Years ago, as a beer drinking college kid and under the constant stress of maintaining a grade point and bad eating habits, I developed a bad stomach ulcer. If you’ve ever had one or know someone that has, you know its very real pain. The kind that can double you over. So like any level headed college kid, I kept drinking the beer, kept stressing over grades, kept eating bad and when the symptoms came on, I simply reached for the Maalox.
Approximately a year later with symptoms occurring more frequently with even more pain, I finally gave in and went to the doctor’s office to see what I needed to do to cure the problem. After some pretty invasive testing and learning the ulcers were worsening daily, the doctor told me my diet and beer drinking would have to stop. Essentially, he prescribed a cure rather than a masking device.
So what’s that got to do with membership? Think about it! Any club that has treated membership pain with short term programs, discounts and incentives, without a complete diagnostic of what’s causing the problem, has likely seen the same symptoms reoccur over and over, and the Maalox simply gets easier to reach for and used more frequently. Hardly a road map to sustainability.
Fundamentally, there is commonality in the broader issues effecting private clubs. But there are also site specific market issues that require knowledge and understanding of the club’s core issues that are preventing membership success, without which, Maalox starts looking pretty good to cure the pain.
Clubs often misdiagnose their membership situation, thinking something external will change and make everything perfect again. That’s pure and simple “drink the Maalox mentality”. Change is an ever cycling reality and without meeting the needs and relevancies of members and marketplace, price won’t have anything to do with the decision to join or stay.
Serving and satisfying our existing members is deeply ingrained in the culture of managing a private club, and for all intents and purposes, we are doing a pretty good job in most areas. But, satisfying our current members, in terms of branding your club for future growth, must include relevant programming and activities that have appeal to women, families; the next generation of member. The non-member world is judging your attractiveness and relevance to their lifestyle by everything that you do internally. Part then, of a prescription to cure is to evolve your focus on what the new membership market wants and needs, simultaneously addressing the needs of your existing members.
Consumer habits continuously evolve. Members and potential members are constantly bombarded with messaging on competitive activities outside of the club. Static amenity and activity planning, without recognizing these crucial changes in member’s lifestyles, can’t be successfully managed with Maalox. Women see the world different than men; families have needs that empty nesters don’t, and the availability of leisure time challenges the entire population. The prescription for cure is creating greater relevance to these readily apparent market realities.
Throwing random programs at the problem is drinking the Maalox. Understanding and addressing change as the new reality, doing the appropriate due diligence to understand the exact nature of your market, and then offering a more encompassing array of lifestyle programs and amenities is the sustainable cure. That’s what it takes in today’s competitive market to get new members, keep them, get them using the club more often and telling their friends. Models built on pricing alone are recipes for disaster and ultimately destroy the value and integrity of the club and to some degree, the entire industry.
Isn’t it time to stop drinking the Maalox and get back on the road to sustainable membership health? It’s not that hard to change the process….