Having been a member of a private golf club for the last 10 years, I know first-hand how important the member experience is when accessing the "back-end" of the club's website. Whether logging into the app on my phone or desktop, having a seamless way to make tee times, dinner reservations or pay my statement it is important to overall membership satisfaction.
The "front-facing" or “public-facing” website is a completely different story. While the "back-end" of a club website or "member-facing" side addresses the operational needs of a private club, the “public-facing” side should serve the needs of your future members. Unfortunately, most club websites fall short in this regard.
Recently, my husband and I relocated to our hometown in Michigan where joining a new club topped the list of family priorities. I did what most prospective members do and I went online exploring the golf communities in my new backyard. My online explorations left me underwhelmed and unable to easily differentiate one club from the next. Most of the websites I visited felt more like a static and limited brochure than an expansive, helpful resource.
We are living in a digital era and it’s no secret that a club’s website is the heart of its online presence, especially the home page. Here are 4 important considerations for how to make your website visitors want to learn more.
Website navigation for private clubs
The objective of making a public-facing website is to make it as easy as possible for your prospects to get to know you. Keep in mind, your website is a marketing tool and should be used as such when attracting new member prospects. Ideally, a visitor should land on your website and not have to think too hard about where to click next. Good navigation is one of the most important attributes of your website. Not sure what website navigation is? In simple terms, it’s text, links, buttons, and menus that are organized usually as page headers allowing visitors to quickly access the pages that are most important to them. For example, if you’re a golf club, and your top navigation excludes the word “golf” in the description (and you have it buried under “amenities”), you are forcing your visitor to figure out on their own how to locate the information about your course. Make sure you use descriptive phrases when creating your menu items.
Interesting Golf Course and Private Club Visuals
As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words but make sure the “words” you choose are the words you want your prospect to see. Great photography helps you tell your website visitors what your club culture is all about. If you are a private club and are looking to attract young families, then make sure your website has photography of young families not only on your home page but throughout your site! Want to get golfers excited about the club? Show them pictures and, better yet, video of your beautiful course! Suffice it to say that pictures of empty swimming pools and vacant tennis courts do not create compelling connections with your target audience. An added bonus, great images encourage your visitors to stick around helping give your website an SEO boost.
Here are a few home page images from my “hometown” search. Ugh!
Engaging Membership and Club Content
Because the home page is the first page most of your visitors will see, it’s also the most important page. Your website copy and images (your content) need to connect with your visitor and help them find information quickly and easily. Today’s website visitors have short attention spans so being concise with your copy and making sure you clearly articulate your value proposition in 200 or 300 words is ideal. Leave the lengthy copy, if you must, for your inside pages. Other important considerations when it comes to writing compelling content are; keep your content conversational and personal as if you are speaking to one person - your website visitor - not the masses. Also, the copy should be written from the visitor’s perspective which means it’s important to know what it is that person is looking for.
Call-to-Actions to Drive Your Club’s Goals
If you want to drive more leads from your website (and who doesn’t?) include at least 1-2 calls-to-action on the top half of your home page. A CTA is an image or line of text that prompts your visitor to take action and move deeper into website discovery. It’s literally a “call” to take an “action”. By providing valuable information like a downloadable membership guide, you make it easy for your prospects to learn more about you on their terms.
Your website is so much more than a digital brochure - it’s a critical marketing asset for your club. The most successful website works hard to help answer questions, reduce barriers, and engage visitors. If your website is just a few pages that leave prospects with more questions than answers, then you are missing out on a huge opportunity to educate and gain the trust of your target audience.
P.S. Here’s a link to one of the websites in the Detroit area that gets top honors from me for user experience.