Try A Free Family Bowling Day!
Some centers, especially those that have had a well-run, organized, and supervised youth bowling program still benefit from “growing their own” bowlers and customers. But as with everything in this crazy world, so much has changed. Adults, families, and kids are jam-packed with many new activities that weren’t around in yesteryear. Then of course there’s the dastardly internet and social media as further distractions. Unfortunately, a 30-week commitment on Saturday mornings doesn’t fit much anymore, at least not to every bowling center or market.
A center I managed used to have (the three most used words in the bowling industry, “used to have”) so many youth bowlers it was insane! But over time things changed; different owners came in and didn’t accommodate the changes in consumer behavior with any new offerings. And just like that, ker-plop! no more youth leagues.
I hear this a lot, “Kids won’t get off their PlayStation, phones, or other devices to do anything else!” Hmmm, maybe we’re not offering them options they like! And I think now, more than it has been in the last 10 to 20 years, people — and yes, KIDS — are looking for more social things to do. I’m not talking about being social on Instagram or other social media outlets. Those may never go away, but I predict that time with others, being social is poised to make a comeback.
Years ago, we started doing Free Family Bowling Parties once a month on Saturday mornings from 9 a.m. to noon. It was simple; a family could sign up (they had to make a reservation) and they would get one free hour of bowling, shoes included.
During that time, we had a few of our coaches or staff available on the lanes to help with the basics like finding the right ball, learning to stay behind the black line, and, of course, not throwing the ball overhanded — you know, the basics. The coaches even helped mom and dad, too. Of course, we played music and made it fun, but most importantly we captured data. Data is king and if you’re running promotions without capturing data, well, that’s another conversation.
We didn’t pressure anyone to join a 33-week sanctioned, certified, rule-mongered league. We just wanted them to enjoy themselves, and they all did. Many stayed and ate.
Sure, we had offerings for them to join, like a six-week Learn to Bowl Better league and adult-and-child programs. A big hit was our Mommy and Me Bumpers program that we ran weekday afternoons targeting the families with three- to four-year-old aged kids. Many of these kids were only in school for a half-day, and moms were looking for ways to get the kiddos tired out. We also offered this program in the summer and had even more teams then. This was an old, regurgitated program I ran back in the 1980s when I worked for BRC. Well, voila! We floored three adult-and-child leagues and two youth leagues, one for youngsters and one for middle school and high schoolers.
We took names, phone numbers, and emails. We sent mom and dad a thank you email with coupons for free or discounted bowling along with other flyers. We then called everyone that attended about a week after the program and asked if they got the coupons and if they saw the league flyers. We converted 30%-40% of them to league bowlers.
Along with social media posts and boosts and in-center flyers, we picked up 50 new bowlers. Now, none of these programs were longer than six to eight weeks. Here’s what happened: we kept rolling them over. Some graduated to our high school teams, some adults went back to league bowling, some bowled another session and are still bowling.
And naturally, some just said no or went back to playing “Call of Duty.”
The point here is:
- This was FREE
- This was EASY to do
- The staff must talk to people.
The result? We filled a need (getting a youth program started) and it was a product that the customer liked. Not what we as the operator wanted, which of course is a 48-week youth league. But what the customer was looking for — a social thing to do, some fun, maybe a little exercise, and not a long commitment.
If you would like some more detailed information or a flyer, contact me at [email protected] or give me a call at 402-253-4371
Now is a great time to be in this industry. We have to think harder, and, yes, work harder, but we are poised for a comeback. And I would love to see all of you experience the success of that comeback with me.
Keep ‘em rolling!