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This lesson on Modern Buyer Behavior for Private Clubs from the Crushing Club Marketing Academy is hosted by StoryTeller's Ruth Glaser, former director of sales and marketing at Hazeltine National Golf Club, and our marketing manager, Brittany Laeger. The Crushing Club Marketing Academy has new lessons on the third Tuesday of every month. To watch all of the on-demand videos, Enroll in the Academy.

Beyond Member Referrals_ Modern Buyer Behavior

Current Industry Goals and Challenges

Challenge 1: Attract Younger, Next-Generation Members

If you feel like you're facing an aging membership and looking to millennial members in order for your golf club to remain vibrant, you're not alone. You want to maintain a healthy membership (or better yet, have a waitlist) to ensure your club can grow and improve even as you face annual attrition.

Attrition is a natural process as members will age out of membership, get relocated for work or have other priorities that cause them to resign their membership. And a long list of qualified leads makes this natural process feel much less scary. 

Challenge 2: Grow Membership Levels Without Lowering Initiation Fees

Investing capital dollars in renovations and improvements is often necessary to stay relevant to today's member. Because of this, there is a continued emphasis to add new members to support those projects. 

Challenge 3: Relying on Member Referrals

Member referrals are unpredictable and unreliable. They don't give clubs the predictability or influence that they need to get new members into the club. 

Challenge 4: Difficult to Stand out from Competitors Online

Most websites are done by industry technology providers (ie: Clubessential, ClubTec, Jonas, Foretees, etc.). They tend to look similar, which makes it hard to differentiate yourself from the crowd.

How can you connect with modern members amid all these challenges? Understanding the modern buyer's behavior, and giving them the information they want where they want it is a good start!

Modern Buyer Behavior

While it might seem sensible to assume that the buying process for a new member is a linear one, that is rarely the case. What we've found through working within the club industry (and other industries) is that marketing no longer follows a linear path. In fact, it often behaves more like a pinball machine where people are moving back and forth to different areas of the path. 

Buyers Demand Convenience

From a marketing perspective, this can make it difficult to understand what people want, let alone when they want it. To stand out from the crowd, you need to make sure that all prospects have access to all of the information they need at all different stages of their interaction with you.

Buyers Like to be in Control of Technology

If you think about yourself as a buyer, we like to be "in control" of the process. We want to be in control of our internet search and any results we can get. Whether it is a small purchase or a large one, we are accustomed to going to the internet for answers and to begin our search for a certain product or service. (And we tend to search again when we click on links that feel too much like ads). 

Buyers Expect a Low-Friction Process

We also demand convenience. We don't enjoy having to call a phone number or wait in line. Basically, we expect a low-friction experience. We don't want to be stopped. When we're on a mission, we want to be able to stay on the mission, and we want answers to our questions on our terms, not yours. 

Buyers are Socially Connected

What is the digital perception of your brand? Buyers are more socially connected than they've ever been, which means a lot of the time, we might ask for recommendations from other people. Or check a company's Facebook page or Google reviews. (If that sounds scary, think about this: less than a 4 rating on Amazon can be detrimental to a business.)

Buyers Want to Own Their Own Buying Experience

We don't want our buying experience to look the same as someone else's. The more a buyer's experience with your company can feel tailored and unique to them, the better. 

Once you understand the modern buyer's journey, how to you connect with them? Not surprisingly, using the newer, more customized communication techniques is much more reliable than falling back on "the old reliable."

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Awareness, Lead Generation and Sales Enablement

Not all buyers are ready to make a decision. Yet many clubs have only one page of membership information which may or may not include a course tour and a contact us form. If that's the case, you're missing out on the opportunity to engage with prospects while they are at the beginning stages of the buying process and still making consideration-type choices. 

In most cases,  it's far too big of a leap to go from "my interest is piqued" to "contact us for a membership." This increases friction because they really aren't equipped with much information. At this point, they need answers to their questions, like: "What does membership looks like," "What types of members you have," "What are the costs," "What is the joining process like," or "When should I apply for a membership?"

If the information that's relevant to buyers isn't available online, you're essentially telling them they need to get it from a salesperson, even though they're not sales-ready. Rather than call someone to ask, many buyers will abandon the process (or get the information they want somewhere else online.)

So How Can You Connect With People Through Different Stages of the Sales Funnel?

Strangers:

These people don't know who you are or what they can expect from your business. At this stage, you need to do activities that will attract them to your website. These can be things like making your website SEO-friendly or creating social posts that will attract people to your page.

Visitors:

Once a stranger arrives at your website, they are now considered a visitor. To connect with them at this stage, you need to have engaging content. This could be in the form of an educational piece of content that explains the membership process at your club, or perhaps it's a series of blog posts that talk about who your membership is made up of, what they do regularly, their stories, or a club tour. 

Leads: 

By collecting information (such as an email address) through a form, we can now continue to engage with them at an even deeper level. These could be things like golf tips, how to get started golfing in the spring, or maybe how to enjoy Top Golf in the offseason. (Remember: it's not all about you, it's about the buyer and they are interested in all things golf!)

Customers:

Once someone has become a member, how can you continue to delight them so that they become an advocate for the club, thus creating more membership referrals? (Remember, the same people who found you through social media or search may share that kind of content with their own friends).

It's important to remember that this process will look very different from member to member. Some may go through the process quickly, and others may take a significant amount of time and nurturing. The important thing to remember is that you're connecting with them on their terms and at a speed in which they are comfortable. To do this, you will need to begin compiling a significant amount of assets to engage with people so you're able to create an experience with your business that they want to be a part of.

Getting Started - What's Next?

Brand Awareness

People need to know you exist and know what you have to offer. What is your culture like and what are your values?

We focus on content and inbound marketing because it isn't a disruption to consumers (like an ad). Content is a great way to bring people directly to you by publishing SEO-centric content to increase website traffic and attract more targeted visitors. In other words, people who don't know you will find you just by searching for the things that they want (and you offer)!

Creating unique and differentiated content (like your clubs' specific stories) is important to foster connections and engagement. Once you've done this you can publish your content and post it to social media platforms to expand your reach.

Lead Generation

Once people are aware of you, you need to turn online visitors into leads so that you can begin building trust and start a relationship. 

To meet your membership goals, you need a steady flow of leads. To have a steady flow of leads, you need engaging content to communicate with prospects. These could be things like blogs that share your club culture, member testimonials. membership guides, or stories about your members (and staff). 

By providing this kind of information you are creating additional engagement paths earlier in their decision-making process. If someone is sitting on their couch getting excited about the beginning of golf season and googling, they're finding you and starting to connect with you.

These resources also allow you to create pathways from social media. Instead of just posting, you're now using social media as a way to generate more leads. 

Sales Enablement

A strategy to ensure that you're communicating the right information to the right buyer so that they become members. 

Whoo-hoo! You've got leads! Now, what do you do next? If you're using spreadsheets, file folders, or your inbox to track leads, it's making things inefficient. Not to mention sometimes things just get lost! Sales enablement is the combination of processes and technology that helps you prioritize leads that are sales-ready. This way you can put your time and focus on people who are ready to join and for the leads that aren't ready you can nurture them along by providing them with content that is based on their interests. This is how you'll build the relationship and trust over time and ultimately get them to a point where they're sales-ready. 

Another win? This will reduce your sales cycle length as well as improve your close rates. For those in membership, this can drastically increase your efficiency and productivity and free you up for other activities that you're responsible for. Now, what will you do with all your free time?

The Crushing Club Marketing Academy has new lessons on the third Tuesday of every month. To watch all of the on-demand videos, Enroll in the Academy.

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