By Ed Shanaphy, CMAA
I remember my first instant message. It was on America On Line or AOL to us golden oldies. Someone “pinged” me long before that word was added to the common vernacular. I was so excited. I sat back in my chair and looked at my IMAC in awe and typed my answer.
A few years later I had personal messages direct to the user. I was working in Kent, England and instant messaging my father at his desk in upstate New York. We had to log in and watch the blinking cursor waiting for a reply – long before the three dots… yes, the blinking cursor was replaced by the three dots.
Email was there too. From my first email on AOL to my newest one here at beyondthebaselines.com, I realize that email has stood the test of time. Do you remember AOL Keyword? Seems like eons ago. Now, you can almost almost bank on a person with an AOL address is over 50. Now, the kids just use DM (that’s short for Direct Message for you older folk) on Twitter, Instagram, or the teen haven of Tik Tok.
Is email still a valid method to push members to clubs and facilities? I use push with a double meaning. We have push notifications now in apps – but email can still push members as well to events and programming. But is email now the best “push?”
We ask this question as we work with clubs daily on their member marketing communications. Club managers must realize that they are indeed, as are their department heads, marketers promoting programming, social events, membership benefits, hospitality and more to a hungry and engaged audience. The choice in the method of communication is paramount.
Because membership is usually hungry to hear from their club for which they pay a subscription with their dues payment, email has perhaps lasted longer than its shelf life in other industries. We, as management consultants and interim managers at several clubs and facilities, are now curtailing the number of emails we send out. We create a weekly schedule of emailing, so each department has the same day of the week to email the membership. Members like regular scheduling and are innately attuned to a schedule that is the same week in, week out. Just as the new podcasters do, we find a regular schedule for releasing emails and marketing efforts to create the “funnel” as the social media gurus call it – the slide into signing up for a program.
But with clubs now boasting applications on softwares such as Club Essential or Members First, it might be these applications, through notifications, that replace emails in the near future. Much like the CB Radio fad was replaced by the mobile phone for both leisure and truckers, email will perhaps die a slow and inglorious death.
Why Choosing The Method is The Madness
Emails, as membership trends younger nationally, are slow and cumbersome. Opening the email app, then clicking on the inbox to update, looking at the title of the email and the ensuing subhead – it’s all too much for our overworked, younger members. They want one click on an app that shows a pending message – akin to their favorite mode of communication a DM. One click from the home screen and it opens immediately and gives them a short, succinct message as to the happening at the club.
The rule two clicks is one too many rings true. This rule emanated from the early days of e-commerce. We marketers were in love of menus and sub menus, but then came the studies. More than two clicks, and that customer is off to another site. Same is true today with phone apps.
There is a place for email in our marketing. Emails should be reserved for something we used to post. And think of how that word has changed – it was the morning or evening post as a newspaper or you would post a letter. Now it’s a reel, story or just plain blog post. But now email should really be used for sending a marketing letter such as provisional member announcements or annual general meeting agendas. These items are more akin to being emailed just as they were regularly mailed by what we now call “snail mail.”
Texting: The New Way To Market and Fill Events and Programming
Email has been relegated. Just like how the USPS is trying to keep up with the Amazon vans, email is just too unwieldly for the younger user. Texting or a push notification from an app is best when announcing a weather closure to the course or courts. Or, better yet, there are 12 seats remaining for Sunday brunch.
Years ago we advocated the use of texting as a way to fill clinics, lunches, dinners, and special events. With our partner clubs and facilities, years ago we created Google Voice databases with members’ cell phones and would, either singularly or in a group, email members offering spaces in that day’s golf clinic or fashion luncheon. Texting worked quite well, long before Jonas, Northstar or Club Essential was operating their texting functions. Now you can text from the club directory within any club management software. You should be using this more than you compose an email.
What is also a nice consequence of this new method of communicating to members was that it allows members to initiate conversation with staff without the formality of an email or, better yet, the time for staff to pick up a phone. Just as most clubs have moved past the last name on the golf course or tennis courts, informality has arrived in our communications. Members would, and still do, text the front desk to ask a question, which we can answer the minute a member who is speaking to us face-to-face leaves the front desk space. We have more time to be front of house, facing members on property, as we found that texting eliminated many of the phone calls received by front desk staff.
If you don’t have one of the major club software, there are easy add ons such as MemberText or, as we like to keep costs down, Google Voice which is free. How ever you decide to add member texting capability, texting is a required marketing tool these days.
How Often Is Too Often?
We know that you can saturate your market, especially with emails. But, if you schedule wisely those department heads to email just once every 10 days, supplement those emails with texts and app alerts, and perhaps Direct Messages on the club app, members don’t always realize just how often you are communicating with them. Variating the method of communication allows more communication. More communication leads to more sales generation. More sales means higher revenues for the club. More revenues equals a healthier club and a thriving business.
Ed Shanaphy is President of BeyondTheBaselines.com and serves clients through interim management and management consultancy. He wonders when the three dots will be replaced just as the blinking cursor was replaced earlier this century.