Country Club Membership Recruiting for the Future

December 3, 2013
Couple dining out

Today’s marketing programs for golf and country clubs must be very different compared to how we have marketed prior to the recent recession. Most clubs were originally geared towards a specific demographic and psychographic profile- the Silent Generation born between 1925 and 1942. These profiles have shifted during the downturn, which is why membership recruitment strategies must shift as well. The previously targeted buyer profile has aged, and with that the referral base has diminished. The life and future of your club depends on how well you can “young it up” to appeal to the next market.

Not only will the younger market be around longer to enjoy the club, but the projected revenue stream of a 40 – 50 year old buyer is much higher than that of a 70-year-old buyer. This group also has a large network of friends, family and business associates that they can introduce to the club. The younger group is classified as the start of the baby boomer generation and what motivates them can be much different than the previous group. Therefore the key question now remains, “What is the younger buyer looking for and how can we reach him or her?”

Golf is no longer the key amenity. While golf was once the significant selling point for most clubs, today’s buyer is more interested in overall health and wellness than their latest handicap. Is your fitness center at its finest? Are there walking or jogging trails? Bike lanes? Boot camp or yoga classes? In addition to fitness activities, offering cooking classes or social hours for residents can also appeal to this younger market. They’re less formal- less wiling to dine in jacket, but probably interested in shucking oysters in a polo and flip flops. They’re looking for adventure and experiences. They grew up in a revolutionary time, listening to John Lennon, The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan – they are used to change. They refuse to age or do as their parents did. They are excited for each new adventure and your club’s marketing and sales presentation must offer that relaxed, yet event-driven lifestyle they’re seeking right in your club. This group is less likely to want to pay hundreds of thousands for membership plus hefty dues. Your ability to create special incentives (ie: financing, discounts, packages) should be addressed to capture this market.

Now that you have what it takes to recruit more youthful members, how will you reach them? Another evolution that happened over the last several years, and simultaneous to the shift in demographics, is the significance placed on digital advertising as opposed to traditional marketing. There is still a place for great signage and a well laid-out brochure, but today more than ever, your online presence and ability to target consumers in digital media is paramount.

Your website is a vital part of your club presentation, more far-reaching and efficient than traditional media, it’s like bringing a virtual sales center directly to your customers. But a website is still only the first step in driving your full-fledged digital program.

We believe a multi-platform digital strategy incorporating search engine optimization, search engine marketing, pay-per-click advertising and social marketing to be a critical component of your success. There are three fundamental areas of real estate and club marketing that are performed better on the Internet than in any other medium. These are: experiential and lifestyle selling, affiliate database marketing and referral and word-of-mouth marketing programs. Using all platforms within the Internet, we are better able to showcase the lifestyle available and experiences awaiting each potential club member. By using these platforms, we can reach a more geographically spread target market in a cost effective and timely manner.

Cotton & Company has also experienced success in leveraging social media marketing within the real estate and country club industry. Creating a social media presence for your club is about giving potential members the tools to get to know you better. They are looking to buy a very expensive product in which they will spend countless hours with friends and family. The membership purchasing experience is a very emotional one and social media allows us to tap into the emotional buying side while providing prospects real-time information about amenities, events, activities, lifestyle, product, features and listings. From there, existing members have a platform for sharing their excitement and pride. ..When viewed by prospective members, your social media presence creates third party credibility through the ongoing conversation by your fans, members, affiliates, partners, staff, etc.

Perhaps the most valuable part of social media marketing is the hyper-targeted advertising platforms available through most of the networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn. Using the advertising platforms, we can now target viewers more intimately than available in any traditional platform. For example, we can serve specific ads based on a viewer’s gender, age, workplace, education, location, interests, hobbies, etc. Utilizing these targeting features we can serve specific ads to each niche target profile based on which of our attributes most likely resonate with each buyer.

As the market for real estate and club memberships returns, it is imperative to position your community to capitalize on new buyer wants and needs, and to leverage the new marketing tools now available to efficiently and effectively reach this new market.