Below are the seven deadly sins for any membership director. Golf clubs, country clubs and membership driven brands that can avoid these mistakes can gain a serious leg up on their competition.
Mistake 1: Not Knowing What a Member is Worth
Often I come across a struggling club and during our discovery session I’ll ask the simple question, “So what’s an average member worth to you?” The response that comes out first is rarely the number we reach at the end of the discussion. Usually I’ll get a an answer that calculates the initiation fee and the monthly dues, possibly over the course of one year.
At this point I’ll ask, in the case of a golf and country club, if the members occasionally take their meals at the club. Of course the answer is, “Yes.” Then I’ll go on to ask if they ever attend any of the clubs events and parties? Do they ever rent the events space for a party, wedding, or meeting? Do they bring guests and pay cart fees or tennis court fees? Do they ever purchase anything from the pro shop? Yes, yes, yes and yes.
Now we’re getting somewhere. So now we’ve found that one member is worth a whole lot more than their dues. Then I ask a question that even the sharpest of owners, GMs, and membership directors rarely account for. Do they ever refer their friends? At this point I’ve really got them thinking.
You see, until you have the numbers right on what a member is actually worth, there’s no point in trying to figure out how much you should spend on marketing to them. There’s also no way to accurately gauge their impact on your bottom line, or to what means you should go to retain them.
Mistake #2: Forgetting to Keep Track of Marketing Results
Many clubs and brands aren’t tracking their marketing results and don’t know what is working and what is not. They are throwing advertising dollars around, and just hoping for something to work with no plan in place. How do they know where to put their money the next time? I assume they just must like gambling. I get answers like, “I think we got a few new members from the last direct mail campaign we ran,” or “I know we got some calls, but not sure where they heard about us.” This is a dangerous game to play and one that is sure to close doors sooner than later.
Mistake #3: Thinking Throwing Money Around Will Fix Things
This goes hand in hand with #2. Often, clubs that aren’t tracking what is working start throwing marketing money around when it’s not. When membership numbers drop, they start to place ads in the newspaper, dump some funds into an AdWords account, or start sending out weekly email blasts all of the sudden. With no plan, or way to track, they think that members will just start flowing in. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work that way.
Mistake #4: Not Having a Great Loyalty Program or Re-Marketing Program
Loyalty programs do exactly what they say, keep members loyal. It gives them a reason to keep coming back. I strongly recommend you find some ways to implement them in your club.
Re-marketing programs directed at former members often yield great results for little cost. My own business consultant told me on the first day we met that the easiest person to sell to is the one who just bought. It was true then, and still holds true today. Past members are familiar with your club, and barring the circumstances where you severely offended them, they probably would at least consider coming back if you asked nicely enough. They may have dropped for reasons like temporary economic hardship. Quite possibly they are back to being flush and just forgot how much fun they had at your club. Remind them.
Mistake #5: Not Defining & Speaking to that Audience
Your club can’t be everything to everyone. That’s a good thing, you can use it to your advantage if you play your cards right. Many clubs have an identity crisis because their ads say one thing, and the prospective’s expectation isn’t met when they come pay a visit.
Is your membership full of 60+ aged members? It’s almost useless to put all your marketing effort into social media to attract them. You’d be better served with a direct mail campaign. Simple things like that make all the difference.
Mistake #6: Failure to Follow Up With Current Members Needs & Wants
Clubs could save a lot of members if they would simply ask more questions. I hear membership directors asking all the right questions at all the wrong times. They ask them when it’s too late, and the members are resigning. I suggest you send out club surveys or place them in your bar, restaurant or pro shop to continually take the pulse of your club. Don’t think a simple suggestion box will do the trick either. It takes more. Ask them what you can do to improve their experience. What types of events they would like to see. Ask them if your staff is treating them properly. Ask them if they like the menu, and if the food is cooked properly. Ask them tough questions. Even if you are uncomfortable with the answers you will be better equipped to fix the problems and capitalize on the wins.
Mistake #7: Failing to Figure Out What Their Competition Is Doing Better
It’s easy to stand pat and live in a bubble. It takes some effort to find out what’s working at the club down the street. If you’re losing members to local clubs, figure out what they are doing better than you. If your club has dynamite membership numbers and sales, please still find out what you can do better. It’s arguably even more important during the good times because you can keep the momentum going and tackle your competitors at an exponential rate.