Starting a tennis club may seem like a daunting, even overwhelming prospect. But, if you’ve got the passion, the drive, and the capital to turn your tennis club dream into reality, it is a goal that is definitely within your reach. To prevent your dream from devolving into a nightmare, however, you need to establish a game plan and then work it to the letter. 

In this article, we will cover every step you need to progress through to get to the grand opening of your brand-new tennis club.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • Feasibility study
  • Tennis market overview
  • Face-to-face questionnaire
  • Large scale survey
  • Existing market
  • Location
  • Assessing your expenses and revenue
  • Moving ahead
  • Building your club
  • Hiring staff
  • How much to charge
  • Marketing your tennis club
  • Put yourself in the customer’s shoes
  • Joint venture marketing
  • Mailbox drop
  • Social media marketing

Feasibility Study

Before you invest a whole lot of time and money into your tennis club project, you had better find out if there is a need for it. To do this you should prepare a survey for the community where you intend to locate the business. You will want to get feedback from a broad cross-section of people within a 5-mile radius of your proposed tennis club location.

Prior to asking people questions, step back and take a broader look at the tennis market. If you’re planning to open your own club, you are obviously hooked into the tennis community. What have you noticed about tennis club participation post-Covid that makes you think that a new club will be successful? Talk to tennis club owners, managers, and members to sound them out on where the market is heading. 

Here’s a general overview of some key market statistics:

Tennis Market Overview

Tennis club market size$181 b
Average starting costs$227 k
Gross margins43%
Average time to build270 days

Face-to-Face Questionnaire

Begin with a face-to-face questionnaire of between 50 and 100 people. You can do this down at the local mall (just get management permission first). Be sure to talk to people across all age ranges and genders. 

Here are some questions to ask in your face-to-face questionnaire:

  1. Do you play tennis?
  2. If so, how often do you play?
  3. How many people do you know who are regular tennis players?
  4. Do you think there is a need for a new tennis club in our community? (why / why not?)
  5. Would you consider joining a new tennis club in our community?
  6. How much would be considered to be a fair membership fee (give options)?
  7. Do you prefer to play on indoor or outcourts
  8. Please rank these tennis court surfaces in order of your preference:
  • Asphalt
  • Concrete
  • Artificial clay
  • Grass
  1. Please rank these aspects in order of importance to you:
  • Socialization and the creation of a community hub
  • Closeness to your home
  • Online reservation ability
  • Ease of access
  • Great court conditions
  • Excellent facilities
  • Premium coaching
  • Price

From your survey results you should get a good idea of how many potential members you have from your survey sample. Extrapolate that out to the population within a 5-mile radius to give you a good idea of the potential market. 

Let’s say you get 8 people out of 50 who indicate that they would consider joining and 15000 people who live within five miles of your proposed location. Divide 15000 by 50 to get 300. Now multiply 8 x 300 to get a potential market of 2,400 people. 

Large-Scale Survey 

If your small-scale survey produces promising results, then you should undertake a larger survey. It should involve several thousand people and be conducted through direct mail or email. You may wish to employ the services of a market research consultant to help with this. The questions will be quite similar to the previous survey. 

The results of this survey will give you a more accurate picture of your potential market. 

Existing Market

Having established that people will actually support your venture, you now need to dig down on the existing market. Here are some questions you will need to answer:

  • How many existing tennis clubs are there in your town or city? 
  • What facilities do they offer? 
  • How many courts do they have and how well-maintained are they? 
  • Does the facility have a restaurant or cafe? 
  • Do they have both indoor and outdoor courts? If so, in what ratio?
  • What about a fitness center? 
  • What types of court surfaces do they have?
  • What prices do they charge?

You will also need to analyze the player-to-court ratio. A standard rule of thumb is that the ratio of courts to the number of potential tennis players in a community should be 1:250. 

Let’s say that there are 30000 tennis players in a city and there are 70 existing courts. That gives us a ratio of 429 people to every court. That is nearly double the ideal ratio of 1:250. That is an indication that there is a demand for a new tennis club in that city. 

When you are calculating this ratio, be sure to include all the free tennis courts that are in public parks and at schools. 

Ideally, you should provide both indoor and outdoor court facilities. This will allow your members to play year-round, regardless of the weather conditions. 

Location

The location of your tennis club is a critical consideration. It needs to be as accessible as possible to the vast majority of your members. Ideally, your members should not have to drive for more than 15 minutes to get to you. 

Of course, the area will have to be spacious, with as much existing infrastructure as possible. So, if it’s already got changing rooms, showers, and locker facilities that’s a big bonus. It should also have ample parking. You should plan for a minimum of six outdoor courts and two indoor courts. 

Assess your Expenses & Revenue

At this stage, you need to drill down on the types of expenses you are going to face in setting up your tennis club. 

Here’s a rundown of the expenses you can expect:

  • Club management
  • Reception (set up and staffing)
  • Program instruction
  • Coach salaries
  • Health insurance
  • Electricity bill
  • Water bill
  • Equipment maintenance
  • Marketing
  • Rental 

Let’s now balances that against the anticipated income that you will be bringing in:

  • Initiation fees for new members
  • Monthly fees
  • Daily court fees
  • Access card fees
  • Youth classes
  • Adult classes
  • Tournament hosting
  • Special events
  • Food and beverage sales
  • Retail store sales

Establish your fees based on an analysis of the competition. Set a rate that achieves a balance between good value and the ability to make a profit. 

Moving Ahead

If the results of your feasibility study are all positive, you are in a position to move forward with the project. The first thing you should now do is to secure your location. This will obviously require funding. 

Your first major financial decision is to decide whether you will be buying the land outright or leasing. If you decide to lease, here are some pointers that you may find useful:

  •  Always get legal counsel from a specialist with knowledge in commercial lease negotiations. 
  • Leases are typically negotiable; don’t just accept the figure on paper
  • Prepare yourself before entering into negotiations. Make sure you comprehend everything included in the lease agreement.
  • Be extremely explicit about the terms of your lease. Spell out what you require and know exactly what is expected of you.
  • Make sure every offer you make is additionally subject to council approval.
  • Make sure that you have covered all of the incidentals that you are being asked to pay to ensure that the total costs will meet your budget. Incidental costs may include the requirement to pay a rental deposit.
  • Know your leasing options. The expenses that are covered can differ greatly. For instance, while signing a gross rent lease, you pay a single sum that includes both the basic rent and all other costs. These could consist of costs for insurance, property taxes, upkeep, repairs, and any other recurring costs for shared places. In a net leasing situation, you consent to paying the incidental expenses directly as they occur.

Most people will not have the financial backing to buy the land outright. More than likely you will have to secure funding from lenders. For that, you will need a good business plan. Here’s an overview of what your business plan needs to include …

  • Introduction 
  • Executive Summary that provides an elevator pitch of the business concept, performance measures, and your financial requirements.
  • Vision / Mission Statement / Business Milestones
  • Market Analysis – overview, trends, target market, customer profiles
  • Competitive Analysis – breakdown of competitors, analysis, challenges, risks, and opportunities
  • Strategic Action Plan
  • Service and Product Description 
  • Marketing – branding/marketing strategy
  • Operations – staffing plan / organizational plan / facilities and programming plan 
  • Financials – Start Up Costs / Start Up Balance Sheet / Profit-Loss Forecast / Cash Flow Projection / Break Even Analysis / Balance Sheet

You can find a lot of useful guidance on how to write your business plan through the Small Business Association website. 

Building Your Club

Having secured your funding, you are no in a position to start building your dream. The first step is to install the tennis courts. You should budget around $30,000 for every court. You will then need to install the bathroom facilities, changing rooms, alleys, equipment, and extra facilities such as a restaurant, cafe, fitness center, and conference room.

Hiring Staff

For a club with eight courts, you will want to hire eight coaches. They should be well qualified, engaging, and have a passion for helping other people. Your coaches should also have the ability to relate well to all age groups, including young children. You will also need to have a genial receptionist who is a great organizer. 

How Much to Charge?

In setting your court fees you want to find a place in the market that is neither too low nor too high. To be able to find that number it will help to get a reading on the fees charged across the United States. 

An analysis of more than 50 tennis clubs across the country provides the following averages:

  • The average initiation fee is $1000.
  • The average monthly fee is $161.

Some clubs will include food and beverages in these fees while others require that you pay separately for food and drinks. 27% of clubs surveyed did not charge any initiation fee at all, while 11% set that fee at higher than $10,000. 

Nearly all clubs provided substantial discounts for a family initiation fee. The majority (37.8%) had a family initiation fee of between $1000-$4999.

When it came to monthly dues, just under a quarter charged less than a hundred dollars per individual. Only 2.7% of clubs charged more than $500 per month. [1]

Marketing Your Tennis Club

While the construction workers are busy building your tennis courts and facilities, you need to turn your attention to marketing. Your mission needs to be to let everyone in your community know that you exist and build excitement and energy for your grand opening. Here’s how to do it:

Put Yourself in the Customer’s Shoes

In order to draw in new members, you need to know what they want and meet that need. Here’s an overview of the main wants of tennis club members, based on years of industry experience:

  • An easy experience
  • Flexibility
  • Information
  • Self-service
  • Options

Here is what you should be offering your members to meet their needs:

  • Memberships
  • Court contracts
  • Lesson programs
  • Extra activities

Here are six steps to bridge the gap between what the customer wants and what you offer:

  1. The Trial

You need to make it super easy for the customer to get to know you and develop trust in you. You can offer an intro session for free or charge them a little. In this session provide them with everything they need, including a racquet and give them some specific instruction at their level to improve their play. They could be a beginner or an intermediate-level player. But if they walk away a better player because of what you have taught them in that short time, you will have made a huge impression on them.

  1. Offer Options

After the trial lesson, rather than a single membership deal, provide options. Allow them to choose between court rental, lessons, a program or membership. You want their choice to be this or that, not yes or no. 

  1. Add Value

Once the person has made their choice about what type of membership they will take up, add value by offering extra activities. These could include lessons, clinics, programs and social activities

  1. Upsell

When you expose people to all sorts of different activities as a bonus, you will get an upsell. They may choose to take lessons or become a member so they can play more and pay less.

  1. Reward

You should now offer a reward to your new member if they bring in a friend for a trial lesson. The discount may be in the form of a discount or a few free coaching lessons. Make the reared as big as you can so that the new member gets excited and wants to continue bringing in new customers.

Joint Venture Marketing

It is crucial that you continue to have a strong physical marketing presence even though a significant percentage of your marketing efforts will be directed toward online marketing. 

Networking and joint ventures are the two most effective offline marketing strategies. You will have a list of people in your neighborhood with whom you have built relationships. You need to get in touch with a number of these people each day as part of your marketing strategy. Ask them for help in getting the word out there. 

Approach complementary businesses with a proposal for a joint venture marketing arrangement. This is where you leverage off the other businesses’ clientele to market your new tennis club. In turn, you offer their members a terrific introductory offer. 

Once you are in front of the manager of the complementary business, ask for their help by promoting your new club to their email list, placing flyers on the counter, and putting posters on the window. Even better, see if you can put a small tennis display in a central location of their shop. Run a competition for 6 month’s free membership and place the entry box in the middle of the display. 

Don’t assume that the manager won’t go for this – in my experience, the vast majority of them are prepared to go the extra mile to help a new local business, so long as it’s not a direct competitor – you will never know if you don’t ask. 

Mail Box Drop

You shouldn’t disregard direct marketing, as it is a tried-and-true offline marketing strategy. Direct mail is a powerful marketing technique when used with other marketing strategies. Research tells us that the average person needs to see a message an average of seven times before they will take action. Direct mail marketing needs to be part of that process. 

An individual direct mail piece won’t be particularly effective. However, when combined with the other layers of promotion, it can be highly powerful. A direct mail campaign must be run for at least 90 days in order to be successful. Three distinct messages should be sent out over that period.

Prior to your grand opening, you should distribute 5000 mailers each month for three months. A QR code pointing to your website should be included in mailers.

Each of the three mailers should concentrate on the following:

  • Mailer #1 should introduce the new tennis club.
  • Mailer #2 should offer a free introductory coupon that can be downloaded from the website.
  • Mailer #3 should reinforce mailer #2’s message and add an element of FOMO.

You should also run a radio campaign alongside your direct mail campaign. I also recommend doing presentations at local schools, clubs, and businesses. 

Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing should form a vibrant part of your pre-opening marketing campaign. The first thing you need is a professional website. Your website should …

  • Be easy to navigate on both a PC and a phone
  • Be exciting and vibrant wirth some great action tennis shots
  • Not be too tech heavy or it will take too long to load
  • Include an FAQ section
  • Have an attached blog that shows you and your team as real person and documents your journey

Your special marketing efforts should be built around Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Be sure to post lots of action shots and videos of the construction process as the club takes shape.

Facebook allows for very targeted marketing. Research your target market to find out what their pain points are. Then create 30 second ads to address those pain points and show how your new club will provide the solution. 

The 40/40/20 rule should be followed while running a Facebook advertising campaign. 40% of the campaign’s success will depend on your ability to comprehend your market, identify their issues, and communicate with them effectively. With Facebook’s targeting features, you can achieve this to a degree that was previously unthinkable.

40% of your success is determined by your offer. It must be interesting and relevant to the audience for them to be moved to action.

The remaining 20% of your success is determined by your text and originality. The words you use, the images and videos you provide, and every other element of your advertisement all contribute to this. 

You should also establish a presence on Yelp. Yelp allows people in your community to connect with local businesses. Yelp offers free business accounts so that businesses can update business information, create deals (in a Groupon-like format), message customers, view business trends, and track traffic and reviews. 

Summary

Starting your own tennis club doesn’t have to remain a pipe dream. The first step, though, is to make sure that there is a need for your service and that there is enough of a customer base to support a profitable business. To establish that, you need to undertake a feasibility study that involves market analysis, surveys, and a study of the existing businesses and what they offer. 

Having established that there is a need for a new tennis club in your territory, you next need to drill down on your location, work out your expenses and revenue and create your business plan. Use it to help you secure funding and then you are ready to start lifting earth and creating your dream. While that’s taking place, get out in the community and begin marketing to let everyone know you exist. Your marketing should be a combination of online and offline, including direct mail, radio, and Facebook ads. Do all of this and you will build up huge momentum for the grand opening of your new tennis club. 

References

[1] Survey courtesy of https://www.tennispassionate.com/tennis-clubs-cost/

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