Hitting the Moving Targets

By | October 9th, 2018

As club membership diversifies and club activities continue to expand, club communication strategies must also widen to cover all informational outlets and preferences.

Addison Reserve CC’s new website (pictured) was designed with simplicity in mind, emphasizing easy navigation between pages and video vignettes, including a video overview of the property on the home page.

 

The evolution of the Internet, social media and industry-specific apps has transformed the landscape of how each industry does business in today’s day and age.

Now, club and resort properties are upgrading their websites, developing apps and revising their communication best practices to make sure they are covered on all platforms when it comes to communicating with their members and guests.

Inviting Websites

Having a website and an Internet presence is one thing—but having a user-friendly site that is optimal and functional to the user experience is another.

In September, Addison Reserve Country Club in Delray Beach, Fla. announced the launch of a new website (http://www.addisonreserve.cc) that has been developed in advance of the new Healthy Lifestyle Complex that will come on stream at the club next year. A 35,000-sq. ft. facility will be the centerpiece of the complex, which will also include a new casual-dining restaurant with an indoor/outdoor bar area and covered seating; a spa; a covered, gazebo whirlpool; a free-form pool with dedicated lap lanes and beach entry; and a two-story fitness center. The complex will also include a children’s outdoor play area and indoor activity center.

“Our [new] website features a simplified layout, minimal design and color palette, easy navigation between pages, visually inspiring content with video vignettes on each custom page, and images relating to each text component,” says Gideon Heller, who directs Social Media and Content Creation for Addison Reserve.

Other features of the new site, Heller says, include “simple yet effective calls to action for each area of service, a social media widget on the footer of each page showing a real-time Instagram feed, and links to all of our social-media platforms, which have regular organic content.”

Even for those participating in clubs’ most traditional activity, a National Golf Foundation study found that social media use among golfers has more than doubled since 2011, and that the trend is being driven by the 18- and 34-yearold demographic. (Source: National Golf Foundation 2018 Technology and Golf’s Best Customers Study)

Mobile Friendliness

While it’s important to have a website that’s simple to navigate, making the site mobile-friendly has become just as essential. The National Golf Foundation (NGF) reports that 57% of Gen Xers (defined as people born between 1961-1981) are always near or connected to their mobile devices.

“We wanted to provide our properties with better tools and support, especially since we implemented new websites that are faster, built with a mobile-first mentality and have our clubs’ social-media feeds built directly into the website,” says Chris Stewart, CCM, General Manager of Eldorado Country Club in McKinney, Texas, and Regional Manager, Central Texas for CBIGG Management, LLC, which manages over 25 clubs in nine states.

“Knowing that more than 50% of our website traffic comes from mobile, we certainly kept this in mind when designing the layout of the new websites,” Stewart adds.

It works the other way, too. Champions Run Country Club in Omaha, Neb. experienced the impact of not having a mobile-friendly website prior to 2017, and it was a big headache, says Ben Lorenzen, the club’s Creative Director.

At Chattanooga (Tenn.) Golf & Country Club, upgrades are currently underway to make the club’s website more mobile-friendly and help make things easier for members and guests on the move.

“We are now going to include a mobile-friendly version, making it easier for our members to access our site on the go,” says Beth Wright, the club’s Membership Marketing Director. “We plan on using a responsive website design to

Keeping Tabs on the Future—and Fun

Though it may be the leading need to operating a website effectively, the site’s functionality is only part of the equation. Clubs must also make sure the software they use to operate and monitor their online presence is reliable.

For CBIGG Management, digital marketing technology is employed, Stewart says, “[to help] all of our clubs manage their online presence.”

“We wanted to make sure that whatever software we went with was easy to use and was always getting the newest features—essentially ‘future proofing’ our technology, which I feel we’ve done a great job at doing,” Stewart adds.

Developing effective social-media strategies has also proved to be important and effective—and making sure to do so in creative and enjoyable ways is a key part of the plan.

“Our approach to utilizing social media is to tell our clubs’ stories and have fun with it,” says Stewart. “We have done all sorts of behind-the-scenes videos to help promote club events and to show how our club and members are unique.”

At Champions Run, which is always featured prominently in C&RB’s annual “Ideas” issue for creative approaches to events and member engagement, a similar attitude prevails. “We’ve found many ways to communicate with members, from table tents to digital media boards,” Lorenzen says. “But hands down, the biggest is social media. When they like your posts, you know they’re receiving the messages.”

Even for clubs’ most traditional activity, golf, the NGF reports that social-media use among golfers has more than doubled since 2011, and that the trend is being driven by the 18- to 34-year-old demographic.

Best Face Forward

Each social-media platform offers specific opportunities to engage both members and guests (including prospective members), club communications specialists report.

“On Facebook, we have a public page and private-group page,” says Addison Reserve’s Heller. “The public page is used for external marketing, by posting visually inspiring images and videos with captions, to give the outside world a glimpse into the amazing Addison Reserve lifestyle while still protecting the privacy of our members and their guests.”

Addison Reserve’s public Facebook page also shares images of the property’s grounds and pictures and videos of the club’s facilities in use, Heller adds. Behind-the-scenes educational content is also shared, including golf video tips and content from the sports and fitness departments.

The club’s private Facebook page is reserved for member only content that includes pictures taken of members and their guests during events, along with some of the content posted on the public page.

Instagram and Twitter have also worked for Heller and Addison Reserve.

“We use Instagram and Twitter to share similar short-form organic content,” he says. “The pictures and video are all visually inspiring and give the visitor a glimpse into everything we have to offer at Addison Reserve. We also provide continuous updates on improvements around the club, such as our current construction project for the New Esplanade Lifestyle Complex coming in 2019.”

Heller has also directed the production of lively seasonal highlight videos that focus on the work done by the Addison Reserve staff —and the fun they have while performing their duties. These are posted on YouTube and serve to not only help to motivate and train existing employees, but also recruit new staff . (One example can be viewed at https://www. youtube.com/watch?v=B5P_a1JJ0Es)

At Chattanooga G&CC, Wright has found Instagram to be “a helpful tool in both marketing and member engagement.” “Using this platform, I am able to feature all aspects of the club and member experience,” she says. “I strongly encourage any club struggling to reach and/or interact with its membership to consider using social media.”

On-the-Go Booking and Billing

Champions Run CC’s mobile app allows members to book reservations and view their membership profiles and statements.

As more golfers turn to apps to book tee times and more members want to view, and pay, their billing statements online, it becomes more compelling for clubs to explore whether a custom app is right for their property.

“All of our properties have their own apps,” says Stewart about the clubs in the CBIGG Management portfolio. “We utilize push notifications to promote events, along with geofencing technology.”

The apps allow the CBIGG properties to send auto-notifications from the club’s grill to golfers when they hit the eighth hole, Stewart notes, to let them know they can place an order and pick it up at the turn.

“We use [the apps] for to-go orders, golf-course orders, bill paying, bill viewing, event signups, club information, etc.,” Stewart says. “Our app can be found in the Apple app store by searching for Eldorado Country Club.”

Champions Run also has an app that allows its members to book reservations and view their membership profiles and statements. Addison Reserve currently has an employee app, and is in the process of developing an app for its members. “Once it is ready, it will be integrated with our new website and used for tee times and reservations,” Heller reports.

Spreading the News

Through all of the change in technology and communication methods, the club newsletter remains an effective and integral part of each club property’s strategy.

Whether it’s print or digital and the frequency is daily, weekly, monthly, or even bi-monthly, clubs know an effective newsletter still goes a long way towards establishing and maintaining regular communication with members.

Chattanooga G&CC still offers a print, bi-monthly newsletter that is delivered to members’ doors. “We use a local printer and mail house to send them,” says Wright. “By keeping it local, I am able to work with the printer more closely regarding layout, design and deadlines. We are able to create a great-looking product and support a local business at the same time.”

A younger membership at Champions Run has pushed that club to rely more heavily on a digital newsletter format—and Lorenzen says this shift has had economic benefits for the club as well.

“We do a digital newsletter now,” he says. “It has saved us a tremendous amount of money. We always print a few to have on hand in the club, and we will mail a few out to members who request it.”

But shifting to a digital format makes finding the right date and the correct timing for sending the newsletter via e-mail even more critical for maximizing its effectiveness, Lorenzen adds.

It’s also important when sending digitally, notes Addison Reserve’s Heller, to include links to the club’s online presence, social media and video content that can provide additional information about club happenings in various departments.

Sending an e-mail newsletter also has its benefits when measuring analytics and employing list segmentation, club communications specialists note. List segmentation is important because it helps senders improve how they target and personalize their e-mail campaigns and content. And with better targeting comes better conversion rates.


Finding the Right Pace

Though technology is now developing at a more rapid pace than ever before, each club property should take the approach of adapting technological change and its evolving forms at the rate that is deemed most appropriate for its membership. While some clubs experience a youth movement and can adapt more quickly, others may need to take a more measured approach, depending on their member demographics.

But in all cases, clubs need to make sure they’re not standing still where the use of technology and communication platforms is concerned. As technology continues to evolve, clubs must evolve with it—or they may be left with nothing new to show, and no one to show it to.

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