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Need More Members?

Help, I need more members!

I hear this refrain from Private Country Clubs all over the Country. With rising gas prices, a falling stock market, and more homes in foreclosure than at any time in history, Private Clubs are experiencing record high attrition and are finding it increasingly difficult to find new Members. Yet, I am amazed at what I hear after a few questions and the lack of action being taken to do something tangible to gain a better result.

Does any of this sound familiar?

(A compilation of my conversations with Private Clubs recently.) 

Bob: How many new members have you enrolled this year?

Club: 3 or maybe 4.


Bob: What is you goal for this year?

Club: We need about 45 to cover our attrition and provide a net gain. If we don’t get to 45 we won’t have enough in Initiation Fees, dues income, and other Club spending to operate the Club at its current level. We’ll either have to raise dues, cut expenses or assess the membership. But, we don’t want to do any of those things as we are afraid we’ll lose more of our current members. 

Bob: Great, so you understand the critical importance of enrolling new members?

Club: Yes, we know we have a problem and have to do something about it NOW! 

Bob: Makes sense. So what current activities are you utilizing to bring new Members to your Club?

Club: Well, we’re thinking about some type of incentive program to our members if they bring in a new Member. Some F&B credit or maybe some free dues.

Bob: Ok, so you are planning a member referral program?

Club: Well, not really. We tried that once a few years ago and it didn’t work too well. 

Bob: Hmmm, so you are going to go to the 3 or 4 new members who joined this year and ask them for referrals?

Club: Well, not really. We don’t want them to think we need new Members. 

Bob: Of course not. So you want to keep your need for new members a secret?

Club: Well, sort of. You know our reputation in the community is important and if the word gets out that we’re looking for members, it could hurt us. 

Bob: Reputation is so important, isn’t it! So what specific activities do you have your Membership Director focused on to covertly get the word to people who may have interest in joining the Club.

Club: Membership Director, what Membership Director? 

Bob: You know, the person responsible for selling memberships at your Club.

Club: Oh, we don’t have one of those. If someone asks about membership we have the girl in accounting talk to them and on weekends one of the assistant golf pros takes over. 

Bob: Well, you’re certainly covered then.

Club: Yes, someone is here all the time. 

Bob: Great. Are you working with realtors in your area to introduce new people to the community to the Club?

Club: One of our members is a realtor so I’m sure that’s happening. 

Bob: Undoubtedly. What about a guest registration system to capture the names of guests, ensure the integrity of the guest policy, and gauge each guests interest in membership with a few short questions?

Club: The golf shop says it’s too hard to get members to register their guests. It takes time and everyone is anxious to get to the range to warm up before their round. 

Bob: Yes, inconveniencing the golf shop wouldn’t be right. How about your database of prospects for membership, how are you using that?

Club: Well, we really don’t have a database. 

Bob: How about sending an invitation for a Discovery Day at the Club to select areas of town that represent good prospects demographically for new members?

Club: Our Reputation, remember?

Bob: Yes, I remember.

I could go on and on but you get the point! There is nothing more important for a Private Country Club than growing its membership. Yet, in hundreds of Private Clubs across the Country, the very things above that seem so ridiculous go on every day.

The very lifeblood of success in Private Clubs, a growing membership , the #1 Most Critical Success Factor, is constantly monitored but never acted on to bring new members to the Club. Owners and Boards know they are trending the wrong way, call to talk about it and get ideas, agree that what they hear makes sense, then just continue to do the same things they’ve always done and watch as the death spiral continues.

Want to succeed in Membership? Then get busy with the following!

You MUST HAVE a professional salesperson in the role of Membership Director on a commission basis whose sole role is prospecting for and closing new members. Think about this. The most critical factor for success in a Private Club is success in membership, yet it is treated like a part time position with people who have no sales training charged with the task of bringing new members to the Club.

Would you put the girl in accounting in charge of golf course maintenance? Would you put the receptionist with the nice personality in charge of the kitchen? Of course not! But by putting anyone other than a skilled sales professional in charge of membership sales, the foregoing is exactly what you are doing.

Your website should be far more than just a series of bland pages that look like every other website for Clubs. Your website should be the center of all your marketing activities for membership sales and all other revenue sources you are trying to generate for your Club. Is your website a data collection machine? Is your website tracking all of your marketing activities? Is your website automatically responding to all requests made in a professional manner? If not, your website is not doing what it can to be the vital tool it can to help with all of your marketing efforts.

If you like this article, we have more!  Give us a call today at 727-424-2434 to discuss your membership strategy.  

Suggestive Selling

Suggestive Selling | The Easiest Means to Create New Revenue
Might I Suggest!

My wife and I went on a 5 night Royal Caribbean Cruise in early December and as I do with any experience, my goal was to keep an open mind and learn from this leading company in the travel and hospitality industry and see what might be applied to our partner clubs.

A cruise is dependent upon onboard selling to make the trip a profitable one. The fare for the cabins is a good start but it’s just that, a start. To create a profitable trip, onboard selling, and lots of it, is a MUST. And they do it very well!

Okay, what did they sell?

A better question might be what did they not sell? As we began the process of boarding the ship, lanyards with multiple nautical themes to hold your “Sea Pass” which served as your room key as well as a credit card for everything you purchased onboard were a popular item among many cruisers. Only $15 for these souvenirs that not only would serve as a great memory but also provide the convenience of not having to search your pockets or purse every time the Sea Pass was needed. With 3500 passengers sailing, and seeing the line to purchase this impulse item, I’d estimate that at least 1,000 were sold. We opted out.

Once Onboard the Real Selling Starts
Cocktails Anyone?

Now the FUN began! As you might imagine everyone was excited and in a party mood upon boarding and what better way to party than with a few cocktails. And they certainly gave you a fine opportunity to imbibe. On every area of decks that had bars, unlimited drink packages were available for sale. Only $55 per person per day including gratuity! Now this might seem a bit high but if you consider beer was $5/$7, wine $10/$12, and top shelf cocktails and specialty drinks even more, it wasn’t a bad option. In fact, there were lines to purchase it. We opted in!

Get Away but Stay in Touch
The World Wide Web with a Deal

Not quite as popular as the drink package was the internet package. For only $24 per day you had unlimited access and could stay in touch with your business, family or friends. Two devices in the same cabin for only $40 per day was the DEAL of the DAY. Again, we opted in. Doing some work on our balcony at sea was exquisite!

Shore Excursions, Onboard Sail Away Sales,
Drawings, and Specialty Restaurants

Upon boarding, everywhere you turned there was a buzz. A drawing with 5 winners for a spa package. (The entry form included your name and room number and you continued to receive special offers from the spa throughout the cruise.) A presentation on shore excursion in the ports of call for the ship. The cruise line gets a 40%/50% commission. We charted our own course at the ports of call.

There were flyers everywhere promoting a tour of the bridge for only $89 per person. We opted out. A tour of the kitchen followed by a special champagne brunch for only $29 per person. We opted in. An art sale. Not for us. Upgraded dining to specialty restaurants including a fine steakhouse, sushi, Italian, and Mexican. We stayed with the Main Dining Room fare and were quite happy with the experience.

And of Course the Photos!

There was a ship’s photographer imploring you to pose every day and every night. From reality photos at your dining room table, with the Captain at his reception, in front of the magnificent Christmas tree, overlooking the promenade, and on the spiral staircase, to themed setting with a variety of backgrounds, you were given the opportunity to have your picture snapped dozens of times. And most people really want a picture of themselves, especially on vacation! We opted in for the 6 image package on a zip drive for only $100. Best deal was ALL of your pictures for $225. Lots of folks were buying this.

Next Cruise Desk

What better time to book your next cruise that while enjoying the cruise you’re on! And Royal Caribbean made sure that they gave you a chance to do just that! The Next Cruise Desk was near our cabin and without fail I saw 4 to 5 people at the desk exploring options for future adventures on the high seas. By doing so while on the cruise ship, you were guaranteed the best prices available. Good hook! We didn’t bite though.

Thanks for Sharing your Cruise Vacation.
But What Does that have to do with my Golf Course?
Good Question. Lots!

Let’s look at what can be done at your club or course to create additional sales. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination, willingness to step out of the normal course of business, and try some new things. Consider these as starting points.

  • When a person purchases a membership or season pass, what else can you suggest to the person to make the experience and value even better? How about an annual cart plan? A locker or bag storage? Handicap service? Buying club? A Dining Club, yes, a Dining Club! Pay a monthly fee and enjoy a 25%/50% savings on all of your F&B purchases.
  • Similar to a Next Cruise Desk, what about a Next Round Desk. It could be a lone standing computer in the golf shop or restaurant or even at the counter where the person working could suggest booking the “Next Round” Suggestion is powerful and not done nearly enough in the golf industry.
  • When a person who is not a member signs up to tee it up, suggest a 3, 5, or 7 round package that saves them money compared to the regular fees. Or a replay round tomorrow or within the next 3 days for a special price.
  • Suggest merchandise or accessory sales. Counter top items like sunscreen, golf ball promotions, hats or visors, golf gloves, and any and everything else. SUGGEST!
  • Suggest any special leagues or upcoming events. Ask the person to sign up!
  • Suggest upcoming golf clinics or demo days. Ask the person to sign up!
  • Host a behind the scenes tour of the golf course maintenance area including the pump station and explanation of the equipment, frequency of mowing, hours of the staff, and any other interesting tidbits. This is not going to likely have broad based appeal but there are certainly some golfers who would enjoy this type of experience. And it will build great loyalty!
  • Walk the range and provide “quick tips” to golfers at a scheduled time on a busy day. That little bit of good advice might just be the nudge a golfer needs to begin taking lessons.
  • Much like shore excursions, host a day of golf at a Pro-Am or even a road trip to a neighbor course. Again, not a huge revenue event in and of itself, but another big-time loyalty builder.
  • Take pictures on the first tee or signature hole on special days such as Memorial Day, July 4th, Easter Day, Christmas Day, or whatever holiday brings play to the course. No need to sell them. Just post them on Facebook and tell the golfers to look for them. You will get new Fans! Oh, and did I mention loyalty?
  • Have a difficult par 3 over water, a ravine, or other hazard? Provide a basket of used ball at the tee with a sign as follows: “Concerned about losing your ball? Use one of ours. Good luck!” Not a revenue generator but certainly a memorable moment.
  • Especially at the start of a new golf season, set up a grip replacement display in a high traffic, high visibility area of the golf shop. Have a variety of grip options on display, promote with a special “new season” price and do the work where the golfers can see it being done, if possible.
  • A once per week “putting contest” Set up a 3 to 9 hole course and provide a prize for each day’s winner. Do it between 12 and 2 to catch morning golfers after their round and afternoon golfers before their round. Do it consistently and your golfers will look forward to participating.
  • A Hole in One Contest for an additional fee of $2 to $5 included with your round. If you score an ace you receive a grand prize that you designate. The golfer gets $2/$5 in credit in the restaurant after the round if he/she didn’t score an ace. There are companies that provide a camera and monitoring for this contest.

3 Ways to Increase Sales

There are only 3 ways to increase your sales. (1) Get new customers, (2) raise the price, or (3) sell more to the customers who are already yours at the course playing golf or dining. . The 3rd is the easiest if only you and your staff SUGGEST!

Contact Me for a Complimentary 30 Minute Consultation

For a complimentary 30 minute review of your course or club, request a consultation online below or give me a call directly at 727-424-2434.

For Golf Marketing and Management Solutions,

Bob Devitz

Let us help you work ON your business, not IN your business