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In the past, swim schools found a location with a high volume of age-appropriate children, set up shop and their classes soon filled up with children by default. In addition, to the catchment zone method schools have advertised in neighbouring school newsletters and local papers. Today, a wait and see approach with a bit of paid print advertising thrown in is not going to cut it. In the age of online media, swim schools need to get savvier and more creative with their advertising activities. Your customers are unlikely to be reading the local paper while watching their child’s after-school activity. Parents are more likely checking their Facebook or Instagram accounts for updates on friends, family and other interests. Your customers are online, so that is where your business needs to position itself.
Increased online activity is a global phenomenon; in February 2019 Hootsuite released the ‘Global State of Digital in 2019 Report’. This report provides valuable insights into the internet and social media activities worldwide, regional and country. In reviewing the report, some interesting trends were identified. A staggering 42% of the world’s population (aged 16-64) are active social media users on a mobile device. From January 2018 to January 2019 people using mobile phones to engage on social media has increased by 10% and the level mobile phones are used to browse the internet has overtaken computers and tablets. For more information on these trends see the blog ‘Social Media Users To Focus On’ presenting an infographic based on the highlights of the ‘Global State of Digital in 2019 Report’.1
It is essential to develop core values that accurately reflect what your business is all about. This is the marketing gold for use in promoting and building trust around your brand. If you have not come up with some strong core values reflecting the exceptional service you offer, then you may need to address this issue before any extensive marketing campaign is initiated. Don’t waste time and effort on trying to sell a mediocre service as no amount of marketing will help if what you are offering isn’t comparable with your competitors or better. Some example core values are:
Staff are an integral part of your core values and are your most powerful ambassadors for your products and services. Make certain that the staff you employ understand your core values and how you want your service to be perceived by your customers. Well trained staff are invaluable, from your reception to your highly skilled teachers. They play an essential role in promoting your brand, building trust and repeat business. If you train your staff to be good at their job, attentive to customers, provide service with a smile and uphold all your core values of your business, it will make marketing your business so much easier. In many cases, your staff will sell your services for you just by being good at their job.
Know what your competitors are doing well, and not so well. Use this information to your advantage. If your competitor runs a reward system, then you should offer that too, but remember yours needs to be better. Review what your competitors are saying about themselves and understand how they are perceived by their customers. Use this information to reference your service in a different way to your competitor and try to evoke an emotional response in customers by using a different tact. Be more engaging and relevant to your target consumers, and your business will more likely be their preferred choice.
Get your swim school noticed by providing a presentation on water safety at your local pre-school and primary schools. This approach targets the right audience and is a sure way to get your brand noticed as a trusted and respected service, who cares. Pre-schools and schools will love it, and it could save a life. If you don’t have much experience in this area, there is plenty of information online. I have selected a few well constructed Australian resources to help get you started…
Overall, it is easier and more financially rewarding for your business to invest in current customers rather than marketing to gain new ones. You know the saying ‘a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush’. Use this to your advantage and make it worth their while to invest in more of your services and products. Offering discounted rates for siblings will encourage parents to enrol more than one child at a time.
Your customers are your best marketing strategy. If your customers are happy with your services and products, then they are telling their friends. Word of mouth is still one of the strongest ways to promote your business. Nurture this by offering a ‘refer a friend’ program. For example, customers who refer somebody to your service are rewarded with a discount next term, a gift voucher, private lessons or a free product (e.g. swimsuit, expensive goggles).
Rewarding loyalty amongst your customers will improve overall customer retention and strengthen their perception and opinions about your business. Rewards don’t have to cost the earth, and there is a range of ways to thank your customers. Some options could be:
Be informative and inspirational. Show your personality. Showcase your business and your students; make sure you have permission to publish photos of people. Don’t be afraid to post content about your staff, business activities, a new blog, student and class activities, interesting articles for parents to read, and upcoming offers. Encourage parents to comment on your page, by asking them a relevant question. E.g. What are the best goggles? Who has found the best brand and why? You may have written a blog on goggles, and you could refer your followers to it after some comments are posted. Whenever posting on social media make sure your branding and colours are used, and a level of consistency is maintained across all platforms. Keeping things consistent will help your customers recognise your brand on different platforms in turn, building brand recognition and trust.
According to Wikipedia, ‘SEO is the process of affecting the online visibility of a website or webpage in a web search engine’s unpaid results, often referred to as ‘organic’ results. In general, the earlier, and more frequently a website appears in the search results list, the more visitors it will receive from the search engine's users'.2 In a nutshell, it is the art of crafting your web page product and service information with careful consideration of your potential customers’ web search preferences. You might be asking yourself well ‘how do you make your website more searchable to your potential customers’? SEO is a large and complex topic, for a closer look at what SEO is all about and some simple ways to increase your website’s Google ranking check out the blog ‘SEO In Its Simplest Form’.
Advertising can be very expensive, so you need to think carefully about how you spend your advertising budget. The most important aspect of any ad campaign is to adopt a quality improvement approach. These are often referred to as a PDSA cycle (Plan, Do, Study, Act). In relation to advertising, this would translate to plan your ad, post the ad, check its effectiveness and act on the results. Essentially this means to gather data based on your advertising efforts and base your advertising activities around what worked and what didn’t. Don’t just run a Facebook ad campaign because that is what you did last year. Make sure you have measured how successful it was and try to invest in campaigns with proven success. See the blog ‘Online Advertising Glossary Of Terms’ for a brief explanation of the types of paid ads available online.
Whatever you choose to do don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Spread your marketing dollars around different platforms so that you are testing as many opportunities as possible and repeating the most successful. Therefore, it is essential to have a plan, act on it, check it and then replicate only what worked. Use your customers and their loyalty to gain more customers. Don’t be afraid to do things differently and be adventurous with social media, but always respectful to your brand and business values. Lastly, only post content if you think it is worth reading/seeing, posting content for the sake of it won't win you any benefits.
Marketing & Sales – ThinkSmart Software