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Having just attended the #CMAA19 World Conference in Nashville, I was not surprised to hear a few consistent themes that permeated throughout breakout sessions, keynotes, and at local watering holes during post-conference chats. There’s no question, two of the pervasive topics on the minds of private club leaders are innovation and next generation membership. 

As we know, a big catalyst to innovation for clubs is the need to offer the kind of environment that is going to attract and inspire the younger member and family to join. Just look at the influx of state-of-the-art fitness centers that are changing the club landscape coast to coast, surely a good step on the road to club innovation!

But how are you innovating with your communications and marketing of your club? When you think of next generation membership, I want to encourage you to think about how you are adapting or innovating your marketing to match the needs of this generation. 

Follow the Road to Innovation

Over the last decade, there has been a seismic shift in how we communicate; we are using multiple devices, engage on a variety of social media platforms, and we are in control of the research and buying decision, which typically begins online. This communication transformation has left businesses in all industries scrambling to adapt, and the private club industry is no exception. 

Your membership acquisition tactics might have been reliable over the last few decades, but for many clubs, they are breaking down today. If you are struggling to meet the financial expectations of your board through membership growth and retention, particularly younger members, it’s time to innovate.

New Tactics for New Audiences

So how do you begin your marketing innovation and also get your board to buy in? Here are three ways to get started:

Share Your Culture

Your culture is what makes you unique and sets you apart from other clubs in your area. It is the one aspect of your club that a prospective member is trying to understand when they research your club. People learn about culture through stories. We do “storytelling for clubs” workshops all over the country so we know you have fantastic stories to share. Yet, there are two barriers that exist: So often club communications do not focus on the stories of your membership. And for those of you who have identified your true stories, they never see the world outside your club. 

As humans, we connect through stories and your next generation member is hungry for your stories. Prospective members are researching online with insatiable appetites to learn about your club. Ideally, your stories are for both your future members as well as existing.

  • Pro Tip: Start a public-facing blog to showcase your club stories. The content is a powerful addition to your newsletter and as a stand-alone blog, they are visible to the public and become highly shareable online. You can incorporate your stories in your email communication to prospects, share them on social media, and they can drive more website traffic by the person searching for information online.
  • Get Board Buy-In: Sharing your club culture through content is not marketing. Your stories are a gateway to connecting with new audiences and are assets that engage your existing members who already help tell your story. When was the last time you shared a newsletter?

Help Them Make a Decision 

If you think the next gen member has patience and interest to come into the club or talk to your membership director just to find out how much it costs to join, then think again. I know this is an industry practice that is painful to let go of, but it creates barriers. If you remember that the next gen prospect is like you and they begin their membership search online, then offering them a digital brochure (your website) is not enough. 

Like all of us doing research online, your prospects are conditioned to getting information how they want it and when they want it. Studies show that more than 75% of the time the millennial buyer is researching before they are ready to talk to you. If all you have is a website with pretty pictures (much like every other club’s website), you are missing out on an opportunity to connect with them and differentiate your club earlier in the sales process.

  • Pro Tip: One of the most successful conversion strategies we have seen is packaging your membership rates in a downloadable guide. The benefit to the visitor is they get the information they are looking for even if it’s accessed on their smartphone in line at the grocery store or at a soccer game. The benefit to your club is that you capture an email address which is the beginning of establishing a relationship with a new prospect.
  • Get Board Buy-In: Capturing emails of prospective members gives you the ability to begin to have an active pipeline of opportunities that you can nurture with your club stories and further build a connection. This can radically shorten the sales cycle.

Incorporate Technology

Just like you have software that supports the “back of the house” operations, you need technology as the foundation of a sales and marketing process. If you’re not currently using a platform to help manage, monitor and measure your sales and marketing success, it’s time to start. 

We are big fans of HubSpot sales and marketing software. It gives membership and event directors the ability to personalize their approach from first interaction to closing the opportunity and to leverage insights which personalize the buying experience. This high touch personalization is what the next gen member expects.

  • Pro Tip: Even the free version of this software can help focus your efforts on generating leads and revenue and forget about managing a stack of scattered tools. 
  • Get Board Buy-In: When you use technology to connect with the next gen member who is “shopping” online,  you can measure 100% of their activity engaging with your club and track the return on your investment. Every lead can be tracked, every conversion can be measured.  


The shift in communication is upon us. The tools and technology are an enabler for transformation. As management pioneer Peter Drucker wisely said, “what gets measured, gets managed.” Adding technology to your sales and marketing process can help you manage the increasing need to control your membership growth. Best of all, data will give the board what they need to support the investment, giving you what you need to drive results.

Crushing Club Marketing Academy