Today we're talking with Ben Frank from the hockey hotbed of Orange County, California!
You don't really think about Orange County, California as a hockey hotbed, but he's a fellow Canadian and is very involved in junior hockey development in California where they have a really great program.
We talked a little about where the people who join the programs come from and how, if they start early, people might stick with them for 10 years.
We discussed ways of stoking the fire, the front end of this, by exposing skating, (really the gateway to hockey) to the parents of three and four-year-old kids. That’s one of the biggest opportunities because the more those kids are exposed to hockey, skating, the hockey rink and the environment as a whole, the more it would be a natural progression for them to take an interest in hockey.
We talked about it as one of the ‘dig your well before you're thirsty’, strategies to know that today's three and four-year-olds are next year's five and six-year-olds. By going a little bit upstream and widening the pool of people that could be interested, we get more potential clients to choose from.
We had a lot of great conversation around this and some other strategies, breaking down his before, during, and after units.
You'll really enjoy this episode.
To find out more about the small group masterminds I'm doing in Orlando this fall, send me an email to email@example.com with Orlando in the subject and I'll send you all the details.
Want to be a guest on the show? Simply follow the 'Be a Guest' link on the left & I'll be in touch.
Download a free copy of the Breakthrough DNA book all about the 8 Profit Activators we talk about here on More Cheese, Less Whiskers...
Transcript - More Cheese Less Whiskers 058
Dean: Ben Frank.
Ben: Hi Dean, how you doing?
Dean: I am so good, how are you?
Ben: I'm awesome. Thank you so much for having me on. I'm a big fan of yours and Joe's and work and I'm excited to be on.
Dean: Awesome, I'm excited too. Where are you calling from?
Ben: Southern California, Orange County area.
Dean: Okay, perfect. Love it.
Ben: I'm actually originally from Toronto so, I'm not the expert you are today, but-
Dean: Oh really? Yeah, I just got home from Toronto last night. I was there for three weeks, almost a month actually.
Ben: I'm headed there to visit my parents in a couple weeks.
Dean: Awesome. That's the hockey connection I guess, right?
Dean: Well, explain to me everything that's going on. What are you doing where we can hatch some evil schemes today?
Ben: Okay, great. So my wife and I own a youth ice hockey club here in Southern California and it's for kids all the way from four or five years old up through 18. We have an agreement with an ownership of ice hockey rinks, they're about an hour and a half apart from each other. We don't own the rinks, but we are the exclusive club hockey program for both rinks. So the rinks runs their own recreational programs and adult leagues and public skating and things like that and then we run all the competitive hockey programming. And there's various levels. There's entry levels into it; kids that just love hockey and they want to get better and play more and a little more seriously, but they're still fairly knew, all the way up to elite player that are looking for college scholarships and traveling to the East Coast all the time. So we have kind of all different entry levels. Excuse me.
So our main things that we offer are those teams, the club teams, and then we also have a private training program for all of our coaches. We have two training facilities in each rink with a gym and also a skating treadmill and mini skating rink and things like that, a plastic rink in the facility. Our coaches also do private lessons with kids from within our club that want to get better at their skills and work on their game, and also for kids outside of our club that are in recreational programs or from other clubs or even adult players that want to work on their skills.
Dean: Wow, that's awesome. So you got a pretty fully immersion program?
Ben: Yeah. We have everything from someone who just kind of, they love hockey and they're just kind of starting and they want to become the best they can be, all the way to, like I said, kids that are working on getting scholarships and things at those levels. And our coaches, we have coaches that have played in the NHL and been drafted by the NHL and college and things. And we recently this year just also signed an agreement with the LA Kings to become the junior reign, which is, they have a minor league team that's close to, it's in Ontario, it's close to one of our rinks. So we became, in name, a junior program for them even though we still run the program ourselves, we'll work with them directly. So our kids will work their jerseys and name and they'll come and do promotions at their game and things like that, with us as well.
Dean: Oh, that's awesome. Very cool. So what's the opportunity that you have? Or the thing that you think would help the most here?
Ben: So some of our biggest challenges ... I've started, about six months ago, maybe less, I kind of fell upon, I love marketing podcasts and then found More Cheese, Less Whiskers Podcast and the Joy of Procrastination Podcast and the 10X Podcast, all these things that just fell down the rabbit hole and trying to catch up on four years of podcasts in hours a day.
Dean: That's awesome.
Ben: Yeah, it's been great. And I've started to realize that our marketing was just not good. We would just kind of do email blasts, just to our lists, of just sign ups coming out, tryouts coming out, that kind of thing. And I've started to identify more the different target markets. Obviously a five year old kid who loves hockey or wants to play more and become the best they can be is different than a 17 year old who's trying to get a college scholarship. So there's these different target markets. We're trying to change our marketing up.
And the biggest thing is we're actually very different, our club is very different than many of these sports clubs. We view ourselves as not just a hockey club. My wife and I and our staff are incredibly passionate about sports as being a critical component of kids' lives and what it can do for them for their life and beyond just ... Because we know that less than 1% are going to make the NHL. Or even less than 1% are even getting to get a college scholarship. And we want to impact their lives in a positive way beyond what might happen later on, if they decide to pursue that or if they have injuries or whatever we want them to be doctors, lawyers, business owners, all these things.
So the challenge we have too is, well, the challenge we've always had is once people are in our club, we have an incredibly high retention rate, success rate, over 90% retention, which is really high for hockey clubs because people jump around a lot. Kids get better, they become more confident, their parents tell us they do better school, all these positive benefits of the culture that we've created about what's important about their growth. And what we haven't done a good job of is communicating that to the market to getting people to understand what we do and how it's different and the value of it and to come in the right way. It's kind of ... The market is all kind of just, let's look what teams are in first place and we'll try out for those things kind of thing.
So there's two different types of people; there's people that already play on the competitive level that may not be educated about how to really set the kid up for long term success that we need to reach, and then there's people that might be considering playing hockey at a more serious level. And my challenge is trying to understand the market and the different conversations in their mind and how to reach them in a way that can help them, that we can get in front of them and get them involved in our programs. And generally once we do that, we do very well with that.
Dean: Perfect. So how does it work right now? How do you get business right now? What does your before unit look like?
Ben: Well, to be honest, we had the email blast about tryouts coming up.
Dean: Who do you send those email blasts to?
Ben: So we have a list. We do have a list of anyone that does things with us, we capture their information, and then we do have people, when they email in. It's mostly been in the past when people that have come to us because they found us on the league website and we're the closest rink or whatever, that kind of thing. Or people within our range. A lot of our customers are actually from, like the rinks, like I said, have their own recreational starter hockey programs and we help finance those. So that's been the easiest ways to grow players because they're already in our rinks, they already have a hockey club, they already play hockey, and then if they really like it, we're the next step for them. So we try to find them. And we actually haven't done the best job of even really connecting with them until recently we've started to do a better job. But a lot of our customers come from people that, like I said, have started in hockey and they're kind of ready for the next step and they're already local.
Dean: So those ones are just kind of organically finding the rink and getting involved on some level, not necessarily through you, but through the rink and getting into that hockey world and then you have that environment that you have information about your programs and stuff at the rinks? Or how do you get these email addresses?
Ben: So we do have information at the rink and we have some information on the rink's website as well. Lately we've been doing ... the rinks very helpful. So they actually give us the contact information for those people and we've started to, more recently ... So in the past, we'd start to communicate with them, maybe we'd send them an email with just some information about us. That didn't really do that much.
But recently, motivated by what I've learned with listening with you guys, I tried something that worked incredibly well, is that we did free parent presentations for people on those various programs. So we hosted a parent seminar during while their kids were already there, easy for them. We went into a little room and we gave them a presentation about how to maximize the kids' potential in hockey. There was no obligation to it or anything, we just wanted to give them some good information on how to help their kid succeed. And at the end of it, it was given by one of our staff who played division one college hockey and was an all start and things, so a lot of value to share. And then at the end of it, we offered a free one-on-one private hockey and skills assessment for all the kids there, saying that because they are a player at our rink and we wanted to offer that to them, again with no obligation.
And I think every player signed up for it and our coaches did those one-on-one lessons with players and then sat down with the parents after to give them a kind of assessment of where they were at and went through the goals and things like that. And that really did a great job of people that were now asking us questions about what they should next, whether it was right now or next year when he gets a little bit bigger and more into it, what should we do? It opened that dialog, and that was great.
Dean: Yeah. Neat. How do you make money on this? How does your business work? Do you get money for people playing at different levels or what's the price point of things that you sell?
Ben: Sure. So the main program we offer is our fall club team. That's the main season. So when they sign up for one of those teams, they sign up for essentially a nine month commitment. So it's a big commitment. It's anywhere depending. The youngest level is around $3,000 for the year and up to the highest levels that travel more, it's $6,000 or so. And what they do is they put down a deposit and then they have a monthly payment that goes out on the first day of every month for nine months. And that's for the fall. So once they joined a team, they're in the club, they're with us for nine months. Hopefully, they're with us for ten years at that point. Because they could play with us from 6 to 16 or 7 to 17.
And then we have a spring program as well, like an off season program, that's less often. It's a couple of months and we have less structure. It's more keeping the skills up and things like that. And that's maybe about $1,000 totally for the off season. And then we have our private training program. So not everyone in our club would do the private training. It's maybe 40% or so, the ones who do the extra. And some of them will do it maybe during the off season or some of them will do it all year round. So they'll pay anywhere, depending on how big of a package they buy, anywhere from $40 to $60 per session to do private training lessons with our coaches.
Dean: And do you do groups? Like clinics or training things in addition to the private or is it all one-on-one?
Ben: Yeah, they actually do, on the skating treadmill, they do groups up to two player at a time. And then on the ice sessions, we take up to eight. It's small groups on the ice sessions because there's only so much ice time for those things. And they work on different ... They're battling against each other and they play that in the session.
Dean: Okay. So then where, if you say like 100% of capacity is every team filled, where would you put yourself on what's the capacity that you have?
Ben: We're probably at about 50% capacity.
Dean: Okay. So you could double the number of people that you have.
Dean: So you're in a situation ... How many people is that? How many people are involved in the program right now that would be your during unit?
Dean: The people who would sign up for the nine month program or spring programs?
Ben: About 250. So we could potentially double that to 500.
Dean: Okay. So you've got 250 people right now that are paying somewhere from $1,000 for a spring program up to $6,000 for the nine month program. Does that sound right?
Ben: Really they would be from $3,000 to $6,000. The people that would do the spring program are those same people, and not everyone.
Dean: Okay, great. So 250, your core program is the fall program.
Dean: Now this is what's interesting is, because I always look at these just getting the lay of the land here, you can tell that the questions that I'm asking here are I'm mentally dividing this up into your before unit, your during unit, and your after unit, right? So of the 250, how many were on the book last year? How many of the 250 are in their second or more season?
Ben: I would say about 150 to 175 would be return players.
Dean: Okay. And is that about normal that? That kind of a retention rate?
Dean: Okay. And what would be ... Why would somebody leave? What would happen to the 75 people that dropped off kind of thing? How many of them would graduate beyond your age group?
Ben: Our 18 year old team, the majority of them would graduate, would age out. So that's potentially 15 to 20 people right there. And even at our 16 and under teams we have kids that will already go, like they'll go to prep school back east or even go to junior hockey in Canada or back east. So we'll lose some players that will move on. So that would be a good portion of them. And then there's a certain number of players at each age group that either move to a different, further away, that have some, maybe they're not going to play competitive hockey more than they do recreational. Maybe there's some financial issues or they're playing three sports now and they don't want to play three times a week. So there's a normal amount of drop off there.
And then there's people, we do much better with this, here ... In Canada there's lots of places where you have to play at the club in your area, but here it's a total free market, which I think is good. People can just change clubs. So the epidemic here is there's a lot of people change clubs every year based on who the coach is, what the team is, how good the team is, what level they're going to make. So we do have some people that go down to the next club 20 minutes away, for example, because maybe they would've been on our B team and that A team coach wants them, or something like that.
Dean: I gotcha. Okay. And so in each year, you'll bring in, of the 250, how many would be new? So you might have 75 or so that are new people coming in?
Dean: That's an interesting number, right? Because that is the output of your before unit. Your before unit is finding new people and delivering them to the program. And right now, it's currently outputting 75 people. Now that number is largely coming from people who are just organically finding the rink and getting involved in ... How do you typically get those 75 people?
Ben: It's either the young ages, at the lower entry club level. It's people that are already in the rink playing for the recreational program that now they are really into it. Because recreational program, they practice maybe once a week and they play at their local rink, and then our program's the next step. So those people, they've already either come to us or our coaches have sent them some information and they engage. Or there's people, like I mentioned, that actually are at other clubs nearby or they're playing hockey at the competitive level already and they reached out to us because they've had maybe a bad experience or something with the other club and they're looking for something different.
Dean: Okay, so from the recreational, you don't run the recreational program, the rink runs that, right? Is that what you're saying?
Dean: Or anybody is doing that. And how many people is that pool? They give you the contact information for those people?
Ben: Yeah, they trust is with them. We have to be sensitive with the information, but yeah, they sure give us the contact. We're the program for the rink and they have about 150 people in each rink, so it's 300 total in that recreational program. And that's really just the in-house league. There's another say 50 at each place in their learn to play program. So you're looking at 200 in each rink in those recreational youth programs. So that's 400 total.
Dean: So 400 total and you're getting 75 of them.
Ben: Well, we're probably only getting, to be honest, we're probably only getting 30 of them and the rest of those people are older kids from other clubs that have come over to our clubs from other places.
Dean: I love it, okay. So how many do you think there are in the whole area that would be feasible? Do you have a sense of how many hockey players there are? If you're saying you're getting them from other clubs, is there ... What would be the size of the pool?
Ben: Even just within ... So if I look at the one, Riverside is the program that's the biggest of the two rinks, and so I mentioned the recreational program about 200. And then the next rink over in one direction has probably another 200 players in their competitive program. There's another rink in the other direction that's 20 minutes or so away that has at least another 200 in that program. And then there's a roller hockey rink that's only a few miles away that those kids already can play hockey and they do well in the transition over, they probably have another 2 to 300. And then there's some other recreational. So just around that one rink there's probably ... There's high school hockey, there's probably close to over 1,000 players already that already play hockey, have equipment, like hockey, that kind of thing, that would be potential players. So it would be the same thing as the other rinks, maybe even more. There's actually more programs around the other rink. So there's at least 1,000 players that are within 20 minutes or so of each of those rinks.
Dean: Right. And you don't have contact information for those people though, right?
Dean: That's where part of it is, right? That we're there. You've got that opportunity. I'm interested ... You think about it when it really comes down to two things. You've got to be able to access or get access to more of the existing hockey players within that area. And long term, if it was possible to increase the number of five, six, seven year olds that are getting involved in hockey. Is that number do you think going up or down?
Ben: I think it's going up. I think we have a big opportunity now as well with our relationship with the Reign. That pro team that's close by, because they I've said that they're going to send out information for you, they're going to share stuff on their pages, they're going to let us set up a booth and things at their games. They're going to do a lot of ... Because they want to grow hockey players as well.
Dean: Right, everybody does.
Ben: So that's a huge opportunity there. And if we have certain marketing, I think they will share it for us.
Dean: Yeah. So one of the cool things, and I'm just thinking out loud here, if I look at it for those 1,000 that you don't have contact information for, what could you do that would be kind of a magnet that would get you contact information for those? Is there anything where there would be ... Do you ever do any skills competition type of things where-
Ben: We haven't, no. We haven't.
Dean: It'd be interesting right, where if you had ... When I was growing up, there was a, Knights of Columbus, would have a basketball, a pass, dribble, and shoot competition, and it would just be days of drills and competitions where you would shoot ten free throws and you do some passing drills and you do some different shots. Then you would get a score, an overall score, it would be like a competition or tournament where you'd advance and somebody would be crowned the winner of each age group. I'm thinking about that as an opportunity to ... If you were to have a competition like that, and open it up to the entire area, that some of those people from the other areas, the other arenas that you don't have contact information for, that that would be a way to get some registrations there to have contact information, you know? And get them experiencing coming over to your rink and getting an eye on them. Now you've got a way to communicate with them. Does that make sense?
Ben: Yeah, totally. And I know, that's funny ... I know the Ducks. So out here, the pro teams have started getting a lot more involved in youth hockey and I know the Ducks for years have done few things like that. They did this one break away challenge thing that's open to the entire hockey community. So the thing that I think would ... The thing that's kind of interesting though is I think when you do stuff like that as your club, that's what comes across as the whiskers, you know? Because those people are-
Dean: But that's what I'm saying, not as the club, right, in a way. Not as a club, as somebody who's creating a hockey development thing, you know?
Ben: Yeah, definitely. It's a good idea. One thing that I tried that didn't work so well yet, I think I need to change it up. I sent over to you ... I tried a promotion. I did write a consumer awareness guide for parents' guide to choosing a Southern California youth hockey club. And I think it was a great exercise to go through. And I did make some postcards and then I put them out at the rinks. And then I put an ad, there's something called a rubber magazine, which it goes out to all the rinks, it's like a newspaper type thing that goes to all the rinks. And they also email it out to their whole list, which has a lot of people on it. So I put an ad in there. We got some people that filled out the form, but not many. So I think sometimes what I struggle with is the cookie, something you mentioned, like the skills competition or something, because I think what I struggle sometimes is figuring out what people want, like what would actually compel them to-
Dean: Right. And that's the whole thing. When you get into like a consumer awareness guide is a lead conversion tool. It's more of a convincing tool than a compelling tool. So when you look at it, it's like, yeah, what would be the thing that would be a compelling thing that would get hockey players to want to be a part of this. And that could be prizes or celebrities or having somebody along with it, a clinic from one of the King's players or one of the Reign players, you know? Just to gather, to get that exposure, so you know at least have a visible prospect.
Ben: Yeah. But then how do you ... Because let's say we have something where the Kings, the Reign, hosted some skills competition and they had a mascot come out and there's a player, parents, all these people there, and then we hit them with an email about joining our club or something, they might feel cheated or something like that. How do you-
Dean: No, no. I don't think that you're going to run into a problem like that that there's ... I think that you're moving into then your profit activator three where you've got the opportunity to put together a flagship kind of communications where you've got a weekly email or video or some sort of hockey development content and you can use that email along with you can have your super signature, I call it. The PS and the information that you send, every time you send out the email. If you look at the way I do this with More Cheese, Less Whiskers is every email goes out, valuable content, and then, whenever you're ready, here are four ways I can help you hatch some evil schemes for your business. And I offer people be guest on the show or try a profit activator score card or be part of our email mastery program or work with me one on one or I'm doing these mastermind events. So it's just a carrier to let people know about all the things that you have going on, but it's going to the right audience because they're hockey players.
Ben: Yeah. And it's non-threatening because, like you said, I read those emails that you send out, and you're giving valuable content, so you're starting to develop that relationship and that level of trust where they can reach out to you if they want to.
Dean: That's exactly right. And that's what you're saying. Whenever you're ready, or whatever's going on, here's the announcements, here's what's going on. Tryouts for the fall program are starting here, click here for the details, or whatever makes sense. And then also sending nine word emails. If you're saying the thing, if you're sending somebody an email the Monday after they did the skills competition that weekend and you say, "Ben, it was great to meet you at the skills competition," or whatever you want to call it, and then ask them a question.
Ben: Yeah. For a question on that one, so I know to use the nine word email for people maybe that have reached out to us in the past for private hockey training or something, I could send something saying, "Hey, Johnny, are you still looking for hockey lessons," or someone who came to a skills competition, I wonder what that question would be.
Dean: You might want to ask them are you playing anywhere this fall? Or are you part of a club? Or we're having tryouts next week or we're having tryouts starting next month for our program, would you like to join us? Just an invitation even.
Ben: Yeah. It seems so simple.
Dean: And really it is, though. That's part of the thing is that you're thinking about it that the first thing you have to do is get involved in identifying the people who are players, who really want to. And anybody's who is on that track where they're going to be playing elite hockey, they live for unique, fun things to be able to do around that, you know?
Ben: Yeah, I think that was my problem. I think I wasn't getting the right cheese, you know? I think people, a lot of them, people are playing competitive hockey already, the kids and the parents, they already feel like they know a lot. So they may not ... I think that if you can already get them to engage and you're sending out valuable content, you can educate over time on certain things once you gain their trust, but I think to compel them initially, that's maybe where I was ... That maybe that comes across as, "Well I don't need that" or something. That's interesting. It has to be something more exciting. Maybe that's coming across as whiskers.
Dean: Right. And with all those consumer awareness guides, it's got to be very carefully done because it's very easy for it to come across as, "Here's five reasons you should buy from me." That's the thing. So compelling is valuable information, you know?
Dean: Or fun, cheese, something they would want to do. If there are prizes or great prizes for the things.
Ben: I was listening to your one, I didn't get your last podcast, but the gentleman that does the sealer for the driveways and things and you mentioned the gift cards. So we've been doing some Facebook ads recently, we need to improve the ads, but we've been getting some traction. But I'm wondering if something where, because we're up for this ... One of my questions, we started off doing that free hockey lesson and skills assessment but we didn't really promote it. We just offered it to those that specifically we did presentations with within the rink, and I'm wondering if ... I was careful, I didn't know how public I wanted to make it. I didn't want it to devalue, and I also want to screen the people somewhat, I want to get the right people to come through that.
So I was unsure if I should maybe do a gift card ad or something like that for private hockey lessons if that might be ... Or if I want to stick to a compelling lead magnet first, more of an information or special thing, and then offer those other things and on the backend offer the free lessons or a gift card on the backend once the right people kind of qualify themselves.
Dean: Right. Yeah, you definitely want to get the right person, right? That's what we look at. If you look at, you really have a closing window. Basically, the best case scenario is that you get somebody at that six or seven or five, six, seven, in that age that you get somebody then and they become a lifetime hockey enthusiast. It's less likely that you're getting 14 year olds switching over to play league hockey, because that's not how it works, right? It's not a sport that you pick up at 14 and then jump right into elite levels, right?
Ben: It's a lot harder. You've got to get them from another club and it's harder.
Dean: Right, exactly. It's interesting, if you take the long view of this that right now, in 10 years, every single prospect that you have right now is gone and you've had to develop new ones, right? But you look at it right now, if you even go upstream, that the ones that are the three and four year olds now are the ones that are going to be the five and six year olds that are starting to play hockey. And if you think about it that the ones that decide to play hockey are probably the ones that get exposed to it as a possibility. And if you think about maybe having programs as part of this, working with the rink kind of thing, to just get mothers or fathers to bring their kids skating, that's the gateway to this, right?
Ben: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Dean: Because if they can skate and they're athletic, then the next level is the kid's going to want to play hockey.
Ben: Yeah, totally. And I think that's something else that I've struggled with is ... We've worked with the rink and we've helped them with some of those programs and there's some great entry points there. We helped them start a free hockey program where kids can come and borrow the equipment and skate with coaches for free for four weeks, so we have some great entry points there. And I want to plug the rink into the Ontario rink promotions and stuff in the community to get more kids into it. But I guess I've struggled with should I focus on ... Because the players-
Dean: I wouldn't focus on hockey. Yeah, I wouldn't focus on hockey initially, you know? I think especially with the preschool aged kids, that's going to be ... We're not talking about too far away, we're talking about one or two seasons kind of thing. You're backing up one level that's laying the groundwork for next season. The good thing is that we know with 100% certainty that someone who's four this year is going to be five next year and six the year after that. We know that absolutely to be true. And if you start to think what would be the gateway, how could we get them really into that, how could we expose them to skating, which would be the gateway to it?
And the interesting thing is, I heard Gary Halbert said something really interesting because he wants to buy the New York Jets and somebody asked him, "What would you do if you owned the Jets right now?" And he said, because when he first moved to America, he went out into the neighborhood meeting the kids in his neighborhood and they were all playing football and they asked him, "Are you a Jets fan or a Giants fan?" Because that was the thing in New York, you have choices. And he said, "I don't know." And they said, "Well, you're a Jets fan, then." And then his mother knit him this Jets sweater with his name and the number on the bag. It was his most prized possessions. And he said what he would do if he owned the Jets right now is he would send a Jets jersey to all the five and six year old kids in the tri-state area.
Ben: Yeah, actually.
Dean: To lock them in early, right? And that's kind of an interesting thing. So when you start to think about this, if you look at the gateways, if we can get somebody in skating and you can then get them excited about hockey and they get to see and meet players or get a jersey or get something that they're exposed to hockey in a positive way, that their first ... There's a great book by Clotaire Rapaille called "The Culture Code." Have you heard about that book?
Ben: No, I haven't. "The Culture Code?"
Dean: Yup. And Clotaire Rapaille talks about how for everything in our lives, we have an imprint, we have a first impression of something that drives every decision that we make. And he works with big companies, big fortune 100 companies, and they hire him to figure out what's the code for a particular product. And some company hired him to go into Japan and to help them figure out why they couldn't get traction in the coffee market in Japan. And part of what he discovered is that Japanese culture is not a coffee culture, it's more of a tea culture. So kids don't have any natural imprint of coffee, of what place that is, or what that holds. And what he recommended to them is to start a children's dessert that has coffee flavor in it to imprint an entire generation for the taste of coffee.
Ben: Whoa. That's an evil scheme for you.
Dean: That is an evil scheme, but it's a company thinking 10, 15 years ahead. Because the kids today are going to turn into adults who are going to be coffee drinkers. And the three and four year old today, if you can get them skating, which would be a fun activity for later possibility of playing hockey. That’s going put them in that environment of skating is fun to I want to now have stick, and it becomes the next thing.
Ben: Yeah. I guess one of the reasons I struggled with that in the past is I agree, that's where the big market is, the market there becomes huge; all the young kids. I guess I struggled because theoretically, the people that come into the rink, the three or four year olds, just maybe to skate, aren't necessarily our customers for some time or maybe ever and we don't really have as much control over those customers and their experience in the rink programs and things like that. So I'm just wondering if I should-
Dean: So your programs start at six, right?
Ben: Yeah, we have some five year olds but, yeah, five or six.
Dean: Right. So we're talking about are you going to be in business in two years.
Ben: Yeah, I guess.
Dean: That's just fact. It's not new six year olds that are all of a sudden coming out, or five year olds, it's that moving parade, right? There are three year olds and four year olds, even if it's just one year back. If you just started with four year olds, for instance, that that investment in exposing skating to more four year olds, is going to increase the crop size of the five year olds that are interested in hockey.
Dean: Which has a ripple down effect. That's the thing. That's what I'm talking about. I'm talking about that. The skills competition and stuff is going to get you the older kids that are already hockey players, right? The ones who are 7 to 10, 10 to 12, that kind of thing. And that's going to be-
Ben: Like a long term.
Dean: -something that'll expose you. And I may even look at going down something and creating a street hockey league to get exposed to hockey itself and then they just need to learn to skate and take that onto the ice kind of thing, you know?
Ben: Totally. Actually, one of the roller hockey rinks, the Ducks own some of the rinks in Orange County and they actually bought a couple roller hockey rinks, which I thought was genius too, and they started, and I always said ... I used to work at one of them actually, and I always said that they should start street hockey leagues too because you already have the roller hockey rinks, they're already a floor, and then the kid doesn't even have to know how to skate. They show up and you give them a stick and they play, right? And they just started that. So it's really smart. So now the Duck owns these roller hockey rinks that have street hockey and then they have roller hockey, which, again, you don't need as much equipment and it's cheaper, and then they have the ice hockey rinks, too. They're growing like crazy.
Dean: That's smart.
Ben: But there is a roller hockey facility like ten minutes from us that I actually used to work at that I've thought about maybe doing some partnerships or things with them. I don't think they've started a street hockey league, but maybe we can even do it or something there.
Dean: Exactly. When you start thinking outside of the box and you start connecting the dots that there's ... Even if it were starting with that you offer something for preschools to be able to bring their kids in for a skate day or for parents to come in for a skate day. It really becomes where are the three and four year olds that you can get access to, and that's a fun kind of thing that is definitely going to have payoff in next season or the next few seasons. All the while still looking at doing the things that are you going to help you get some exposure to kids from other clubs right now who are already hockey players. That's where something like the skills competition would come in.
Ben: Yeah. So you have two different target markets and you have two different campaigns really, or cheese, right?
Dean: Yeah, because that's really what it's about is-
Ben: Where it's maybe for the older kids are-
Dean: That's what it's about is finding ... You're going to do multiple things, many pillars, not just one thing. It all works together.
Ben: Yeah. So for the older kids it's a skills competition or pro player experience of the night kind of thing and for the three or four year olds it’s the skating with mommy and dad or ... We might even be able to do some stuff where, I know they do some stuff sometimes at the pro rink during intermissions where you can have kids, a family, come skate on the ice before the game or after the game in the big pro rink, and that might be something really cool to plug into.
Ben: People go to that game and they watch the Ontario Reign and we're the junior Reign, it's a connect already. We want them to become fans there.
Dean: Yes, that's it.
Then the other thing that I was going to ask about was whether you do any, you know, if there's an opportunity for camps or training or clinics and stuff like that where it's outside of just the program itself, that you have skill development weekends or camps.
Ben: Yeah. I think the mistake we made actually is ... So usually that's what's in the off season, and we used to actually have an open skills clinic every week as well, but we started doing more of a closed program where even our spring program is for people that they've signed up for our entire spring program with our club. And we used to have more, in the off season especially, would be a drop in skills clinics and three on three sessions and things like that that were $20 or $25 and anyone can just show up. And we went away from that because we wanted to deliver a really great program and we wanted to know who was going to be there and we wanted to plan it out and to offer the perfect kind of development environment. But it did was I think it ... Our own people would get it, but for someone who wanted to come check us out and try a skills clinic, it was a $1200 spring program sign up. So unless they were really sure that they wanted to come play with us, they weren't going to come.
Ben: So I'm realizing that that's probably ... We need to have those opportunities so people can come just check us out or just do some skills with us, even if they don't want to come play club with us right now.
Dean: Right. That might be a good opportunity there, you know?
Ben: Yeah. I was even thinking if we should have, because we used to have a weekly skills clinic drop in year round, and we'd have kids from other places that would come. And one of the reasons we stopped doing them was because we became association by USA Hockey, which is awesome, because we meet all their development guidelines, which means that we practice way more now. So we keep a three to one practice to game ratio. So in the past, a lot of the clubs only have two practices per week and then we offered an optional clinic, whereas now all of our people already have quite a bit of practice so we stopped offering that extra one. But what I realize though is that now we're not bringing new people in.
Dean: So that may be a nice addition. And then what are you doing to orchestrate referrals? Because you do kind of have a closed thing, but those guys would be hanging out with their friends that play hockey as well.
Ben: We're not doing much. We're not doing much.
Ben: Not deliberately, not intentionally anyways.
Dean: Yeah. But that could be interesting where, like country clubs, will often have like a member guest that it might be an interesting thing if you had your fall league or your spring league, having a member/guest three on three tournament kind of thing where you can team up with some of your buddies or whatever who may not be on that team, but maybe they're playing somewhere else kind of thing, but they're friends.
Ben: Yeah. What is it? So how do they do it? When they do a member guest, it's basically like someone can bring in a friend who-
Dean: Like a member guest, yeah. You put in the team ... Yeah, exactly. Where it's a golf tournament where it's two man teams and a member will get a guest to be on their team.
Ben: Yeah. So they have to bring in, it can't just be two members on a team, they have to bring in enough for that event. So that's a way of orchestrating referral?
Dean: It's certainly one, because you know who they are. It's a way to get them to ... You get exposure to ... They know other hockey players that you don't know.
Ben: Okay, yeah. I was just thinking ... It's funny, I was just thinking more just you ask people for referrals or you ask them for a review, for example. But there's creative ways to do it.
Dean: Yes, that might be a fun way, you know? Or even if you just had those clinics and you allowed people to bring a guest if they wanted to, you know?
Ben: Yeah, that's what I was thinking to, like even for the clinics or for the private training, like with the groups where we take two people for a group, where they can bring a friend and do the session together.
Dean: Yeah, that might work. There we go. So hit me up with what's your notes here? What's your take away?
Ben: So my take always are that I really, I think a got a lot more clarity on the two main separate groups, our target markets, being the players that are already playing hockey near us and the people that are not yet, the bigger market of players that are coming into that age that are not yet exposed to hockey, and the two different strategies to put in place. So one that's for exposing and growing now and the one that's for that long term bigger plan and I could see ... We talked about capacity. I can see the first market of the people that already play, that could help us grow a little bit, but to really double in size, the exciting opportunity is that huge group of three or four year olds in the whole area that more of them could be hockey players. So if the rink has 500 people in the recreational programs, we're going to grow just because of that. So that was a big take away. So having those two plans in place and getting them in place and automating them and getting them going consistently.
I love the idea of a skills ... I think also the take away for me is understanding the cheese people for those people that are already players. So like a skills competition or something exciting for them to get them engaged.
Dean: Like imagine if the prize package was some experience, some VIP tickets to Kings game and a meet and greet or something or some equipment package or something, some prizes for being the winner of the skills competition, you know?
Ben: Yeah, totally. That's what's going to get people excited to come from a different rink or something like that.
Ben: So that's great. And then I wrote the "The Culture Code" by Clotaire Rapaille.
Dean: I think you'll enjoy that.
Ben: But I could see, just even those couple of insights of really identifying those two markets and then having a plan of attracting those two different markets and putting that plan in place long term, I can see that making a huge difference.
Dean: That's awesome. And then part of, we talked about this, but you need a flagship weekly email video, podcast, something that's aiding the development of junior hockey, you know? That everybody would get a lot out of content wise, and have that as your vehicle to then have all of your announcements and all of your 'here's what to do next.'
Ben: That's another big thing on my mind lately is I want to do a podcast and then we can use the content. I heard you talked a lot about how you can transcribe it and then do blogs or newsletters and things like that and emails from that.
Dean: Well all those emails-
Ben: So I already have-
Dean: All those emails that I send are, all the content, all the articles that I send, are taken from the transcripts of the podcasts.
Ben: Right, you don't have to double everything. You don't have to do all that. That's great. And so you recommend weekly?
Dean: At least, yeah.
Ben: And then the thing that I'm sometimes confused is I wonder, you and Joe talk a lot about not being whiskers work ... It doesn't necessarily need to be branding junior Reign in that stuff, it could be more for me, is that ... in terms of the value stuff there? You don't want to hit people over the head with brand and logo and things like that, right?
Dean: Right, no, no, it's not about that. For the three to four year olds, it's about come on out and skate, you know? That's the thing. And those kids, three and four year olds are into now is going to shape what they do throughout their whole ... All parents are looking for is what's my kid's thing? And if they're not exposed to skating, they might not be exposed to hockey, but it also goes the other way that if they are exposed to skating and they like it and they've got a natural ability for it, then they're in the rink and they're seeing the environment and boy, Johnny really loves skating and he loves to get out there on the ice, I think maybe he should do hockey. That conversation is going to happen more often than the kids who get exposed to surfing or skateboarding or whatever they're doing at three or four.
Ben: Yeah, that's totally what happens. You're right. And I have a three year old and a five year old daughter and you're right, as parents you just want your kid to find that thing that they love. It's totally true. If you take them somewhere and they love it and they're doing well with it, you'll want to do anything you can to support that.
Dean: And it's such a short window. Because even if a kid, like you know yourself, hockey is the earlier you start, the advantage you have. And it's unlikely that the longer that goes, the nine and ten year olds, there's not a lot of nine and ten year olds picking up hockey for the first time and then excelling at it, you know?
Ben: Yeah, you can definitely progress as a late bloom kind of thing, but skating and things like that is such a specialized skill. It's not like most sports, run jump and throw.
Dean: Right, that's what I mean. You can have athletic ability and stuff but the skating part is ... The skating has to be natural, just a natural thing of movement, and then you can concentrate on the skill development and stuff. You're from Canada, you know. We're brought into it at such a young age and it's like mandatory military service. You've got to play hockey.
Ben: I was born with skates on. That's what I tell people. I was born with skates on.
Dean: Exactly. That's not happening in Orange County naturally. You have to introduce that.
Ben: Awesome. Final question, I think we're over time. Do you still recommend like a formal newsletter format type thing or should I just use the world's most interesting postcard... Maybe I could put the newsletter out at the rink and things too, physically out for people to-
Dean: Absolutely, yes.
Ben: I've seen the world's most interesting postcard and things like that. I don't know if it's something for this just to stick to hockey information or it should be something like that.
Dean: You could, absolutely. Depends on what it's for, but you could definitely go with hockey skills or trivia or hockey related stuff. Very exciting.
Ben: Yes. And I know you work with a guy that does the hockey scholarships and stuff too, so it was cool to see-
Dean: Scholarship director, yup.
Ben: You have a golf guy and obviously carpet cleaners and real estate agents. It's really cool to see how-
Dean: Yeah, it's fun, right? So many different businesses.
Ben: Different but similar.
Dean: Yes, that's right. Awesome Ben, well, I enjoyed it.
Ben: Me too, thank you so much.
Dean: Keep me posted. I would love to hear the updates.
Ben: That'd be great, yeah, I definitely will. Thank you so much. As we get some of the stuff going, I'll send you over some examples of how it's working and hopefully I'll get to meet you in person at one of yours or Joe's events in the future.
Dean: Awesome. That'd be great. Talk to you soon, bye, bye.
And there we have it. Another great episode of More Cheese, Less Whiskers. If you'd like to continue the conversation, you can got to morecheeselesswhiskers.com, you can download a copy of the More Cheese, Less Whiskers book, and if you'd like to see how the eight profit activators are affecting your business, you can got profitactivatorscore.com, take our profit activator score card and you'll see where the big opportunities are for you. And then maybe we will see you at one of the live mastermind groups that I'm doing this fall in Orlando at Celebration. If you'd like to find out how you could spend three days in a small group, eight to ten people, all around a board room table, spending three days evil schemes just like the way we talk about on the More Cheese, Less Whiskers podcasts, just send me an email and put Orlando in the subject line. Email is firstname.lastname@example.org. And I will look forward to seeing you at one of our breakthrough blueprint events in person. Otherwise, I will talk to you next week, same time, same channel, with another great episode of More Cheese, Less Whiskers.