“Now more than ever, we live in a world that craves instant gratification,” says Bri Payne, Membership and Communications Director at the Atlanta Country Club in Marietta, Ga. “So what happens when a prospect can no longer waltz into your club and write a check to join right then and there? How can you keep everyone excited to be on a waitlist for a membership they wanted yesterday?”
By Bri Payne, Membership and Communications Director, Atlanta Country Club, Marietta, Ga.
The year 2020 was worse than being a devoted Atlanta sports fan. But one thing’s for sure: The golf industry thrived like no other. Clubs saw a rapid increase in membership interest and exponential growth in new members added. As a result, many clubs approached the ultimate pinnacle of membership sales success: the exclusive waitlist.
Now more than ever, though, we live in a world that craves instant gratification. So what happens when a prospect can no longer waltz into your club, sign on the dotted line and write a check to join right then and there? It can make them want it even more…to a certain extent.
But it also makes club membership directors face a new challenge: How long are prospects willing to wait for your club, how can you convince new prospects to join the waitlist, and how the heck can you keep everyone excited to wait for a membership they wanted yesterday?
While a waitlist is every club’s dream, it doesn’t last forever, especially if you’re looking to uphold its exclusivity for the long haul. Even at my club, with a history of having a waitlist, we have still found ourselves shifting our priority to now keeping those on the waitlist committed, all while continuing to persuade quality candidates to join a continuously growing line.
My club’s Membership Committee and I started planning and hosting mingles, with a special focus on inviting both prospects and their spouses or partners. Inclusivity is an important factor that plays into camaraderie, and at the same time it’s becoming more common to see membership as a husband/wife/family decision. I personally find this to be essential when it comes to new prospects.
The most important key that played into our overall success was taking a strategic approach when creating our invitation list. We followed a rough 60/40 breakdown: 60% of the invited guests were those currently on the waitlist to join, while the other 40% were close to making a commitment to get onto it, and needed a final push to commit.
Having this mix of prospects helped us in two ways:
1. It engaged those currently on the waitlist and kept them excited for their day to join, while recommitting to their willingness to wait.
2. The overall excitement from those on the waitlist radiated onto prospects who were still contemplating making the commitment to get onto it.
Essentially, through this approach we added an additional layer to the standard prospect event we all know too well. Not only did we have current members in attendance to share their love of the club, we also had waitlist prospects who were naturally eager to express their excitement for their turn to get in.
This win-win formula took prospects from just continuing to contemplate their decision to pursue membership, to becoming fully committed on the waitlist. It also helps to have a membership that has a genuine kindness with the ability to make connections organically. Mix that with a golf course that sells itself, and everyone is willing to wait their turn.
Pivoting our prospecting process in this way allowed us to catapult our waitlist to an all-time record high level for the club, resulting in 136% growth in 2020. And currently, our waitlist is up 182%, compared to a year earlier.
Bri Payne is a membership sales, retention and communications professional with over eight years of experience in the golf and country club industry. She has served as Atlanta Country Club’s Membership and Communications Director since January 2020.