Most history books of a century-old club provide a storyline of transitions. The founders’ years are exciting and challenging. The next generation moves on from the initial struggles and finds growth. By the third generation, the framework is ingrained into a culture that protects the long standing traditions. However, the common thread through all the cycles is the changes brought on by necessity.
Through word of mouth, proud members would share stories about their experiences at the club, encouraging family, friends or associates to join. The level of pride within a club has not changed, but the level of interest surrounding a club’s targeted circumference has greatly diminished. Societal norms and attitudes have shifted and a club’s offerings have more competition than ever. Members alone can no longer be held responsible for balancing matriculation and attrition.
It is no secret that the majority of new member referrals come from members who have joined within the past five years. Over the years, most of the long term members have done their part as advocates by bringing in numerous new members. Times have changed, private club memberships aren’t as homogenized as in the past. Contrasts exist between adult and family-oriented programming, generational differences with needs and wants, etc.
Club leaders are faced with finding multiple revenue streams to feed into the dues line that once funded operations and capital. Along with prestige, exclusivity has been a selling point to attract potential members. However, the downside of being exclusive is that those outside the inner circle are not aware of the club’s features and benefits. It’s possible that a potential member, who for the past decade lived 20-30 minutes from the club, never knew the club was there. To raise awareness in the surrounding community, clubs unfortunately, are hesitant to use traditional marketing methods that may send mixed messages of the club’s financial position.
“The revenue challenges clubs are facing is not exclusively a result of economic downturn and societal shifts. The root of the problem stems from a lack of community awareness. The fact remains that the most successful way to drive revenues is by accurately reflecting the club features and benefits. When done properly, within a 20 mile / minute radius of the club, local interest is raised increasing inquiries that drive revenues.”
-Peter Jude Ricciardi
When you think of web communications, think of it as the digital version of the existing analog member referral. Remember the times before digital social media, where we would share our interests and club experiences with family, friends and associates? If you add a dash of discretion and a pinch of discernment to the digital approach, it’ll sound familiar to the existing analog version of member referrals. Through media content and communication, interest attracts potential members to the club website. Beyond the membership advocates, the highest producer of new member inquiries for most clubs is the club website. From this point, the intention is to nurture relationships through Customer Relationship Management software (CRM), which clubs use to manage and analyze customer interactions and data throughout the customer lifecycle with the goal of improving relationships. This form of marketing is much more engaging to potential customers. Its purpose is not to change how your club looks to the community, but how the community looks at your club.
After the recent recession, some private clubs could not keep pace with the changes brought on by the new economy. Similarly, companies and organizations also became victims of Digital Darwinism, resisting change from analog to digital practices. Brick and mortar organizations going up against businesses, such as Amazon and Netflix, quickly lost market share. Most clubs today are competing for attention and relevance. For many, it’s time to ask what we can do differently to be more relevant to attract the people we want to connect with. When you shift the paradigm, problems become opportunities.
How well do you know the Circle of Influence (potential member geographic market), where you draw members from? How well is the club’s unique value proposition defined and emotional benefits communicated to the targeted potential member? Are you capturing their imagination and holding their attention to the point of having them share experiences with others in their own words? The place and time where a member visits tells a lot about the individual and group activity at the club. How would a member at your club fill in the following blanks?
When I get to the club, I’m usually at/in the _______ around___:___ to ______. I enjoy it because________!
Exploring questions like these leads to the fact that a small percentage of members can become the greatest source of revenue…think 80/20 principle. It makes sense to pay a lot of attention to these advocates. It’s worth knowing how the club is doing with them, to the point of constant monitoring of compliments and complaints. Compliments are an endorsement that could drive a referral and complaints are an invitation to win them back, quickly!
To best determine the needs and wants of potential member’s, data and facts are pertinent to the decision making process. When you track member behavior you quickly learn how to best position programming that drives membership usage.
A short decade ago marketing was an unspoken word in many private clubs. Today, most successful clubs have formed Marketing Committees and rely on the expertise of a proven Membership Marketing Director. Club leadership has quickly learned the value of raising awareness to produce the highly needed results in an extremely competitive marketplace.