By Melanie de Vries, DC of Cedar Ridge Pony Club and Member of the USPC Marketing Committee
I had the pleasure of attending the “Grow Your Center/Club Workshop” at this year’s annual USPC conference. We had a great panel of club and center leaders who shared information about the successful activities they have used to attract new members and grow their clubs and businesses.
The session was hosted by Shelley Mann, USPC’s Marketing & Communications Director. She started out the session giving a quick overview of all the marketing materials currently available on the USPC website. I serve on the USPC Marketing Committee, and still have to be reminded about the great materials that are available. There is everything from tips on how to write a press release and set up a booth to event banners and handouts for new members. I highly encourage everyone to check it out under the Resources section of the USPC website (it is under forms, and then Promote Pony Club).
The first panelist, Heather, shared her approach for sharing Pony Club with potential members. She introduces it to parents as a structured 12-week program of mounted and unmounted instruction that ends with D2 testing. She has created a terrific handout (available on the USPC website) that clarifies the specific topics that will be taught (ranging from mounted lessons on making turns and jumping to unmounted lessons on horse handling, stable vices, horse parts and grooming). She based the structure in the Pony Club badge program, and gives out the badges as an incentive and reward.
It is a great format that really helps parents and children to understand what Pony Club is about, and also gives the kids a solid structure for a successful start in Pony Club. “I am finding that this really helps the parents appreciate what their children will learn as part of Pony Club in an easy, quick format, and gets both the parents and kids excited about joining,” she noted. She then creates a single payment structure for the program, so they understand the full cost, which includes all national, regional and club dues, a copy of the D manual, and fees for the program. She starts it at the beginning of the year, so it ties to our annual membership registration.
Ruthanna shared how her goal is ensuring that every kid riding at her facility becomes part of Pony Club, and how doing this has help make her business successful. A key part of this has been getting her members to share their enthusiasm about Pony Club throughout the area, and really building a Pony Club “brand”. They have done everything from passing out cookies at events and asking people if they want a “pony gram” to participating in parades,” she joked. She also encourages them to wear their shirts to school to show their Pony Club pride. Their tagline is “Be Part of the Herd”, and she believes that their enthusiasm and making Pony Club fun is central to growing her membership.
Ruthanna uses being part of Pony Club to distinguish herself from other barns in her area. When someone joins her pony club, she makes sure they get a welcome letter, rate sheet and policies with a schedule of lessons. She also encouraged facility owners to get an online scheduling system, which she believes gives her a more professional look than other facilities. All this information is also outlined on her website.
Jennifer shared all marketing activities she does to help grow their club. She actively gets out press releases and has created a local club brochure (available on the USPC website). She also orders copies of the past issues of the USPC magazine and uses them as hand-outs at events and with interested parents. She hosts Open Houses to showcase her facility and Pony Club, actively participates in the local Chamber of Commerce, and advertises in local media. “One of the things that has really been important for me is having a website,” she noted. “The great thing is you can get one hosted though USPC by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.” That said, she noted that it is important with all social media, including your website, to be careful not to give away personal information about our members, including their last names or addresses.