Mastering Member Engagement


Private club industry professionals continue to search for answers to the million-dollar question, “How can we improve member engagement?” Whether it’s increasing a la carte expenditure at the club, attending more social events or, the all-important, referring and sponsoring friends and family into the club, you know that motivating members to act can be a challenge, to say the least.

Throwing money at them in the form of discounts has lost its luster, and created an environment where members only engage when they’re offered concessions. Sure the proverbial “happy hour” member engagement ideas continue to be common forms of marketing, but how is that different from the local bar. Members want their clubs to provide an escape from everyday life, not to blend in with the rest of society. If your members aren’t engaged with the club’s normal activities, it may be time for a change.

Here are four must have member engagement strategies to reengage your current membership and generate a new perspective of your club from your target market.

Create relevancy among your members

Simply put, increasing engagement requires your club to become more relevant to its members. Being relevant to your members involves finding out what is desired from the club. Members expect the club to accommodate their lifestyle, not make sacrifices to fit the traditional programming. If members have children, they don’t want to find a babysitter so they can enjoy an event or dinner at the club. They want the club to offer childcare and eliminate that added step.  Clubs need to ask, listen and communicate.

Ask key questions in the form of surveys, focus groups or town hall meetings. Create a systematic approach of determining a net promoter score which includes feedback and follow up from all department heads. Listen and react positively to their feedback whenever it’s given. This includes online – listen on social media and review sites.

Communicate often and openly. Be transparent. You don’t have to divulge the secrets, but give enough information that makes your members feel as though their included. And make sure to express the positive points. If your club now offers childcare but a certain number of spots are available or it’s only allowed specific days, focus on the fact the club is taking steps to accommodate the request from members, not that its limited. Solicit the help of, or better yet hire, a communications expert if you’re unsure of how to approach the positive points of a subject or even how much to say.

Year-round Connection

Member engagement is more than improving perception by re-branding the club, it’s providing a personalized experience, catering to every member. Connection to the club is essential for not only member engagement, but for retention as well. One of the key components of connection is communication; and that communication extends both ways. Club officials are often unaware of unhappy members until the resignation letter hits your desk. Involve all employees when determining satisfaction, and ask questions that will generate information you need to make important decisions.

Connection also requires transparency about the future of the club. Club executives and board members need to communicate often and efficiently. Control the message before it “hits the streets”. Communicate the message if pertinent information is being considered regarding the future of the club. Improving member engagement means keeping all “owners” of the club involved in the decision making processes.

However, make sure each and every message is telling a positive story. Never use the “A” word in your communications. Assessments can be considered the most negative word in the private club language. Instead, reach out to the membership ask if they are interested in a renovation, and are they willing to invest in the future of the club.

Place an Emphasis on Exclusivity

Exclusivity is a perception. Private clubs often do “whatever it takes” to make ends meet, including sacrificing this exclusive perception. A common term articulated when referring to the re-branding of private clubs is market correction. Private clubs need to regain their exclusivity and value by re-marketing themselves to their target audience as a luxury item only available to a select few hand-picked and invited by current members. Communicate to the membership and market how exclusive the club is. If anyone can have it, no one will aspire to be part of it.

The individual member experience should be as exclusive as the entrance into the club. Mercedes-Benz had a slogan “Luxury, elevated. Performance, exhilarated.” Prospective members are not just buying luxury; they want to experience luxury. This is the mantra private clubs should adopt in order to improve the perception of exclusivity. Promoting exclusivity for a luxurious experience each and every day ensures the club will be a sought after entity and members will realize the value provided by the club.

Develop Member Pride

While exclusivity is an attitude club officials can instill in the membership and portray through appropriate marketing techniques, pride is the feeling or emotion expressed when members boastfully reveal to friends the club to which they belong. It’s a borderline arrogance of achieving a successful status quo, but it’s extremely powerful when it’s permeated throughout the membership.

It is, however, impossible to simply develop this pride overnight. By playing off the members’ egos as if joining your club is proof they’ve reached the pinnacle of society, you’re able to create this new culture. As strategic marketing fills the general public with an increased sense of exclusivity and your current membership boasts about becoming a member of the club, your culture will transform exponentially as “the club to join” within your target market.

Keep in mind mastering member engagement isn’t accomplished by simply flipping a switch or taking a magic pill. It involves developing and implementing an enhanced marketing strategy to generate relevancy. The more relevant your club is to the current membership, the easier it is to create connection, exclusivity and ultimately member pride. If you’re looking to improve member engagement focus on your club’s brand and motivate your team to go above and beyond – guarantee your membership will follow.