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Harnessing Technology for Club Success: Lessons from Industry Insiders

It's an exciting occasion when professionals from our industry can come together, sharing insights and experiences in a collaborative environment. The Membership Directors' Association of Southwest Florida (MDAFS) annual Marketing Summit provided such an opportunity, and we were thrilled to participate. 

While the economic boom caused by Covid has led to the thriving of most clubs in Southwest Florida, it's crucial not to become complacent. The economy remains uncertain, and a CMAA report from Club Benchmarking indicates that membership growth is flat. This underscores the importance of being prepared for the future, regardless of whether your club has a waitlist or not. Continually refining your lead generation strategies is a vital step in this direction. 

One of the interesting perspectives from the day came from a panel discussion of several club technology platforms addressing key communication challenges many private clubs face when embracing technology. 

The panel discussion, featuring industry experts Sean Bleyl (MembersFirst), Robin Michael (Northstar), Trevor Coughlan (Jonas), and Cody Harrison (Clubessential), was a highlight of the event. They shared innovative approaches and crucial insights for Membership Directors and club leaders, focusing on key areas such as understanding prospects, leveraging technology, and the importance of marketing in a shifting demographic landscape. 

Understanding Your Prospects: The Key to Successful Conversations and Personalized Marketing

A theme woven throughout the conversation is knowing all you can about your prospects before conversing with them. Gathering insights from your prospects using segmented forms creates a differentiated approach to communication strategies. Sean Bleyl strongly endorses HubSpot to help gather prospect insights for both MembersFirst marketing as well as recommending to the clubs they work with. “When you know more about your prospects, you can tailor conversations to their interests, increasing the likelihood of establishing a deeper connection.” 

All the panelists agreed that clubs must remain agile and adaptable today, especially during industry downturns.

Leveraging Technology and Data for Lead Generation and Management

Panelist Robin Michael stressed the importance of continuous lead generation, even when membership rosters are full. "You can't rest on your laurels; you must always have your lead generation going." 

According to Club Benchmarking, the average age of club members in Florida is 58, and nationally, the average age is 42. This younger demographic indicates a shifting marketplace that clubs must adapt to. Updating and auditing your club's website, ensuring ease of use when they land on your website, and having a robust CRM system are all essential components of an effective lead management strategy. 

Marketing is a Numbers Game

Marketing, as highlighted during the panel, is fundamentally about the numbers. Understanding that significant sales occur after multiple touchpoints (90% after the sixth or seventh contact) can help clubs develop more persistent and structured follow-up strategies. Clubs should use their CRM systems to keep track of leads and ensure consistent follow-up. Membership Directors who wear many hats can benefit from using automation tools to bring more efficiency to their role and more relevant and timely communications to their prospects. 

Email and Websites: Still Relevant, But Evolving

Despite the rise of new communication platforms, emails, websites, and mobile apps remain crucial. Robin Michael highlighted that with 4 billion email users worldwide, email is not going away, but the key to crafting engaging and concise emails with catchy subject lines. Additionally, ensuring your website is modern, user-friendly, and informative is critical, as it often forms the first impression for prospective members. If your website is over three years old, it's time to update it, as there have been so many changes at clubs during that time, and your website needs to reflect them.

No question, Membership Directors are the superheroes of the private club industry. They are most often the first impression of the club and are responsible for ensuring they grasp where the next member is coming from. There are many tools at their disposal to ensure they work smarter and not more complicated, and waiting until the waitlist disappears is not the time to hone their skills. With the tagline of the MDASF organization rallying around the three E's: Engage, Educate, and Excel, let's get rid of spreadsheets and manual emails, adopt strategies to use more technology, and ensure clubs prepare for whatever the industry faces next. 

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