How to dominate your market

We regularly speak to children’s activity providers, and some are concerned about their ability to continue competing in their local market due to what they perceive to be a saturated (or at least highly competitive) market. We believe the majority of kids activity providers have at least had this thought at some stage of operating their business.

Sometimes as a small business operating a few venues and staff, you may find rarely do you have the time to commit to learning more about key areas that would likely be critical to success. Areas like marketing essentials, branding advice and growth strategy.

We thought we’d share some key pointers to consider if looking to dominate the market you operate in.

EMOTIONAL RESONANCE – this is where you create a ‘pull factor’ for what it is you are offering. You need to tell stories, engage people on a deeper level so they remember you, feel a connection and become a loyal fan. If your brand doesn’t get people ‘feeling’ something positive about what you do, you’re probably not doing enough. Most people tell stories to their friends and family where they feel safe, loved and connected – why not try to do the same with your customers and community?

Real example: While working for a leading preschool football franchise, ICAP Founder launched an additional product when parents signed up; personalised football shirts. They would pay X amount for their child’s name on the back of the shirt they received when they joined. Not compulsory but acted as a fantastic keepsake that over 90% of parents chose to buy. The result; 100% mark up on the service which made a nice additional revenue stream but critically an emotional attachment to the brand for both child and parent (not to mention amazing brand awareness tool!)

BE SPECIFIC – this one refers to goal setting. You need to know where you’re going to track progress, iterate and continue driving forward. If you don’t have both short and long term goals, clearly written down, specific for different areas of your business then maybe don’t be surprised when you’re not really sure where the business is heading. If you can clearly identify some smart goals to aim for, with particular action points attached to them so they can be realistically achieved, then you’re probably a step ahead of many providers.

Real example: We helped launch a new children’s activity brand in Australia and NZ, which was supported by an established programme but still an unknown to the market. We set a lofty target of signing up 140 children in classes per week within 6 months, while maintaining the other programmes we offered with the same number of staff. We hit that target within 5 months because it acted as a specific goal that we needed to reach and ensured we stayed accountable to doing the ‘things’ needed to achieve it. Perhaps we could have been more ambitious?

POSITIVE AUDIENCE EXPERIENCE – we’d go as far as saying 50% of activity providers don’t pay enough attention to this. Having a great programme and classes, which everyone talked about and referred their friends is no longer enough unfortunately. You need to ensure the all round experience of what you are offering is better than competitors.

Real example: My wife and I went to a new softplay venue recently, 15 minutes further from our home than the one we usually take our daughter too. The venue was beautiful; bright, airy, clean. The customer service was on point; friendly, welcoming and available. The facilities were great; free parking, modern toilets and safe. It was dearer than our local softplay and the actual toys were probably not quite as good BUT we would 100% rate the new venue over our local one because we had a much more ‘positive audience experience’. We felt good when we arrived, during and after being there. Moral here is; don’t just focus on your programme USP, focus on your brand USP and all round service to customers.

INVEST IN SUPPORT – don’t try to do it all alone. While this is normal to start with as you launch a business, for you to reach growth, revenue and lifestyle goals it is difficult to do this without support. This might be in outsourced help, hiring more instructors or using a consultant for bigger projects. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people, network and find out how they can help you. Every successful business needs a strong leader to steer the ship, but it also needs that same leader to recognise when to make key decisions and delegate or invest in support.

Real example: A franchise consultancy client of mine recently switched accountants just before they started working with me because they felt their old one was fine, but didn’t really get what they were doing, didn’t offer practical advice or go the extra mile in anyway. The new accountant was three times more expensive but totally understood their business needs, gave advice far more reaching than just about numbers, and critically added more profitability to their business from the very first month so could very easily justify the increased spend.


Andy Georgiou, ICAP Founder

By becoming a member of ICAP you’re joining a community of like-minded professionals and business owners in the children’s activity sector working towards excellence

Pip Wilkins

Pip Wilkins is the Chief Executive of the British Franchise Association (bfa). With 25 years’ experience in the franchise sector, Pip has worked her way up within the Association, gaining insight from all areas of the business and the franchise industry. She is well-known and highly regarded in franchising for her dedication and depth of knowledge. Pip regularly speaks at conferences and seminars both domestically and internationally, as well as writing on franchising matters for national, local and franchising trade press. Pip is also a regular judge for the annual bfa HSBC Franchise Awards, the Franchise Marketing Awards and Global Franchise Awards. Pip represents the UK at both the European Franchise Federation (EFF) and World Franchise Council (WFC). The bfa has grown to be one of the largest franchise associations in Europe, and one of the most successful associations in the world.

Theo Millward

Theo Millward is a graduate of Lancaster University with a BBA in Management. In 2016 Theo purchased UK swim school, Swimtime from the founders which teaches 20,000 children a week. Following a multi-award- winning digital transformation, during the global pandemic, Theo and his team founded Franscape, a saas that digitally transforms Franchise brands. FranScape won New Business of the Year at the UK Business Awards.

Andy Georgiou

Andy is the Founder of ICAP and a leading UK Franchise Business Consultant. He is fiercely committed to helping children’s activity providers build successful and profitable businesses. With qualifications in Business Management, Digital Media and Marketing, he has helped build, advise and grow leading 6 and 7 fiqure children’s education, sports and activity brands in the past 17 years.

Frank Sahlein

Frank has been active in the Children’s Activity Center industry as an athlete, coach, business owner, consultant and business broker. He is a native of San Mateo, California and graduated from San Jose State University in California (USA).
Frank was a pioneer of the Children’s Learning Opportunity Center concept from 1976 – 2016 at the Wings Center in Boise, Idaho (USA) – a blend of Sports Instruction, Arts, Education, Entertainment and Outreach programs.
As a business management innovator, Frank has delivered over 1,000 presentations for a variety of Children’s Activity Center industries such as gymnastics, swimming, cheerleading, dance, martial arts/ninja and child care/education.
3rd Level Consulting is a Business Development and Service Provider Partner for private industry companies, associations, and organizations in the USA, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Singapore, the United Kingdom, Mexico, and Panama.
Two-time recipient of the National Business Leader Award from USA Gymnastics, Frank is the author of “Building Your Business Potential” and “Designing Your Empowered Life”. He is the creator of the SmartEDGE™ Business Applications and Management Certification Courses. He is the co-founder of LEAP Learning and the MetaSpheres Corp, and is the founder and Executive Director of the International Association of Child Development Programs.
His passions include his beautiful wife Lourdes Gonzalez, family, friends, fitness training, transformational reading and travel.