rare occurrence. So when it does happen we make sure to evaluate and understand what didn’t go as expected and how we can get better as a team. In this case, both partners were helpful in sharing their feedback and thoughts with us.

We also like to be transparent — both with our team internally, as well as with the LeagueApps partner community. We do a great job of celebrating the wins and milestones of our product and service. But we also want to share the struggles that we sometimes experience — struggles that most companies face — and share how we learn from them as a company. (Check out this great blog post titled The Struggle by Ben Horowitz, author of our next book club read The Hard Thing About Hard Things).

 

Key Lessons

Here are some of the learnings from our most recent experience. This helps us identify how we will provide better service in the future.

 

1) Say NO Appropriately 

Sometimes the best answer is NO. No allows the partner to go down another path (the best available and realistic path). Saying NO isn’t easy, but it’s often necessary and actually builds credibility in the long-run. When developing relationships with partners, there may be situations in which a partner’s request cannot be met. In these situations, saying NO early on should help both sides reach an alternative solution quicker without stringing the partner along.

 

2) Be Transparent / Communicate Clearly

Transparency can often help develop trust and respect in partnerships. In Partner Management, we often need to explain if something can or can’t be done, from either a product and service standpoint (e.g. we don’t offer in-house custom design). Taking the time to explain ‘why’ something can/can’t be done is helpful and allows our partners to better understand our process.

 

3) Set the Right Expectation

It’s important to set an expectation that we can deliver from the very first interactions with potential partners. It’s better, and more fair, for a partner to be disappointed (but accepting) now than later. Like #2, making sure the partner understands what we are/aren’t capable of providing is a huge factor for a partner to decide how and if they will use LeagueApps. Setting expectations from the start is key, as it helps keep both sides aligned.

 

Recapping these situations is helpful and lends some perspective. One of our core values is to be a student of the game, and we know we can learn from these situations and be the best at getting better!

Partners – If you are reading this and have questions, concerns, or need more clarity on our product or services, please reach out to us. Please hold us accountable and help us get better. We want to address your concerns ASAP and help you get the most possible value out of LeagueApps.

 

 

 

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