Sports clubs in the UK consistently identify financial performance as one of the biggest challenges. They are faced with a rapidly changing landscape. On the one hand, average membership numbers have risen in the last few years, on the other, so have operational and commercial challenges. (You can read more on the state of the UK Sports clubs industry here).
CHANGING CONSUMER HABITS:
– More and more sports clubs’ members of any stripe, favour membership flexibility and turn away from monthly or yearly memberships and contracts, in favour of “pay as you go” options. Or at the very least, the possibility of cancelling their contract without notice (see the rise of low-cost gyms). You can read our related blog here.
– That trend in its extreme form takes the shape of “pop up” sports events. A growing number of sportsmen and women enjoy the freedom of just turning up to one of these sports / social events, organised with little notice, and often times in some way or another with a strong tie with the local community. Simply Google “Pop up sports” and you will see dozens of links about meet ups in the park, open air yoga, charity related events, etc.
These trends make it gradually harder for traditional clubs to attract, AND retain members.
GROWING OPERATIONAL CHALLENGES
Finally, sports clubs’ owners also face growing operational challenges in this moving landscape. Many are aware that they need to market new services, differently but struggle to find the time to. Among the most commonly cited extra difficulties are:
- A growing legal requirement in terms of data collection.
- A frequent lack of visibility over key metrics of their club: Facilities utilisation, % of memberships non-renewed (and why) etc.
- A growing difficulty hiring and retaining enough volunteers, staff and officials.
- A growing sense of time needed to do admin, as opposed to more value-creating tasks (BD, Marketing, securing facilities, interviewing staff) or community building ones (organising events, partaking in sports in order to keep fingers on the pulse of the community, etc.)
SO HOW CAN YOU ADAPT?
Successful club owners find ways to a) create new services (social events, equipment sales, local sponsors, etc.), b) sign up more new members, c) retain members for longer on average, d) employ more / better volunteers that their competitors, e) simplify their legal obligations by passing on part of the work to their members during self-registration, f) simplify their administrative tasks by unifying payments and memberships management on the same system, ideally one that also doubles up as a community management tool.
In concrete terms:
- The first thing they do is to find a way to get more work done, faster and ideally automating what can be, so that their processes are also less prone to human error. They have more time to dedicate to value-creating work.
o Having a unified system that streamlines payments, memberships tracking, membership auto-renewals, as well as events management allows them to do more, better, and liberates them for the more creative side of their business. It also allows them one-click payment collection and tracking, one-click visibility over the core metrics of their club usage and members. Makesweat.com has been natively designed to address all of these issues (and provide further features) www.makesweat.com
- Having a holistic club management system also makes it much easier to develop a vibrant community around the club (if it allows for user interaction / events planning / etc. of course). The word community is often thrown around but it remains a KEY asset for any club that managed to build a real, vibrant one. A wider social reach cuts costs and timeframes when it comes to recruitment. Vetted by the community, candidates are usually of a better fit for the club.
- That same community building is also a great asset to acquire and retain members. Buoyed by a vibrant, active online community, members strike genuine friendships and relations more easily, and stay much longer on average. Some clubs use FaceBook which is useful to a point. It still needs to be manually animated, fed links and pictures. Also many members are not on FB, or not keen on sharing information across an entire group. The club management system solves that block by providing a safe and relevant space where members who share a hobby can share rich, personable or technical information on an online platform, and will in time organise offline events, at pubs, at galas, etc. This is the single biggest predictor of average membership duration extension.
This is another native benefit built in Makesweat.com