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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.  

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