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What are the new challenges for clubs that want to make the most of membership interest?

In the first of this two-part series, I covered what the contributing factors behind a resurgence of interest in private clubs. Fueled by lockdowns, travel restrictions, remote work, and for some a general feeling of insecurity, more people are showing interest in private club membership now than in a very long time. However, increasing interest in clubs, as well as new and first-time members joining clubs, means a number of potential changes, and as we all know, change can be difficult to manage. 
There are three specific areas that clubs should be paying increased attention to right now: sales optimization, culture clash and new member onboarding. All three of these topics present opportunities as well as potential risk. 
Sales Optimization 
Growing interest in memberships has led to some short-term decision-making that could lead to long-term consequences. In some cases, clubs with a full membership are turning away requests for information and even deactivating their club website’s “request for information” forms. 
Your club may have a full roster today, but this time of high membership demand may be short lived. Your club would be better served to do everything in its power to accumulate membership candidates and invest in nurturing those opportunities instead of flatly turning them down. 
Lead/opportunity nurturing doesn’t need to be costly or complex. It’s a simple matter of engaging with prospective members when they first reach out and staying in touch with regular communications. Club news such as new facilities or the launch of a new website are excellent opportunities to reach out to prospective members, and a regular cadence of check-ins will help you gauge their interest and cultural fit over time. This may sound time consuming, but communication strategies like these are some of the easiest to automate through email marketing and CRM platforms, which can be as simple or as complex as you wish to make them.  
Culture Clash 
An injection of new members may be just what your club has been needing, and many clubs are reporting that the new members are both young and joining with families. Younger members’ interests and expectations can help drive new programs and affect the club’s evolution—as well as its long-standing, accepted club culture. The good news is that this is not a runaway ship, it’s one that you can steer with careful consideration. 

  • Do lawn bowling facilities or the pool get an injection of cash next year?  
  • Are we conducting enough events to appeal to a younger and more diverse demographic? 
  • Are we communicating with the entire membership though methods that they are accustomed to? 

Questions such as these are fundamental when the face of your membership begins to evolve. For many clubs though, addressing these questions can be largely guess work without the data needed to make informed decisions. Luckily, clubs have access to ample membership data. 
Decisions regarding club programming, policies and even capital investments should only be made on a foundation of intelligent data. An investment in understanding your club’s current and historical demographics, including your gender ratios, the generational mix and club utilization by these categories will prove invaluable. Without information like this, your club is very likely to make decisions to appease the concerns of the loudest 5%, while ignoring the silent majority. 
New Member Onboarding 
Thoroughly onboarding new members may be the single most important step to ensure that new members turn into lifelong members. Some clubs fail miserably at this, but the ones who excel have an established process that starts all the way back in the early joining process.  
Asking thoughtful questions about what new members are expecting well before they join and discussing your club’s culture will help new members understand the nuances of your club in ways they may not otherwise consider. Once new members have joined, helping them grow their social network is essential, and new members should expect a helping hand from the club and its staff to make this happen. Your club should also be performing regular—even automated—check-ins/surveys that will help to establish a benchmark for satisfaction and loyalty that you can monitor and take action on over time. 
One of the essential metrics clubs should be investing time and attention into is the Net Promoter Score (NPS), which allows businesses to benchmark member loyalty and their likelihood to recommend the club to personal contacts. This metric has been trusted by organizations for more than a decade to evaluate brand loyalty and while it’s becoming more prevalent in the club industry, it’s still massively underutilized and misunderstood. According to a recent report published by GGA Partners, only 14% of clubs are tracking this metric as a part of their membership surveys. 
When it comes to making the most of this unique time in our industry, there are a number of ways that clubs can take action, but at the core of everything in this series are two key elements: ongoing communication and data-driven decision-making. With these two principles driving your marketing and communications strategy, your club will position itself well for long-term success. 

Trevor Coughlan is vice president, marketing at Jonas Club Software. He can be reached at [email protected].