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The marketing world has changed dramatically over the last 12 years. A digital transformation has occurred and it’s changed the way people communicate and how all businesses reach their future customers. Marketing, “back in the day,” didn’t include terms like search engine optimization, social media engagement, website conversions, or content strategy. For private clubs, already laggards when it comes to technology, this lack of familiarity and a “marketing by committee” approach, puts them at a disadvantage when it comes to transitioning to a modern approach to marketing.

Clubs looking to leverage strategies that go beyond member referrals and dive deeper into the digital frontier, could explore adding staff or partnering with a digital marketing agency outside of the club space. But, how do you know if an outside agency is right for your club? Here is a checklist to get you started:

✅  Are you willing to invest in the long term success of your membership? When it comes to marketing it’s always important to think about your return on investment. Due to the high value of initiation fees, the value of a converted lead from social media, paid media, website traffic, etc. can often lead to a 3X, 4X or 5X (or greater) return on investment (ROI), even after the fees you pay the agency! All things digital can be measured, so the conversation around marketing as an expense can be shifted to marketing as a return on investment. 

Download the Private Club Digital Marketing Guide

✅  Do you have patience? It’s only natural to want to see results from your digital marketing, after all you are putting a lot of time and money into it. However, when it comes to online results, patience is a virtue. According to most online experts it takes a minimum of 6-12 months to see results from most types of digital marketing. If your club is hitting the panic button around membership goals, then you might want to keep searching for that marketing “silver bullet” (and if you find it please share it with me) rather than invest in proven strategies that deliver predictable outcomes over a sustained period of time.  Results take time, digital marketing is about testing and measuring, innovating and iterating. It’s only after 6-12 months that you have enough data that you can begin to test and measure your campaigns.

 Do you have a sales process or willing to adopt one? It’s important to have the right people and the right process in place to achieve the kind of marketing results most clubs are looking for. By and large, a lead generation or membership marketing agency, is focused on attracting the right prospects to your club or community and creating strategies to convert visitors into leads. Your job is to do what you do best and ensure your membership salesperson can close the right leads. Arming your sales leader with the right tools can be the difference between success and failure. At a minimum, you want to make sure you have a robust CRM to manage your prospects and foster ongoing communication with them. The days of relying on spreadsheets, tickler files and 3 x 5 index cards for prospect tracking and outreach should be long gone. An agency partner will work closely with your membership director to leverage your marketing technology to drive the results you expect.

✅  Do you have a central point of contact to work with your outside agency? A marketing agency will never know your club as well as you do, and they certainly don’t know your members like you. There are a myriad of decisions that will need to be made weekly, monthly and quarterly to ensure the success of your marketing efforts. It’s important to have a dedicated contact (typically this role falls under Membership Director) who can provide clear direction and vision to align goals and outcomes. They can also act as an internal champion for the development of content and ensure that your club experts are positioned to help the club look its best! 

If you are going to rely on a committee, rather than one or two individuals to facilitate all of the approvals that are going to be required, you may not be the right match for an outside agency. Too often the “decision by committee approach” slows down content production and limits the amount of intended deliverables which causes delays and creates frustration. 

Most clubs are getting into the digital marketing arena for the first time. There are numerous challenges unique to clubs; getting buy-in from the board to invest, utilizing the right tools and process’ that will maximize the marketing investment, having the right amount of patience just to name a few. On the other hand, if you have a culture of trust and empowerment and a board that recognizes the need to invest in marketing, then hiring a team of outside experts with a proven track record might just be the answer to your membership growth challenge

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