I hear from people a lot that they don’t sell out events. Parents in their area wait until the very last minute to register for something, which makes it difficult as the gym owner to decide whether you’ll have the number of students to even host a viable event. Over the past few years though, I’ve asked a lot of questions to these owners, and I’ve come up with a few fundamental reasons I believe they’re just not selling out their events.
- There is no registration deadline. When we plan an event, we set a registration deadline 3-5 days prior to the event. This allows us to determine a few days out if we’ll have the registrations we need to continue to host the event or if we’ll need to cancel (thereby giving parents who did register a courteous notification so they can make other plans). Why would you cancel rather than just host the event with a few kids you ask? We’ve realized over time that there’s a reputation at our gym for hosting amazing events. They’re affordable, well-organized and always a big hit. As a result, we’ve determined most events just can’t have the same quality with three children as they would with 15-20.
- You’re not marketing far enough out. When we plan events, we start putting them on our website as soon as we have a finalized date and details. That means sometimes I have events on my site that are three-to-four months away still. Just because they’re on my site doesn’t mean we start marketing those right away. You can reasonably only be successful marketing about two things at one time, so each week we set a primary and secondary marketing focus. Our current marketing focus is for an event six weeks away that has 13 registrations and can take up to 40. That event will likely be a primary or secondary marketing focus for the next several weeks until it sells out. Starting about six weeks out, we’ll post on our social media about three times per week. If you’re in the Next Gen Academy, make sure you check out the marketing system we’ve provided for you. The combination of early marketing combined with a registration deadline allows you, as the owner, to have a goal to work toward.
- You’ve never sold out an event before. I spoke to someone yesterday who said they had never sold out an event before. I asked how many slots they had open for their next clinic, and they said they don’t usually cap it. This method of “take as many athletes as we can right now” only helps you in the short term – and even then – sometimes it’s hurting you and you don’t realize it. If you can take 10 athletes per coach, and you have 11 athletes register, you’re actually less profitable than you were at 10. Athlete #11 will simply be a breakeven and pay for the second coach (or if your coaches are at higher rates, you may be losing money on that 11th athlete). Secondly, when we don’t set a cap, we can never have a goal to work toward. It gives us the feeling that we, in our marketing efforts, can never be fully satisfied with the number of registered participants. By not having a cap on an event, parents are also never seeing that big SOLD OUT banner on your event pages, thereby eliminating any FOMO (fear of missing out). FOMO is real – and we need to create that feeling when it comes to our events so we can have a better chance of selling them out in the future. So my recommendation: Set a reasonable limit of athletes for each of your events and stick to it!
- You’re not focused on events or seeing the value in them. If you’re a gym owner doing this solo, I’m certain you struggle to manage it all. Between staffing, finances, ever-changing rules on the mat, and trying to bring in new athletes, it can be hard. However, it’s important that you’re hosting events of some kind to generate leads for your gym. Even if you’re a gym that focuses primarily on all star (and that is O.K.!) you should be hosting events that match your branding in order to generate new leads for your teams. Not every parent will come in the gym and commit to $3,000 or more to join a team. However, they may be willing to pay $20 to attend an event and your gym and get to know you. By getting comfortable in your facility, they can get to know your coaches, your gym culture and your level of organization (parents are definitely looking for that!) If you’re hosting events because you see the big picture, but they’re not really where your passion lies, I get that. The reality then is that systems are more important for you than ever. Sometimes doing the things we really don’t feel like doing (such as taxes, bookkeeping, cleaning, etc.) are best completed when we have a system that tells us to do it.
- You don’t know what events will be successful. The reality for my gym is – not every event is successful. Just about every event sells out, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t take more work to sell it out than it was really worth. We’ve hosted events before that we thought were going to be a huge hit! Instead, we posted about the event daily; my staff walked through our parent lobby with an iPad inviting parents to register; we email marketed to current members and prospects; we posted flyers everywhere; we even called parents who have done events with us in the past. Yes – those events sold out too, but that doesn’t mean I would ever host them again. The after action report for every event asks, “How easily did this event sell out?” We do that because we need to notate if we had to push hard (using consistent effort and out-of-the box thinking) or if we were able to post it a few times and watch the registrations come in. Obviously, I’m a fan of the latter. It is cheaper to host an event that fills itself. However, the first couple times you host a particular event, it may just take a little work to get it filled. If you’ve fixed the issues discussed in 1-4 and you’ve got a solid marketing checklist that is consistent and has worked well in the past – then this event may be one you don’t wish to host again.
Like I said earlier – we sell out just about every event in my gym. Some take a lot more work than others, and some were simply a matter of training parents and staff how to manage event marketing and registrations in a way that creates FOMO. For more information on the Next Generation Gym Owners Academy, such as our marketing checklist and issues of Impact 3, visit https://nextgenowners.com/membership.