As Pro Skills Basketball grew from a local outfit in Charlotte run by two ex-college teammates to an youth sports powerhouse with fifteen locations in the US, plus a presence in China and England , co-founder Brendan Winters had a invaluable resource by his side: his wife, Jennifer. A long-time digital marketing and social media guru, Jennifer had a front row seat when the company launched in 2011 with camps and skills classes and added club teams and leagues soon thereafter. While Jennifer was hard at work for a digital marketing agency, Brendan would pepper her with questions about Pro Skills. What would you do here? How would you do this? Do you think this campaign is viable? “It was pretty constant and probably annoying,” Brendan says.
Jennifer’s expert advice paid obvious dividends over the years, so Brendan and Pro Skills moved forward with the inevitable – in January, Jennifer became the company’s Director of Marketing. Almost immediately she implemented a wide-ranging marketing and social media plan that would position Pro Skills for further scaling. Here, Jennifer shares some social media and marketing tips that are resonating with the Pro Skills community and leading to some serious growth.
Understand the purpose of each platform
Among platforms, Facebook is king for Pro Skills for one simple reason. “The parents are on Facebook and the parents are the ones paying,” Jennifer says.
Instead of wasting time trying to achieve organic growth on Facebook, Pro Skills understands that the social network is a paid platform, budgeting for regular Facebook advertising in hopes of reaching new audiences. (They currently have 4,100 likes on the Pro Skills Charlotte page alone.)
Parents may permeate Facebook, but Pro Skills is also quite active where kids reside (Instagram and Snapchat), and the company has a huge Twitter presence with over 11,000 followers. Brendan says Twitter is the worst platform from an immediate business perspective since it is more about conversation and less about direct sign-ups but because coaches, players and parents are highly active, it remains a crucial outlet for Pro Skills.
Don’t neglect your newsletter
Intertwined in the marketing strategy has been personalizing the Pro Skills newsletter for an already dedicated customer base, a task made more challenging as the company has gone global. The solution has been breaking out lists by location where regional directors are charged with curating consistent content that contains a healthy mix of national stories, social media, and local announcements. “People expect personalization and we’re following suit so we can keep our click through rates higher, serving the content the list will care about,” Jennifer says.
When Pro Skills first began growing they invested serious money in traditional advertising: print ads, radio ads, even yard signs. One huge issue was the company had no tangible way to know what was working and how much they should be allotting. About three years ago, Brendan modernized. “No more of that. We are only investing in marketing we can track.”
One of Jennifer’s first tasks has been to ensure every potential conversion is tracked. Not only has tracking allowed Pro Skills to know its customer acquisition cost, it has shaped the brand’s social media content strategy.
“As long as you a have the right tools you can see pretty immediately what is and isn’t working,” Jennifer says. “You should set goals and if the tools tell you something isn’t working you can optimize by making adjustments or killing something off completely.”
Pro Skills chose LeagueApps as its software registration company in large part due to its extensive ability to customize tracking.
Balance building your social community with actual business
One challenge for Pro Skills Basketball and most businesses is understanding how often to post community building content such as images, videos or blog posts versus directly asking consumers to click on a link and purchase something. This constant conundrum is a huge point of focus for Jennifer these days. “We want people engaged on our platforms,” she says. “We want our content to be the backbone and explain how we do things, what we believe, what we love to do, and then sprinkle in with all the opportunities you have to be a part of this.”
Be authentic on social
Last year Brendan wrote an article titled, The Truth About Playing Division 2 Basketball, which received 30,000 views in one days. Another article written by Brendan, 5 Best Drills For Youth Basketball Players, is Pro Skills’ most viewed article ever.
Jennifer says that the company’s biggest social successes are articles akin to these that express views on how teams and leagues should be run. They see social media consumers gravitate toward this content since it aligns with the brand’s expertise.
Another way Pro Skills connects with its customers is through Instagram Stories because they can be imperfect. “A lot of companies put a lot of effort into the look of their stories but I like it the other way around,” Brendan says. “I’ll tell our director if you’re running a practice, snap a few stories, take a few videos. Don’t need it to be highly produced. We’re a youth organization, we’re not the NBA.”