The New Urgency of Strategic Planning

GGA Partners Continues Thought Leadership Series with Four New Whitepapers

‘The New Urgency of Strategic Planning’ Now Available for Download

TORONTO (June 10, 2020) – GGA Partners – international consulting firm and trusted advisor to many of the world’s most successful golf courses, private clubs, resorts, and residential communities – will continue its thought leadership series with the publication of four new whitepapers to help leaders of golf, club, and leisure businesses make better-informed decisions regarding key planning and marketing challenges.  The whitepapers focus on strategic planning, branding, governance, and innovation.

Let’s Face It, Times Are Changing

That may be the understatement of the year.

Between rapidly advancing technology, economic uncertainty, transforming demographic and lifestyle stressors, and a digitally-connected global community, the environment for club and leisure-related businesses is more competitive than ever.

The business landscape is shifting and management stances are evolving, yet the principles of competition endure: one’s gain is another’s loss and the strongest will come out on top.

Knowledge is a tremendous source of strength and GGA Partners is developing authoritative reports on the industry’s most pressing issues and constructing advanced problem-solving guides for the road ahead.

The New Urgency of Strategic Planning

The strategic planning whitepaper, which can now be downloaded from the GGA Partners website, focuses on a misconception regarding the strategic planning process, according to Henry DeLozier, who along with GGA partners Steve Johnston, Rob Hill, Derek Johnston, and Michael Gregory authored the paper.

“Because of its traditional long-range horizons, many club leaders don’t prioritize strategic planning,” DeLozier said. “With conditions inside and outside the club environment changing as quickly as they are, there’s a new urgency to strategic planning.”

In addition, the whitepaper argues for a shorter planning cycle, ranging anywhere from 12 to 24 months, and a closer connection between strategy and execution.

“Businesses that are directly affected by shifts in the economy and consumer preferences should consider shorter planning cycles,” Johnston said.  “Think about it: Would a five-year strategic plan created in 2015 successfully guide your business today?”

Today’s most successful clubs look at their strategic plan as a blueprint for action, Hill added. “They don’t put their plans on a shelf to gather dust. They’re implementing their plans, adjusting as needed and executing their vision for the club.”

For club managers not familiar with the strategic planning process, the whitepaper explains five key steps in developing a plan and draws on examples from inside and outside the private club business.

In addition to strategic planning, other whitepapers in the series focused on branding, governance, and innovation will be published through the third quarter of 2020.  Discover more about the cross-section of high-impact topics GGA Partners is studying at ggapartners.com.

Click here to download the whitepaper

 

About GGA Partners

GGA Partners™ is an international consulting firm and trusted advisor to many of the world’s most successful golf courses, private clubs, resorts, and residential communities.  We are dedicated to helping owners, asset managers, club and community leaders, investors and real estate developers tackle challenges, achieve objectives, and maximize asset performance.

Established in 1992 as the KPMG Golf Industry Practice, our global team of experienced professionals leverage in-depth business intelligence and proprietary global data to deliver impactful strategic solutions and lasting success. For more information, visit ggapartners.com.

Media Contact:

Bennett DeLozier
GGA Partners
602-614-2100
bennett.delozier@ggapartners.com

Millennials & Golf’s Value Proposition

GGA Partners and Nextgengolf Release Findings from Annual Research Study on Millennial Golf Community

Over 1,600 millennial golfers share habits, attitudes, and preferences about golf

TORONTO (June 10, 2020) – In an ongoing research collaboration, Nextgengolf and GGA Partners have released their annual study on the millennial golf community.

Nextgengolf is a growth-of-the-game subsidiary of the PGA of America.  GGA Partners serves as an international consulting firm and trusted advisor to many of the world’s most successful golf courses, private clubs, resorts, and residential communities. Together, their report suggests ways golf facilities can adapt and develop their offerings to meet the needs of the next generation of members and customers.

“Not every millennial is the same, but it’s often communicated that way,” said Nextgengolf Director of Operations Matt Weinberger. “In our continuous work with the millennial audience and now Generation Z, we see tremendous opportunity for golf facilities to deliver value to young people, while operating their businesses successfully. The key is understanding how golf businesses mesh with millennial lifestyles.”

Featuring valuable insights about millennial golfers, the challenges they face, and opportunities for facilities to help support the long-term sustainability of the game, the research reveals three overarching observations:

1. The lifestyles of millennial golfers have changed the way they approach, experience and enjoy the game of golf.

Leading fast and casual lives, the millennial concept of “golf lifestyle” is evolving to allow for more flexibility, greater efficiency, a unification of multiple social activities into a single experience, and experimentation with the way the next wave of customers and members engage with the game.

2. Socialization and relationships are important for millennial recruitment and retention.

Millennials typically start playing golf as a result of encouragement from a family member. They primarily continue to play because of their own friendships, using golf as a platform for shared activity and a chance to connect. Family is a huge factor for millennials and will increase in significance, especially as it relates to private club membership.

3. Cost is a major concern for millennials and the biggest barrier for them to play golf.

This is partially due to lifestyle evolution and primarily as a result of funding capability.  The good news is that millennials show strong interest to join private clubs under the “right” fee structure – traditional club membership offerings and conventional fee structures are less appealing to millennials than previous generations.

“When it comes to private club membership, costs continue to be barriers for millennials but there’s a bigger picture at play,” observed GGA Partner Michael Gregory. “While price is important, the best performing clubs are focused on creating an experience that enhances millennials’ lifestyles and develops a sense of emotional connection and belonging.  An experience that also enhances the lifestyles of their family strengthens this connection, elevates the value proposition, and paves the way for greater price elasticity.”

Focused exclusively on an audience of active, avid millennial golfers with prior golf interest and experience in tournaments or golf events, the 2020 study brings forward survey findings from more than 1,650 millennial golfers and builds upon research annually conducted since 2017. To date, more than 5,200 survey responses have been analyzed during the four-year research study.

Details on these findings and more are illustrated throughout the full report, titled “Millennials & Golf’s Value Proposition” and available on the GGA Partners and PGA of America websites.

Click here to see the findings and download the report

 

About GGA Partners

GGA Partners™ is an international consulting firm and trusted advisor to many of the world’s most successful golf courses, private clubs, resorts, and residential communities. We are dedicated to helping owners, asset managers, club and community leaders, investors and real estate developers tackle challenges, achieve objectives, and maximize asset performance.

Established in 1992 as the KPMG Golf Industry Practice, our global team of experienced professionals leverage in-depth business intelligence and proprietary global data to deliver impactful strategic solutions and lasting success. For more information, visit ggapartners.com.

About Nextgengolf

Nextgengolf is an inclusive organization with the mission to provide golfing opportunities, keep golfers in the game, and make the game of golf more relevant for high school students, college students, and young adults. Through our NHSGA, NCCGA and City Tour products, we cater to golfers 15-40 years old by proactively keeping golfers engaged through events and bringing new players into the game. In 2019, Nextgengolf was acquired by the PGA of America. For more information, visit nextgengolf.org.

About PGA of America

The PGA of America is one of the world’s largest sports organizations, with nearly 29,000 professionals who daily work to grow interest and participation in the game of golf. For more information about the PGA of America, visit PGA.org, follow @PGAofAmerica on Twitter and find us on Facebook.

 

Contact

Michael Gregory
GGA Partners
416-524-0083
michael.gregory@ggapartners.com

Michael Abramowitz
PGA of America
561-389-4647
mabramowitz@pgahq.com

Dangers of Depersonalizing the Member Experience

As new innovations continue to help streamline club operations, GGA Partner Henry DeLozier cautions against replacing staff with technology and removing what can be priceless interactions for members and guests alike.

Most clubs today are facing the dual challenges of rising labor costs along with ever-greater member expectations.

In our modern digital age, the obvious solution for many has been to systematize and automate services wherever possible across their operation.

But while this may be cost efficient, clubs must beware…the result is often the depersonalization of member services.

Remember, clubs share an emotional – not transactional – relationship with members. And both research and experience have shown us that the best member services are strictly personal.

For a club, to depersonalize is to chip away at the very foundation of your business.

Here are five tactics for personalizing services at your club:

1) Reserved or Reserved for…?

Recognize reserved tables with a reserved placard that displays the name of the member for whom the table is reserved. It’s a small touch which underscores that “we have been anticipating your arrival”. These little efforts add more to the member experience than you might think.

2) Monitor Club Communications for Engagement

Most clubs blindly issue email communications to members with little-or-no tracking to understand if the message was even received – let alone opened, read, or acted upon.

Follow up your club’s emails with calls to individual members who are not opening or engaging with club communications. Ask if the messages are being received (although your analytics will have revealed this already). This is a chance to learn what topics interest your members…and which topics don’t.

3) Personalize Your Club’s Communications

As suggested above, develop a personal communications profile for each member.
As with Facebook or LinkedIn, you can enable members to populate their own profiles (though some members who are not computer natives will need help with this).

This allows you to learn what topics interest each member, in what media they prefer to received messages, what days and times they want the messages to be delivered, and from whom at the club they wish to receive important information.

In essence, stop issuing “Dear Member” communications.

4) Meet with Members

Whether one-to-one or in small (fewer than four people at a time) member groups, meet to discuss the club and its various priorities. Ask members for their feedback, learn their priorities, and ensure that they know and understand the board’s strategic priorities too. This will make them feel included, valued and empowered.

5) Facilitate Member-to-Member Introductions

Most members are truly acquainted with very few of their fellow members, but clubs are more fun when people know more people.

There are several ways you can help this along, such as hosting multiple welcoming events for new members, enlisting your board, committees, and staff to become the “connectors” between members, and creating a digital (online) member directory to help members learn more about one another.

Using the member profiles described above, you can personalize the effort by connecting people with similar backgrounds – such as universities attended, hometowns, or places of employment.

Keep in mind that private clubs are a platform for socialization. An undeniable characteristic of successful clubs is the sense that “everyone knows one another”. Help your members get to know one another and, in so doing, make your club ever more relevant to the members.

Ultimately, the key is to treat your members as the valuable resource that they are. Keeping your services personalized will help them know that they are recognized, respected, and valued, and provide the strongest possible foundation for your club going forward.

Millennials and the Value Proposition at Your Facility

A First-Look at 2020 Millennial Golf Industry Research Findings

In ongoing research collaboration with Millennial golfer organization Nextgengolf, GGA recently updated its study of the habits, attitudes, and preferences of Millennial golfers.  The 2020 study brings forward survey findings from over 1,600 Millennial golfers and builds upon research conducted in 2017, 2018, and 2019.

A preview of this year’s research findings was unveiled in a presentation delivered at the 2020 PGA Merchandise Show by GGA Partner Henry DeLozier and Director, Nextgengolf Operations, Matt Weinberger.

Titled “Millennials and the Value Proposition at Your Facility”, the session introduced key insights and observations from the latest research and supplemented these findings using personal anecdotes shared by participating Millennial golfers.  The session explored what these findings mean for golf facilities and highlighted several tactics some facilities have implemented to enhance their value proposition to Millennial golfers.

Over the next few weeks, be on the lookout for a full, in-depth report of findings.

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Research Overview

In many clubs today, the long-held expectations and perceptions of existing, ageing members are at odds with the entirely different needs and expectations of a new wave of younger, more casual members.  The challenge for clubs?  To create an environment which not only appeals to the new wave, but where members of all types can coexist.

Research findings highlight how golf clubs can adapt and develop their offerings to meet the needs of the next generation of members and customers.  The goal is to provide valuable insights about Millennial golfers, the challenges they face, and the opportunities for clubs to help support the long-term sustainability of the game and the industry as a whole.

Background

As the leading entity for team-based golf in the United States, Nextgengolf connects Millennials to golf and supports the success of their game while GGA specializes in solution engineering and problem solving for golf-related businesses.  A fusion of GGA’s 28-year history of private club research and Nextgengolf’s connection to young golfers afforded the unique opportunity to study a highly valuable Millennial audience.

The survey sample focused exclusively on a sample audience of active, avid Millennial golfers with prior golf interest and experience in tournaments or golf events.  To date, more than 5,200 survey responses have been analyzed during the four-year research study.

Thank you to the Club Management Association of America (CMAA) for the support that makes this research possible.

Walking in the Customer’s Shoes

This article is written and produced by Sue Shapcott, PhD. Sue is the founder of Change Golf Instruction, a golf coaching business that partners with public golf courses, and Sports Query, a consulting business that assists sports organizations incorporate social science into their policies and practices. Sue is based in Madison, WI.


Club staff, including managers and coaching professionals can, over time, become immunized to the customer experience and the various touch points that form it. Guest writer, Sue Shapcott, reveals how clubs should take the time to understand this experience – and why it’s crucial when it comes to attracting women, minorities and families.

Without knowing it, club staff can be reinforcing an experience that is off-putting and unwelcoming to prospective members and (current) minority groups.

In a male-dominated sport such as golf, gender stereotypes play a significant role in shaping and affirming people’s views of a club – particularly women.

Think about it: walking in to see a large group of men congregated at the bar, being greeted with a wall of products for men in the golf shop, clubhouse walls adorned with pictures of men in quintessential golfing attire. All of these cues serve to induce stereotype threat. Stereotype threat, by definition, is the demotivation someone may feel when they identify with a negatively stereotyped social group. The traditional golf environment, unfortunately, is likely to induce stereotype threat in women, children and minorities because it underscores who is, and who isn’t a typical golfer.

As well as inducing stereotype threat, the golf club environment will also impact the sense of belonging women and minority groups experience in traditional golf clubs. Conforming to a club’s traditions means accepting this ecosystem which may feel unfair, unbalanced, and ‘just the way it is (and has always been)’.

But importantly for clubs seeking new members, these groups are making a choice based on their experience at that club. Is this somewhere they visualize spending time (with their family)? Do they want to spend time here? Does it have the potential to become a core part of their life or lifestyle?

If they feel forced to conform, and conforming means signing up to an experience that will not enhance their lifestyle, then, simply put, they will not.

Why does it matter?

Removing stereotype threat experienced by women and minority golfers can be a difficult challenge for many clubs out there. It can mean unpicking a culture which, understandably, takes time.

But allowing the cycle to continue will restrict growth and diversity in your current membership base, as well as your prospective target markets – especially at a time when we know younger generations value family time together. So much so they will base purchasing decisions on how these will enhance their collective lifestyle.

Where to start

Shifting the culture starts by seeing the world through the eyes of women and minority groups.

Accompany existing and prospective members on a customer walkthrough and all of a sudden, things will become more apparent. You’ll quickly see what and why things need to change. For example, does your leadership team look like the face of golf’s past, or future? Does the club have photos that celebrate both men and women players?

Unite all the club staff around this process. Educate them on the prevalence of stereotypes, and their effect. You can then arm staff with the knowledge they need to neutralize the environment. Tackling the issue in unison will ensure that staff are conscious and aware, and there are no gaps in the club’s approach.

What areas can you expect to confront and overcome stereotype threat typically experienced by women and minority golfers? Here are some areas which are common, yet often overlooked:

Marketing – if you market to the spouses of existing members what images and/or videos are you choosing to include? What is that telling them about the club? Chances are, you could be confirming stereotypes without realizing it. It’s not about provisioning certain types of images and videos ‘because it’s the right thing to do’. It’s about doing it because clubs need to understand their influence and not inadvertently confirm certain stereotypes – especially when it will harm their goals in the long run.

Coaching – coaches should make it clear to women that they have a high expectation of their ability and performance (dispelling the stereotype that women are somehow not as strong in their ability).

Clubhouse – a contemporary environment which suits the needs of all members is what clubs should strive for. Remove unnecessary imagery which serves to reaffirm certain stereotypes and make it a place where all profiles of member can enjoy, relax and spend time.

Golf Shop – being greeted by rows of hardware, mainly for men, can be a daunting experience – especially so for women new to the game. Make service your priority, and dispel any fears minority groups may have by handing them the knowledge they need to make informed purchasing decisions.

On the course – tees labelled by gender are extremely commonplace, yet are a constant reminder that women don’t hit the ball as far and that this somehow makes their ability inferior. By changing your tees to difficulty-based rather than gender-based creates more of a level playing field and removes the gender factor and associated stereotype threat.

A rallying call

Change at clubs is always difficult when there’s a threat of alienating a certain group – in this case the core membership. But this is where it’s important to take a step back and assess the fork in the road in which we find ourselves:

Road A: We do the same thing. Members age, member numbers recede, and the cycle of stereotype threat experienced by women and minorities continue.

Road B: We open up, we see our club differently, we remove stereotype threats and create an environment a more diverse range of prospects want to be a part of.

As a stakeholder in this industry, I know which future I would rather be a part of.

 

Connect with Sue Shapcott

The Family Opinion

Member surveys are not as clear cut as simply gauging satisfaction or opinion of members. GGA’s Andrew Milne explains how, by reaching out to include spouses or family in club surveys, you can gain invaluable insights on how your club is viewed in the context of modern family life.

Renewing a club membership used to be a straightforward matter. The member receives dues notification, pays a subscription, and club life continues. But as much as club managers may want that to be the case, increasingly, it simply is not.

The perfect storm of increased time, family and economic pressures for members means leisure outings are more heavily scrutinized and, occasionally, result in the end of membership and/or the club’s prominence in an individual’s day-to-day life.

Rather than having these decisions debated behind closed doors, with no prior knowledge that they even exist, clubs do have a vital tool at their disposal, in extending a bespoke member survey to spouses and family members.

Branching out

GGA spouse and family member surveys were introduced nearly a decade ago and what we have learned during that time unambiguously supports their role in helping club leaders develop a product and service that is relevant to the whole family.

Among the headline findings collated from across North America, we found:

  1. Clubs typically underestimate utilization by spouses and families. The introduction of spouse and family surveys helped clubs better understand utilization patterns in order to:
    • Realize greater operational efficiencies
    • Develop better informed events calendars
    • Target specific groups of spouses and families with relevant information
  1. Significant variances in capital project support. Spousal and family member support can vary up to +/- 15% when compared to primary member support. Combine this with their increased involvement in the membership purchase decision, and the importance of building a plan which appeals to all comes into sharp focus.
  2. Restrictions to access are a key concern. When contemplating any membership alterations which involve increased time and/or amenity restrictions, input from all member categories will help to arrive at more reasonable, rational and accepted changes and mitigate any negative impact to satisfaction levels.

A club for the entire family

Identifying the importance of both spouses and families is one thing, making changes to the club operation to increase their satisfaction levels (alongside those of primary members) is another.

Do the benefits outweigh the time and resource investment?

If it’s about an underlying connection, then yes. More interaction with spouses and family members will inevitably put the club more front-and-center in their minds, and help clarify its attributes and future role among these individuals.

There are more reasons to engage this audience too:

  • It improves buy-in for future decisions (as supported by survey findings). For example, if family members indicate their dissatisfaction with the current junior leagues at the club and provide insight on how they wish to see them improve, they are more likely to participate after the club implements an updated junior league program.
  • Spouses and family members will feel valued, and appreciate their opinions are being solicited, captured, and considered with care.
  • With the increasing influence of spouses and families on lifestyle and recreation choices, engaging them can help shape the future relevance and strategy for the club and drive overall membership sales.
  • A key challenge for clubs around the world is finding and engaging young prospects to grow the membership pipeline within the club. Collecting feedback from family members can identify the key drivers for this demographic and help position the club to best appeal to this group.

Moving out of the comfort zone

It may seem counter-intuitive to develop a future vision for your club formed from the views of those who may appear not to spend a great deal of time there.

However, across the world we are witnessing clubs making moves towards developing amenities and services which appeal to the entire family and encourage them to spend more time there. These are the clubs already profiting from family and spousal survey insights, building out the core of their membership to now include spouses and family members, and simultaneously becoming a more appealing destination to prospects.

Taking the first steps are difficult, but by seeking a wider base of opinions you might be surprised by what you learn and the future opportunities that arise.

A Better Way to Communicate

Churning out communications to your members with little thought for who you are speaking to and what medium you are using is not a recipe for success.

As GGA’s Henry DeLozier explains, putting a little more thought and attention to detail into your communications is an impactful, and cost effective, way to make your members feel valued and included.

“Communication in our club is poor”

A phrase that is commonplace in surveys and focus groups we run on behalf of clients across North America – often despite the best efforts of club leaders to improve communications at their clubs.

As much as we would like to prescribe a formula that is guaranteed to improve member relations, the reality is that the communications world evolves continuously, including the ways members consume and exchange information, and the platforms on which they do so.

While this can present a challenge, the evolution in communications technology has also brought opportunities to the fore: opportunities to increase the relevance of your communications, learn more about your members habits and preferences, and branch out to networks of potential new members.

With that in mind, there are some tactics you may wish to consider to enhance your communications relationship with members and club stakeholders:

1. Keep your club website relevant.

As Linda Dillenbeck, a director at Global Golf Advisors and a communications expert, observes, “Most clubs’ websites are outdated, disconnected, and dysfunctional.” Dillenbeck estimates that a private club website has a relatively short shelf-life of around three years. When did you last update your website?

Incremental improvements which factor in the latest in web technology enhancements can increase the aesthetic appeal, user-friendliness and accessibility of your site ten-fold.

Think too about regular updates to your image portfolio and news sections. Investing the time and not letting them become dormant shows members that you care and invokes a sense of pride and belonging.

2. Empower club members to communicate.

The advent of mobile camera technology has handed the power for members to become regular content creators, some of whom may produce high quality photographs and videos of your club.

While you cannot control what they say or post, compelling content drawing on the attributes of your club and amplified to member and stakeholder networks can enhance the club’s reputation among members and the outside world.

Vindicate their efforts by engaging through club social media channels, via email or otherwise. It shows you are interested and supportive, and gives a sprinkling of kudos to what they have produced.

3. Organize information into communication “bites”.

The relative attention span of most recipients is shrinking, so the club should look to communicate in small “bites” – morsels of interesting activities, friends enjoying mutual interests or snippets from club events. Keep it short and to the point.

4. Use tailored media.

Rather than indiscriminately provide all things to all members, ask them to personalize their information expectations and preferences into a member profile so that the club may communicate with each member on the member’s terms.

Regular prompts to update their preferences can provide useful insights into any trends developing over time and how this should be translated to what and how you provision information to them.

5. Measure effectiveness.

Monitor engagement levels from all outgoing communications. Track which members are – and are not – receiving and engaging with information from the club.

By doing so you can start to build out segments of members (starting with engaged / not engaged) and begin to increase the relevance of your communications methods and messages.

 

Crafting the right messages takes time and attention, as does knowing how to communicate them. By better understanding what methods and messages are most influential to members and stakeholders, you can start making meaningful progress and increasing engagement.

In any case, make it personal.

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

Detecting the First Signs of Discontent

A club manager spends considerable hours thinking of ways to attract new members of all types, but this should never be to the detriment of your core income: existing members.

GGA Partner Michael Gregory provides insight into the ways you can detect when a member falls off the radar, and what you should do when it happens.

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.

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