- Case Study -
Bringing Members Home
How Greystone’s community has flourished through golf club marketing strategies.
Since its founding in 1991, Greystone Golf & Country Club (Greystone), located in Birmingham, Alabama, has offered premium membership experiences defined by its relaxing, peaceful atmosphere and inviting bright southern hospitality. Within their membership community, individuals and families forge lifelong friendships—not to mention enjoy some of the most spectacular golf in the country.
WORKING TOGETHER TO GROW MEMBERSHIP
Greystone knew they could become even more well-positioned in their market by investing in digital marketing efforts to augment their existing marketing strategies. In November 2019, after careful consideration of available digital marketing agencies, Greystone selected StoryTeller Media + Communications because of our specialization in working with other renowned private club clients such as Hazeltine National Golf Club. Greystone was an ideal fit for StoryTeller not only because they have premium service offerings and memberships to promote, but also because of the strong culture of trust and empowerment among the leadership team—which is critical for collaboration and growth.
We were excited to partner with Greystone to apply data-driven digital marketing and content building to help attract new members and position the club for long-term success. Below, we will review the key strategies that the Greystone and StoryTeller teams developed that led to rapid growth in membership in a relatively short time span between January 2020 to December 2021.
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LAYING A STRONG FOUNDATION PREPARED FOR GROWTH
At the beginning of 2020, Greystone’s reputation was in full stride, its membership community remained close-knit, and the club had invested in premium amenities and service offerings to differentiate itself from other clubs in their region. Visionary General Manager and CEO, Dave Porter, knew it was the perfect time to invest in outside expertise to elevate their marketing. With seven different memberships to choose from, members could select the right one for themselves and their families. Additionally, with its expansive and varied surroundings and beauty of its club event spaces, Greystone was seeing ever-increasing success as a destination for weddings, corporate events, and many other occasions.
A WEBSITE SHOULD BE A 24/7 SALES & MARKETING RESOURCE
The cornerstone of a strong, effective digital presence starts with a website optimized for sales and marketing, where communications can be automated, leads organized, and prospects nurtured with a personalized touch. Greystone recognized the importance of using their website to do more than connect with their existing members but to leverage the "front-facing or prospect facing" side of their website to make it easy for prospective members to get to know them. Although the member engagement portal is crucial for helping members book tee times and dinner reservations, generally speaking, websites designed by the industry technology platforms are more internally focused than built with sales and marketing priorities.
In order to leverage the marketing power of their prospect-facing website, Greystone wanted a repeatable process for attracting, converting, and measuring website leads. Implementing the HubSpot marketing platform and digital marketing strategies not only offered Greystone a centralized engine for driving more traffic, but it also built a foundation for scaling their lead outreach and even converting unengaged leads into members through re-engagement campaigns (more on that below). Most importantly, HubSpot provided the data and analytics to make more strategic marketing decisions, and measure the ROI of their marketing investment.
THE RIGHT “FIRST TOUCH” CONTENT BENEFITS EVERYONE
Once visitors arrived to Greystone’s website, it was important to provide a warm welcome, a “first-touch” piece of content to answer those visitors' most pressing questions right off the bat. Through many years of providing exceptional customer and member care, Greystone had many valuable insights into what prospective members want to know when they are learning about types of membership. We worked with the Greystone team to understand which questions are asked most frequently when deciding on a club membership and developed a robust educational membership guide for visitors to download to learn more about the Greystone community and club amenities.
A free, friendly, overview guide like this leaves a great impression for visitors because it anticipates their needs and offers helpful information without needing to be asked—thus showcasing transparency, generosity, and attention to detail. In today’s digital landscape, many website visitors prefer being able to gather initial information on their own before jumping on a call with a club representative or even starting an email exchange.
To access the guide, visitors filled out a simple form, which automatically turned them into new contacts, placing them directly into the CRM with no manual involvement. Using the HubSpot CRM, Greystone could now follow their website activity and gauge their interests as they learned more about the club, explored the website, and interacted with targeted emails and social promotions. Greystone’s sales team could use these behavioral insights to appropriately follow up with leads at the right time.
Since it launched in 2020, the Membership Guide has generated over 200 “first-touch” contacts, and the numbers have continued to climb in 2022.
A BLOG STRENGTHENS SEO AND SPEAKS TO CULTURE
One of Greystone’s greatest assets is its established reputation and active, passionate membership, so launching a dedicated blog to share these member stories made sense for multiple reasons. First, blogging is a great way to boost the search performance of a website. Search engines comb web results and reward websites that provide valuable information to searchers. (This is all part of “search engine optimization” or SEO.) In other words, a blog published on a regular basis helps to vastly increase a website’s traffic performance because each blog and piece of content published helps to rank higher on Google searches.
Additionally, blogging provided an excellent platform for Greystone to increase visibility and get their unique member and customer stories out into the world. Greystone started using the blog to help populate their monthly newsletter and became the perfect content to share on social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn. This visibility not only increases camaraderie within existing members, but it also lets new potential members know what being a part of the Greystone community is like.
Blog posts for Greystone resonate with various audiences on a rotating basis (based on developed target “personas”). Greystone has four primary target audiences: Avid and passionate golfers; families looking for community and a “home away from home”; brides and couples seeking a beautiful, premium wedding venue; and corporate professional and business audience. By writing unique content for these audiences, Greystone can highlight the various advantages of their membership packages with target buyers in mind.
Since launching the blog at the end of 2019, Greystone has seen steady growth in organic traffic, especially leading into their prime golf and wedding season (spring and throughout summer), when many individuals search for available options online.
Building organic search traffic through consistent blogging takes time, but should be thought of as an investment and a way to augment and amplify existing marketing efforts, such as targeted web content and robust email marketing campaigns, as you’ll read in the next section.
EMAIL MARKETING ENGAGES, AND RE-ENGAGES, PROSPECTIVE MEMBERS
Greystone’s insights into their leads’ behavior and their ideal prospective members, together with the knowledge of the HubSpot CRM, allowed them to take their email marketing to the next level, and reach out to prospective leads at the right time, with the right information based on their interests.
For example, in August of 2021, Greystone was preparing to raise their membership fees, which opened the opportunity to reengage with leads who had shown interest in joining the club and downloaded the membership guide but had not yet acted and purchased a membership experience.
Greystone and StoryTeller sent out a series of re-engagement emails to these leads building on the information they had read in the guide, explaining the various membership types, highlighting the amenities that make the club so popular with families and corporate members, and finally—a “last chance” email encouraging individuals to act now and secure a membership before the fees increased.
HubSpot allowed Greystone to see, in real-time, how many leads opened the emails, where they clicked to learn more and allowed the sales team to discern which leads they should follow up with.
This re-engagement email campaign, together with the efforts of the Greystone sales and marketing team, assisted with closing 33 new memberships by the end of 2021.
A PROCESS FOR WELCOMING AND ONBOARDING NEW MEMBERS
Club membership teams frequently face two critical, competing priorities. First, to recruit new members to join the community, and then secondly, to onboard the new members once they have joined and help them make the most of their memberships as soon as possible. Onboarding new members—especially when there can be dozens within the same month—can take a considerable amount of time. Greystone was no different, and their team wanted to streamline the process for welcoming new members so that new members would experience a "high touch" first impression while allowing the Greystone membership team to be able to focus time and energy on membership recruitment.
There needed to be a way to communicate with new members in a way that would answer questions, maintain enthusiasm, and ensure proper service in line with Greystone’s commitment to excellence. New members need to know about dining options, club etiquette, amenity options, guest passes, and the nuances of their individual membership packages. Of course, delivering an enjoyable, engaging member onboarding process is paramount—not only to support the overall member experience, but also because it can also run full circle and support referrals. Once a member feels comfortable, acclimated, and excited about their new club and its service, they are often inclined to invite their friends to join.
Greystone’s Marketing and Membership Director Ashley Devine, suggested we use the same process that had been set up for engaging with prospective members to onboard new members. We worked with Ashley to develop a series of 6-8 emails, segmented by membership category, to familiarize new members with all aspects of the club—from billing and etiquette, to meeting key department personnel, and even how to follow Greystone social media and encourage them to promote across their own social accounts. Once a prospect becomes a new member, the series of emails are triggered automatically.
The new member onboarding workflow has also been an ideal way to create a process around soliciting member referrals.
A DATA-DRIVEN SALES PROCESS MEANS MARKETING DOESN’T NEED TO BE A MYSTERY
Having a repeatable process to align sales and marketing priorities was extremely important to Dave Porter when making the decision to invest in the HubSpot platform. Dave wanted a way to safeguard his team's sales efforts so that regardless of team turnover, the integrity of the data and sales process would be maintained.
HubSpot offers a user-friendly interface, and deep insights into every facet of Greystone’s sales and marketing process. Once a promising qualified lead has been identified, the HubSpot deal pipeline displays where active prospects are in the sales process, allowing Greystone to easily view how many opportunities are in the pipeline at all times. Deals can also be forecasted into 30, 60, and 90-day timelines. As the Greystone team has utilized and gained mastery of the platform, they have appreciated the ability to project estimates to the board the number of new members, prospects, and longer-term opportunities.
In addition to fully utilizing the marketing platform of HubSpot, Greystone also purchased the expanded sales platform of the software. This enabled them to segment the CRM by departments keeping membership and event opportunities uniquely separate— including lead management and deal reporting.
MEMBERSHIP NUMBERS SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES
With the combined efforts mentioned above, 2021 resulted in one of the strongest membership years in the history of Greystone Golf and Country Club, with 223 new members onboarded, and a pipeline full enough to suggest that for the first time in club history, there will soon be a waiting list to join the club.
GROWING MEMBERSHIP AND MARKETING THAT WORKS
Our StoryTeller team wants to thank Dave Porter, an unbelievable visionary who recognized the need to support his team; Ashley Devine, who has been a terrific partner, instrumental to our ability to collaborate and leverage Greystone’s inspiring member stories; and the membership team who has embraced HubSpot and works hard to maximize the sales process that has been established. We’re proud and honored to partner with Greystone and look forward to continuing the growth and looking toward the future.