The idea of marketing a bridge club is relatively new for many of us. We have been accustomed to people just turning up, and then typically playing regularly since it is so enjoyable.
Bridge players still tend to play regularly once they get to know the game, but sadly we can no longer count on people just turning up. Introducing bridge to new people has become critically important to the long-term future of our clubs, and a combination of bridge teaching and marketing is the best way we know to accomplish that.
Every clubs is different and every region is different so of course we acknowledge that “whatever works for you” is a valid principle. That said, we have learned more about what tends to work and what tends not to work. Here are a few tips from that learning.
Human contact works best. We respond well to recommendations from friends and to human stories. We respond badly to random advertisements, in a world where we are bombarded with advertising from dawn until dusk. What this means is that a leaflet passed on by a friend or neighbour is many times more effective than one pushed through the door. The further thought arising from this is that every member of a club can, in a quite way, help to promote it. So:
- More effective: leaflets or word of mouth recommendation from friends
- Less effective: pushing leaflets through the letterbox of 1000 local homes
Following on from this, try to emphasise the human stories in club publicity material. A quote from a member of the club who has recently learned bridge and enjoys it is worth more than any amount of quotes from celebrities or information about the game.
Similarly, press advertising in general we have found not very effective. The problem seems to be that despite large distribution numbers, press ads do not get much attention and of course are completely untargeted. Hyper-local publications are actually better as well as cheaper: a parish magazine or community newsletter rather than a city-wide or regional local newspaper. Editorial in the local press is much more effective, and free, if you can get it. Again, stories are the key. New premises? A good news story about growing popularity? Research about health benefits of bridge could be a hook for a story. Bridge on Coronation Street? Appoint a publicity officer for the club and keep a look out for stories.
- More effective: press editorial, hyper-local newsletters and magazines
- Less effective: press advertising in newspapers and wide circulation publications
Keep it local! Most of us do not like long journeys. If advertising on Facebook, stick to no more than a 5 mile radius from your club. Yes, there might be someone 15 miles away who will make the effort, but not many.
- More effective: your own town, suburb, housing estate or village
- Less effective: trying to broaden reach to everyone who might possibly be able to attend
Have a clear and reassuring call to action. Several human characteristics can work against it. We are all busy and fail to get round to things even that we feel are a good idea. And we are naturally a bit suspicious or worried about scams, unfriendliness, strangers and so on. So in our marketing it is essential to have a clear “what to do next” such as sending a message, or an email or calling a number, preferably with a deadline that must not be missed. “Bridge taster session on 1 December, free refreshments and your first lesson free” makes a nice offer complete with a date, for example.
- More effective: a clear call to action with a dated event and a special offer
- Less effective: “Come and visit us sometime” or a link to a club web site that has information on it somewhere about learning bridge
It is also important to think about the destination as well as the journey. We consistently see that bridge clubs which achieve a welcoming atmosphere and who set out to provide an enjoyable session as well as high standard of bridge find it easier to attract new members. Even details like the lighting in the car park makes a difference. We want our clubs to be places that people love to attend.
- More effective: A friendly atmosphere with thought given to every aspect of the session
- Less effective: Bridge but not much else to attract people
What strategies have you found effective? We would love to hear from you so let us know!