Not the Time to Wait

Henry DeLozier highlights three important points for club leaders to ramp up club operations and refine their game plan.

When asked what steps they are taking to prepare their business for the post-COVID-19 environment, many small- and medium-sized business owners and managers say they’re taking a “wait-and-see” approach. While that attitude is understandable, with conditions and health and safety guidelines changing by the day, it’s also not advisable.

The more effective strategy is the one that many other businesses are taking to navigate the crisis in creative and productive ways: Anticipating and preparing for a post-COVID-19 business, whenever that may come and whatever it might resemble.

In a wide range of businesses, preemptive leaders are driving revenue through new marketing tactics and sales channels, putting new incentives in place to spur immediate purchasing and capture pent-up demand, moving more of their in-person interactions online, pivoting their business to address new needs and developing new products to position their business when customer demand returns to normal.

Others are enhancing their digital presence by sprucing up their website with new content or fixing online issues for a better customer experience. And many businesses are strategizing by mapping out potential scenarios for the future.

Three important points to consider when ramping up club operations:

1. Update the club’s financial plan.

The business interruption and financial impacts will be profound and may even threaten the club’s existence. The board must reset the club’s financial plan by evaluating the current in-flow of dues revenue and the realistic projection of pending banquet and catering activity. Refer to the club’s historic reference points for revenue as the key component in ramping up successfully. Balance revenue projections with the probable attrition rate caused by members who will leave the club for health and financial reasons.

Look realistically at the club’s expenses and prepare yourself – they will be discouraging. Plan to restart programs and services in a phased manner that focuses on the most popular and engaging programs in the eyes of your members.

It’s important to remember that members may have different priorities in a post-recession world. Knowing what those are through surveys and focus groups is far more advisable than assuming the old normal is also the new normal. Keep in mind that the club may not be able to restart at a level and pace that meets members’ expectations without what may be significant investments.

In a financial sense, the club is starting over financially. This can be good for clubs overloaded with expensive debt since it gives them incentive to renegotiate their debt structure. Interest rates are at historic lows and will remain so for some time. This makes it a good time to restructure the club’s financial plan to remove historic flaws, such as membership-optional communities and outdated governance practices.

2. Strengthen your team.

Every club in your area is being affected differently by the pandemic. Some will retain staff with little change. Others will be forced to reduce operations, programs and staff. Some of your own employees will decide not to return or may be unavailable. Be prepared and recruit aggressively to fill and strengthen key positions on your team. It’s also a good time to review and update personnel records, roles and benefits.

3. Introduce new social programs.

As leaders hit the reset button, remember that private clubs enjoy an emotional relationship with their members far more than a transactional one. When evaluating and creating programs, consider the following:

Members will want to see one another and be seen. There will be a great opportunity for friends to be reunited and reminded that their club is a safe haven for their families and friends.

Look at events that are either successive – where one event sets the stage for the next – or part of a series of similar events. Give members the sense of ongoing relationships rather than one-off types of events.

Host member information exchanges. As members anticipate their clubs reopening, they will have lots of questions, which can be boiled down to “What’s changed – and what hasn’t?” Assemble a team of staff members who constitute the Answers Team.

Get ahead of questions by anticipating as many as you can and communicating the answers widely through email, newsletters and social media.

Creating a Reliable Game Plan

The most effective transitional leaders will be those who can manage information aggressively. Keep your stakeholder groups of members, employees, suppliers, and extended business partners – like bankers and insurance carriers – well-informed.

Your members and stakeholders want information, to be sure. Even more importantly, they want confidence that their club is in steady hands. They want to see evidence – action more so than talk – that the club is taking measured steps and addressing the key strategic issues without distraction with petty short-term matters. This capability requires a reliable game plan.

In May, GGA Partners conducted a series of weekly webinars to help club leaders construct their game plan and illustrate the thought processes that go into reopening and operating again in the wake of COVID-19. The sessions offered a deeper look into these three important points and tactics to prepare for a post-pandemic business environment.

The archive of each webinar and accompanying slide deck (if applicable) are available on CMAA University, complimentary to all CMAA members. Once you are signed in to CMAA University, you can find the recording and accompanying resources under CMAA Member Education, COVID-19 Resources. The content is then organized by topic area, see below for where each of the four webinars are housed:

Crisis Management and Communications

Changing Communications for Changing Times – Linda Dillenbeck & Bennett DeLozier – May 27, 2020

Member Surveys in Uncertain Times – Michael Gregory & Ben Hopkinson – May 20, 2020

Reopening Your Club

Transitional Leadership: Restarting Your Club – Henry DeLozier – May 6, 2020

Business Continuity

Future Trends in the Workforce – Patrick DeLozier – May 15, 2020

If you don’t know your login information, please contact CMAA through this online form.

 

This article also featured in Golf Course Industry magazine

Webinar: Member Surveys in Uncertain Times

This webinar continues a series of communications from GGA Partners to help private club leaders address challenges confronting their businesses and their employees as a result of the global health crisis. Whether your club is operational or waiting to return to business as usual, now is a crucial time to keep members engaged.

Leverage Surveys to Engage Members During COVID-19

Last week, MemberInsight – a Jonas Club Software company, and the industry-leading member survey platform – together with GGA Partners co-hosted a webinar to discuss the power of member surveys in the time of COVID-19 and how clubs, regardless of their survey platform of choice, can better utilize members surveys during this difficult time.

“Many clubs send member surveys as a regular part of conducting business.” Said Trevor Coughlan, Vice President of Marketing at Jonas Club Software. “The problem is, many clubs only send them annually, and they think about surveying in a linear fashion – capital & long term planning. I believe surveys relevant to the moment and the action taken as a result of them have the opportunity to invigorate the way members feel about a club and its staff. There is no better time for clubs to be stepping into action than now which is why we are proud to make our platform available at no charge for three months.”

“In the current environment staying connected with members is a real challenge, but it’s more important than ever,” explained Michael Gregory, a Partner at GGA Partners. “Surveys are a tool all clubs can be using to stay engaged with their members, to capture important feedback, and to provide a level of comfort to members knowing their club is working hard to come out of this stronger and more capable of meeting their needs, wants and expectations.”

Webinar Playback

The webinar presented the MemberInsight feature set, the science behind survey based communications, and specific examples of surveys clubs can put into action as they remain committed to serving their members.

If you’d like to share the webinar recording with a colleague or watch it again please view the video below.

 

Survey Templates

GGA Partners has provided 5 complimentary survey templates. Download the templates below and use them to give your members a voice during these unprecedented circumstances so you can start taking action on member feedback.

MemberInsight is the optimal platform to start using these templates and gathering member feedback. The company recently announced that their survey functionality is being made available to clubs at no charge for three months.

If you would like to sign up for three free months and no setup fees*, fill out this MemberInsight form or contact Michael Gregory at GGA Partners.

Crystal Ball Thoughts on the Shape of the Next Normal

This article continues a series of communications from GGA Partners to help private club leaders address challenges confronting their businesses and their employees as a result of the global health crisis. Today, Henry DeLozier highlights GGA Partners’ crystal ball thoughts on what the post-crisis environment will look like for club and leisure businesses.

Gordon Gecko wasn’t the good guy in the Faustian tale Wall Street and, yet, the character played in the 1987 movie by Michael Douglas left behind some memorable advice, “The most valuable commodity I know of is information.”

In early April, GGA Partners gathered its team of trusted advisors and thought leaders for the express purpose of developing strategic tenets to guide GGA clients across the globe. Following are glimpses of impacts for private clubs and club leaders:

Expect Longevity

Murray Blair and Fred Laughlin, directors at GGA Partners, observe that the effects of the epidemic will be lasting and may be sortable now into certain phases:

Pre-Vaccine – Until a reliable vaccine is developed, tested, and made available for widespread usage, conditions for most clubs will change only slightly from current circumstances. Baseline operational methods will change significantly as partial- and full-closures are showing operators and members new – more attractive, in some cases – methods which satisfy members’ concerns for caution and dining at their clubs. Many clubs are finding that demand for dining options at the club is growing as so many previously competitive restaurants are closed.

Operating costs will vary widely. Housekeeping budgets will increase substantially as members want to experience highly obvious signs of the club’s emphasis on sanitary conditions, cleanliness, and personal safety for members and staff. Labor costs will vary widely based upon local supply/demand balance as many workers will be less mobile than before.

Post-Vaccine – After a vaccine has been found and put into use, members will renew their active usage of their clubs differently. Bennett DeLozier observed that club members who previously were nonchalant on matters of strategic planning at the club will demand that their club have a clearly stated and broadly understood game plan. Many members who are responding GGA attitudinal surveys observe that there was no expectation of a health pandemic and, yet, believe “The club should have had a disaster preparedness plan.” Strategic planning, which was previously an indicator of the best leadership in clubs, will be important to most private clubs more so in the future.

Continued & Reinvigorated Family-First Focus

Barb Ralph, one of GGA’s most tenured team members, opined that members will seek more family-oriented facilities, programs and services. The notion of “clanning”, first suggested by futurist Faith Popcorn in her 1996 book, Clicking: 7 Trends That Drive Your Business–And Your Life, documents Barb’s thinking on the importance that causes many to want to keep those dear to them in a safe haven – like their club.

A New Normal

Linda Dillenbeck, a director for the GGA Partners Club Communications Practice, looks beyond the pandemic to underscore the critical importance of effective and trusted member communications from the club to its stakeholders: members – their families and friends, employees, neighbors, suppliers, and vendors.

Linda suggests that in a time when new standards are being established, the necessity of effective communications from clubs to their members will be a difference-maker to the clubs’ future economic durability. “Club’s with a proactive communications approach will be at a distinct advantage throughout and after the coronavirus epidemic,” according to Dillenbeck.

Shifting Operational Needs

Speaking from the perspective of the millennial generation, Alison Corner, Ben Hopkinson, Andrew Johnson, Mingye Li, and Andrew Milne agree that clubs will change significantly and – in some ways – toward operational needs and priorities previously reported through GGA Partners’ millennial research installments.

To summarize the ideas from these brilliant young minds, clubs will shift dramatically into (a) high-gear focused on membership recruitment and retention; (b) new activities, like musical events and performance art; and (c) new membership types, categories, rights, and privileges.

Martin Tzankov, a GGA manager, expects the new normal to bring a focus to financial durability to clubs. Martin notes the importance for club leaders to mind the strategic priority of balance sheet management and the financial health of their clubs.

Many club leaders forget the four cornerstones of board service: leadership, governance, strategy, and finance. Looking ahead, the clubs that perform best after the coronavirus pandemic will be those holding the best information. Perhaps Gecko was right.

Webinar 4/23: Leverage Surveys to Engage Members During COVID-19

MEMBERINSIGHT ANNOUNCES NO CHARGE FOR THREE MONTHS

JOINS GGA PARTNERS FOR A WEBINAR FOCUSING ON HOW TO LEVERAGE SURVEYS TO ENGAGE MEMBERS DURING COVID-19

Markham, ON Canada – MemberInsight, a Jonas Club Software company, and the industry-leading member survey platform, announces today that their survey functionality is being made available to clubs at no charge for three months. Together, MemberInsight and GGA Partners, the leading consulting firm to many of the world’s most successful clubs and communities, will also co-host a webinar to discuss the power of member surveys in the time of COVID-19.

“Many clubs send member surveys as a regular part of conducting business.” Said Trevor Coughlan, Vice President of Marketing at Jonas Club Software. “The problem is, many clubs only send them annually, and they think about surveying in a linear fashion – capital & long term planning. I believe surveys relevant to the moment and the action taken as a result of them have the opportunity to invigorate the way members feel about a club and its staff. There is no better time for clubs to be stepping into action than now which is why we are proud to make our platform available at no charge for three months.”

In addition to the special offer, MemberInsight and GGA Partners are co-hosting a one time webinar focusing on how clubs, regardless of their survey platform of choice, can better utilize members surveys during this difficult time. The webinar will be co-hosted by Trevor Kluke and Matt Cooper of Jonas Club Software, and Michael Gregory and Ben Hopkinson of GGA Partners and will take place on Thursday April 23, at 14:00 ET.

“In the current environment staying connected with members is a real challenge, but it’s more important than ever,” explained Michael Gregory, a Partner at GGA Partners. “Surveys are a tool all clubs can be using to stay engaged with their members, to capture important feedback, and to provide a level of comfort to members knowing their club is working hard to come out of this stronger and more capable of meeting their needs, wants and expectations.”

The presentation will cover the MemberInsight feature set, the science behind survey based communications, and specific examples of surveys clubs can put into action as they remain committed to serving their members.

Clubs can take advantage of three months of MemberInsight at no charge by visiting:
https://memberinsight.clubhouseonline-e3.net/Special_Offer

The webinar will be held on Thursday April 23, 2020 at 14:00 ET.

Those interested in attending the MemberInsight and GGA Partners co-hosted webinar can register here:
https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/1880267544344608526

About Jonas Club Software – www.jonasclub.com

Jonas Club Software helps clubs thrive by focusing on the creation of exceptional experiences. These experiences are delivered through industry leading services, integrated applications, innovative technology, and long term partnerships with the clubs we serve.
Over 2,300 clubs in more than 20 countries, with memberships ranging from 20 to 20,000, utilize Jonas Club Software technology. With applications ranging from Accounting to Retail Point of Sale, Tee Time Management, Court & Class Booking, Dining Reservations, websites and Mobile Apps, Jonas Club Software is the standout choice for clubs driven to offer exceptional member experiences.

For more details visit www.jonasclub.com

Media Contact:
Trevor Coughlan
Vice President, Marketing
Jonas Club Software
Trevor.Coughlan@jonasclub.com
1-888-789-9073

Stop Thinking ‘Retention’, Start Thinking ‘Relationship’

Retention is something of a time-selective phrase in club management.

Its definition has, arguably, become too closely rooted in taking action (usually) at the time of membership renewals to ensure as many existing members continue their membership as possible.

While that is a plausible (and at times necessary) position to take, the side effect is that it can begin to build a perception among members that you only care about them when it is in the club’s financial interest to do so.

So how can you go about changing that?

By facilitating meaningful relationships. From the moment they join, for the life of their membership.

The relationships your club cultivates for and with members are essential in developing and maintaining relevance – a key factor in positioning your club to achieve high levels of member satisfaction, retention, and recruitment.

Create the Social Links

Your priority in the early stages should be to integrate the new member into the social fabric of the club.

It’s easy to slip into thinking a member’s perception of the club’s value to them will revolve around the golf course or particular amenities and services you provide. But these tend not to be key factors in deciding whether to stay or leave, especially if they can experience them elsewhere.

What really sets your club apart is the existing membership base: the internal club networks and friendship groups that have established over time. This is the one thing that no other club can imitate. The more you can nurture and facilitate these inclusive and accessible networks, the stronger the emotional connection you can begin to create between new members and the club.

With that in mind, here are some useful ways to help facilitate the kinds of relationships that will instill loyalty and exceed the expectations of new members:

  • Invite them along to new member events (where they can get to know other new members).
  • Identify other like-minded members or members of a similar age to engage or play a round of golf with the new member.
  • Encourage or create opportunities for their family members to engage with the club at an early stage, through new member events, social events or simply by inviting them along to experience the club.

Develop the Connection to Expectations

Fast-forward the clock. These new members are no longer new members and have settled into life at the club. Hopefully, by this stage, they will have established meaningful relationships with fellow members and will be enjoying all aspects of membership.

Now is not the time to become complacent.

As Michael Gregory, GGA Director of Private Club Services, points out, “If you’re not exceeding the expectations of a member, then they are an ‘at risk’ member.”

But how do you keep exceeding expectations? Here’s some thoughts to consider:

  • Assess their satisfaction through a general member survey, or even through a dedicated survey for those of a similar member profile.
  • Identify areas of improvement through the survey and act on them. There is nothing worse than providing a forum by way of a survey but not following through on what your members are telling you.
  • Monitor individual engagement with the club, and look out for any profound changes of usage and utilization. Where there are changes, take the time to understand these and go the extra mile where it’s appropriate to do so.

Deepen the Sense of Belonging

Once members notch up 10 years or more, it’s safe to assume the club has become an integral part of their social life and, hopefully, their family’s too. They have likely forged a number of friendships, become attached to internal networks, and continue to enjoy the services offered by the club.

In this case it would likely take a significant event or set of circumstances to cause their departure.

However, as with any member, this should not reduce how attentive you are towards to this group. This is a group that will likely engage most with the club and have a greater sense of belonging, but also carry a greater influence – and this can be positive and negative.

So how do you manage this group effectively?

  • Have them play an active role in welcoming new members to the club. This will continue to enrich their relationship with the club, bestow a sense of trust in them, and retain a feeling of freshness.
  • Make them feel special. Organize specific events or social opportunities such as father / son or mother / daughter competitions, themed nights or games nights geared towards enhancing the emotional connection they have with the club.
  • Give them a voice – at this point in their member lifecycle they have a wealth of experience to draw from. Ignoring their suggestions can result in the emergence of vocal minorities, so give them every opportunity to serve on committees/boards and take an active role in the programming at the Club.

Retention is something managers focus on when renewals come around; relationships are something they develop year-round. If you can switch your focus to building and developing the relationships your members have with and at your club, you can continually exceed their expectations and create a sense of belonging that they will find difficult to live without.

 

This article was authored by GGA Manager Ben Hopkinson

Is Your Club Relevant?

If your club is relevant, it is closely connected to members’ lifestyles and appropriate to their wants and needs. But how do you determine if your club really is relevant? GGA’s Ben Hopkinson offers three points of guidance to help you self-evaluate and a handful of tactics to deploy in response.

Longevity requires relevance.

Survival in the modern club economy hinges on your club’s ability to remain relevant, both to existing members and prospective ones.

While building relevance is often the easy part, sustaining it is trickier. If left unmonitored, relevance diminishes as the years pass and the club’s value proposition suffers alongside member retention and satisfaction.

What does it mean to be relevant?

A relevant club is closely connected to members’ lifestyles and appropriate to their wants and needs; it’s the ability of a club to instill the notion that, by being or becoming a member, it will enhance their own and/or their family’s lifestyle.

It’s a simple equation. The more relevant you are, or become, the better placed your club is to achieve high levels of member satisfaction, retention, and recruitment.

But how can you understand and become more relevant? Here’s some pointers:

1. Gain a deep understanding of your market and membership

Who are your members really?

The first step to becoming more relevant is knowing your members fully and dispassionately. A thorough understanding of your membership’s demographic, psychographic, and emotional characteristics allows for a tailored Club experience.

This means knowing the answers to questions such as: Where do members live? Where do they work?  Do they belong to other local clubs or have vacation homes? Do they have children or grandchildren? What are their ages? How do they use the club?

Tracking utilization of each facility and space at your club allows you to understand the importance (and appropriateness) of each of them, helping to drive the strategy towards becoming more relevant.

Where does your club stand in the marketplace?

Get to know your potential market i.e. your members of tomorrow by sourcing demographic, psychographic, and participation data to quantify the number of candidates that match your member profile. Your market research should help you understand:

  • Relative to your competitors, how are you positioned in terms of cost to join, payment plans, and annual cost to belong?
  • What features and programming are your competitors offering that you don’t? And vice versa.
  • How do your attrition rates and sales compare with industry targets or, if available, those of competitors?

This exercise allows you to understand your club in the context of the marketplace better and helps establish your competitive advantages and points of differentiation. Leveraging that knowledge, you can enhance or develop your club’s strategy around demand and where it has room to grow.

2. Focus on enhancing individuals’ lives (and the lives of their families)

While understanding your members and marketplace should be your primary starting point on the road to relevance, this is a snapshot of the successful shifts in the approach of clubs across North America in a bid to enhance what they offer:

One-of-a-kind experiences

Members have an appetite for experiences they can cherish and share with their families and friends, so offering tailored, unique and memorable opportunities can not only help build relevance, but the emotional connection members have with your club. Examples might include: tickets to the special events such as the PGA Championship, concierge-type experiences that only your club can facilitate, or access to speakers they would not be able to get in front of otherwise.

Intentional member networks

Offering clubs-within-the-club are very important in today’s environment because building communities and networks drives engagement and connection within the club.

Think about a robust speaker series, associating your club with other clubs or professional organizations in exclusive relationships, creating a wine club or travel groups.

Some clubs have developed virtual membership clubs with their speaker series or programming where members can pay a small monthly fee to participate remotely. It promotes continued engagement and also drives a new revenue stream with no impact to your facilities.

Diverse wellness programming

Physical health, in the form of fitness and wellness, remains highly relevant. The decision to add fitness is a leading trend that clubs are considering, particularly in seasonal and winter climates to keep members connected year-round.

Beyond adding a fitness facility, newer trends in wellness programming that are highly relevant include group exercise classes, off-site activities and excursions, ‘socializing’ fitness activities into events, and increasing the variety of fitness offerings and their frequency of change.

Your club’s wellness programming should not be limited to physical training. Mental exercise is just as critical as physical exercise in keeping one’s brain fit and healthy, introducing more wellness programming around brain health is relevant to your club’s longer-tenured members and can connect them with what are often construed as ‘young people’ activities.

Amenities that support year-round use and lifestyle

The ultimate goal is to make your club the third most important or relevant place in members’ lives, next to home and work. Amenities that best support year-round use and lifestyle benefits go beyond traditional sports to focus on the clubhouse and socialization aspects of membership.

The top amenities that our clients are considering include:

  • Contemporary bar/sports lounge
  • Multiple dining experiences
  • Health and wellness facility
  • Indoor golf teaching area with a bar and HD simulators
  • Outdoor casual dining with fire pits
  • Tennis/pickleball courts
  • Outdoor pool featuring a modern children’s area and adult area with outdoor bar
  • Babysitting/children’s play areas

3. Measure, evaluate and act

Member feedback is key.

Soliciting member feedback tightens the connection between the club (as an organization) and its members (as individuals). Capturing member feedback generates actionable insights to improve all aspects of the club experience, while also helping to isolate which are most critical to their wants and needs.

Relevance can be measured in many ways and the best indicators to watch are attrition levels and the demand to join your club. Constant member feedback is needed to be proactive and instill a culture of measuring, evaluating and acting.

 

The relevant club of tomorrow

Think about relevance on a spectrum. One that changes through different actions or developments.

For instance, introducing new family amenities shifts and broadens the spectrum more towards a younger demographic of members and prospective members.

Similarly, the introduction of mental health training shifts and broadens the spectrum more towards an elder demographic.

In any case, the objective should be to find your club’s sweet spot on this spectrum. As we already know higher relevance = higher levels of member satisfaction, retention and recruitment, so find and occupy a position which is relevant to as many stakeholders as possible. This, ultimately, will be your club’s gateway to longevity.

For help and advice on making your club more relevant to existing and prospective members,
connect with Ben Hopkinson.

First Impressions Matter

First impressions matter. But how do we create positive experiences for all when different customers have different values?

Backed by recent research findings, GGA’s Ben Hopkinson looks at why clubs need to think carefully about their product perception in relation to a key target segment, and provides some guidance.

First impressions of a Club can come in a variety of different forms, be it an initial tour, as a member’s guest, at a social event, or otherwise. Increasingly, it need not require an actual visit for someone to form a first impression. Even something like a video advertisement of the Club can form a lasting opinion in the eyes of a potential customer.

One thing, however, is for sure: you never get a second chance at a first impression. So how do you create a memorable first impression of your club’s product and services?

It’s not an easy question to answer, but successful club marketers go above and beyond to understand the key attributes that their target customers value most, because preferences around joining can change drastically based on age, gender or economic status. While it’s important for clubs to isolate their key strengths and core competencies, this shouldn’t lead to inflexible, one-size-fits-all marketing that force-feeds the same joining factors to all of the different target groups.

Understand the Joining Preferences of each Key Audience

Let’s take Millennials as an example – the age segment that continues to keep club marketers up at night. Here’s what we know for sure about the characteristics and values of my confusing and intriguing generation:

  • We’re getting married and starting families later in life
  • We move and switch jobs more often
  • We lead busier lifestyles than previous generations and devote less time to leisure pursuits

Because of this, our ideal private club experience needs to maximize the family time we do have, be flexible, and offer much more than just golf. But, perhaps most importantly, we want to be around other Millennials!

So, how does this translate into the experience and amenities we are looking for? Recent GGA client surveys have continued to show my generation placing a higher value on the non-golf amenities and social experience. In a recent study of Millennial golfers*, when asked “what non-golf amenities or social components would be important to you in joining a private club”, the top three selections were ‘Fitness Center’ (76%), ‘Pool’ (71%) and ‘Socialization and Events’ (68%).

Customize the First Impression

Offering the programs and amenities to attract Millennials is step one, but turning those offerings into a memorable experience is the clincher. First impressions for Millennials must help us visualize a comprehensive club experience that becomes the social hub for the entire family – fusing friends, family, fun and fitness. Create first impressions of your club that bring Millennials and our young families together, and the membership value will resonate with us.

Easier said than done, right? How do clubs bring Millennials together when many barely have any current under-40 members to help in the recruitment effort? The answer lies in rolling out a tailored plan of attack for targeting different customers.

Evidence suggests (for some groups at least), that clubs are getting this right. The majority of clubs we work with are well-versed in a member tour for the classic ’empty-nesting baby boomer couple’, where typically the male wants to see golf, golf and golf, while the female prefers to find out more about the dining and social calendar, make sure the staff are friendly, and learn about fitness and tennis programs. Clubs can typically meet all of these expectations while introducing them to current members with similar interests for added appeal.

So how do you create a similar memorable experience for Millennials? First off, you need to build up the programs that Millennials value. If you don’t have a strong under-40 program at your Club then I’m willing to bet you have a strong group of children and grandchildren of existing members waiting to use the Club. They may not have full access to the Club, but it’s critical to Millennial recruitment that you continue to engage them in Club events and socials. Leverage these days to create ‘group’ first impressions. Rather than invite a Millennial couple to experience the Club on a quiet lazy Sunday where all we see is baby boomers, try a different approach:

  • Invite all of your Millennial prospects out to a ‘Swim and BBQ’ day or a holiday social, along with current children and grandchildren of members
  • Host a Junior Golf Tournament or Golf Camp and give the parents a free Chef Tasting Luncheon while the kids are out on the course
  • Follow up a Mitzvah or wedding by offering guests the opportunity to come back to the Club for a ‘free yoga class’, ‘trivia night’ or a ‘tennis/golf group lesson’

These types of initiatives will help your Club standout from the pack, positioning it favorably in the minds of Millennials and increasing your chances of converting new members. Even in the worst case, you have created a memorable group experience; one which generates positive feeling and word-of-mouth in a key customer segment, plus the opportunity to capture images and videos to leverage for the next recruitment effort.

“Memorable is creative, unique, unforgettable, and anything but boring”

It’s true that current members will always be a Club Marketer’s best tool for recruitment, but there are other creative ways to provide a memorable experience and a positive first impression to a prospective member. A ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach simply won’t work anymore. Not only are you competing against other private clubs in the area, you’re also competing against every leisure alternative available to the prospective member.

A first impression must sell the prospect that the day-to-day member experience is memorable, and the best use of their valuable and limited leisure time. Memorable is creative, unique, unforgettable, and anything but boring. So next time a prospective member inquires about the Club, ask yourself… “What does memorable mean to them”?

*As part of an ongoing research collaboration with Millennial golfer organization Nextgengolf, the 2019 study brings forward survey findings from over 1,400 Millennial golfers and builds upon research conducted in 2017 and 2018 of the habits, attitudes, and preferences of Millennial golfers.

This article was authored by GGA Senior Associate Ben Hopkinson

The ‘Tiger Effect’

The ‘Tiger Effect’ and How to Leverage the Influence of Tiger Woods on Millennial Golf Interest

On the eve of this year’s Masters Tournament CBS sportscaster Jim Nantz said, “This might be the most anticipated Masters any of us has seen in our lifetime.” And for good reason: the hype surrounding the return of modern golf’s greatest icon to battle it out against a plethora of ‘new age’ stars. Ironically, many of these rising stars say they found their passion and motivation for the game as a direct result of idolizing Tiger’s dominance in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s.

Fast forward to the 2018 Tour Championship, which concluded in storybook fashion with Tiger claiming his 80th career victory and his first in over five years. NBC announced the PGA Tour’s season finale drew a 5.21 overnight rating, the highest of any non-major championship this year. That number is also up a whopping 206 percent over last year’s event, all the while competing for ratings against NFL Sunday.

Tiger’s impact on the growth of the game has been well documented over the years. Tour earnings increased at 10x the rate of inflation when comparing 1985 to 2010. No one has ever moved the needle in his or her sport more than Tiger Woods. His presence in only a handful of events this year has brought measurable spikes in TV Ratings and tournament attendance. More importantly, for club managers, another byproduct of the ‘Tiger Effect’ is an increase in golf participation levels (defined by the NGF as people age 6+ who played golf on a golf course).

Let’s examine the trend in US golf participation since Tiger burst onto the scene in 1996 with his first victory and began capturing the attention of the golfing world. Since that time, there seems to be an unavoidable lagging correlation between Tiger’s ‘presence’ (number of starts and number of wins) and the golf participation trend. As an example, the two-year time period between 1999 and 2000: it is widely regarded as the height of Tiger’s dominance and included 17 wins and 4 major championships. The lagging effect on golf participation was an increase from 26 million to 31 million golfers in the US over the next three years. Jump ahead to 2008, when Tiger’s first major injury-riddled season limited him to 6 starts and golf participation began a declining trend that was then amplified with the economic downturn and Tiger’s hiatus for ‘off-the-course’ indiscretions. As the economy has recovered in recent years, we find ourselves returning to the level of participation in the mid-90s, the pre-Tiger era.

What that may infer is the jump from 25 million to 30 million has a lot to do with the ‘Tiger Effect’. While we likely won’t experience the same participation rise as we experienced at the height of his dominance, past history suggests that the more we see the red shirt on Sunday afternoons, the more latent golfers will flock to the links. According to the NGF, non-golfers interested in playing golf was 12.8 million in 2017, up from 11.9 million in 2016 and double what it was five years ago. The estimated number who say they are at least ‘somewhat interested’ in taking up golf was 40.6 million, and well over a third of that number (15.2 million) were Millennials (18- to 34-year-olds), which made up the largest single age group of non-golfers who expressed interest in playing golf.

As a Millennial, I can vouch for the declining interest I witnessed in my peer group post-2008. Ten years have passed, and as Tiger tapped in for victory to win the 2018 Tour Championship, my social media feed was flooded with excitement from friends and colleagues who have been on hiatus from the game but are still fans and players at heart. I can’t help but believe that Tiger’s return to the top of golf will provide a ‘kick’ that many latent Millennials need to get the golfing itch back, and with it the decision to become club members again.

To all club managers out there watching your membership continue to increase in age while the club struggles to attract new Millennial members to join, I urge you to promote aggressively this winter and take advantage of the current momentum and excitement among the Millennial audience. It may just be the best opportunity in a decade to attract an audience that is crucial to regenerating the membership pipeline at your Club.

Tactics to consider:

  • Organize a ‘golf pool’ for each major championship in 2019 and extend the invitation via social media channels. Encourage members to invite their friends to participate and to visit the Club on the ‘Major Sunday’ for a viewing party social event.
  • Consider adding team events/competitions for younger members, specifically in the spring. Again, scheduling these events surrounding major championships can spike interest in latent Millennials who become most engaged during these weekends.
  • Be sure the pro shop has Nike/Tiger apparel in the pro shop or club-branded ‘red shirts’ of its own. Perhaps consider a discount sale on all ‘Tiger’ related merchandise in advance of the Masters Tournament next spring.
  • Golf simulators resonate strongly with the Millennial audience, reminding them of their days playing the iconic ‘Tiger Woods EA Sports’ video game as a child. If your club has simulators available for use in the winter, allow guests of members to pay-for-use and accumulate credits towards their entrance fee if they decide to join in the Spring.

This article was authored by Ben Hopkinson, GGA Senior Associate and research-and-insights specialist. 

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