The Change Initiative: Investing in a Strategic Plan for Growth

Imagine what a “nonrevenue” sport like wrestling could do if all coaches were on the same page in their pursuit to grow their program and the sport.  From a practical standpoint, could you imagine the improvement in consumer interest if all coaches were fully committed to marketing their program on a regular basis?  I have spent a lot of time thinking about it and I am truly convinced that a single sport could completely transform their outlook (popularity and visibility) if they could achieve this synergy.  The major challenge is that it is extremely difficult to get these competitive individuals to work towards a common goal.  And once you get them on one page, it is even harder to encourage a sustained effort over an extended period time.  However, I think we could all agree that “nonrevenue” sports such as wrestling would be in amazing shape if a majority of coaches would make a firm commitment to intentionally growing their program the right way each day.  For those of you who are reading this blog, it is our job to start initiating change by incorporating the right approach in programs.  For those of you who are on board, I am going to dedicate this entry to developing a strategic outline for successful marketing.

During the past month, we have discussed a variety of different topics that are necessary for coaches who are interested in enhancing their marketing efforts.  While each area it extremely important, I believe that there is another key activity that coaches need to embrace before they take another step forward.  This step relates to creating a strategic outline for your overall marketing plan.  With a small investment of your time, you can easily create a structure that will allow you and your staff to be highly efficient with your efforts.  I am going to make this simple and provide you with the five steps that I believe that each coaching staff should take to guide their marketing initiatives.

1. Identify Individual Goals for Marketing: Most coaches would agree that they have annual goals for their team, and that they would prefer that each of their student-athletes establish goals that correspond with these outcomes.  If you were to ask them why they invest time in this endeavor, I would be willing to bet that they would explain that it is necessary because it provides direction for their team.  More specifically, it is these goals that help coaches and student-athletes to stay on task (and focused) when things get difficult.  Well, this same philosophy exists in the field of marketing.  If you want to realize truly meaningful results in marketing, then you and your staff must identify the individual goals that you hope to realize through your efforts.  However, be aware that these have to be meaningful and specific for them to help you stay on task.  For highly motivated coaches, you can even prioritize each of these goals so you know where to spend most of your time when engaging in marketing activities.

Action Item: Schedule a meeting with your staff and actively discuss the key things that you want to accomplish through marketing during the next year.  Once you have these goals in place, then move on to the next step in this entry.

2. List Primary Target Market Groups: With your goals in place, it is important that you consider which specific groups you will target in your marketing efforts.  In some ways, the consideration of these groups may even motivate you to revisit some of your goals established in the previous step.  With that being said, understand that the identification of key target markets is one of the critical steps in marketing.  When you do this effectively, you provide yourself with direct targets that you need to consider when crafting messages to build your brand.  Some examples include the following: (1) athletic administrators, (2) college/high school students, (3) parents, (4) other student-athletes, and (5) faculty.  The target markets that you choose will depend on your goals and the environment surrounding you.  Once you identify these key groups, think about the ways that you can appeal to each of the segments.

Action Item: In your initial staff meeting, discuss the top five “target market” groups that you will attempt to reach during the upcoming year.  Brainstorm ideas for how you can actively engage each group.

3. Consider Essential Brand Areas: Now that your goals and key target markets are in place, it is time to consider the key program areas that help make up your brand.  As discussed in a previous entry on “Key Target Markets,” there are several elements that you need to consider when attempting to build your brand image.  For example, when positioning your product for administrators, you need to focus heavily on strategies to enhance areas such as academics, conduct, and community service outreach.  Once you put together a structure that encourages excellence in these areas, then be sure to consider how you can promote these to administrators.  Be sure to take these steps for each individual target market that is important to your program.

Action Item: In your meeting, discuss what you want each of your target markets to think when they hear your program’s name.  It is important that you move beyond the traditional “winning” and “athletic success” in this stage.  While they are clearly important, there are other program areas that you need to build and promote to encourage maximize interest in your product.  Be aware that specificity at this stage will pay big dividends for your program down the road.  When you know what you want your brand to encompass, it is far easier to be intentional (and effective) in your marketing efforts.

4. Discuss Staff Member’s Role in Branding Building: It is absolutely critical that coaches (head and assistants) understand that they are a major part of the program’s brand.  In fact, they are a central element because they set the tone for what their brand will be through strategic planning and modeling.  In addition, their day-to-day actions with key target markets directly influence the messages being sent about the program.  This is something that coaching staffs should take very seriously in their strategic marketing planning.

Action Item: Discuss what each staff member can do on a daily basis to build the brand of the program the right way.  Have each staff member commit to doing something unique that will improve interactions with key target markets.

5. Assess Current Brand Strength:  This is a step that many individuals are nervous about taking.  I guess you could say that this is because you might get feedback that you do not want to hear.  However, to reach your full potential in marketing, you must know what current key target market groups honestly think about your program.  If it is bad, then strive to make it better immediately.  If it is good, then strive to make it the best in your entire athletic department.  

Action Item: Sit down and talk to key individuals about your program.  If you have an environment that is conducive to honesty, you can start with your student-athletes and staff members to accurately identify the program areas you are emphasizing.  As you branch out, you can attempt to get feedback from individuals in your key target market groups.

Consider the Potential…

Change starts one program at a time.  When you embrace each of these steps, you have given your program the opportunity to grow at the grassroots level.  This in itself is something worth pursuing on a daily basis.  However, also consider that your involvement has the potential to contribute to your individual sport (e.g., wrestling) in the future.  If this is something that you feel is worthwhile, then please pass this on to other coaches right away.  We have the potential to make a difference through our actions.


About ELSMarketing

ELSM is a company that specializes in the development and implementation of innovative marketing plans for sport organizations, businesses, and programs. By focusing on the client’s goals and expectations, we strive to develop strategies that will build the brand of the entity in a way that will ensure future success. The bottom line is that we are committed to working with entities who are looking to take themselves to the next level from a marketing standpoint. While there are a variety of strategies that we implement to achieve this, it starts with the values we have in place for our company. Here at ELSM, “Innovation is the Expectation!”
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2 Responses to The Change Initiative: Investing in a Strategic Plan for Growth

  1. Jim Harshaw says:

    Great post. The “Action Items” make this a practical read and a valuable use of my time. Read then take action. Thanks Coyte!

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