Why would someone join your club?

Gregg Patterson, President of Tribal Magic, discusses why membership golf clubs are more relevant than ever before – as long as they establish a community within them.

Golf’s having a tough go of it these days. Too many courses chasing too few golfers. Too many roadblocks to play – too slow, too complicated, too stuffy, too low tech and too boring. People are asking, “What’s the value of this thing called ‘club’”? Why, with lots of pay and play courses and cheap deals online, would a well healed golf enthusiast or a ‘wanna be golfer’ invest in a club membership?

Screen Shot 2016-06-10 at 09.28.22If you were to ask me The Big Whys: Why club? Why golf? Why join? Then I’d stand on a table and shout, “Because you’re born with a big Hole in Your Soul and Club and Golf will fill that Big Hole with relationships and community and the stuff needed to create relationships and community.” Walk into any club that deserves the name and you’ll be hit by staff who say “hi”, give you a smile and call you by name; members who pass you in the hallway and look you in the eye, smile and say hello; the foursome who’ll make the round of golf a memorable journey whether you shot par or forty-seven over.

People have more social networking than ever before and are lonelier than they’ve ever been; club and golf are the anecdotes for loneliness. People are born alone in the world, crying for nourishment. Needing hardware – the milk. Needing software – the hug. Wanting to fill The Big Empty. Grown-ups want to fill The Big Empty with stuff, with ‘hardware’ such as food, booze, a golf course, tennis court or a gym. ‘Stuff’ is an important part of filling The Big Empty.

But in a world filled with more ‘stuff’ than ever before, people are re-discovering that ‘stuff’ isn’t enough. People want to fill The Big Empty with software – ‘non-stuff’ that fills an emotional void; they want a smile and a hello. They want ‘non-stuff’ to go with their ‘stuff’ and in hard times ‘non-stuff’ is a huge part of The Big Empty. Lots of businesses do ‘stuff’: Hotels, restaurants, fast food joints, pay-for-play golf courses. Hire the right architect, interior designer, gym specialist and you’ll get good ‘stuff.’ But ‘stuff’ isn’t enough. The Big Empty is only half full, and clubs who are doing club and golf right, know it.

Clubs compete best when they emphasise the ‘non-stuff’ side of The Big Empty equation. People contact, relationships and community. The emotional ‘non-stuff’ that makes the chairs and the carpeting and the furniture and the golf course and the pro shop and the locker rooms memorable, unique and special. Software matters. Rules are needed. Here are mine.

The Big Wants

People have powerful emotional wants that are simple and applicable whether in Miami, New York, North Berwick or Scottsdale. These needs of the spirit are the starting point for filling The Big Empty with software and whupping the stuff guys with their new spas, new irrigation systems and new tablecloths.
Marketers know that:

  • People are born wanting dignity. They need to feel that they are special, worthwhile, important.
  • People are born wanting status. They want to feel that they’re someone in a world where there are lots of someones.
  • People are born wanting relationships. They want to be connected to others, to a tribe, a family, a group.
  • People are born wanting community. They want to commune with people who share their values and live the values they share.
  • People are born wanting to feel the joy. They want to be surrounded by others who are powerfully positive, who express an un-quenchable passion for living.
  • People are born wanting to feel the love. They want to experience an emotional connection with people who care, for them as individuals and for what they feel, to be embraced when they arrive for a day’s outing with a blanket of warmth and emotion.
  • People are born wanting to be touched. They want to affirm their connection with others with a gesture, a look, a handshake, a scribbled handwritten note.

These Software needs are universal, part of The Human Condition, common to everyone everywhere-to golfers, diners, gym rats. Useful to know when filling The Big Empty.

Principles of Fill

Everyone wants to fill the Big Empty with software. Club people know how. Club people emphasise hospitality service; stuff delivered with a relationship. A door opened with a smile and a name. Club people deliver stuff with E.I.I.P: empathy, inspiration, information and personality.

Screen Shot 2016-06-10 at 09.29.00Club people live Service Ethic, they deliver happiness and dignity; they anticipate needs before those who need it know it; they make sure the details are attended to; they deliver the stuff that’s needed when it’s needed; they make sure they’re a presence, focused on the consumer, when delivering stuff; and they see shortcomings in the stuff and non-stuff and do something about it.

Club people understand how to ‘touch’ people with a word, a gesture, a note or a symbolic something. Club people deliver stuff differently than the Hardware Guys. They know that how it’s delivered really does matter.

Fill Tactics

Filling The Big Empty requires tactics to deliver ‘the stuff’ with soul. Tactics are the full part of the software cycle. Get a facilitator, the marketing director, the general manager, someone who understands hardware and software and gather people together. Throw The Big Wants out for discussion. Do some experience mapping to determine where and when contact moments arise. Talk lots, ask questions and toss ideas about. Take notes on a flip chart, reflect on needs, wants and expectations. Facilitate the conversation and, most of all, ask questions:

  • What member segments are we dealing with? Kids? Mammas? Twenty-somethings? Empty nesters? Grandmas?
  • How do we welcome people when they arrive?
  • How do we show people appreciation when leaving?
  • How do we create a relationship between the Consumers of Stuff and the staff and the Consumers of
  • Stuff and other members and guests?
  • How do we show happiness when providing stuff?
  • How do we make those who are consuming stuff feel special, unique and important?
  • How can we deliver The Touch – verbal, visual, written and physical – to The Consumers of Stuff?

Time to Fill
People are born needy and want hardware and software to fill The Big Empty. Marketers love The Big Empty; empty is opportunity. Let the ‘stuff people’ invest in the hardware and the ‘club people’ master the software. Blend the two together just so and a house becomes home, people become friends, friends become community, clubhouse becomes CLUB. And CLUB is a very, very good purchase in hard times like these. Drink the wine, feel the love and enjoy the journey.