Ham radio web sites need improved marketing

When I moved to Seattle from Illinois, I wanted to join a ham radio club. Great — I hit the Internet and started looking. Once I found a club that I thought I would like, I tried to get directions to where the club meeting was located. Google maps was tough — the address information on the web site was incomplete. I found it — after arriving in the general area and looking for 20-minutes.

Fast forward. I move to a new state this last December, new city — look for a ham radio club where I can hang out. You’d think I’d have an easier time in this city. After all, I used to be the President of this club. Alas, they have moved their meeting location — not unexpected after all this time.

Armed with my GPS device and the address, sans zip code, I get to the strip mall where the club meeting is held. It’s dark. I drive up and down the strip mall: nothing. I get out of my car and walk the strip mall: nothing. Nada. Can’t find it.

It turns out it is a simple door where you go in and that, apparently, opens up into some space where meetings are held. I don’t know; after 15-minutes of looking, I give up.

FAIL.

Now, I’m picking on these two clubs. But you know what? Most ham radio web sites suck when it comes to marketing the club to hams in the city or people visiting the site.

And don’t even get me going on those Saturday morning breakfast meetings — all located at the XYZ Restaurant. Great. Except now I have to go look up the restaurant on Google, get an address, hope that when I get to the restaurant I’ll be able to find this little group that meets here on Saturdays. Is it too much to ask to put the directions in one place so you don’t make your potential new club members go through hoops to find you?

Do you want to use your ham radio web site to actually ATTRACT hams to your club?

Here are some suggestions.

Adequate directions

What are adequate directions? Well, if you can’t embed a Google map with directions to your site, you at least need the complete address. Complete, as in address, city, state and zip code. Almost no one puts in the zip code — but the zip code is what really differentiates the address for maps from Google and Yahoo! and others.

123 Main Street, Kansas City doesn’t cut it. Seriously. 123 Main Street, Suite 120, Kansas City, MO 66101 is the right address.

But you know what? Ham radio clubs meet in mysterious places inside buildings. Places like basements, or conference rooms — or houses. You need to tell inquisitive hams who might want to join your club exactly how to find the meeting place. If it is a simple doorway with small lettering on top in the middle of a construction zone, you should put that on web site.

If you are a ham in a new town looking to find your meeting place, how hard are you making it to find you? You know what? Most instances…hard.

Contact Information

Please contact any of our Board Members….but there is no contact information provided. No e-mail addresses, no contact form on the web site…nothing.

Even if you wanted to contact someone in the club, it is hard. It shouldn’t be hard if you really want members to join.

There are a tremendous number of non-spam contact forms that you can use to have people send you inquiries about the club. But saying to contact any Board Member about the club with no contact information isn’t it.

Focus of the club

If you deal with government for your antennas, government officials — if they are not familiar with the multitude of services ham radio provides — will go search for ham radio and the city they are serving. Or, if you are a neighbor of a ham and want to find out about that strange thing you do for a hobby and hit Google to find out about ham radio, the search result will be…? Your club will be one of the first things you find.

And what does this public official or your neighbor see hitting the home page? Blech.

A generic mission statement. Or worse. From my targeted club’s first paragraph on the home page:

The Club is based in southern (state). Our members enjoy all aspects of amateur radio including: DX, CW, VHF, UHF, Packet, other digital modes and many other forms of amateur radio.

Unless noted otherwise below, the club meets at 7:30pm on the Third Tuesday of each month at (place), 2300 S Park Street in the Villager Mall.

(This club) sponsors HF events, DX, contests, monthly meetings with programs and weekly nets.

Inspiring, isn’t it? Makes you want to vote to have an exception to rules on the planning commission for your tower, doesn’t it?

It IS the world wide web. Let’s get what the ham radio benefits are to the community right up front so that people searching the site get the benefits of ham radio. Not a bunch of acronyms and generic mission statements.

The rule is this: a city council member would read it and it would help them decide in favor of a tower. Or the public would read it and decide that…”oh, these people are not nuts; they do good things for the community.”

Pictures of a fun, approachable group

You know what? We look like a bunch of…well, you know what we look like. Most of the “pictures of Field Day” depict a group of people we would never intend on becoming friends with, much less attend a meeting. Boring looking, we are.

Let’s get some pictures up of a group of people engaged, enjoying what they do and who are approachable for hams and others in the community.

Of course, if you are not a fun, approachable group, you have other issues; but that is for another article another day…

Your club programs

You know what? If you have a responsible Board of Directors, the first board meeting should have a list of programs and tentative dates. If you don’t, you don’t have a good Board of Directors.

On the web site? You can’t list the program as “Fred, W9ABC, will talk about PSK31.” Nobody gets that except ham radio operators.

You need to describe what PSK — you know…phased shift keying — is, what Fred will present and what a cool program it will be for the group. Who thinks PSK31 is fun? Well, it is — but no one puts why that is on the web site about the program.

A members area

You want to put all that cool newsletter, Field Day pictures and club meeting minutes on the web site? You should — in a members only area.

The objective of the club web site is twofold: attract new members and serve current members. Above is the marketing to attract new members and show the benefits of ham radio to people who can influence or control our ability to practice our hobby.

The members area — user name and password controlled — is for member services in the club. Here is where you should have your meeting minutes. Here is where you have the dull and boring to anyone but a member pictures of Field Day. Here is where you have the newsletters that support your members and the club.

And a forum area. Yes, you can set up an e-mail reflector for the club, but you can also set up a forum area just for members. A little exclusivity, easy access — but don’t pay your dues and the access goes away.

It is about marketing ham radio

Look, a web site is about marketing ham radio to people who are either not hams or are hams and are looking for a place to provide support through a club.

We turn it into this place where nothing is focused, nothing is clear and the only people who could possibly understand what is going on in the web site are half the current members of the club.

Get a marketing face for the club as what is shown to everyone to attract members and support the hobby.

Get a private area for members to support the members of the club so that they stay and contribute to the club’s well-being.

Let’s get the club web sites to help the ham radio cause and serve our members. Not a mish-mash of who-knows-what begging to get dismissed.

4 Responses to Ham radio web sites need improved marketing

  1. hehe.. this reminds me of the frustration I had going down to the Pensacola area last year. While I had APRS on, a beacon came across announcing the weekly net was about to start. GREAT!.. I thought. But it had no info on what frequency said net was on.. I tried to scan for it and gave up.

  2. I am in the Web/Marketing business and am a Ham. I've always found it interesting how we do so well in some forms of communication but not that well in others. ;)

    73

  3. Another good example of how we can increase participation. In our events, we need to think that the person reading it doesn't know what the event is about, when it is or where it is happening. Good addition; thanks.

  4. I'm trying to help that out! I know that a web site is a lot of work, but much better to use it for the objectives of ham radio and club participation. The site should be the focal point for communications outside of club meetings. Perhaps we don't have that many web savvy hams out there (though I doubt that…). Or we're just using wrong platforms for designing the web page…but it needs to get better.

    Thanks…