How to create a sticky club

It can be hard to get people to join your club but it’s even harder to turn them into long-term members – Gregg Patterson explains how to ensure new members stick around after year one and beyond.

It’s tough getting people to join a club in these dog-eat-dog competitive times. But it’s even tougher to get the people who join to stay joined – paying dues, buying beers, playing golf and eating pizza. Every manager, owner, golf pro and maître d’ wants those who’ve tasted the apple to buy, keep and use a club membership. They want to create a ‘sticky’ club experience that captures the Newbies and keeps them committed.

Clubs that do ‘Newbie Right’ know that Year One of the New Member Journey is the most critical time for making ‘Stick Happen’, when long-term members are made or lost. Capturing Newbies for the long haul requires doing Year One right, knowing the Principles of Stick and finding the right ‘stick tactics’ for a given club. Here are a few Year One Big Stick principles and practices that need doing if golf clubs want to capture and keep members for more than a year or two.

Understand that they’ve got needs

2015-12-11-PATTERSON-;-GREGG-018The foundation of Big Stick is Big Empty, that emotional ‘Hole in The Soul’ we’re born with – and hole is opportunity. Everyone arrives at the club empty, a weeping bundle of wants that need filling. People are lonely and want company; people are scared and want protection; people are insecure and want to feel good about themselves; people need status and want to be a valued somebody within a group. And people want The Buzz, an energy transfer that’ll stimulate, enlarge and enrich their journey from cradle to grave. ‘Empty’ is opportunity. Clubs with ‘Big Sticky’ see the ‘Big Empty Opportunity’ and do what needs doing to satisfy the Newbie’s needs.

Appreciate that they’ve got buyer’s remorse

Sticky starts the moment the contract has been signed and the membership bought. Gremlins in The Newbie’s brain are snickering: ‘wasn’t that the dumbest thing you ever did, buying a club membership in a world awash with pay-and-play opportunities?’

Overcoming buyer’s remorse is a critical part of ‘Big Sticky’ and a call needs to be made by the G.M to say: “What a clever thing you’ve done.” A hand written note needs to be sent from the G.M telling them what a wonderful decision they’ve made. A ‘welcome into the club’ basket of goodies needs to be delivered with a hand written note… ‘glad you and the family are now part of our family.’ A personalised e-mail with photos of the signing moment needs to be sent. A note from the President needs to be mailed. It’s quite simple: clubs with ‘Big Sticky’ erase Buyer’s Remorse.

Stick requires an Orientation

The Newbie might have paid big bucks, but you’ve squashed Buyer’s Remorse – now the real work of ‘Big Stick’ begins. The first step in generating Big Sticky and filling the Newbie’s Big Empty is the Cultural Orientation, which should be delivered by The General Manager and the management team. The Orientation exposes The Newbie to the innards of the club: people, stuff and ideas. The Orientation creates a bond between The Newbie, the G.M. and the Management Team and it lets the Newbie know they’ll never be alone again.

The orientation is about ‘the stuff’ and the ‘non-stuff’ of a club, a cultural orientation that enlarges and enriches The Newbie’s Club Adventure, a preaching-teaching opportunity addressing The Why of the club and the goods, services, programs, facilities and people expressive of That Club’s Why. Clubs with ‘Big Sticky’ give an Orientation.

Stick Requires a Warm Embrace

Newbies are vulnerable. They’re wearing ‘Big Empty’ on their sleeves and need to be engaged and embraced, made to feel appreciated, wanted and needed. They want a ‘Warm Embrace’.

‘Big Sticky’ happens when relationships are created and ‘warm embrace’ is delivered: warm embrace relationships are the pot of glue that makes long-term happen. During the Orientation the Newbie’s story gets told and their photo gets taken and both are distributed, to the staff via The Annotated Member Mug Book and to the members through the newsletter, the weekly online Member Update and the website.

Members of the management team become active intermediaries between The Newbie and activity groups of interest to them, be those The Gym Group, Golf Group, Wine Group or Tennis group. Managers need to reach out and bring the Newbie and these interested parties together. Staff know they’ll be the critical bump into others, serendipitous opportunities Newbies are looking for when they arrive at a club. Newbies stay stuck when staff deliver The Warm Embrace; welcoming the Newbie by name, engaging them in conversation, sending them notes on their birthday, anniversary, promotion or kid’s graduation.

The Newbie needs to be seated immediately on their Committee of Choice. Why? Because committees are a great way for Newbies and Oldies to meet, engage in substantive conversation and create working relationships. Why? Because committees are the ears of the club and need to know the Newbie’s wants, needs and expectations to ensure the products delivered meet the Newbie’s needs.

Existing members who share The Newbie’s interests need be prodded to engage The Newbies – formally via assigned Member Ambassadors and informally during casual clubhouse encounters. Clubs with ‘Big Sticky’ create staff / member / Newbie relationships and deliver ‘The Warm Embrace.’

Stick requires the Loyalty Glue

Now that Buyer’s Remorse has been squashed, orientation delivered and relationships created, management needs to mix up some ‘Loyalty Glue’ to ensure that ‘First Stage Stick’ becomes long-term Sticky.

Step One: Get to know the Newbie intimately, both as an individual and as a market segment.

Step Two: Meet their expectations. Know what they want and when they want it. And once known, documented and circulated, the staff need to do the stuff that needs doing to satisfy those expectations.

Step Three: Make their lives easier. Got kids? Provide babysitting. They really want a foursome on Tuesday afternoons after 5:00? Find one for them.

Step Four: Make their lives better. Enlarge and enrich their life journey with the right goods, services, programs, facilities and people. Make club a necessary part of The Newbie’s ‘Good Life’.

Step Five: Do it differently than The Newbie can get it elsewhere. Find out what the competition’s doing and then do it differently.
Stuck

Getting people to join is easy, relatively speaking. Keeping the people who joined is tough. Sticky Clubs know that Newbies join for The Stuff but stay for The People. Sticky Clubs know they need to do Year One right: they need to fill The Newbie’s Big Empty, erase Buyer’s Remorse, do orienting, deliver The Warm Embrace, create relationships and generate ‘Loyalty Glue’.

Clubs that do ‘Big Sticky’ right capture Newbies, keep them longer, get Newbies to use the club more and, when The Newbie visits, to linger longer. So ponder The Principles of Stick, find tactics appropriate to your club and remember to enjoy the journey.

Gregg Patterson became the General Manager of The Beach Club in 1982 and spent 33 glorious years as their GM, stepping aside for the ‘next generation’ (and his next adventure as a full time speaker and writer!) in 2016. Since that time, he has worked with his members, Boards, and committees to enhance the value and reputation of The Beach Club in the Los Angeles community. Prior to becoming the General Manager of the Beach Club, he was the Assistant Manager of the Bel-Air Country Club in Los Angeles and also worked as a Systems Analyst for the U.S. Army Club System.