Country Club Membership Retention

December 17, 2013
Ocean Reef Club blog photo

In today’s ever-changing world of country club marketing, one aspect that every marketing director should study is social programming. In years past, primary social engagements revolved around golf tournaments, drinking, and eating. Today clubs are catering to a more diverse and younger audience that is interested in learning, wellness, new experiences and social interaction that should be brought into every club’s social calendar. 

Many of the clubs today are building interactive display kitchens where they can have the chefs teach classes with new recipes, local organic farm-to-table produce and recipes designed to keep people healthy, active and fulfilled. Some of the clubs have even videotaped these efforts and run them on their club channel TV stations. Another popular activity is discovering and sampling wines from different regions of the world where participants can not only taste the wide variety of wines available today, but also learn the special characteristics and tastes of the various wines. Another important area to consider regarding dining is the dress code enforced at the club restaurants; most baby boomers are not interested in frequent formal dinners, mandatory jackets or a ban on jeans. 

As clubs expand their fitness offerings they have found that they need to continually update the type of programming and equipment available based on the latest trends. Pilates and booty barre are just a couple of the latest ways to develop core strength, flexibility and an overall feeling of well-being. Many people moving from larger cities into smaller towns with country clubs are looking for access to these activities as part of their overall club experience. It is predicted that the health and wellness market will increase ten percent each year during the next decade as baby boomers mature. We also see spa services being expanded in country clubs, as the decision to join is becoming just as much a female-dominated decision as a male-dominated one. Where in the 1980s country clubs were primarily a male and golf-oriented place, and where women had access to tennis, golf and dining, they are now becoming a full family experience where the country club must make obvious attempts to satisfy all generations including the wife, children and even the grandchildren. At the recent ULI Fall Meeting in Chicago during November experts stated that wine, food and health will be the next “golf” for country clubs over the next decade. Hopefully your club will share in this insight. 

One club that Cotton & Company has worked with for the last five years is Ocean Reef Club in the Florida Keys. We believe Ocean Reef Club has done an incredible job of keying into the generational aspect of club activities. In most typical country clubs, the children are somewhat bored while the adults tend to enjoy their experience. Since Ocean Reef now has three to four generations of members they have focused on providing something to do for every age and they have a robust monthly calendar chock full of activities aimed at all the different ages, segments, interests and likes of every member of the family. Not only combining the typical golf and tennis activities, but also including all types of fishing, croquet, boating, diving, sailing, cooking classes, a new health and fitness spa, medical center, on-site shopping and about a dozen different dining venues. In a recent survey, a legacy member at Ocean Reef Club stated, “We’ve always loved to come to Ocean Reef because every time we came as we grew up there was always something different and fun to do and a lot of people in our age group to share those experiences with. Ocean Reef club never gets old.”  

In order to take advantage of all of these family markets and younger demographics, Ocean Reef engaged Cotton & Company in a social media marketing program utilizing a new communication platform where members and friends can chat amongst themselves sharing their pride in membership. Using this initiative, not only does the Club now have a voice in casual conversation among members and prospects, but members are also holding conversations with each other in this space. They are figuring out travel plans to see who will be there when they arrive, organizing lunch at the Raw Bar in the Fishing Village or a spontaneous game of foosball and drinks at the Burgee Bar in the evening. Best of all the viral nature of social networking spreads the word not only to members, but also to their friends and contacts that could be potential new members. Remember, “the times they are a changing.”