Wesley Diekens came to the United States from the U.K. in 2005 on a soccer scholarship. Wesley grew up playing soccer on many competitive teams through high school and had a brief professional career in England. When St. Albans College recruited him to play soccer, he thought it would open his life to a grand adventure. That adventure changed his life.
While at St. Albans, Diekens met his future wife, Alyce Bilski, who also played soccer there. She graduated a year ahead of him and went to Fort Collins, Colorado, where she played on the semiprofessional Fort Collins Force women’s soccer team. When Diekens finished college, he followed Bilski to northern Colorado. Bilski was captain of the Force and worked for the sports marketing company that owned the team.
Diekens got a job at a local meat packing plant, but soccer was his passion. He made the practice squad for the Colorado Rapids Major League Soccer team, but injuries cut his professional career short. Teaching soccer to kids became a new passion for Diekens. He has a natural talent for coaching. Diekens is charismatic, kids enjoy his easygoing demeanor and British accent, and he really knows soccer and how to teach the game to youngsters.
In 2009, Diekens founded the Real NOCO Soccer Academy (NOCO standing for NOrthern COlorado). At first he trained small groups of young players aged 7 to 14. He grouped them by age, gender, and skill and conducted training sessions for small groups of five to seven at a local park. The first kids he attracted came by word-of-mouth as they quickly told friends and teammates about “this British guy who teaches soccer and makes it fun.” His small after-school camps quickly grew to include more than 50 kids. Word continued to get around, and by the following summer Diekens conducted 10 different camps—and quit his job at the meat packing plant. He also trained 11 different Real NOCO 3v3 soccer teams that competed in tournaments across the state and nation during the summer. All of his players had bright blue jerseys with the Real NOCO name across the front, and the success of these teams made the jerseys a great promotion vehicle. In 2012, four of his teams competed in the national 3v3 soccer tournament, with one winning a national championship.
To keep up with the rapid growth, Diekens brought a few friends over from England to assist with training. Will Bowman moved to the United States to become Diekens’ assistant director of coaching. Diekens and Bowman planned to work year-round as trainers and hire a couple of local coaches to help them conduct training sessions. During the summer he added a couple of local college soccer players and a few former teammates from England. The summer season works well for his British mates, because that is the off-season for those still playing professionally. Diekens is confident he can hire and train more coaches if he needs them to handle future growth.
About 90 percent of his current customers live in Fort Collins, which has a population of about 150,000 people. Diekens believes awareness of his program is close to 100 percent among competitive soccer players ages 11 to 14—and is probably at about 40 percent among families with soccer-playing kids ages 6 to 10. Most of his customers are 10 to 13 years old and enroll in two to three Real NOCO programs per year. He has also run a few camps in Boulder and Northglenn—both are about 50 miles from Fort Collins. These have been successful but are currently limited.
Diekens knows that he wants to grow his business, but wonders how he can accomplish his goal. He currently sees a few options:
His current customer retention rate is pretty high: about 80 percent. However, when the kids reach 14 or 15 years old, other high school sports and activities make them less interested in extra soccer training. One option is to try to increase retention by developing programs targeted at kids older than 14.
Another option is to develop a marketing strategy that would encourage his current customers to buy more. He wonders if they have other needs that he might be able to serve.
Diekens could try to grow the business by entering new markets and acquiring new customers. His market penetration with kids 6 to 9 years old is still quite modest. He might develop new programs to better meet this group’s needs.
Another new market option would be to serve more kids from Loveland, Longmont, and Greeley.
Evaluate Diekens’ different options for growing Real NOCO’s customer equity. Develop a set of marketing strategy ideas for each of the options. What market research could Diekens perform to better assess his options?
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