Membership Retention

It is often said that it is cheaper to retain an existing customer than it is to acquire a new one. Despite this many golf clubs spend enormous amounts of time and effort on coming up with new and exciting ways to attract new members. Working out how to keep the members they already have is often an afterthought (when was the last time you heard of a Retention Secretary on golf club’s committee). 

Below we have put together some simple ways to ensure you retain the members you have and how to even use someone leaving your club to your advantage.

New Members

Retention starts from the moment someone becomes a member. However, many clubs are seeing a high turnover of members, particularly in the first 2-3 years of membership. New members may be no more critical than existing members but they also haven’t built up any loyalty to the club. They will have less reservations about taking their business elsewhere if their golfing experience is not as positive as it could be. Below we have put together some ideas to help you to integrate a new member into the club and retain them in the long term.

Meet the key people within the club

All potential members should have a meeting with the General Manager/Secretary. They should be shown around the club and give them the opportunity to ask any questions. If possible they should be introduced to the Club Pro and the relevant captain for their membership category.

There are also always existing members who are superb advocates of the club who would be ideal to help make new members feel welcome. Identify them, be sure they know who the new members are and encourage them to engage with the new members when they see them around.

Welcome Pack

All new members should get a comprehensive welcome pack which contains all the key elements to help then settle into the club. The pack should include the following:

  • Membership Card
  • Bag tag
  • Welcome letter from Club Manager/Secretary and/or Captain
  • Member Benefits sheet (discounts in proshop, free society membership for non golfing family members, discounted junior membership for family members)
  • Club information
    • Opening times
    • Newsletter
    • Competitions
    • Social calendar
    • Lessons
    • Pro shop
    • Guest prices
    • Bar menu
    • Reciprocal golf

Golf

It sounds obvious but golfers join a club to play golf.

Your existing members will know all about various competitions, how to find a game and interclub societies but a new member won’t. Don’t assume that they will find out for themselves, make it easy for them. Ask your pro to set them up with the right type of people or run new member competitions to help them meet fellow new members.

Communication

Creating communications specifically for new members is important and critical to helping them feel valued and part of the club. Sending out an email after an initial period of time to ensure they are settling into the club and that they do not have any issues is an excellent way to achieve this .If there are any major changes in the way the club operates, for example winter golf, it is important to communicate these with new members.

Running a new members survey towards the end of their first year is another option. Not only will it allow you to connect with your new members before the crucial membership renewal time, it will also give you a fresh perspective on your club.

Existing Members

One of the most common complaints by existing members is poor communication. The more often you communicate with your members, the more value they will see in their membership. The more you make them feel special, the more likely they are to talk about your golf club and act as an ambassador for you, which will assist your recruitment. Below are a few different ways to better communicate with your existing members:

  • Weekly email from General Manager or Secretary
  • Captain’s Update after council meetings
  • Member Forums
  • Set up a Private Facebook Page/Group for members only (See our blog on how to set and run these properly)
  • Invite members to meet with Head Greenkeeper and let him show and explain essential work on the course

Regardless of which method you choose to use, the important thing is to give your members the opportunity to voice their opinions and concerns and feel like they are being listened to. It is also essential to ensure that any regular communication is engaging and interesting. Don’t send out a communication just to waffle or you may lose interest.

As with new members, running an existing member survey is an excellent way to gain a better understanding of how satisfied your members are with how the club is operating. Hiring an external company to create and manage these surveys is the best option. They will be able to create a survey that is not influenced by internal politics or contains questions that are biased towards getting the answers the club wants to hear. This way you will ensure you receive a much truer reflection of the current mindset of the membership. There is a strong chance you will receive some negative feedback. Use it as an opportunity to improve the way the club is run. If your membership can see that you are listening to them, they are much more likely to stay.

Caddie Marketing Top Tip – Track your members

By using a system such as BRS, you can track your members and determine how well they are utilising their current membership package. If you discover someone is over or under utilising their membership, you should contact them and offer to change their membership package. If you don’t there is a chance they may decide to leave as they are not getting value for money from their current membership. For example, if Mr Smith has only played once a month but is currently signed up to a full membership, it may be worth contacting him and offering to move him to a more suitable membership package. This is an excellent way to show how much you value him as a member. It will also ensure you still receive some amount of membership revenue from him and reduce them chance of him leaving.

Exit survey/questionnaire

Members will leave golf clubs. That is just a fact. Some departures from golf clubs are a result of a change in personal circumstances. Others will leave because they can’t get a tee time, they aren’t happy with the condition of the course or they don’t feel valued. The key is knowing why in order to prevent it happening too regularly. If you know the reason why, there is always the opportunity to get them back. Creating a short questionnaire to send out to anyone who chooses to leave the club or does not renew their membership is an excellent way to gather this information. They may unearth an underlying issue you were not aware of or highlight a common reason for leaving. It will also help you make informed decisions about necessary changes to stop others from leaving for the same reason.