Marketing Your Youth Sports Organization: A Digital Playbook
Your customers live online, now more than ever. So growing your club means connecting with them digitally— and having a great website isn’t enough. For many in the youth sports game, though, digital marketing can be a bit of a black box. It’s hard to know where to begin, what exactly to do, or how to know for sure if what you’re doing is actually working.
If this describes you, then we’ve got you covered. Guided by Alex Gonzalez, a digital marketing pro who co-founded the agency 100 yards to go (and spoke at our NextUp Conference last fall), this overview will walk you through the process.
First things first—let’s map the customer journey.
The surest way to land customers is to lead them down a path that starts as soon as they notice your program and, and not only keeps them coming back for more, but convinces them to get others involved. That path looks like this:
- Awareness. This is the moment of discovery. It might come through word of mouth but just as often results from a social post, an online article, or a video.
- Interest. Once someone knows about you and your program, they show interest by looking you up on Google, asking around for third party validation, and maybe even stopping by your facility.
- Purchase. Congratulations — you have a new customer! But your work is only halfway done. Now you need to keep them.
- Retention. Keeping your customers happy is critical, and requires constant communication, great customer service, constantly asking for feedback, and more.
- Advocacy. Loyal customers can become your best marketing channel by referring others to your program, leaving positive reviews online, and promoting you on social.
Okay, now you’re ready to tailor a digital marketing gameplan.
How can you engage prospective customers at every step of the above journey and turn them into advocates? It calls for a multi-pronged strategy and a vision of the entire field. Here is your playbook:
1. Make content that makes an impression.
Content is a crucial lure and branding tool, but it is not a one-type-fits-all solution. Different assets serve different purposes. A video highlighting your coaches might help convince a parent who has questions about your training curriculum. Testimonials might convince someone who’s comparing two local programs. Instructional videos keep current customers engaged — especially if in-person play is limited by a pandemic. You want to focus on your website, your social channels, and an email marketing program.
Remember there’s no need to over complicate the task. A lot of this material is already at your disposal. Record a quick how-to video or a post-game interview, and make them centerpieces of simple blog posts. Offer game and season recaps that fit easy-to-reproduce templates. Survey existing customers about what they want to read or see so you’re not wasting your time on stuff that won’t leave an impression. Most important, don’t think you have to produce all of this yourself. Do you know a sibling or parent who is willing to create content? Hire them to help out.
2. Show it where they’ll see it.
Even the coolest content can get lost in the shuffle if it doesn’t appear where your intended audience is looking. Current customers can help you with this too. Ask parents and players which social media platforms they frequent most. That’s where you should target your new business. Meanwhile, regular emails and texts are surefire ways to get to existing customers.
3. Build a budget.
You need to do two quick calculations:
Step 1: Compute what’s known as your customer’s lifetime value, which means the gross profit you generate over a typical family’s entire time with your organization (averaging how long they usually stay active).
Step 2: Determine the percent of a typical customer’s lifetime value that you want to spend on marketing (Helpful hint: Ideally, that number should not exceed 20%. Whatever the number, keep it small enough so it won’t break the bank but big enough to have a chance to be effective.)
The number of new customers you want to acquire.
Your marketing budget!
4. Spruce up your digital look.
Until they get to know you and your organization personally, you are what people see. So you’ll want to elevate your online presence. No need to be super state-of-the-art. Simply adding pictures and videos to your social media accounts goes a long way. And as mentioned above, whatever else you do, make sure your website offers a sleek user experience, with snackable content and a smooth e-commerce experience.
5. Put it to the test.
Bid on keywords on search engines like Google and Bing to get in front of people when they’re looking for a program like yours. You can also deliver targeted “awareness” ads on both Facebook and Instagram featuring the content you’ve created. If you’re new to this, research “lookalike audiences” and “custom audiences” which will allow you to reach the right people. Both search ads and social ads should drive to your website.
Then, once someone has been on your website, you can sustain interest and move customers to transactions through paid retargeting ads (You know, the ones that follow you around after you look something up.) And you’ll want to track leads with something like Google Analytics, which is free and pretty straightforward to use.
If this last action item makes your head hurt, you might think about hiring a freelancer or digital agency to maintain your online presence. If you’ve already put in the effort to check off the other boxes in the above list, you’ll be in a great place, giving the pros a strong foundation and you a better sense of how to control the story you want to tell.
At LeagueApps, we go beyond registration, payments, and reporting to offer free professional development to youth sports organizers looking to sharpen their marketing skills and grow their businesses. Learn more here.