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How successful are member discount programs? What are the best ways to increase membership sales?

Discount programs may result in short-term increases in membership sales but, when used as the club’s only approach to growth, this practice can have a long-term negative impact. Without memorable experiences, the club is just a building. Prospects attracted by the latest deal rarely connect to the club, while current members end up feeling devalued. The resulting revolving door of members in – members out makes stability impossible and ultimately affects the club’s ability to attract quality staff.

Focusing on growth from within is one of the simplest and most direct approaches, as execution involves elements already on hand—current members and control over operations and staff. To shift the paradigm, start small. Identify a current member that the club would like to have more of and create a profile: age, gender, likes and dislikes. Do they play golf for three hours or three holes?  Is she an active baby boomer who could use a yoga happy hour on Friday afternoons? Could he enjoy cigars with bourbon on card club night? Once identified, design one new memorable experience just for that individual. For inspiration, read up on the latest trends, listen for buzz from a competing club, or just ask. Valuable insight can be gained through preferences gathered during the application process, in member surveys, or in one-on-one conversations around the club. Include upcoming details in member communications, on the event calendar, and on the member website to provide plenty of notice for planning. Feature the fun on social media channels while it’s happening. And post highlights to digital displays and within the website photo gallery after the fact to promote the next available opportunity to participate.

The need for growth can be solved in more ways than one. Although incentive promotions can be appropriately placed within a private club’s master sales and marketing plan, the strategic design and delivery of member programming must also be integrated. The members are the club. Those who engage are more likely to stay, which increases retention. When they share their experience with like-minded friends, referrals also increase. And prospects just might begin to look past the price cut and instead make a decision to join based on their attraction to the club’s unique experience.

Julia Kelly is director of sales marketing for Troon, supporting clubs in achieving forecasting goals for sales, revenue, member satisfaction and retention. She can be reached at [email protected] or visit and