The upside of working with little or no marketing budget is that it forces you to get creative. Brainstorming is a great way to find an unusual solution, but don’t overlook your most obvious, readily available resource – your members and staff. By nurturing relationships with these people they will, in essence, become your most effective marketing tools. Their efforts will help differentiate your club in the marketplace, generate a buzz in the community, and help you build/retain value through Club pride in action. These seemingly simple, and often inexpensive, options include and result in:
- A culture of pride based on consistency and quality – in facilities, food/beverage, amenities and staff,
- An environment which empowers staff to take ownership of their respective roles and rewards them in doing so, and
- Informed and engaged members and staff who help spread the word.
These and other means are in your arsenal of natural resources awaiting your cultivation and utilization.
El Macero CC’s GM, Steven Backman CCM, says it best, “Hire for attitude; you can train almost anything else.” Since starting from scratch isn’t usually an option, implement a Good Attitude=Good Hire policy, effective immediately. In doing so, you and your fellow managers will strive to add only enthusiastic individuals to the team. Among existing staff, look for and focus on positive actions, acknowledge successes and reward desired behaviors. Provide a training program to insure consistent quality in every aspect of your club. Empower staff to take ownership of what they do: “See it, Own it, Solve it, Do it” (read more: The Oz Principle). Engage and inform with timely information, and empower them by asking for help in building awareness of programs, services and events. The results of implementing these practices may surprise you in the number of issues resolved quickly and inexpensively, increased pride among staff in having resolved issues on their own and increased satisfaction in working at your club through being empowered and trusted to problem-solve. With your team of enthusiastic staff in place – providing consistent, quality service, promoting club pride and events – it is time to identify and engage your member partners.
The hospitality industry is all about relationships, and, while the importance of quality relationships with your staff is obvious, the quality of those you have built with your members is equally important. Members feel pride in their club through consistent, quality service and facilities, as well as through a sense of belonging via their friendships with other members. Looking to your entire membership, identify the most active and involved members, your “club evangelists.” Invite them to get involved in sharing the Club’s message and provide them with timely, accurate information. Encourage them to talk outside Club walls (even on social media like Twitter, if you dare!) about the last outstanding meal they had at the Club, or membership opportunities, keeping in mind that a message shared peer-to-peer far outweighs one from a traditional marketing method. By doing so, you/they will have started the most effective marketing program available: word of mouth. Building and maintaining relationships requires consistent effort, working through your staff and members increases your marketing power exponentially. Engaging and empowering these same folks, and recognizing efforts along the way, gives everyone a stronger sense of pride and ownership in their club or what they do at the club, and where they belong or work.
Hiring happy people and properly training them, nurturing relationships with your staff and members to build a strong network of club supporters, and harnessing the enthusiasm and energy that both groups bring will help market your membership opportunities, and your club, better than you ever could alone. These efforts help you save precious marketing dollars for other programs and bolster feelings of ownership and pride among members and staff in their club. While gauging marketing ROI is much more difficult when compared to tracking a response rate from an invitation to preview your club, having prospective members see the culture and pride IN ACTION does more to entice a prospect than any artificial meet-and-greet style event. By conveying a feeling of pride in your club, an inside secret has, in effect, been shared which says, “Join XYZ Club, and you, too, can enjoy this exclusive experience!”
Now, ask yourself: What are you doing to harness your natural resources in your membership marketing efforts, and what is your club doing to share its “inside secret”?
About the Author: Jill R. Melbye is a Principal and Certified Marketing Professional with MAI Business Services. She has worked within the private club industry for 15 years and conducts seminars and provides marketing support to the hospitality industry. She is also the publisher and author of “Membership & Marketing: From A to Z”, MAI’s quarterly eNewsletter. For more information, please contact Jill at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the website www.melbye-assoc.com. Follow her on twitter! www.twitter.com/jrmelbye
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This weekly blog comments on and discusses the club industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers — those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking club managers throughout the country and around the world.
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