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Behave Less Like a Club, More Like a Lifestyle Brand: Mastering Relevance.

When we talk to General Managers around the country, our conversations always seem to come back to what specific steps their club is taking to improve ‘Club Life.’

Sure, it starts as a technology conversation about automation and speeding things up like pace of play and food and beverage transaction time, but honestly, that is going to be table stakes in the next 24 months. GM’s start teetering on the edge of their seat when the light goes off: The successful private clubs of the (very near future) will behave more like a luxury lifestyle brand and less like a traditional golf club. The plans are already being set in motion.

Here is part one of a 3 part post on the things that are firing up the most progressive General Managers we talk to:

Mastering Relevance – it’s about the 4 E’s With a new consumer brand launched every 26 minutes, it’s no wonder the old marketing mix of the four Ps of price, product, placement and promotion is losing relevance to the 4 E’s: Emotion, Experience, Exclusivity and Engagement. People are paying less and less attention to advertising – because they don’t have to; attention spans are limited – choices are not.

When we talk to cutting edge GM’s, the discussion is less about advertising the golf course to gain new player’s and more about connecting with all members to build loyalty and organic growth. These GM’s understand how the 4 E’s impact every decision about service and communication. Let’s break it down:

Emotion – Luxury brands have figured out that to stay relevant, they must make themselves emotionally essential to real life. In the context of a private club membership that could mean equating the membership to spending quality time with the family: “This is where I take my family when we want to have a hassle free Saturday” or equating membership to feeling successful “I feel important and respected when I go to the club.”

Experience – Luxury brands realize that consistent service builds brand equity. The more consistency between the brand promise and the actual customer service experience results in a positive impression of the club as a whole. In the context of a private club membership this could be something as simple as making sure the experience of ordering food by the pool equates to relaxation and a feeling of being pampered (instead of standing in a line, and feeling like it’s more hassle than if you were at home.)

Exclusivity – Amex nails it: Membership has its privileges – as it should! Luxury brands make their customers feel like owning or experiencing a part of their brand is reserved for the lucky few. By its very nature a private club should feel exclusive, but what about the individual member experience – can you make that exclusive too? For example, how about rewarding members with special experiences based on their preferences or their contributions to the club. For example, “Congrats Ethan, you are one of our most active players and we want to reward your loyalty by inviting you and your family to brunch this weekend…”

Engagement – Consider this: 91% of adults keep their smartphones within arm’s reach. 80% of emails are never opened. 95% of text messages are read in the first 3 minutes of receiving them. Which form of communication is more welcome to your member?

Apps dominate the 171 minutes that Americans spend on their mobile device daily. Luxury brands understand this and are embracing the ‘omnichannel in an exclusive world’ mentality. In an article by Minter Dial on Social Media Today he addresses the many ways luxury brands are interacting with their fans: “If being everywhere and exclusive are seemingly conflicting terms, the reality is that the customer’s context and reality is seamlessly interwoven among different devices, platforms and physical locations. If luxury brands are to succeed in creating value through the omnichannel existence, branding must be consistently excellent and, yet, thoroughly adapted to the context in which it is being consumed.”

In the context of a private club, this translates into delivering your message at the right time via the right platform. For example, offering a free round of beers to a member (that is playing with three guests that could be potential members) that stayed on pace as they wrap it up on 18 via a simple push notification. Cue the delight!

Cutting edge GM’s realize that transforming the ”Club Life” experience from ‘boring club’ to lifestyle brand reqLuires a deep understanding of the preferences and behaviors of their members. Traditionally, golf has never had the tools to track this level of personal information – but we do now.

Up next – Part 2 – Inspiring Brand Evangelists – how word of mouth will have the largest impact on membership growth, and Part 3 Pulling off the Impossible with face/name recognition technology.

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