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New Membership Marketing Series: "Going Tactical!" - Part Seven "Club Communications

One of the most frustrating aspects of club operations and membership marketing lies in club communications. After decades of conducting member input surveys, one drumbeat we continually hear is: "the club doesn't communicate with me." Sitting in Board meetings and facilitating planning retreats, we have found similar frustration on the issue of club communications. The refrain is more typically: "The Members never read or look at the information we send." 

Club communications make a huge impact on nearly all clubs, especially in the following areas: 
  • Increased Member participation and usage - The #1 reason for member resignations is "lack of use."  If a club can reduce member attrition through increased participation in programs, events and activities, it can dramatically affect the Club's financial health. Indeed, one of the best ways to ride out a recession, when new members are scarce, is to hold on to the current members.
  • Increased Prospective Member Inquiries and Interest - In "not-for-profit" private clubs, there are significant limitations on marketing. One of the best and primary sources of prospective member inquiries, as well as inquiries for outside tournaments and weddings, are the Club's website for developing leads and with mobile-friendly email blasts to prospects. 
  • Increased Member Sponsorship and Referral - The best source of new members is usually through the sponsorship by current members. However, this requires proactive referral campaign and being proactive requires strategy, follow up and record-keeping. Promoting incentives and notable events is critical to moving the needle in any significant way. 
  • Member Satisfaction and Frustration - In addition to the above impacts that can seriously affect the club's financial condition and trends, member satisfaction, pride, and frustration levels can also be seriously affected by the quality of the club's communication system.  

These primary areas of impact can all be significantly improved with one significant solution,

the hiring of a "Club Communications Director."  The role of a "Communications Director" will differ from club, however, the following are the typical areas of responsibility:
  • Newsletter - Creating, publishing and distribution of either a monthly printed/mailed version, online version, or sent weekly by email.  Keep in mind that electronic mail needs to be mobile-friendly and that takes a particular degree of expertise to make sure it is produced correctly.
  • Program and Event Promotion - Marketing, promotion and responsibility for increasing event participation (i.e, increased sign-ups).  
  • Website Content Development and Maintenance - The Club's website is a vital marketing tool, especially for clubs that cannot proactively advertise.  Clubs have been investing in web infrastructure, look and feel, but then let the site become stagnant and out of date. Club Communications Directors typically have the responsibility to keep web information fresh, interesting and timely. 
  • Member Activity - Keeping members familiar with and using the club's website and email blasts as tools for staying active in the club. 

A Club Communications Director -- Too expensive, you say? Consider the following positive effects of having a dedicated communications expert on staff: increased new member revenues;  increased outside revenues; more effective collection of prospect data; increased market exposure through social media (i.e., Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Yelp, etc.); improved distribution of club promotional and sales material (i.e., Constant Contact, DropBox, MediaFire, YouTube, Vimeo, etc.); increased member referrals; reduced member attrition through greater participation; and an elevated perception of Club leadership and management in communication and transparency.

Each manager would need to assess the above-mentioned potential benefits of improved member communications to measure the potential benefits. A dedicated Club Communications Director can usually be a break-even on a minimum level, however, retrieving lost revenue opportunities alone can provide even greater financial returns, improved member satisfaction and other strategic value.
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