Eagle Creek Golf & Country Club in Naples, Fla. is on track to double its initial sales goals for the year—despite the COVID-19 pandemic. An aggressive online campaign took advantage of pent-up demand from many looking to reclaim much of the season they had lost when the country began to shut down.
By Laura Pelletier • Marketing & Membership Director
Eagle Creek Golf & Country Club, Naples, Fla.
This year at Eagle Creek Golf & Country Club, we were able, thankfully, to not only continue our momentum with membership sales this year, but to exceed expectations. Currently, we are on track to double our initial sales goals for the year.
I can attribute this to making the necessary adjustments in our marketing plan mid-season as the pandemic arose. The marketing plan I created during the summer of 2019 for Season 2019-2020 was flipped upside down in February and March of 2020.
In Southwest Florida, we are a very seasonal location; only 18% of our residents are year-round. When the pandemic first hit, a lot of buyers cut their season short and went back up north. So how could we grab the attention of those buyers who were no longer here? Getting support and confidence from my General Manager, Don Madalinski, CCM, and our Marketing and Membership Committee, we made adjustments to ensure that we did not lose our buyers, even though they were going back up north and cutting our high-sales season short.
My experience was that this summer, prospects spent their time online researching golf and country clubs while they were quarantined. August is a traditionally slow month for buyer inquiries and phone calls, but this summer we never stopped. This was a sign to me that there was pent-up demand from buyers to reclaim the season they had lost and that when they felt comfortable enough to travel, prospects would visit the club and community. Indeed, this fall we welcomed those “online” prospects, which is translating to a record-breaking November.
It was a reassuring moment when I was giving a prospect a tour of our golf course and he asked, “So where is the Eagle’s Nest on 4?” We all had a good laugh, as I knew he had never been on site before and had learned that fact by watching our drone hole-by-hole video. It was rewarding to know that the time and money we had spent on making the drone tour of our course had paid off in this way, in making prospects feel as though they already knew the club first-hand.
We also dedicated the spring and summer months to hiring a local company to develop a new library of videos that would go beyond highlighting the amenities of the club to also dive into how our members live inside the community, outside of club events. Our members have cultivated genuine, lifelong friendships and we are now welcoming second generations. This is an intangible amenity our members receive when they move into Eagle Creek, but we have never highlighted it digitally. We featured scenes of fellow members hosting neighbors for dinner in their home and other everyday scenes that we had never presented visually before, to help show potential buyers what their life would be like after their round of golf or their tennis match.
We also had to rethink our community-wide open-house events, which traditionally attract over 100 visitors through the gates and into our clubhouse within a four-hour period. We now allow homeowners to conduct open houses with a list of precautionary measures in place, such as no more than four visitors in each property at one time, mandatory masks and hand sanitizer on-site. And this season, I believe, we will take our larger open-house event digital.
For the new members we have added, to ensure they are still properly welcomed and assimilated into the club while restrictions are in place, Our Don Madalinski and I have conducted “New Member Zoom Orientations” ” for those who can’t be at Eagle Creek or don’t feel comfortable coming into the club. We have also conducted in-person new-member orientations that are held outside on our verandah, or six feet apart inside the clubhouse. Currently, more members have been wanting to meeting us in person, with precautions in place.
I have also implemented a “30-60-90” new-member marketing plan, through which they receive a small gift (personalized notepads, beach towels, pewter license plates, etc.) at every milestone. This gift can be mailed, or they can choose to stop by my office. This is a great way to “check in” with each new member to ensure they are getting acclimated to the club.
To “welcome back” our current members, we plan to give them their address directory and package it with a tote bag as they drive under the clubhouse porte cochère. To limit the members checking into the office, we will host a drive-through event, with music and our employees greeting them, as they pick up their directories for the season.
For me, a new and regular part of selling club memberships is to also convey to buyers that our amenities go beyond tennis, golf and social events. Eagle Creek is now providing added values such as delivery of food and pantry items to their door at no additional cost.
Going forward, I think the key to continuing to find new prospects will be to have a good mix of digital advertising, social media and local advertising. Over the past year we have spent more time and money online, and will continue to do that. This can be tracked and has provided us with great results. Building and continuing relationships with our local realtors is also important, along with creating relationships with local new homebuilders that construct communities without amenities.
To also help increase membership momentum, we elevated our exposure as we played host to The Florida State Golf Association’s 59th Men’s Senior Amateur Championship. To help put a spotlight on the club and use this event to increase sales, press releases were written and sent to the local media. We also partnered with our local Porsche dealership for a hole-in-one prize; they donated a two-year lease on a Taycan for a lucky golfer.
From a social-media standpoint, this was a success. We had players tag the club with the luxury car in hopes of winning the lease. The dealership also tagged the club and reposted it to thousands of their followers, and we parked two Porsches outside our front gates to garner more public interest. We also placed event banners on the light posts, to help brand the community to visitors and buyers.
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