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From the Publisher
By Mike Panozzo
Mike became editor of Billiards Digest in 1980 and liked it so much that he bought the company. He has served on the Billiard Congress of America board of directors and as president of the Billiard & Bowling Institute of America.

July: Stolen Goods
July 2009
This column is a repeat of an editorial currently running in Billiard Retailer, but I feel so strongly about the topic that I felt compelled to run it in BD as well.

I'VE ALWAYS found that the most cost-effective way to make improvements in your business is to steal someone else's well-thought out, researched and documented good idea!

That's certainly not a new concept. Why spend years of effort and gobs of money developing a strategy when the successes and failures of your predecessors and competitors are right there in front of you waiting to be pilfered?

The Billiard Congress of America - and, in turn, the billiard industry as we know it - is in dire straits. The association's only source of income is the annual International Billiard & Home Recreation Expo, and the expo is shrinking faster than your 401K.

It's obvious that the only way the BCA will be able to help its members stave off extinction in the coming years is to develop programs that generate income for both the association and the manufacturers, retailers and poolroom owners that make up the BCA's membership.

BCA, I give you Strike Ten Entertainment.

Strike Ten Entertainment (STE) is the marketing arm for the bowling industry. Its sole purpose is to develop programs with outside industry partners that bring revenue directly to members of the Bowling Proprietors Association of America (BPAA), and indirectly to bowling manufacturers and suppliers.

Now, the BCA has dipped its toe into the "agency of record" arena, paying huge annual retainers to marketing firms and P.R. firms in the past. And bowling's first foray into this arena also proved to be a financial sinkhole. But this is different. STE is solely about bowling, run by business people who know and live bowling. Initially, it was funded by the BPAA and the United States Bowling Congress, but after just four years STE is self-funding through the contracts it has developed on behalf of bowling.

Billiards needs a Strike Ten Entertainment.

What kind of programs has STE developed for bowling? Soft drink and beer deals that save member bowling centers thousands of dollars annually, and generate huge revenue for both STE and the BPAA. Programs that use bowling centers as points of activation for national companies, which drive participation and bring the game millions of dollars in free advertising. Programs with products like AMP Energy Drink that fund televised professional events, which, in turn, activate bowling centers through contests and giveaways.

The BCA can fund such a marketing arm. And because, at least in the early stages, the key element would be member billiard rooms, the BCA will have a vehicle through which it can recapture a critical part of its membership that it has ignored in the past decade. Offering real value to room owners will help increase the BCA's membership, strengthen its relevance and ensure the success of billiards' STE. Increased room membership would also make the annual BCA expo appealing to a host of new vendors.

In truth, the BCA should have funded an autonomous marketing arm like STE three or four years ago, when the industry's future was beginning to become clouded but the association's coffers were still full.

But today is today, and the BCA needs this.

The BCA should solicit the help of bowling's STE. Why? For one, every problem that may come pool's way in an effort like this has already been faced by STE.

And two, STE's Frank Decosio has already said the group is willing to help.

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

I say the BCA should flatter STE to death.