By Ed Shanaphy, CMAA
We in the country club industry don’t often think of ourselves as direct marketers, but we are. Every day we strive to bring people to a course, a court, a gym floor or a dining room. We continually make members aware of offerings and happenings. We advertise our techniques on the range and in the fences. We do that through communication. Whether in person or more widely via email, phone, text, web, social media – whatever the avenue – we are marketing a commodity. Well, it’s actually two commodities. The club and your department. The important aspect to remember is to keep the marketing of both commodities in harmony.
Branding The Club
With every communication to members, the club is the brand. Communication should be assembled with a short-term goal for usage and revenues and a long-term plan for membership growth and retention. There needs to be an overall strategy when it comes to emails and communication across departments. For example, if the golf department sends a daily or bi-weekly email, tennis and fitness should be doing the same – and perhaps not on the same days so as not to overwhelm the membership with communication.
Club marketing is changing with the millennials. They are a digital generation, and we should be striving to reach them in their most-loved method through social media, text, and emails – all combining to create one, club brand. There’s no replacing a phone call to a member, but there is no way to better communicate with the new generation of members continually than through social media and group text.
Addressing the club logo, the website and the club’s mission statement or purpose, it is essential there is an organized plan in working toward a current, modern branding. With this strategy, it is then possible to implement the software that might be appropriate for best communicating with members. There are so many to choose from, but it is vital that the one chosen best encompasses all that management and administration require to reach the goals set. Whether it be a text database or a cleaner invoice with stronger branding, these are all factors that improve the club’s prominence.
Branding in these times of diversity is also a consideration. Just as club’s by-laws might be stuck in the 20th Century, we too should look at logos, mission statements and overall branding and bring them into a more modern age with diversity and inclusion paramount. Often, the country club industry is seen as elite and stuffy – and in these times that might be a characteristic to leave in the past while moving forward to a more community-based role. However, it’s important not to cut all roots or historical references to the club, as that does emit a sense of security and balance.
As an example, look at Siwanoy Country Club’s new logo. The previous logo was a head of a Native American – their new logo maintains that history with an etching of a feather, still harking back to the time of Native Americans inhabited the Hudson Valley, the location of the country club founded in 1901.
Branding The Department
Departmental marketing should focus on the shorter term goals of member usage, raising revenue streams, and improving the connection between the department, its employees and members. One of the most overlooked possibilities is to market your talented assistants, shop staff and concierges. When delegating authority, it is these staffers that need to be recognized and marketing their assets and attributes is wise. And, just like staff members, club members love to be recognized – and they can be a great example of a satisfied stakeholder if well served through excellent member service which is then marketed to the rest of the club community.
Although focusing on short-term goals, every marketing effort must remain within the overall strategic marketing and branding plan. Just for an example, our video below discusses how a coupon for a departmental revenue generator could possible lead to a new member prospect if the club branding and logo are well presented on each coupon drive.
As the club industry comes out of Covid, we should focus on keeping the high usage while raising the revenues of each department through slightly higher pricing and additional usage. Labor requirements and costs will be going up as the workforce is going to come back with demands of work-life balance and costs of living post Covid.
Any short-term campaign has long-term consequences. As every social media posting is on the web forever, we must understand that even a quick marketing effort may be picked up at a later date for comparison pricing, wording and retention. Therefore, it’s imperative to have a long-term pricing structure, growth plan and strategic marketing plan across all departments, all marketing efforts and all sales efforts.
For Ed’s FREE 3-Part Video Course on how to create coupons and offers for your tennis, fitness or golf departments, please fill out the form below!
Ed Shanaphy, President of BeyondTheBaselines.com which is a subsidiary of SBW Associates, Inc, received his B.A from Duke University and his M.A. from The London School of Economics. Ed served as Managing Director and Chief Operating Officer of Haysbridge (UK) Ltd, a marketing conglomerate with offices in London, Sydney and Dublin. He is a member of the Club Management Association of America and has been a featured speaker at the PGA and TIA Conferences.