A club’s website has the opportunity to be the home and hearth of its marketing efforts -- the place to kindle all new and existing relationships. It can and should be your 24/7 membership marketing resource. For many clubs, however, the website is nothing more than a static brochure that may leave prospects standing out on the curb. While in the past, your website might have simply been the front door for your existing members, changing digital trends requires clubs to better utilize their front-facing websites. (Don’t worry, the front door isn’t going anywhere, you’re just making things more hospitable to visitors!)
If your club website is not enhancing the membership sales process, it might be time for a website redesign. After all, your next generation of members has grown up in the digital landscape. They want resources that provide all the information they need without having to pick up the phone or meet in person. When you create a website experience with your prospect in mind, you reduce barriers that enhance the sales process. Let’s take a look at what the best-of-the-best club websites bear in mind, shall we?
“HOMEY” FEATURES TO NOTE
A Sense of Personality
When you’re decorating your home, you don’t simply furnish your living room with stock images from Crate & Barrel or someone else’s favorite things, right? More than likely, you hang up family photos from vacations, the painting you purchased on your honeymoon, and other sentimental items that are meaningful to your life. These details proclaim who you are, what you’re about, and they make visitors feel welcomed into a real home, not just a showroom. The same is true with your club’s website. A visitor doesn’t just want pretty pictures -- they want to get to know what makes your club unique.
Take a look at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, MN. In addition to their clear navigation and custom-templated design features, they showcase stunning photography of the course, in addition to an active blog and videos that highlight member stories, inspiration on ways to get the most out of membership, history, and more. (More on the importance of content, below.) Remember, your website is the first impression for prospective members who are looking to make a connection with you. It should reflect on the outside all that is special about the inside.
Use Images Wisely
As you design your website, you might think that images are just a formality to the web design process. Great photography showcasing YOUR club's assets is a powerful opportunity to let your prospects visualize a "day in the life" of club membership. With this in mind, make sure the photos you feature on your website are not generic stock images. Many clubs use the same technology partner to build their websites and share the same templates making it difficult to easily delineate one club from the next. Your club community is one of your greatest assets, so use personalized photography that sets you apart. No stock photography is capable of telling YOUR club’s story.
Photos should connect with your target audience, which is why it's important to be clear about who your target audience is. For example, if you are looking to attract families, think twice about using a lot of “the boys club” type photos. Does the photo of your swimming pool look vacant and uninviting? Why not swap those photos out for some that showcase swim team races and summer camp?
Share Your Stories
Engaging content is fundamental to a good website experience because it establishes a connection between the club, and members, and your prospective members. Each web page, blog post, video, helpful downloadable resource, etc., offers a chance to share a story and to invite your prospective member to take that next step towards membership.
Remember, familiarity breeds trust and that trust can accelerate the sales process. In the wise words of esteemed CRM guru Siva Devaki, “Sales is not about selling anymore, but about building trust and educating.”
One website doing this well is Champion Hills in Hendersonville, NC. Their navigation makes it easy to find what you are looking for, such as membership options, and good videos that bring this beautiful location to life. Another example we like is Twin Orchard Country Club in Long Grove, IL for their clear navigation, and top billing of the golf course in the top. Also, their events show people within their community, and their video testimonials allow the existing members to speak directly to prospects.
Layout and Design
As we mentioned above, your website should showcase the things you value most as a club. For example, if you are a country club and want to grow membership, then making it easy to learn about the golf course is critically important. In news journalism, there’s an expression “don’t bury the lead” if golf is your lead make sure golf visuals are front and center so your prospects don't need to scour your website to find what they are looking for.
Far too many websites grant their membership login the prime real estate on their homepage This layout signals “go away” to anyone who isn’t already a member. Remember, your home page should provide a warm and cozy entry point to your prospects.
Using clear and attractive calls to action is not only good marketing practice, your visitors will appreciate them, too. Calls to action (CTAs) are one of the best ways to do this. CTAs clearly market to prospects with action words that enable your website users to more easily navigate your site and get exactly what they want in the location they expect to find it. For example, see how the Bridges of Rancho Santa Fe in Rancho Santa Fe, CA effectively uses a front and center pop-up CTA to invite visitors to peruse their free membership guide. (This simple form has attributed to 300 leads in the last year!)
No one will be able to appreciate all the beautiful, personalized touches, and stories you’ve included on your website if they can’t find you. So, as important as it is for your website to look good, making it SEO-friendly is an equally crucial part of having a successful website.
Many elements contribute to a higher search ranking, from overall site architecture, to how many words are on the pages, to the meta descriptions, keywords, and more. One easy element to check is how quickly your page is loading. (We all know the frustrating feeling of waiting for a page to load. Your prospects feel the same. Don’t put them through it! Slow load time can encourage your visitor to move on to a different search. Check out this free Google tool that you can analyze your page load time.
Also, DO NOT, we repeat, DO NOT launch a website that is not mobile-friendly. It should be as easy for your visitors to scroll through your website/blog/etc. on their cell phones as it is on their computers. Nowadays, websites that aren’t built for mobile are like dinosaurs, and search engines will penalize you for that lag time.
Stand Out From The Crowd
Another way to freshen up your website’s look, feel, and optimization is to go outside of the industry for inspiration. More and more clubs are using “non-industry” web designers to bring a more creative perspective and better-optimized website for both search engines and user experience. Our team at StoryTeller is happy to help you determine whether your website has room to improve and to connect you to the resources you need. We’d love to talk to you! We can accomplish a lot in a short 15-minute conversation.
Looking for more marketing resources for your club? Check these out!
- Why Your Club Website May Be Hurting Membership Growth [WEBINAR]
- Hole In Ones: Designing the Best Golf Course and Private Club Websites
- The Essential Guide: Step-by-Step Digital Marketing for Private Clubs
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