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—Case Study—

Bringing Members Home

How Greystone’s community has flourished through golf club marketing strategies

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Since its founding in 1991 in Birmingham, Alabama, Greystone Golf & Country Club has offered premium membership experiences defined by its relaxing, peaceful atmosphere and inviting, bright southern hospitality. Within their membership community, individuals and families forge lifelong friendships–whether on the two beautiful Championship golf courses or enjoying live music on the patio.

Working Together to Grow Membership

Greystone recognized the potential for enhancing their market position through investments in digital marketing to complement their existing strategies. After careful consideration of available digital marketing agencies, Greystone selected StoryTeller Media + Communications due to our specialization in working with other renowned private club clients such as Hazeltine National Golf Club. Greystone was an ideal fit for StoryTeller, not only because they have premium service offerings and memberships to promote, but also because of the strong culture of trust and empowerment among the leadership team–which is critical for collaboration and growth.

At the onset of our partnership, we were enthusiastic about teaming up with Greystone to implement data-driven digital marketing and content strategies aimed at attracting new members and fostering The Club's long-term success. Below, we delve into the key strategies collaboratively developed by the Greystone and StoryTeller teams, which have resulted in significant membership growth from January 2020 to the present.

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Laying A Strong Foundation Prepared For Growth

At the beginning of 2020, Greystone’s reputation was in full stride, its membership community remained close-knit, and The Club had invested in premium amenities and service offerings to differentiate itself from other clubs in their region. Unlike most private clubs that rely on member referrals to fill their pipeline, visionary General Manager and CEO, Dave Porter recognized the need to invite an experienced team of experts to elevate their marketing and establish a repeatable sales and marketing process. 

Greystone sought a streamlined method to highlight its seven membership types and amenities. Additionally, The Club aspired to leverage its surroundings for diverse events like weddings and corporate gatherings, yet lacked the necessary tools. Greystone had a great club, but what they needed was a platform that could truly boost their visibility.


A Website Should Be A 24/7 Sales & Marketing Resource

The cornerstone of a strong, effective digital presence starts with a website optimized for sales and marketing, where communications can be automated, leads organized, and prospects nurtured with a personalized touch. Greystone recognized the importance of using their website to both connect with existing members and to welcome prospective members to get to know them. Although the member engagement portal is crucial for helping members book tee times and dinner reservations, generally speaking, websites designed by industry technology platforms are more internally focused than built with sales and marketing priorities.

To leverage the marketing power of its prospect-facing website, Greystone wanted a repeatable process for attracting, converting, and measuring website leads. Implementing the HubSpot marketing platform and digital marketing strategies not only offered Greystone a centralized engine for driving more traffic, but it also built a foundation for scaling their lead outreach and even converting unengaged leads into members through re-engagement campaigns. Most importantly, HubSpot provided the data and analytics to make more strategic marketing decisions and measure the ROI of Greystone’s marketing investment.


The Right “First Touch” Content Benefits Everyone

Membership-GuideUpon visitors arriving at Greystone's website, the priority was to offer a warm welcome with a "first-touch" piece of content addressing their immediate inquiries. Collaborating closely, StoryTeller and the Greystone team identified commonly asked questions regarding club membership and crafted a comprehensive membership guide. This guide, available for download, provided visitors with detailed information about the Greystone community, club amenities, and crucially, the breakdown of membership costs across different categories.

Providing a detailed guide with pricing information addresses the primary concern for prospective members beginning their journey. In today's digital landscape, potential members seek accessible information before engaging with the sales team. Greystone discovered that proactively addressing initial queries streamlined the sales process, allowing the team to focus on more qualified leads.

To access the guide, visitors filled out a simple form, which automatically turned them into new contacts and placed them into the Customer Relationship Management system (CRM). Using the HubSpot CRM, Greystone could now follow its website activity and gauge prospects’ interests as they learned more about The Club, explored the website, and interacted with targeted emails and social promotions. Greystone’s sales team could use these behavioral insights to appropriately follow up with leads at the right time.

Since it launched in 2020, the Membership Guide has generated over 1,880 “first-touch” contacts.

Additional conversion opportunities such as a Golfer’s Guide and Corporate Member Guide have since been created to better match each member persona’s specific interests. 

Since it launched in 2020, the Membership Guide has generated over 1,880 “first-touch” contacts.

A Blog Strengthens SEO and Speaks to Culture

One of Greystone’s greatest assets is its established reputation and active, passionate membership, so launching a dedicated blog to share these member stories made sense for multiple reasons. First, blogging is a great way to boost the search performance of a website. Search engines comb web results and reward websites that provide valuable information to searchers. (This is all part of “search engine optimization” or SEO). In essence, regular blog posts significantly boost a website's traffic performance by improving its ranking on Google searches with each publication.

Additionally, blogging provided an excellent platform for Greystone to increase visibility and get their unique member and customer stories out into the world. Greystone started using the blog to help populate their monthly newsletter and to provide content to share on social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn. This visibility not only increases camaraderie among existing members but gives potential members a window into what being a part of the Greystone community is like.

Blog posts for Greystone resonate with various audiences on a rotating basis (based on developed target “personas”). Greystone has four primary target audiences: avid and passionate golfers; families looking for community and a “home away from home”; brides and couples seeking a beautiful, premium wedding venue; and a corporate professional and business audience. By writing unique content for these audiences, Greystone can highlight the various advantages of their membership packages that are tailored accordingly.

Greystone has seen a 104% increase in organic traffic when comparing organic sessions in 2020 to organic sessions in 2023, with sessions peaking during their prime golf and wedding season (spring and throughout summer), when many individuals search for available options online. 

With an increase in organic sessions comes more opportunities to convert those prospects who are visiting the website. This is often referred to as the “convert” stage in the inbound marketing lifecycle. Comparing 2020 to 2023, Greystone saw a 440% increase in new contacts from organic sessions alone. The more prospects who convert, the more opportunities to nurture these prospects into members.

In 2023, StoryTeller also created a series of compelling videos to bolster Greystone’s online presence and showcase their culture. These videos have been used on various platforms including the website, LinkedIn advertisements, and emails, to further attract new members and nurture prospective members.

Building organic search traffic and conversions through consistent blogging takes time but should be thought of as an investment and a way to augment and amplify existing marketing efforts, such as targeted web content and robust email marketing campaigns, discussed in the next section.


Email Marketing Engages, and Re-Engages, Prospective Members

Greystone's understanding of lead behavior and ideal prospects, combined with HubSpot CRM expertise, elevated their email marketing efforts. This enabled them to timely engage prospective leads with tailored information based on their interests.

Since teaming up with StoryTeller, Greystone has consistently raised initiation fees. This is achieved by analyzing entry fees of nearby private clubs, assessing Greystone's value, and gauging ongoing membership demand. These fee increases, aside from supporting redeemable memberships, also finance capital replacements and improvements. Such increases open doors for re-engagement campaigns, detailed below.

For example, Greystone was preparing to raise their membership fees starting January 1st of 2024 and was approaching the need for a waitlist. This opened the opportunity to re-engage with leads who had shown interest in joining The Club and downloaded the membership guide but had not yet become a member. 

Beginning in late September of 2023 through the end of December, Greystone and StoryTeller sent out a series of re-engagement emails to these leads building on the information they had read in the guide, explaining the various membership types, highlighting the amenities that make The Club so popular with families and corporate members, and finally–a “last chance” email encouraging individuals to act now and secure a membership before the fees increased and waitlist enacted.

HubSpot allowed Greystone to see, in real-time, how many leads opened the emails, and where they clicked to learn more and allowed the membership team to discern which leads they should follow up with and when. 

This re-engagement email campaign, together with the efforts of the Greystone team, assisted with closing 35 new memberships over the short span of 3 months.


A Process For Welcoming and Onboarding New Members

Club membership teams often juggle two key priorities: recruiting new members and efficiently onboarding them to maximize their membership experience. Streamlining the onboarding process is crucial, especially when dealing with numerous new members coming on at the same time. Greystone, facing similar challenges, aimed to optimize this process, ensuring a high-quality first impression for new members while freeing up the Greystone membership team to concentrate on recruitment efforts.

There needed to be a way to communicate with new members to answer questions, maintain enthusiasm, and ensure proper service in line with Greystone’s commitment to excellence. New members need to know about dining options, club etiquette, amenity options, guest passes, and the nuances of their individual membership packages. Of course, delivering an enjoyable, engaging member onboarding process is paramount–not only to support the overall member experience, but it can also run full circle and support referrals. Once a member feels comfortable, acclimated, and excited about their new club and its service, they are often inclined to invite their friends to join.

Ashley Devine, Greystone’s Marketing and Membership Director, played a crucial role in assisting StoryTeller in replicating the engagement process for onboarding new members. We created a series of 6-8 emails tailored to each membership category, guiding new members through various aspects of The Club, such as billing, etiquette, and introductions to key personnel. Additionally, the emails included instructions on following Greystone on social media and encouraged members to share posts on their own accounts. These emails are automatically triggered once a prospect becomes a new member.

The new member onboarding workflow has also been an ideal way to create a process around soliciting member referrals. 

The new member onboarding workflow has also been an ideal way to create a process around soliciting member referrals.

A Data-Driven Sales Process Means Marketing Doesn’t Need to Be a Mystery

Having a repeatable process to align sales and marketing priorities was extremely important to Dave Porter when deciding to invest in the HubSpot platform. Mr. Porter wanted a way to safeguard his team's sales efforts so that regardless of team turnover, the integrity of the data and sales process would be maintained.

HubSpot offers a user-friendly interface and deep insights into every facet of Greystone’s sales and marketing process. Once a promising qualified lead has been identified, the HubSpot deal pipeline displays where active prospects are in the sales process, allowing Greystone to easily view how many opportunities are in the pipeline at all times. Deals can also be forecasted into 30-, 60-, and 90-day timelines. As the Greystone team has utilized and gained mastery of the platform, they have appreciated the ability to project estimates of new members, prospects, and longer-term opportunities to the board.

In addition to fully utilizing the marketing platform of HubSpot, Greystone purchased the expanded sales platform of the software. This enabled them to segment the CRM by departments, keeping membership and event opportunities uniquely separate–including lead management and deal reporting. This also enabled a round-robin lead distribution for their membership team.

Membership Numbers Speak For Themselves

With the combined efforts mentioned above, 2021 through 2023 resulted in the highest Membership growth for Greystone Golf and Country Club. As membership types continue to fill, the total number of new members inherently goes down. Instead of becoming new members, those individuals get moved into a waiting list where they are nurtured until a spot for them opens up.

Through the work of paid ads on LinkedIn as well as adding a new corporate membership and golf guide to the website, 2023 sessions were at an all-time high of 187,908 website visits. Additionally, our consistent blogging strategy continued to increase organic traffic and subsequently new contacts. The re-engagement campaign before initiation fees increased in January also served as a great way to gain new members. 


Greystone’s membership has continued to grow as we work together to fine-tune our marketing strategy. Such efforts led to a fruitful 2023 for Greystone Golf and Country Club, with two of seven membership types entering a waitlist.


Growing Membership and Marketing That Works

Dave Porter, a visionary leader with the respect of the board, is instrumental in our effective partnership. The StoryTeller team expresses gratitude for his recognition of the need to support his team. Ashley Devine, an invaluable partner, and talented Membership Marketing Director, has played a crucial role in facilitating collaboration and leveraging Greystone’s inspiring member stories. The membership team, embracing HubSpot, diligently works to maximize the established sales process. We take pride in our partnership with Greystone, anticipating continued growth and future endeavors. The effectiveness of our collaboration stems from the synergy between both teams: StoryTeller creates lead-generating strategies, while Greystone exemplifies excellence in embracing change.


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Lisa Schmidtke
Digital Advertising & Website Specialist