How to connect your members so they stay longer

Apr 26, 2013   //   by Mike   //   Latest News  //  Comments Off on How to connect your members so they stay longer

Member retention is always a hot topic in the golf industry as we are seeing a continued reduction in total members annually, along with a drop in the frequency of member play. This is due to a variety of reasons, some of which you can control.

If a new member doesn’t feel fully ‘connected’ within the first 12 months of joining your club, you risk losing them when the time comes to renew their membership. So what does it mean to have your member ‘connected’ to your club? Members need a ‘sense of belonging’, to feel valued and appreciated, and to be recognised when they are at your club. Even more importantly, they need to feel the same way when they are not at the club.

In his book King of Clubs, the international golf management company ClubCorp’s Founder Robert Dedman Sr said: “We are in the repeat-business business. The club members we have, we want to keep, and mainly through them, get others. The members we have are our best source for getting new ones. We have to look after the members we have, and the new ones we get, well enough so they’ll want to help us get more members.”

There are many external factors your club has no control over that could be influencing members to leave, for instance:

  • People are increasingly time-poor and spending more time with family, on other recreational activities, and on working longer.
  • Members move away from your area and no longer need their membership.
  • New facilities in your local market give incredible offers to join.
  • There are more options available to social golfers, so traditional memberships are not as highly-valued as before. Why belong to just one club when you can play a variety of clubs for about the same cost?
  • Families have less money to spend on ‘non-essentials’ such as golf, due to interest rate increases and increasing prices of petrol, food, schooling and other living costs.

However, there are also many internal factors your club does have control over that could be causing members to leave your club, like:

  • Raised expectations of what services members are receiving in return for what they pay – i.e. ‘The Value Equation’.
  • Poor course conditions due to recurring budget cuts, lack of staff training, or lack of management accountability.
  • Slow play as a result of too many members on the course at one time and poor management of the process.
  • Access to the course being limited during peak periods because of over-demand or traditional booking patterns.
  • Members don’t feel part of the club or feel it is not family-oriented enough for them.
  • Not enough events for members who don’t want to participate in serious competitions.

Here are 10 simple and cost-effective strategies your club can use to combat these factors and connect your members:

1.       Focus on your inactive members, not just on members who are at the club all the time. Make an effort to involve them in the club more.

2.       Improve communication through weekly, or at least monthly, newsletters that can be sent via email.

3.       Offer an annual dues payment plan through the club (with a small interest fee), or via an outside agency.

4.       Give no-cost or low-cost ‘add ons’ – like free percolated coffee or fruit at the first tee.

5.       Improve social golf activities for family-golfers and non-golfers – like theme nights, 9-hole competitions, family tees, etc. Turn a wasted area in your clubhouse or course into a kids’ area.

6.       Build relationships by sending birthday and anniversary cards to members and remembering their favourite drinks.

7.       Connect new members with other members or you risk losing them. Members usually leave their club, not their friends. Conduct a member profile to learn more about your members’ personal interests. From your findings, try to pair like-minded members together for a round of golf or cup of coffee.

8.       Happy members are referring members. Check your guest sheet to see who plays often at your club, but who is not already a member. Ask your member if you can call their guest and ask them to join.

9.       Recognise your members for achievements that are golf-related and non-golf related. Perhaps they won a business award or their son had a personal best in swimming.

10.   Use your members’ names whenever possible as the basis of good service standards at your club.

Members visit your club to get away from work and to relax, so make them feel at home. Go out of your way to personalise their experience each time they visit. They are your members – so get to know them! Connecting your members will not guarantee they won’t leave, but it will make the decision much, much tougher for them.

Please send us your “best practices” in member retention and we will post in a future follow up story.

Written May 2008 by Mike Orloff- Golf Operations Specialist Golf Industry Central ©2008

For your free 11 Critical Steps to Connecting New Members task list, email morloff@golfindustrycentral.com.au