6 Reasons the SCCA is Losing Members

sports car club of americaSomething a lot of people in the racing community know about but don't like to talk about is the fact that the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA), the largest racing organization in the US, has been steadily losing members for many years now.

I'm not just saying this without any numbers.  In the ‘From the Chair' column in SportsCar, the SCCA's monthly magazine, back in February 2012 this was an issue that was addressed.  “The Sports Car Club of America has seen gradual erosion in both membership and event entries and, unless unchecked, the very core of our club will be endangered.” said Jerry Wannarka Chairman of the SCCA's Board of Directors.  “Our membership is around 42,000 –  a number that reflects a drop of roughly 2,000 members a year for some time now.”  he continued in the column.

Is this surprising?  Not not really and a lot of finger pointing in the racing community has been going on.  I am going to tell you 6 reasons the SCCA has been losing members.

1. Terrible Marketing

This is no surprise and most members of the SCCA are aware of this, but their marketing is terrible.  I know from personal experience since I was a member for 1 year.  I tried to work with my local SCCA group to understand why the marketing efforts were not going well.

It seems the people that manage the SCCA's outreach believe that auto writers and journalists will just magically show-up to their events for press coverage.  The reality is if there isn't a really interesting story or I am not going to be able to drive a car, why the hell would I spend all that time driving there and back?  Keep in mind most events they hold are a fair drive away and are held at Summit Point Raceway in West Virginia, would take me roughly 4-5 hours of driving.  Somehow the people that run the Washington region SCCA didn't get this and don't realize that auto writers either need a really interesting story or need to get something out of going which they wouldn't get otherwise.  (Also they are not very good at returning calls and getting back to you.)

Look my time is valuable and even if I'm interested in racing not every event the SCCA is putting on is interesting.  When I wrote about Freedom Behind the Wheel it wasn't just a story that racing enthusiasts would enjoy but something veterans and their families would like to read too.  You can't always appeal to a wide audience but you always try to with your articles and stories.  

There is a reason companies pay marketers and salesman the most money and not the people that built the product.  They keep the company afloat.

2. Racing is Expensive

This isn't really the SCCA's fault as racing is just expensive.  However, they are not helpful in making so that people new to the club can understand what they need to do to get started with building their own racecars and getting setup.  I guess they assume everyone has the knowledge and resources to do so.

The SCCA from what I can tell has not worked on keeping the costs low for a lot of their races.  It is prohibitively expensive to just show up to a casual race and they don't have any intention of changing this.   Unless you are just independently wealthy or won the lottery I doubt quite see how some people manage to fit in so much time for the SCCA.

The other issue is that in this difficult economy a lot of guys that have sold their racecars or project cars and have completely stopped racing.  Usually I hear the same story.  Car guy used to spend most of his money on his cars, bikes, or other vehicles but now he has 2 kids and maybe another on the way.  He wants to save up money for a down payment on a house and has decided to stop spending time and money racing and on his toys, so he sells his racecar.  (Not easy to find buyers nowadays.)  No racecar or equipment, why would you keep an SCCA membership or other racing organization membership?

3. White People

Everytime I got a SportsCar in the mail my first reaction when opening the pages was, “Oh, racing is for white people.”

Unsure of how they can change this perception with minorities but the SCCA probably should think about it.  The demographics of the US are changing and if they don't' get in front of it the membership base will continue to erode.  Hey, even NASCAR has a diversity program.  Of course I don't think it's going that well as I have zero interest in attending a NASCAR race.

4. Too Many Racing Classes and Categories

I honestly couldn't tell you the difference of the racing classes and categories in the SCCA even though I was a member and I am an auto journalist.  This is probably because the racing categories were named by engineers, who are bad at naming things.

The reasons I mentioned this is it confuses newcomers to the SCCA and makes their lives harder explaining different classes.  All I know is that they have Road Racing, Rally Racing, and some Open Wheel series.  If you want to race a Miata you probably can do that too.

5. Racing Takes a Lot of Time

Me driving all the way to Summit Point just to write about a race, unpaid, is not appealing.  This isn't the only web outlet I contribute too and write for.  Also currently I am working on several other web ventures outside of the automotive space and I need to focus on things that actually pay the bills and make me a living.

For the average person to drive 5+ hours to attend a race or take part in one basically means you would need to take a whole or half day off from work.  I personally can't do this most of the time since it's just not feasible.  From what I've read it seems others feel the same way about the SCCA events too.

6. Young People are not interested in Cars

Yes, it's true.  All young people are not interested in cars and are much more interested in the latest and greatest smartphones.  😉

In addition all young people are currently working on creating the next Facebook, Twitter, Vine, Instagram, SnapChat, etc.  At least thinking that by spending too much time on these social networks.

SCCA is Losing Members

I read in another SportCar issue that while the SCCA gains a fair number of new members each year, a majority drop their memberships and do not renew.  In addition they are losing more members than they gain each year equaling a decrease in members.

It's clear they they need to make some changes and to it aggressively within the next 2-3 years.  If they don't the SCCA might cease to exist.

 

Interview with Nick Miller Co-Founder & CEO of ParkingPanda – Part 3

This is Part 3 of my interview with Nick Miller, Co-Founder and CEO of ParkingPanda.  Click Part 1 and Part 2 for the whole interview.  If you did not see my article on ParkingPanda, check it out!

 

Nick Miller, Co-Founder & CEO

A: So you are looking for a big investment?

NM: We were in this tech accelerator, and the culmination of that was a demo day. All tech companies in the accelerator, we all gave 7-10 minutes pitches and demos to a room full of investors. In addition to all the people we were meeting with and talking to throughout the summer. That kicked off the process of, ok we are out here we are live now. Now we want to raise a little venture capitol to grow the business and expand. On day 1 we made money on our first transaction. We really need to be widespread to make a lot of money. So taking venture capitol will help us accelerate that process. So that's what we are in the process of doing right now.

A: Have you had a good amount of people interested in the business?

NM: Yeah, you know it's always a process and a time consuming thing of people digging into your business finding more about it, finding more about you. Your growth, and all of that stuff. It's going well so far. We are meeting with a lot of people interested in the idea and the space. Meeting with a lot of individual investors and venture capitalists. We are definitely hopeful, it continues to go well.

A: If I rent my space for $10, you guys take a 20% commission?

NM: Right, we take 20% and the rest goes directly to you.

A: You get a check?

NM: Right now we send you a check. We are working on integrating the ability to get PayPal payments or Direct Deposit payments in your bank account. So you will have the option to get whatever you want. If you want a check mailed to you, that's fine. If you want direct deposit in your bank account, that's fine as well. That 20% we take covers all the operating fees and credit card costs, all that maintenance. We want to keep that as low as we can, because we want the community to benefit from it. If people aren't making money on this, then we are not making money on this either.

A: How are you promoting and getting the word out about this?

NM: We love to talk to people like this. A lot of what we do is local focused, we want to build up Baltimore we want to build up DC. We go to commuter areas.  We talk to people, we go to football games, talk to people, pass out flyers.

A: So Guerrilla Marketing

NM: A lot of grassroots type guerrilla stuff, because buying Google Adwords for us, it's expensive and it's not relevant for us. Not too many people Google search “Where can I rent out my parking space?” not a big thing. Once you get out there and talk to people about it, they see the value of it. That's what really does it for us.

A: I assume you are trying to use Social Media?

NM: Of Course! Both Adam [Z] and I, and the company are on Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, everything. We encourage friends, people who use the service when you book space. “Hey I'm using this” or “Hey, I just made a bunch of money using this!” Particularly with our early users if you refer your friends or neighbors.

A: You get a discount?

NM: Right, you get a discount. So you know we really want to encourage people's friends to sign up. If they don't want their neighbors to sign up with the same spot, but maybe their friend on the other side of the city. The more spaces we have available the more we will focus on bringing people in. For most people with their parking spaces they have found money.  The Worst Case Scenario it's exactly the way it was before. The best case is you start making a bunch of cash on your driveway.

A: Since the Grand Prix, which was about a month ago, you have had no problems with people saying “Oh this person was causing problems in my parking space?”

NM: So far we haven't! We have built in as many things as possible, in our terms of service. We have backs-ups if there are any issues, we are there to handle them as quickly as possible. So far you know the community aspect of it naturally protects itself. It is bound to happen if we get big enough, there will be a bad experience for someone. We will do everything we can to protect from that.

A: Yeah, with Couchsurfing at first you think, “This is really weird. I don't know if I want to do this.” Then you try it out. You realize the community aspect does work itself out somehow.

NM: Even with Couchsurfing you can see if people have hosted before. We are building in reviews as well. You can see on both ends of the spectrum. So you can see this person has used our service 10 times and this person has 15 thumbs-up, it is a great space. A little thing goes a long way. Protecting people's reputation on the website. Providing that extra level of security.

A: Do you have anything else you want to tell me?

NM: I think we covered it! Working out of the accelerator with these other companies, our concept is simple. You can sit down with someone and in 2 minutes they know what we are doing. It is not some crazy ad-technology, where 2 months later they are like what are you talking about? How does it work? There is a community marketplace for parking. We want people to share their parking spaces with one another. It's straightforward!

A: Where did you come up with the name, ParkingPanda?

NM: We first built the prototype, the initial version of the product, at the Startup Weekend Baltimore which is a weekend long start-up business event, where you create a business, Friday night to Sunday night. Buying a domain name is very difficult, everything you think is cool or good is taken. We were looking and couldn't find anything. I don't remember who said it, but someone said, “You guys should get a mascot!” I think Adam [Z] might have been like “the ParkingPanda” and it became a running joke throughout the weekend. Then ultimately, we were like, this is fun, people love Pandas.  It fits with us, our attitude, the way we approach the business. It turned into a great marketing thing, people love ParkingPanda! When it gets out there people recognize it. So we just went with it. After start up weekend, we actually won the start-up weekend event.

A: Do you get money from that?

NM: We got a little money to help us incorporate. Once we incorporated the company got money.  Adam [Z] and I didn't collect anything from it, but the company did. So that led back into our marketing and building out the site.

A: Were there domains that you thought were really good, but they would not work or were not available?

NM: For the longest time we wanted ParkingSpace, we tried a million different things, but they were all taken. We didn't let ourselves linger. We went to check and if it was taken, we were like “Eh!” That's the way domain names work now, it is hard to get them. That is why you see all these ridiculously named companies. ParkingPanda is a little bit ridiculous but it is fun and it works.

A: It took a while for me to come up with my Blog name, Adam's Auto Advice. When I thought of it though it was like “Oh! That's great!”

NM: That's what happens when you build this out in a weekend. We are happy with it, it has worked out great. It is recognizable, we have our little logo which is a car Panda.

 

Click Part 1 and Part 2 for the whole interview