We have a demographics problem and the health of our industry depends on us solving the puzzle of new membership marketing.
We are just about at the point where budgets will begin to form for 2015, when all of our departments will take stock of their estimated needs for coming year. The typical format puts the golf course as number one, followed by everything else.
However, I’d like to make a radical proposal: Make membership marketing your top budget priority for 2015.
Here is what will happen if you don’t:
Our median age for most clubs is above 60. Even though 60 is the “new 50,” or other such blather, we have a demographics problem and the health of our industry depends on us solving the puzzle of new member marketing.
Simply put, families today have too many other options to make joining a club a top priority. Add to this a decline in the number of golfers (though not as extreme as The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times would have you believe), and we have a serious problem that needs addressing.
I have said in many of these columns that “unless you are budgeting and spending for new member marketing, you aren’t serious.” Depending on your existing membership to recruit new members won’t cut it; if you aren’t doing the following, you aren’t addressing the problem:
• Take a hard look at your member attrition, both numerically and substantively. Once a number is determined, a goal for eliminating or at least minimizing it next year should be established.
• Develop a realistic assessment of your desired number of new members, and what is needed to attract and communicate effectively with them.
• Pick the media that you feel will do the best job (direct mail, e-mail blasts, radio, TV spots, new member/prospect receptions, etc.) in getting new people to not only notice your unique marketing message, but react positively to it.
• Assign club “ambassadors” to showcase the club and its benefits to those prospects who show serious interest.
• Finally, set a realistic budget, with real dollars, to help accomplish these goals—and don’t cut it!
All of the above steps form one logical plan—but there could, and should, be others. But if there are none, you will have constant member attrition and a narrowing membership that must either a) raise dues among a diminishing pool or b) let certain club facilities and activities deteriorate, thanks to a declining pool of available dollars.
While doing nothing is not a plan, it is a choice—with no positive outcomes.