One of the greatest gifts about working in the spirit industry is that we have the opportunity to touch lives. We hear you as gym owners and coaches reflect that sentiment to us every day in our work. We as a cheerleading community love what we do! But the truth is, if we don’t run our gyms like a true business that needs to be profitable, we will lose the opportunity to help shape so many lives.
In order to be successful in any business, you must be the master of 3 things: increasing revenue, decreasing expenses and being quickly adaptable.
So today, we’re going to give you some resources to help you do all of that. If you own a gym or manage a program, this is part one of two—giving you free and low-cost systems, policies and technology to help you earn more, save more and free up your time and resources to keep doing what you love.
ELance & ODesk: Welcome to your outsourcing heaven! If your gym owner to-do list is higher than the kick double baskets, it’s time to get some help in the right areas. Elance and Odesk both offer per-project and per-hour contractors to help you with almost any task you can imagine. Even if you have strong admin staff up front, there are some tasks that truly are better off being outsourced simply to protect your time and resources. That is, your time is better spent in the gym coaching, or networking, or building relationships with athletes, families or prospects than it is trying to enter names into a spreadsheet or figure out how to use Photoshop so you can make an image for your next flyer. Evaluate your to-do list and delegate where you can to free up your resources. You’ll be surprised at how inexpensively you can get so much work done without hiring an employee.
Fiverr: You’ll be amazed at what you can outsource for just $5! Need a quick logo? What about a banner for your fan page? Fiverr is a fun resource where you’ll find all kinds of helpful (and sometimes unusual) jobs available for contract at just $5 each. Use it for your smaller, less critical jobs that do not go to the resource above.
MailChimp: If you are still managing your mailing list via Gmail or any other dated database type system, you will love this resource. MailChimp is a free web-based platform that allows you to collect and manage your mailing list via Opt-In forms, auto-responders, broadcasts and more. If you don’t know those terms yet, you should. You can learn more about them and why you absolutely need them for your marketing in a post we wrote for you here. While there are other mid-level and higher priced platforms with more advanced features to help you manage your prospects and mailing lists, MailChimp is the reliable free one. And if you are just getting started, it’s all you need. (Emphasis on “need.”) MailChimp also plugs in nicely to leading class management software, which we will cover in part II of this article.
Wufoo: How will you give your gym family what they want, if you don’t actually know what they want? The answer is to survey them with 1-4 simple questions, with the last one being open-ended so they can say what they want without selecting from a drop-down list. Make your survey name-optional so they can remain anonymous if they prefer. Teach them via regular interaction that you are actually listening and taking action based on their survey results, so they are actually moved to respond. Over time, you’ll get great interaction here. It will help you protect your time and money by guiding you as a gym owner or coach in what programs to deliver, and more importantly, what not to deliver. It will also make for a culture that says your gym actually listens to the people who pay them and trust them with their children. Your free resource for surveys: Wufoo.com. There are fee-based plans, but the free plan is sufficient for most gyms.
Social Media Must-Haves for Cheer Gyms
We teach entire classes on this and it’s worthy of much more than a paragraph here. But for now, here are the absolute minimum basics for your gym’s social media marketing:
Every gym should have a Social Media Policy and a Defined Content Management Team. Best practice is to have regular meetings reviewing this policy and responsibilities with staff, athletes and parents. Everyone in the gym should know the policies and sign off on them. Anything less is a liability to your brand and the gym culture you work so hard to build. It can even be dangerous to your athletes. Remember, the Internet is permanent.
Talkwalker: This is a fantastic free and easy resource to help you monitor your online reputation in real time via email or in an RSS feed reader. With all businesses, including yours, monitoring your online reputation is mandatory. Be aware of what is being said about you, your staff, your coaches, athletes and your competition. The speed at which your reputation grows or crashes depends on it. Note: In past, we have recommended Google Alerts as a monitor, but it has lately proven unreliable and we no longer advise using it. Talkwalker is a strong alternative for all things being said about you on the web.
Another free and reputable monitor is Social Mention. It monitors your key phrases across the web and social media channels, and also delivers a sentiment analysis across social media mentions and hashtag tracking. #SuperCool
Hootsuite: We use Hootsuite every day to protect us from the time-suck that social media can be. It allows you to schedule tweets and posts for future release, organize feeds so you can see what matters without distraction, save drafts for multiple posts over time and plenty more. There are other similar platforms out there, but Hootsuite delivers all the features you need. Plus, it is free and easy, and offers an inexpensive upgrade to Pro version if you want to divide social media tasks amongst staff. The only caution we have for any of these platforms is to be careful with duplicate posts across accounts and remember to keep it socially engaging. (Translation: do not post the exact same content across your Twitter and Facebook feed all the time.) Socially engaging means you still take the time to interact with your fans and followers in real time. Scheduling is convenient, but it is not a replacement for real engagement and response to real people behind real accounts.
Coach’s Eye: This handy app for your iPad, iPhone or Android takes coaching for your visual learners to a whole new level. Simply record video of the skill, and play back for them to watch and learn with features like slow motion, side-by-side comparisons of efforts to show progressions, ability to draw lines, arrows and circles to drive home what you want your athletes to focus on and much more. You can even record yourself giving instruction to the athlete while you play the video and draw on it and then email the recorded lesson to athletes or parents. As a coach, this is one more way to help you speed up learning curves and over-deliver for your teams.
TimeTrade: Here’s the truth: Your coaches should not have to give out their personal cell numbers in order for athletes to schedule private sessions. Nor should athletes or parents have to call or drive to the gym to find an appointment, only for a staff member to question if the coach is available or not. Introducing your online private session scheduler, TimeTrade. TimeTrade is a low cost platform that allows you to show available times to anyone wanting to schedule a session with you, and they simply sign themselves up in one of the windows you’ve specified. Features like automatic reminders, calendar syncs and invites to sign up make it easy. You can even create custom buttons for your website inviting athletes to “Click Here to Schedule with Coach John.” This is the system we use to schedule all of our consulting sessions and it saves us tons of money on the administration side without sacrificing any customer care. It is very user-friendly.
There are more resources we want to share with you, so join us next Monday at CheerProfessional next time for part two of this article. We’ll share more on organizing your staff systems, world-class parent communications and maximizing marketing dollars with easy tools. We encourage your comments and questions below.
As always…we’re cheering you on,
Aly & Andrea
Identical twins Aly Calvo and Andrea Kulberg, M.Ed are leadership development experts and consultants for the cheerleading industry. They are former University of Texas cheerleaders, and former NCA Staff. Andrea is one of the founding partners of a major international event producer, served as the International Representative for USASF Board of Directors and is in the USASF Hall of Fame. Aly and Andrea together have been named among the best business coaches in the country and among the “Top 50 Women to Follow on Twitter.” Now, they help coaches, gym owners and parents have extraordinary experiences within the cheerleading community via their online training, mentorship programs, live events and competitions. For more information about Aly & Andrea, click here or find them on Facebook or Twitter. To request a free consultation for your gym, click here.