Saturday, December 19, 2015

Surveying for the lazy

Once per year online surveys are the lazy clubs way of check-boxing 'we listen'.
If this is the primary way you gauge the pulse of your club, you are probably getting a false positive.
At my day job, we 'survey' our customers online and get some information, but the in-depth survey we do in person is where we find the truth.
Anything below an '8' means trouble.  The traditional 'satisfied, somewhat satisfied, neutral', etc., is helpful, but for some reason numerical grades always tell more of the story - in person.  
A quick '9 or 10' is great, but what about the hesitant '7'?  Is it really a '7'? Voice inflection and body language says it's not, but you can't pick that up over the internet.  This is why you need to survey as many members as you can in person.  Again, at my day job, we conduct these monthly with a sub-set of customers.  After 12 months, we have asked everyone, both online and in person.  Do this and member retention will no longer be a mystery.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Too busy to say thanks (or how to get your members to be billboards on the cheap)?

Who bought the most lessons from you in 2015?
Who bought the most hard/soft goods in your pro shop?
Who attended the most club functions?
Who improved the most this year?
Who sent the most referrals?
Who brought the most guests in 2015?
Which family dined the most at the club in 2015?
…and how did you recognize each of these members at your club?
Would the member that bought 9 lessons be ecstatic over receiving a hand-written thank you with a voucher for a free lesson in 2016?
How much more likely would the member that spent $3,000 in your pro shop last year…be likely to spend even more in 2016 and tell their fellow members to avoid Dick’s or Golf Galaxy at all costs because of the outstanding service they received at the club?
How creatively did you say ‘thank you’ to the member that brought in over 40 guest rounds last year?
You can’t over-appreciate your members.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Men's league 2.0

One of the duties of the Club Professional from yesteryear was introducing new members to old ones. After all, few people join with their regular foursome. If your club still does this for the first 30-60 days via your Club’s Professional staff combined with an ambassador program – Congratulations, you are ahead of 95% of the Clubs in America.
Men’s leagues, when well run, have proven to be an important part of integration, retention, and camaraderie for Club Members.
Has yours become stale…or worse, have you abandoned it when the economy dropped a few years ago?
Re-igniting it is easy, running one that gets consistent participation, not so much.
The best ones have several things in common:
  • The Professional Staff is an active participant.
  • Members that participate are rewarded for their consistency in some way.
  • They breed camaraderie, before, during, and after play.
  • They are semi-competitive and fun at the same time.
  • They are reasonably priced.
Do you want to start 2016 off with a bang?  Below is a simple, sample of what Men’s league could look like in 2016:
Men’s League 2016
Purpose: To facilitate working members who would like to play a quick nine after work in a fun, organized format. To help new members integrate into the club, meet fellow members. To grow and protect the base membership.
When: Every Tuesday at 5:00/5:30 pm – fallback/daylight savings time
Format: Games work best with two-man format, mixing up contests, and players with handicaps (examples):
  • Low ball
  • Best ball scramble
  • Alternate shot
  • Texas scramble
  • Team combined score
Cost: Keep it low, $10-15 per 9 holes (walking). Pay out in pro shop credit each week. Provide a food bar at the completion at each event to promote camaraderie; taco bar, pizza, sliders, chicken skewers, chili, etc.
Year-end event: To keep interest and participation high, award points each week for participation (10 points), 1st (10 points), 2nd (5 points), 3rd (3 points) places. Top 10-15 players compete in year end shootout for large(r) pro shop prize pool.
Benefits to the club:
  • Provides a good feeder for new members to integrate, meet other members.
  • Increased pro shop sales.
  • Increased Food/Beverage sales. The food bar means people will stay and drink.
  • Increased cart revenue.
  • Break-up cliques by making the format largely blind draw.
How long: 1st of April through end of September
Marketing:  Make someone responsible for posting pictures on social media with results, action shots during play, and action shots after play.  A simple leaderboard in the Pro Shop, Grill(e), and Locker room should be updated each week.
The biggest key(s) are:
  1.  Have the Professional staff run the event – pairings should be blind draw at least twice per month.  Mixing up players is paramount.  Some members won’t like it, but they can play with their buddies any time, this will weed out the curmudgeons.
  2. Make it fun – Have a large dry erase board in the Grill(e) room filled with the teams.  Congratulate those who performed well.  Joke about those that had a tough day.  Be creative.
  3. Be consistent – Start on time.  Keep the cut-off time for pairings the same.  If teams are odd, have a staff member ready to play so no one is left out in the cold.
  4. Be consistent 2.0 – You may have to go months without much participation, especially if you are trying to revive the group.  Don’t give up.  Stay the course.  If it is marketed well, fun, and builds to something memorable at the end of the year, people will participate.
  5. Post pictures each week of the participants, the food, the winners, and the fun that could be had on your clubs social media.  If it looks fun, more will become curious and will give it a try.

Everything but Golf?

It’s not shocking, judging by the number of Country Club pages I follow, that the clubs that are in the worst financial shape almost unanimously (continue to) post pictures of their menu, their pool, and their fitness center in lieu of the #1 draw of the club – Golf.
No one joins for the restaurant – although  a bad one can certainly be a point of contention.
They don’t join because of the pool…that is only open three months per year.
They don’t join for the gym either.  One on every corner it seems.
If it were possible to hide your club’s name on your social media postings, would an outsider be able to guess you had a golf course?

Friday, March 6, 2015

You need members, but ignore your former ones?

I wonder how many former members would come back if you simply asked? Many clubs never take the time to do this, yet complain about needing members? Discounting and Pro shop credit is lazy when the low hanging fruit is right in front of you. 
This letter took about twenty minutes to write and I don’t work in the business. What does yours look like and how successful were the meetings you had as a result of the outreach?
Mr. James Smith
123 ABC Road
Johnsonville, USA 11111
March 15, 2015
Dear Mr. Smith,
I understand you used to be a member of Forest Woods Country Club for ___ years. The reason I am reaching out to you is two-fold:
1)  We want you back at the club! We have added a couple of new membership categories since you left in 20xx. Our restaurant has been totally renovated from the ground up. We have renovated the locker room with new carpet and amenities. We have added many weekly and monthly programs like an expanded men’s league, couples getaway nights with child care and dinner, affordable group lessons focusing on the various skills you need to improve, a junior league, and “play with the Pro days”. We’ve also entered into an agreement with one of the best gyms in town, that as a member, you can take advantage of right away.
2)  We want your feedback. I know we have room for improvement Mr. Smith, every club does. I’ve found that many members don’t quit playing the game, they simply play somewhere else. I am not sure why you left, but I would love to have your honest opinion on why and what we could do better going forward. Was it our pricing or service? The value for your dollar? Were you frustrated with the way things were done or handled at the club? Even if we can’t get you back, I would really appreciate any help you can give us in improving the club overall. I’ve found that our best ideas and improvements come from simply listening…and I know in the past, after speaking to many former members, that wasn’t our strong suit.
In May of 20xx, I took over the General Managers role at the club and in all honesty, have had the time of my life working at Forest Woods Country Club. I’ve worked at XYZ, ABC, and 123 in the past, but have never received a warmer welcome. My family has fallen in love with the area and the people. I’ve hired a few key staff positions since you were a member, that I feel bring energy, dedication, and expertise to the club.
I’ve enclosed a certificate for a complimentary (food/round/month) at the club. To take advantage of this, all I ask is we meet in person either at the club or over lunch. If you don’t think there is any way to win you back, I would still like to get a few minutes of your time to go over any feedback or suggestions you might have. I’ve found that if one person has a frustration, so do others, but if we don’t ask, we can’t get better.
You may reach me at 111-1111 or I look forward to speaking with you soon.
John Townsend
General Manager
Forest Woods Country Club

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Making your Invitational Tournament better

Invitational tournaments are a great way to showcase your club, add a little revenue, and in some cases, drive membership. Some are sold out every year. Others seem to struggle to fill even half the field. The difference? It’s a combination of many things: consistency, planning, communication, and memorability seem to top the list.
If your club has struggled with attendance the last few years or maybe just needs to drive a little more revenue from the event, the following compilation of ideas may be just the spark you need to make the tournament better:
1.  Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. – Within 90 days, go ahead and send your first announcement out. Many players plan vacations and family obligations at least this far in advance, if you don’t, something else may take the weekend they could have played. Send another reminder at 60 days, 30 days, and then once per week until the event starts. This should be done via email. If you have a Facebook and Twitter page, same thing goes.
2.  Compare your player list with other clubs nearby that also hold invitationals. If you work together, you will probably catch players that may not have otherwise played.
3.  Reward – Give $20 off for players who recruit first timers. This is cheap marketing.
4.  Have multiple divisions and a goal to pay 1/3 of the field. Make sure the divisions and tees are explained before the event starts. Nothing worse than having scratch players compete against those who received strokes or forty- year olds having to compete against college kids from the championship tees.
5.  Consider having a club manufacturer set up a tent for a demo day on the range. This may aid in selling merchandise later and will raise the profile and feel of the event.
6.  As tee gifts go, think about giving things that have long-term marketing value. T-shirts and good quality hats can be worn for years. Balls are lost in days. Another consideration is to simply give each player a credit of $20-25 in your pro shop. Many will end up picking logo’d items they will happily wear for years.
7.  Get a sponsor – I’ve seen one club do this consistently every year. $500, $1,000? A title sponsor, like a car dealership or popular eatery elevates the ‘feel’ of the event. It also brings in money that takes little labor from your staff. Win-win.
8.  Serve breakfast and lunch. I know, I know, it raises the price and you think your pricing is what keeps people from playing in your event. It doesn’t. Cheap events that aren’t memorable keep people away. A good meal and a little camaraderie always makes for a better event.
9.  Solicit members juniors to caddy for the weekend (13-18 years old is a good range). A nominal charge more than cart fee is a treat that many don’t ever experience. Bonus if the caddies wear club bibs.
10.  As course set-up goes, more will come back if they are able to shoot a decent number with a few more forgiving pins vs. tucked pins and high rough.
11.  Solicit members to help as spotters on holes where players frequently lose balls or have slowdowns. I played in an invitational a few years ago that did this and can still recall how the members kept thanking me for playing in their event. This says ‘cohesive membership’.
12.  Announce players names via a P.A. System. This adds flair and memorability.
13.  Make the tournament an ‘Open house’ for competitors for the weekend. I know one club that does this and many competitors take their whole family for dinner or a day at the pool. This is a great way to showcase the club and drive membership.
14.  If space allows, offering lockers to competitors for the weekend is a nice touch. Again, anything that gives the players a member-for-the-weekend feel helps in recruitment for a possible membership.
15.  Create a membership special for the weekend only.
16.  Give every player ‘pro shop bucks’ (or come up with another creative name) for soft goods like shirts, pants, pullovers, etc. Make the ‘bucks’ look like money and offer discounts like $15 off every $50 spent. People will feel like they have to spend it if they have it in their hands vs. a random sale in the pro shop.
17.  Update tee times, weather changes, scores, and special announcements via your social media pages. Nothing worse than having every player call individually for the next days tee times or for weather delays.
18,  Designate a staff member to take pictures during the event. These should be posted to your social media sites immediately after play. I bet a box of Pro V’s your website hits and social media visits will be at their highest during this week.
19.  If you have a list of players from last year, your club should stay in touch with them at least quarterly throughout the year with newsletters. It takes 6-10 exposures before a guest becomes a member. Every touch counts.
20.  Send personal hand-written thank you notes to the playing competitors at the conclusion of the tournament. It takes about a minute or so to write but will leave a powerful impression. Bonus points if you offer a discounted or complimentary ‘replay’ round with the note.