Why retention is the buzzword for 2017

The PGA pro can and should be at the centre of member retention for their clubs, writes Jane Carter, Director of Golf Unlimited.

Golf clubs are finally realising that whilst new member recruitment is important business it is hard won and there is a dwindling supply. They now know what every good business knows, that you need to look after the customers you have already got. Member retention is the hot topic for 2017 – and PGA Professionals should be making sure they are at the heart of their golf club’s retention plan.screen-shot-2016-10-04-at-10-17-33

How much is an average member worth to a golf club? If the average membership fee is £600 then, at the very least, you should be looking for a ‘lifetime’ value of five years, longer in many cases and on top of that the additional income from clubhouse spend, guest fees and money spent in the pro shop. Factor in the very real benefit that a happy club is a stable club and a happy club attracts more customers, then the real advantages for having a well thought out retention plan are obvious.

My recommendation to every golf club is to consider employing someone in the role of a ‘Membership Director’ at which point clubs look at me as though I had gone slightly crazy. We are not big enough for that, they claim! However, if the average club has 400 members paying £650 a year – and much more for many golf clubs – that is £260k plus a year. Lose 10 per cent of that and that is £26k plus the additional spend, plus the hard work of recruiting new members, plus the instability to the business as every year you fight just to stand still.
Multiply it by the average five year value and that is more than £100k worth of business walking right out the door every year.

Every golf club has a potential Membership Director right in front of them: their PGA Professional. They are at the heart of golf club life, greeting members as they walk in the shop or past the door, running the day to day playing on the course, weekend competitions, coaching the juniors – the list goes on, each role bringing them constantly into contact with members of all types, new and long standing.

But how many golf clubs really think about retention in any focussed way? It’s just something that happens isn’t it? By setting out a real retention plan and following it they would be amazed by the difference it can make, and the PGA Professional is key to making it a success. Here are my top tips for how you can influence, and be seen to be influencing, retention at your golf club:

Rate your members: Take the time to go through your current membership list and rate your members on how you think they are using the club. Green if they are active members; amber if they are playing but perhaps could play more; red if you have not seen them for weeks. Develop one or two ideas which get the amber moving into green. Flag up the red members to a wider committee or the General Manager and suggest the club and you combine efforts to retain those at risk.

Run a proactive ‘find a game’ service: Member exit surveys consistently show that people leave because they aren’t playing enough. They put it down to lack of time but often it is lack of opportunity. Become the matchmaker. Have a diary app they could use to post when they are looking for game. Put a section on the website with alerts to yourself so you can start to pair people up. People are often embarrassed to say they are struggling to find a game, so make it a day to day service that your club offers through you!

Set up a new member ‘connect’ programme: New members are very enthusiastic but after a few weeks that enthusiasm can start to wane, especially if they joined as a single and are struggling to integrate into golf club life. Keep an eye on those people. Know they have joined. Send them a welcome email. Stay in touch with a check call. Invite them for a lesson, a roll up or simply remind them of your ‘find a game’ programme.

Help your members enjoy their golf:
It’s an obvious statement, but if you enjoy something, you do more of it and members who play more golf value their membership – and stay. Game improvement is overlooked as a major retention factor and once again the PGA Professional is at the heart of it. Run a 30 minute clinic programme. Make it a regular weekly slot and cover popular topics. Put the clinic diary on the website and remind members they are running. Make them mixed and all ages. Don’t be frightened about going to your committee with a plan and asking for a small budget to cover your time and effort – remember it’s their membership fees you are helping to retain.

Does your golf club need help in developing a member engagement plan? Golf Unlimited can work with you to develop a simple programme which you can implement and can produce real results. Contact jane.carter@golfconsulting.co.uk for a no obligation chat.