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BUSINESS MAKEOVER

To star in school assemblies, stunt team needs to study Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn

The question for Pasadena-based daredevil duo TNT Dunk Squad is how to make inroads with PTA parents to land in-school gigs. The answer? Social media.

October 06, 2009|Cyndia Zwahlen

The daredevils at TNT Dunk Squad like nothing better than to execute high-flying trampoline stunts and acrobatic basketball slam-dunks for Los Angles Clippers and Lakers fans, college-basketball audiences and special-events crowds worldwide.

But if they want to expand their business, the gymnastic duo will also have to do some online tricks.

In the last 20 years, with their team and others, the pair have performed in more than 70 cities worldwide and at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.

It has been a part-time endeavor, with revenue last year of just $45,000.

About 18 months ago, owners Brian Smith and Keith Cousino decided to crank up their game and turn their entertainment showcase into a full-scale business.

By chance, they stumbled onto the low-profile world of school-assembly performances and realized they were on to something that could be big.

Although the schools don't pay as much as TNT's marquee clients, the number of potential jobs is much higher. But finding the PTA parents who book talent for school assemblies with themes such as teamwork and healthy living has been harder than expected, said Smith, 40.

"How can we market to these schools and get this whole thing going faster?" Smith said. "I called this one guy who'd been doing it for years, and he laughed and said, 'When you figure it out, call me.' "

With few funds and little marketing expertise, the pair managed to land about 35 school jobs last year for their Pasadena business. Their goal is to book at least 100 school assemblies by the end of this year. So far, they have 40 scheduled.

Smith said he and Cousino, 41, briefly considered social media as a cheap way to reach more customers but dismissed it as "silly and somewhat of a waste of time."

They are not the only small business to miss the potential that social media has to build sales, says Rebekah King, principal of ReBiz Works in Irvine, a one-person shop that specializes in social media marketing and training.

Social media sites, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, and online communication tools, such as Twitter and the content-update utility Ping.fm, could raise TNT's profile, introduce it to new customers and provide an easy way to keep in front of its growing community. Also, content on social media sites is counted in search-engine results and can move a business higher in result rankings.

To be effective, a business needs a plan.

"Any social-media program has to have a focus, a purpose," says King, who works with small businesses and advertising agencies. "They want to book more business. Social media can show people who they are and help drive potential customers to their website."

Here are her recommendations for how TNT could use social media to win more business.

* Reorganize the website. The problem with TNT's website, TNTDunkSquad.com, is that it doesn't make clear everything the business does, King says. For example, the slide show that was on the home page focused on TNT's performances for the huge basketball audiences that had been their main market.

King helped Smith and Cousino sort their markets into four categories: sports teams, school performances, corporate events and special events. She suggests they create a navigation button on the home page for each one.

That would solve two problems, King says. The buttons would immediately show Web visitors what the business does and would give the owners a way to tailor content. So a PTA representative who clicks on the "school" button would find reassuring photos of TNT performing in front of school kids. There also could be endorsements from other parent groups, principals and even kids. (TNT has since posted a new video that features its school performances.)

King also suggests that TNT's phone number be moved to the top of the home page and made much larger.

"People don't come to your website expecting to dig," she says.

* Create a Facebook page. Facebook is about fun and sharing, making it a good fit for consumer-related marketers such as TNT, King says.

She suggests the company set up a Facebook page to give kids a place to share photos, videos and comments about TNT shows. King points out that schoolchildren share online content like wildfire and could be ambassadors to parents who make hiring decisions.

One way to get kids involved is to tell them during the last five minutes of a performance that they can turn on their cellphones to take photos and video. The kids could then post the pictures to the TNT Facebook page or their own social media pages.

A Facebook page also would give the adults who book the school assemblies another place to find the performers.

"When you look at demographics, the highest-growing audience on Facebook is soccer moms," which is one of TNT's target markets, King says.

She suggests TNT lay a foundation on its Facebook page by posting its performance videos, photos from events and information about the company, including links to its website.

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