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How Every Club Can Take Control of Membership Marketing in 2023

How Every Club Can Take Control of Membership Marketing in 2023

What will 2023 bring for private club memberships? That question is on the minds of private club leaders and board members from coast to coast. For some clubs, the residual effects of a strong 2022 membership will continue and perhaps even waitlists will be established. For some clubs, status quo sounds pretty good.  Yet there are a number of private clubs feeling the challenging economic momentum facing our economy.

Regardless, even in the healthiest of financial times, creating and executing  a strategic plan for ensuring club growth should be on the top of your mind as you take inventory of your 2023 marketing plans and budgets.


After all these years, word-of-mouth marketing is still a favorite for most membership directors, and for good reason. No private club marketing tactic works better than a member singing the club’s praises to an already-interested friend. But how predictable and sustainable are those leads? At some point, even your most active members run out of friends.

As a result, fewer and fewer clubs are able to keep their pipeline full from membership referral programs alone. And even then, the timing of those referrals may not meet the club’s needs, or the age of the prospects may not match the club’s goals to appeal to younger audiences.

With all of that in mind, you should consider how well word-of-mouth marketing really works for your club. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • Do you feel like you have a well-defined club marketing plan to reach your membership goals and control your membership pipeline?

  • Have you invested in club marketing programs that increase membership without decreasing initiation fees?

  • Does your club website differentiate your club to prospective members?

If you answered "no" to any or all of these questions, then 2023 is the right time to use strategic thinking to take more control over your membership marketing. Most of your prospects, young or old, are researching club membership online. It’s time to take advantage of your online presence and the digital opportunities that come with it.

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Do Potential CLUB Members Really search Online?

Yes. In fact, a 2022 study showed that 81% of buyers, including millennials, actively research information online before they connect with a brand or engage their services. Private club memberships are more expensive than many other purchases, but today’s buyers don’t necessarily fold up their laptops just because of a bigger price tag. In fact, they're likely to do even more research when the stakes (and prices) are higher.

Keep in mind that today's next-generation member is a digital native. They are used to going online for information and arming themselves BEFORE they want to speak with a club representative. This is one of the reasons that investing in your online presence and providing helpful resources is essential to making new connections online. Education is the gateway to building trust and trust needs to happen before action can be taken.


There are no “one size fits all” marketing strategies that apply to every private club, but even the most successful ones take advantage of additional opportunities online. Let's look at a few different types of clubs and how digital marketing strategies can take better control of their membership marketing.

Club 1: The Platinum Club That Needs to Follow Up

Are you a "bucket list" club? Have you hosted numerous professional tournaments? Would most people with modest golf acumen know who you are?

If this is the case, brand awareness is not your challenge. However, even the most elite of clubs are mindful of attrition and need to maintain an active waiting list. These clubs have plenty of people who would be interested in learning about different membership categories, but they might not have a process in place to capture and engage with their most interested prospects. That means high-quality leads keep falling through the cracks, despite the club's stellar reputation.

BLOG: How digital marketing helped this private club pull through the pandemic

If this sounds like you, it might be time to focus on your lead management strategy.

How to take more control: If you have a lot of leads but struggle to manage them or aren’t converting as many of them as you would like, then developing a sales enablement plan should be your primary focus. Once you organize your leads by quality and category, you can engage them with the right information at the right time. You can even reconnect with old prospects during the off-season to jump-start your next membership campaign.

Helpful Tip #1: Make sure you have an effective way to organize all of your prospect's information. An essential part of your marketing should include regular use of a CRM (Contact Relationship Management Tool). This way you can keep track of all communication about active and inactive leads). The best part is one of the most user-friendly CRM's on the market is free. Here's the link to download it.

Club 2: The Well-Known Club That Needs to Turn Traffic into Leads

Many private clubs have brand awareness and a lot of website traffic, but very few clubs know how to turn those website visitors into membership leads.

If a prospect comes to your site to learn more about your members, explore your membership categories, and see what amenities you offer,  can they find those answers easily or are they left waiting for a response to their “contact us” submission? Converting active prospects and generating a pipeline of possibilities is your barrier to growth.

How to take more control: If you have traffic but need more ways to capture new leads, then focusing your online marketing strategies around conversion is your first step toward meeting your membership goals. Remember, many of today’s buyers would much rather do their research online at their convenience, to pre-qualify themselves and avoid an awkward conversation with a real person. You'll never get a chance to "meet" them if you create too much friction.

Helpful Tip #2: Want to start driving more leads today? Create a visually appealing and comprehensive membership guide that can be downloaded in exchange for capturing an email address. This could be the start of something rewarding for both you and the prospect.

Club 3: The Attainable Club That Needs to Stand Out

It can be hard to make an impression in the club space – especially if your best features can only be seen in person and aren't reflected on your website. If you're having a hard time getting eyes on your club, you need greater brand awareness online. You need more website traffic, more social media “likes,” and more strategies to show how your club is different from your competitors.

How to take more control: If you need more traffic and brand awareness, then you need content. It can be regular blog posts that showcase your club’s culture and unique differentiators or video stories that give your prospects “inside access" – remember, quality is the most important aspect of content.

Quality content is what will turn a prospect into a visitor, and it's foundational to increasing your digital footprint. Creating content that addresses your prospects' questions and shows them how you're different will position you to capture and leverage the attention of those who are searching.

Helpful Tip #3: Not sure what to write about? Every club has terrific stories about members, staff, communities they serve, etc. Stories are foundational to engaging blog content. Here's a way to start identifying and sharing your best stories.


How will you tackle your membership challenges in this next year's economic uncertainty? Will you continue to rely on the same traditional marketing tactics and hope that this is the year your members really come through with the right number of referrals? Or will this be the year you take control of your club growth and begin converting prospects online – more, quicker, and for less?

The private club industry is still playing catch-up with the marketing tactics of the rest of the world. 2023 can be your chance to get ahead of the pack and differentiate yourself from the clubs in your area.

If you aren’t quite sure what your club needs to begin gaining control, check out our free membership growth consultation.

[PCM] Essential Digital Marketing Guide HRZ

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