For many clubs, 2009 was an extremely challenging year and was a very real sign of things to come as we embark on 2010 and beyond. Waitlists have all but disappeared, membership numbers are down, and in turn club staff are asked to do more with less while management is faced with intense scrutiny of expenses and forced to cut wherever possible.
Undoubtedly, 2010 will be another challenging year for most clubs. That said, your club’s website can be an effective tool to assist you in weathering the storm by increasing member engagement and thereby increasing club revenue.
Over the past decade, club websites have evolved from simplistic pages consisting of various pictures and static content to transactional websites where members can view important information such as their online statements and club rosters.
In 2010 the key to many clubs’ success is to implement a fully integrated and interactive website that is well designed, easy to locate in search engines, and provides fresh, relevant content to both members and the general public.
10 strategies for an engaged membership in 2010:
1. Invest in online statements and online payments. Online statements have proven to be a staple in the vast majority of club websites and continue to provide value to the club. This functionality provides several benefits including cost reduction through reduced calls to accounting staff and online viewing of statements, and increased website traffic on a weekly, monthly, and yearly basis.
2. Consider implementing online tee times in 2010. Many clubs have implemented the ability to book their tee times online. This is the single biggest driver of website traffic when implemented correctly. It is not uncommon to see login rates to the club website as well as site traffic double as a result of online tee times. It also provides the ability to reduce costs at the Pro Shop and offers better service to your members.
3. Implement member engagement strategies through online booking modules for event registration, dining, court booking, lessons, etc. When utilized effectively, these modules engage members – providing a compelling reason for your members to regularly visit your website.
4. Implement an email marketing strategy that is integrated with your website and club management system. It has been proven that email marketing is one of the most effective yet inexpensive tools available to drive club revenue. By combining member data, email marketing tools and your website, you are able to offer your members quality, personalized communication. Leverage the data in your club management system to implement your communication strategies. Using email marketing strategies, personalized messages regarding events can be targeted and sent en masse to relevant members with a link back to your website to register. This full circle communication strategy is a powerful, low cost strategy that can change your business in 2010.
5. Implement social networking tools. The social revolution is here. In 2010, take the time to become familiar with today’s tools. Is it a fad? Watch the following social revolution video on YouTube and draw your own conclusions – there are certainly some interesting facts brought to light.
Social Media revolution –http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sIFYPQjYhv8
Some strategies to consider
- Enable RSS on your website so that users can subscribe to your content and allow other web sites to syndicate your content on their site
- Have a blog that is integrated into your website
- Create Twitter and Facebook accounts for your club. Cross-linking these to and from your website will garner interest and support for a Facebook group you’ve created.
6. Implement a junior program section for your website. There is really no magic in this formula as the current generation of youth lives and breathes the Internet and its social networking aspects. Consider a section catered to your youth programs at the club. Examples might include relevant YouTube videos for game improvement; a blog by your Tennis, Golf or Yachting Pro; or even a Facebook page for the club juniors. They are the future of the club and the easiest segment to engage through your website with the right tools.
7. Implement content creation and publishing strategies and stick to them. Fresh, relevant content is one of the keys to an active readership. Implement automatic date ranging of content to ensure that stale content around holidays, special events or tournaments does not remain on the site after their time has past.
8. Change your members’ only landing page frequently. This is the first page members see every time they login to your club website. Make the most of the member experience by providing relevant and timely content about upcoming events, birthdays, news items, etc. and provide intuitive links to the interactive features of the site.
9. Review your site’s SEO (search engine optimization) to ensure that your site can easily be found by Google and other search engines. Implement effective page descriptions and key words for your site’s pages to ensure that you are listed with Google local. There are several resources available on the Internet today to assist you in effectively optimizing your site with respect to search engines. Talk to your web provider about reviewing your current SEO strategy.
10. Monitor your site analytics to measure your site effectiveness. By utilizing tools such as Google analytics you can mine large amounts of user data in terms of interaction with your website. This information provides invaluable insight into how visitors are interacting with your website.
In conclusion, an effective website does not need to be overcomplicated or elaborate – it simply needs to cater to the needs of your existing and potential members. Remember, your existing and potential members are busy individuals just like you – they have come to expect the ability to view and book almost everything online in today’s marketplace. Make it easy for them to access your site, complete their club related transactions (viewing and paying statements, event/court/tee time bookings, etc.), and then get on with their day-to-day activities. Realistically, there is no single electronic silver bullet that can address all of your club’s needs; however, when your website, club management system, and email marketing tool are working in concert, together they provide you with a powerful toolset with which to increase member engagement at the club.
Steve Cowan, Vice President of Web Service, Jonas Software
Mr. Cowan is recognized for his expertise in online services and marketing and has been responsible for the launch of several key online initiatives that have significantly influenced the club management industry. Prior to joining CSI in 2004 as the Director of Sales Operations, Mr. Cowan held numerous leadership roles with organizations such as ADC Telecom and Business Objects. Mr. Cowan holds an Honours BBA from Wilfrid Laurier University and an MBA from York University.
This weekly blog comments on and discusses the club industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers â€” those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking club managers throughout the country and around the world. Club Resources International – Management Resources for Clubs!