Member Retention Strategies
In 2022, many businesses across the country faced incredibly difficult challenges adopting to significant membership growth and higher demand for club services. For most of our clients, and for many in the golf industry as a whole, they recorded record growth in the number of new players, returning players, and memberships sold to golfers looking to play more golf. According to the National Golf Foundation, close to 60 million more rounds were played across the United States in 2020. That growth represented a 14% increase when compared to 2019, the largest increase the industry has seen since the “Tiger Effect” in 1997.
Early in 2022, we began having many conversations with our clients and industry partners, specifically about their experience in 2021 and how their business approach is evolving. The resulting strategy from this record growth has shifted from customer acquisition centric strategies, to far more emphasis placed on finding ways to retain new members, activate returning player that returned to the game in 2021, and renew members early in the year to ensure commitment to the club.
With spring just around the corner and new members already renewing and signing up for the 2022 season, it’s important that you have a strategy that is appropriate and proactive for the varied types of members and customers your club services. We will outline those types and the appropriate steps that might be appropriate for each:
New Members/Players- For many in 2021, they found themselves being introduced to your club by their personal or business networks as one of the few available locations where they could enjoy the game of golf and continue to dedicate their efforts to playing more and often times, improving their game and level of competency in the sport. There are a few generalizations we can make about this group that can drive content and communication:
Social Invitations- You had new members join the club, or new guests come to play your property in 2021. One of the many benefits of the game of golf is the social interaction that comes with becoming a part of a regular group of players, or one of the more defined clubs at your property. Are you inviting these new members and guests to social mixers, making introductions to your clubs and facilitating them being welcomed into your current golf and activity groups? We can forget that the game of golf can be a little intimidating for new people, and our private clubs and golf courses can also be a little hard to navigate for those that don’t have a strong network already in place. Focus on bringing them into the social scene early, and keep them engaged all season and for years to come.
Need for Lessons/Instruction- if you were new to the game of golf in 2021, you quickly realized that it’s fun, active, and potentially addicting. You also realized that you probably weren’t very good. New players are looking for ways to get better, whether that be by a set of formal instructional sessions, visiting group clinics, or watching tips from the Head Golf Professional distributed via social media and the website. Getting them involved and enrolled in activities that help them get better is a method for getting them back to your course and getting them to play more golf. We have seen a few of our clients hosting free “spring clinics”, which have been 30 minute group tips and instruction around specific parts of the game; putting, chipping, approach, and of course, better accuracy with their drivers. So far in 2022 these clinics have done a great job of brining the newer members to the club and reengaging them for the upcoming season.
Returning Players in 2021- Some of the record growth in 2021 was attributed to people who had played the game before but had stepped away for a variety of reasons, returning to play last year. How can you create a strategy specific to these players?
Trial Memberships- the returning golfer demographic just might be the sleeping giant for your club in 2022. Give these returning golfers a chance to try membership privileges as early as possible in 2022. Get them comfortable with the benefits of your membership, the ease of playing unlimited rounds of golf that fit into their schedule and the prestige of being a member at your property. Trial memberships are a great way to get those that aren’t sure about committing to a membership, to put their “toe in the water” and see how it feels. Many find they enjoy the freedom and networking that comes from membership.
Handicaps- Want to amplify the addictive nature of golf for these players? Get them to commit to having a handicap through your club. Many people don’t necessarily have the desire to compete in events, but they can still become addicted to the idea of constant improvement and challenge that handicaps provide. Players that maintain a handicap play more rounds annually and feel a stronger connection to your club.
New Members- Most of our clients recognized membership growth in 2021 and some decided to limit golf membership sales in an effort to maintain some available inventory to meet the high demand for tee time access. Regardless of your situation, memberships still represent a vital role in the current and future financial success of your property. There are a few things you can do to engage these new members:
Create a Personal Connection- Make a point of having a staff member reach out and speak with the new member. The personal touch of something as simple as a phone call can create a powerful level of engagement with members. They want to feel connected, appreciated, and valued by the club. Members want to have a relationship with the team at the golf course, and they want to feel welcome talking about the latest equipment or the recent tournament results.
Open House Event- Inviting members for a complimentary open house is a great way to get them to the club, give them a brief presentation about the vision for the upcoming year, projects and improvements, and educate them on all the ways in which they can become involved and active at the club. During this presentation you can teach them how to book online, leverage and communicate with the mobile app, pay their statements online, and really take advantage of your club’s technology designed around member self-service. Complimentary light appetizers, an open bar, a little music, and your prepared staff mingling with the members is a quick way to build relationships and establish connections.
With a strong understanding of the different types of new members and guests, why people become members, some strategies to automate the process of welcoming a new member, and some great offers to get members to feel wanted; you can ensure that you’re doing as much as possible to encourage the retention of the golfers that were new to your club in 2021. Spring’s just around the corner for those of us in colder climates, and regardless of what you do specifically, doing it as early as possible to get them thinking about your club and bringing them back will pay dividends all year long.
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About Total e Integrated
Total e Integrated is a leading provider of end-to-end business management solutions for recreation, retail, hospitality and community organizations. For over 20 years Total e Integrated has helped organizations to integrate departments, automate marketing, streamline operations and boost revenues with our innovative solutions and expert consulting services team.