Making the Connection

Do you know what makes your club special and different? GGA’s Linda Dillenbeck explains the power of understanding what makes your club unique, and how to communicate that with messages that resonate with your target consumer.

If you want to make your marketing efforts more effective, your first step is to take a step back and look at your Club’s marketing message through the eyes of your prospective customer.

If your message isn’t telling potential members how your Club is unique in the marketplace, and distinct in fulfilling their desire for a club membership, then you are missing an opportunity to make a connection.

And that connection that can be the difference between choosing your club or your competitor’s.

Define Your Brand with A Unique Selling Proposition

That’s simple, right?

You probably have a championship golf course, offering a variety of tees for players of all skill levels, along with a courteous professional staff, in a beautifully manicured setting, with first-class amenities for an active lifestyle…

If these are the phrases you use when describing your Club, then you have fallen into the “sea of sameness” trap. A quick review of your competitor’s brand messages and websites will probably reveal they are using the same descriptions to promote their Clubs.

Defining your brand goes deeper than a recitation of what you have. It’s about who you are. Prospects want to know how you are unique, why you are different and what your Club offers that no one else can.

This is defined as your Unique Selling Proposition, the purpose of which is to inform your prospects why your Club is the best choice, and to justify why your target customers should choose your Club over the competition.

To develop your Unique Selling Proposition, ask your Members and staff to tell you:

  • The one thing that makes your Club different
  • The three words that best describe your Club
  • The short description they use when their friends ask about your Club.

These responses will reveal the current perception of your brand, and provide the starting point for determining what truly makes your Club unique.

Speak to Your Specific Audience

Communication serves several purposes: to inform, to influence, to engage the imagination, and to satisfy expectations.

To ensure your brand message is relevant, you must first define specific audience to whom it is to be delivered. Whether your Club’s target audience is families, low-handicap players, couples or business executives, the information presented should use terms and phrases conveying that your Club understands the audience being addressed, and values what that audience holds in high regard.

All too frequently, marketing messages focus on the Club, whereas prospects want to learn how the Club will improve their lives. By focusing your message on satisfying a need and fulfilling a desire you will capture the attention of your prospect much more often.

And most important, your Club’s marketing messages must create trust and connection with its audience. Today’s consumers appreciate simple and honest messages, unencumbered by hollow boasts. By speaking truthfully, consistently and authentically with your audience, your messages will be much more effective.

Tell Your Audience Your Story

Too often, we observe Club marketing focused on providing a laundry list of adjective-laden amenities in their effort to distinguish their facility from the competition. Unfortunately, most Clubs have a lot of the same amenities.

A more successful way to engage consumers and break out of the “sea of sameness” is to tell the story of who you are, why you exist, the shared values of the Club and its members, and the unique experiences available.

Stories engage people and their imagination, particularly stories about people and experiences. The storytelling method of presenting your Club will engage your prospects, allowing them to cast a role for themselves in the narrative and visualize becoming part of the Club’s story.

Below is a good example of successful storytelling we recently came across. The text appears as the opening paragraph on the Club’s website.

“Imagine a private retreat, nestled among citrus groves, rolling foothills and lush fairways.
Picture a place of connections, camaraderie, competition and ease from the pace of life –
an idyllic environment for a gracious way of living.”

This introduction to the Club highlights both its uniqueness – a private retreat among citrus groves, rolling foothills and lush fairways – and a distinct impression of what the Club values – camaraderie, competition, a gracious way of living – thereby inviting the like-minded prospect into the story.

Understanding what differentiates your Club from the competition, communicating those appealing attributes to the matching audience, and doing it in a fashion properly tailored for their consumption will elevate your Club’s message above the competition and entice your prospects to want to learn more.

This article was authored by GGA Senior Associate and Marketing expert Linda Dillenbeck.

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

Clubs Should Be Selling Memories

Today’s fast paced tech savvy society is often called The Experience Economy, which references the ever-rising expectations of customers coupled with the desire for memorable experiences rather than physical possessions (See “Managing Expectations” PCA September, 2018).

The Experience Economy is forcing clubs to prioritize creating unparalleled experiences for their members over simply providing great service, quality amenities or good membership value.

According to Henry DeLozier of Global Golf Advisors, “The memory itself becomes the product and in private clubs today, members relish an unforgettable experience far more than a bargain.”

Different from the past, members now relate membership value to the club’s ability to deliver memorable experiences to their lives and the lives of their loved ones.

Experiences in this context are preplanned activities or events that are packed full of emotional, memorable, shareable impressions that are difficult for others to duplicate. “The key to this entire concept is that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” DeLozier explained.

Club executives and operators must shift their focus from simply ensuring enjoyable experiences (dining at the club, great round of golf, good tennis lesson, etc.) to building opportunities for members to establish stories. When members (and their families) become part of a holistic experience, they become part of a story and that is when a positive and lasting memory is formed.

The sky is the limit as each club has endless opportunities to create experiences that speak directly to member perceptions of value.

“Club leaders will find the greatest success in innovative ideas, unforgettable experiences and fresh new concepts that are unique to their club and community,” DeLozier concluded.

This article was authored by GGA Partner Henry DeLozier for the Private Club Advisor.