Max Passino Deboer, Director of Marketing & Membership for The Club at Mediterra in Naples, Fla., shares her thoughts on the best strategies for selling memberships. She offers her views on pricing, trial periods and member referrals.
Club + Resort Business is introducing “Ask Max,” a regular feature where Max Passino Deboer, Director of Marketing & Membership for The Club at Mediterra in Naples, Fla., will answer membership-related questions sent in by C+RB readers.
(Have a question you want to “Ask Max”? Send it to [email protected])
The Club at Mediterra is a Distinguished Elite, Platinum Club inside the community of Mediterra, which has been named Community of the Year in Naples 12 times in 16 years.
Max is a veteran hospitality leader with a 15-year hotel career followed by an almost 20-year club career, the last 13 at Mediterra. Max is a proud member of the Membership Directors Association of Southwest Florida, whose program for exchanging ideas and information is unmatched.
Max’s passion is being helpful, so… let’s “Ask Max!”
I need to sell some memberships, and fast. What is the best strategy for selling some?
The three best methods for closing on memberships are:
– the “price down/up” technique
– the trial
– member referrals
Just dropping your price devalues your membership, so never do that. But to kickstart a sluggish market, try dropping the price of your membership for a very limited time—maybe six months, depending on your market—with the announcement that after this opportunity, the fees are going up. Then do just that—don’t make the mistake of enjoying a sales increase with your lower price and sticking with it. All that does is devalue your club.
You could also, depending on your club’s culture and brand, just announce that a price increase is going in effect in six months. That should bring some people to the table.
You should regularly increase your joining fee, just like dues, but just not as often. And always increase your joining fees after any significant club improvement. Your club just increased its value, and your fees should reflect that.
The Trial is a tried-and-true method (there’s almost a pun in there). Offer a free membership for about six months, and then give those participants a chance to join at a discount for a short window (about 30 to 60 days). This gives the prospective member time to fall in love with the club and make friends. They won’t want to leave. The conversion rate is really strong on The Trial, if you package it nicely.
Member referrals are truly the best way and the gold standard for gaining new members. But how do you get this built-in “sales team” to do the work? First, examine your operations. If you don’t have a membership that regularly brings friends and associates to the table, you may need to look at the member satisfaction rate. Happy members refer others; unhappy members resign.
Second, examine your identity. Who are you…really? Are you a club that caters to families with lots of programs for young children? Then that is your target, your culture and your brand. Focus on that and nothing else. Don’t be generic…ever.
Third… reward those who help bring in new members. The reward should reflect your club’s culture. It may be a statement credit (always reward the referring member AND the new member in the same way) or maybe it’s a free gourmet dinner for the new member and the referring member, complete with wine pairings. Tier the rewards to create momentum. With each new member a member refers, the rewards should grow. Also, be sure to set a time limit, if you are looking for a call to action.
Regardless of the method you choose, make sure you create a professional-looking sales package and a program that represents your brand. The biggest sales mistake we often make is not knowing who we are, and then we don’t have a group of like-minded individuals at our club. The culture isn’t strong enough to attract the right fit.
To quote the famous Peter Drucker, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” If you don’t know who you are or if you don’t walk the talk, you will spend too much time on strategy, when it should be centered on creating a culture.