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How to attract new ‘customers’

In his Presidential Press, Bowls England president Deepak Tanna says: “Two ongoing themes for organisations in our post lockdown world are 1. How to attract new ‘customers’ and 2. How to market what they have to offer. I see and hear about great work being done across the country by bowls clubs who look outwards as custodians of publicly funded community facilities, rather than looking inwards as private members clubs. By adopting an outward looking customer mindset and focusing on the needs of our diverse local communities, clubs can generate extra income and awareness. I often hear of bowls clubs being used to give blood, as places to vote, venues for mother and toddlers groups, pilates and zumba classes, meetings and corporate hospitality and so on. If those members of the public who then enter our bowls clubs, many for the first time, feel the club is a welcoming place it may spark an interest in the sport which they never knew they had. Through a simple leaflet on how to play bowls, or an informal chat about the game we love, why wouldn’t some join? For me, I would love bowls clubs to become a place where people are ‘only a stranger once.’
This change to a ‘customer’ mindset applies to myself as much as the next person. When I started as president, I proudly announced I would increase the diversity in bowls given my Indian heritage. The interviewer at Radio Leicester asked me a simple question: ‘What had/will I do to increase diversity in bowls?’ I thought I answered it well BUT having listened back to the interview a number of times I am now not so sure.
Since taking office in February, it has been non-stop. The outdoor bowling season is just six months and like many, I want to play as much bowls as possible (with 30 Bowls England celebration games!). So, it was with great pleasure, on behalf of Bowls England, I attended a charity event at Houghton Regis BC in Dunstable to promote awareness of prostate cancer where I was honoured to meet a Luton Town footballing legend, Mick Harford. Still an inspirational figure and also, a natural bowler! I was also able to invite my local Hindu temple ‘Life After Fifty’ Group to come along to Knighton Victoria BC in Leicester to try bowls. The group loved playing and there was talk of joining a club.
In terms of my second theme ‘marketing,’ we now have one great advantage which those before us did not have – modern technology – where most people have a mobile ’phone in their pocket more powerful than the machines used to put the first person on the moon! Even I am now a regular user of Facebook, X, YouTube and Linkedin, having overcome my own fear to realise they are an incredible way for a minority sport such as bowls to have a ‘modern shop window on the world.’
I am blown away by the amount of live streaming of bowls there is, and how this will only grow. I am proud to say Bowls England, with the support of Aviva, is playing a leading part in this, by live streaming this year’s Aviva National Finals, with 66,000 hours of live bowls being watched! This is a great way to get bowls into homes that are unaware of the game, and hopefully some people will then want to try bowls at local clubs and attend the finals in person to experience the atmosphere of being there. In addition, did you know the Wrong Bias team, with bowls and IT guru Richie McKie, travel the country giving us top quality live streaming of both indoor and outdoor competitions, Happy Bowler from Australia is doing the same Down Under and the Short Mat Players Tour do the same for short mat bowls – an unbelievable step change for our sport in a short space of time, long may it continue!
I am looking forward to the WBT Scottish International Open, November 7-9. This will be shown live, giving players the chance to play in front of TV cameras in preparation for the World Indoor Bowls Championships in January, to be shown live on BBC TV. I urge you to continue supporting our great game by tuning in to the streams provided, so we can show the media how popular it truly is.”

Caption: From left: Mick Harford, Rollie Cawdell (Bedfordshire county president) and Deepak

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