I did a little experiment recently. I wanted to know what people are Googling when looking into private club membership. So, I chose a dozen random private clubs across the country and reviewed their top keywords. Keywords are the words people enter into Google to find websites and content.
Not surprisingly, the top ten keywords for each club were their club names or a variation of their names. These are known as branded keywords. But after branded keywords, these keywords appeared in the top 20 searches for every club:
- Club Name + Membership Fees
- Club Name + Membership Cost
I then went to the clubs’ websites and guess what? None of the clubs made it easy for me to see what the cost of membership is. Instead, some offered a form to contact them if I was interested in membership.
But how do I know if I’m interested in membership if I don't know the cost? I might assume it's more expensive than it really is, or that it's not worth the effort to reach out to ask. Worst of all in the "I want it now" world of the internet, I might never come back — becoming a lost prospect that you never even had a chance to meet.
You’ve heard the standard reasons for not sharing membership fee information: we’re exclusive; we can’t because we’re a 501(c)(7); we only accept member referrals. Let me explain how each of these common arguments is unnecessarily making your job more difficult.
1. Our Club is Exclusive
It may be, but let’s talk about today’s buyer and luxury brands. Does concealing pricing really add to exclusivity?
I just found a Hermes handbag ($8,450), a Cartier watch ($23,500), a Tesla ($86,200) and a 9,688-square-foot lake home (nearly $3 million) online. My $3 million shopping spree took about one minute. Like most buyers today, I went online to check out my options and do a little research. These luxe brands made it easy for me to do so because, over the last decade, luxury shoppers have come to expect the ability to price shop online.
View this post on Instagram
A post shared by Cartier Official (@cartier) on
In working with clubs, we find that the very first thing most membership directors send in response to a membership inquiry is the cost to join! But what about all those potential members who aren’t willing to reach out yet and ask? You’ll never know those people who checked out your site but left when they didn’t find what they were looking for.
There’s a better way to capture this interest and begin a conversation with more prospective members earlier in the process. Clubs need to modernize their marketing to be successful with today’s buyers.
Discover how well your club is attracting prospective members online and changes you can make to improve results with this Next-Gen Membership Consultation.
2. Our Club is a 501(c)(7)
Most club people we talk to speak of 501(c)(7) status in hushed tones. They’re not necessarily sure what it means, but they’re pretty sure it prevents them from typical marketing activities like providing more than cursory information on their websites.
It is a bit complicated, but it’s very important to note that 501(c)(7) status does not prevent clubs from providing information about becoming a member. Mitchell Stump, CPA of the Club Tax Network, wrote about marketing that clubs can do for the CMAA.
By treating their websites as an online brochure instead of an interactive opportunity to engage prospects, clubs are missing out on the vast majority of prospective members who are doing their research online before contacting the club. How much extra work are you doing to find members instead of engaging with the prospects who are already visiting your website?
3. We Only Accept Member Referrals
Lucky you! If you can reach your goals solely from membership referrals, you don’t need to be reading this blog.
But since you’re here, don’t you find that even prospects who are referred by members want to know the downstroke? Given the referral scenario, it can be even more awkward for those prospects to ask.
When I was responsible for club membership sales, I always provided financial information up front without making the prospect ask me directly. Doing so helped people self-qualify whether membership was financially feasible. It allowed us to delve into the more fun and enriching aspects of membership rather than getting bogged down on pricing details.
People join a club because of the way membership makes them feel. I quickly moved beyond the mundane financial aspects of membership and into the emotional appeal. By taking away any potential financial barriers, I was able to focus my efforts on more qualified prospects and sell more effectively.
Still Not Convinced?
That’s okay, I’m not suggesting you boldly display your initiation fees on your website. But you should look for ways to tactfully share the information without forcing the prospect to contact you. Make it easy for prospective buyers to find what they need to make an informed decision, and remove unnecessary friction from the process of becoming a member.
Remember, putting pricing on your website doesn't necessarily mean you need to clearly spell out the exact dollar amount for each membership level, offering ranges and price comparisons can be just as effective.