The Clubessential Blog

Stay informed with what’s new and what’s trending at Clubessential, from products to partners to industry updates.

POST DATE: Tuesday , July 25, 2017 , 09:33 AM

Ep. 6 - The Inbox: Rick Coffey Discusses Member Prospect Pipelines, Age Demographics, and more...


Our very own Rick Coffey and Private Club Radio's Gabriel Aluisy are back, and are fielding questions submitted by private club professionals on another edition of The Inbox.

During this segment, Rick and Gabriel answered questions submitted by club professionals seeking advice on how clubs with surrounding residential communities can convert their new neighbors into new members, how clubs can build strong member sales pipelines, and how to cater to prospective members who are in their 50s and 60s.

To listen to the podcast, click the link below. The Inbox starts at 2:30 and ends at 21:32.

Podcast Transcription

And now, it's time to open up The Inbox. Join your hosts, Gabriel Aluisy and Rick Coffey, as they tackle the most important questions in the private club industry.

Rick Coffey (RC): Well welcome back, everybody. I'm very excited to announce that this is the sixth episode of The Inbox.  I am your host Rick Coffey, and I'm always joined by the ever-entertaining, ever-knowledgeable, Gabriel Aluisy. How are you, my friend?

Gabriel Aluisy (GA): Hey, hey, Rick! How's it going over there? 

RC: Excellent. Just can't wait for the holiday weekend for be coming near, here, and we have an excellent lineup of questions. All five of our questions were called in, and we actually have some overflow questions for the next - the seventh - episode here in a couple months. I'm excited about this. How've you been?

GA: Fantastic. Yeah, playing a lot of golf now, so I'm getting better. Shot a 78, and now a 77 yesterday, so I'm pumped to get out there again this weekend myself.

RC: I tell you, you launched the Golf Radio Network, and now your golf game is going down. Life is good. 

GA: Got to step it up, man. Got to step it up!

RC: Well, let's get into this, alright? 

GA: Yeah, let's do it.

Question Number One

RC: Alright, the first question comes from a friend of mine, Ben Keal at 

Ben Keal: Gentleman, considering the number of clubs that are surrounded by residential communities, how important is it for clubs to market to real estate? 

GA: Yeah, I think it's huge - a big opportunity there,  and I recommend you have a strong commitment to building relationships with your local realtors, because those are feet on the street for you and for your club. So definitely make those relationships, network with them, maybe host events for the local realtors in your community. I think that is a huge benefit that's just waiting for you.

And then, of course, Ben, you know I like your website a lot. In fact, I just recommended it to someone just yesterday in fact, and I think that websites out there that are promoting real estate and looking for those potential members up in the Northeast and some of those corridors where they're moving down to places like Florida, I think that that can be a huge benefit and a huge lead funnel for clubs. Rick, what's your take?

RC: Yeah, I agree. I think this is extremely important, as well. A lot of my clients in the CRM world have the tie between real estate and memberships, so I think they go hand-in-hand. What I do think needs to happen is the club branding needs to be a little bit more vivid or visual in terms of where that homeowner is going to look. Often times you get a list of club names when you go to a real estate website, but you don't get the feel, the branding, of the club. So if we could have a website, and I believe may be the first to be doing this, where you could actually have the club's website or the club's branding right there on the real estate site, I think that's very important.

And then, another thing I've heard is often times if a club has a prospect, will they have to hand that off to the realtor for the property to be bought, and often times in that transition the membership director at the club actually loses control there and loses pace with where that prospect may be in the home purchasing cycle. So I think it's really important for that realtor and that membership director to have strong communication so that the membership director and the realtor both are aware of where that prospect is in the sales pipeline.

GA: Great answer, there, Rick. We're going to turn now to our second question which comes from Geoff Gilliand from TPC Sugarloaf. Here's Geoff:

Question Number Two

Geoff Gilliand: Hey guys, this is Geoff Gilliand from TPC Sugarloaf. Love the show, and was wondering if you could help me with this question. We love getting referrals from current members or inquiries through our website - but above and beyond that, prospecting is very necessary. When you're looking to build up your pipeline of prospective members, what are your maybe top two avenues to do this? And what way do you contact them that has the most impact and potential response? 

RC: Oh, I love this question. It takes me back to my good ol' days. There's nothing I enjoy more than pipeline building - so Geoff, thanks for the question.

I would start with current members, and their referrals along with the guests who have already been to your club. I see a lot of clubs around the country aren't keeping good tracks of who has been out to the club, whether it's on the golf course, at the tennis courts, the pool, dining - whatever it is, if a club can track those people, obviously it's going to be a hotter lead at that point because they've been to the club, they know somebody at the club there, so they've experienced what the club feel is like. And I see that that grouping of guests and referalls who have been to the club is often not tracked really well, so I think if you hone in on those two areas, Geoff, you're going to have some very strong, warm leads.

Obviously, if we're looking outside of that and we're going to go into the cold section, I do like the new home buyer list that I often got at the clubs I worked at. I tried to be first person to reach out to those people. You know, we've all moved probably one or more times and we know how hard that is to move, so I wrote them a letter or gave them a phone call and said, 'Hey, while you're moving in, while you're settling in, let us take a night off for you guys, come to the club, have a dinner on us' - let them take a look around, and get them away from the boxes and everything. So start with member referrals and guests because those are the warmer leads, and then if we're looking at building a prospect line, let's look at the new home buyer list. 

GA: Great stuff, Rick. So I'm going to recommend a book that you should read. You should pick it up immediately. Go to - of course, that's a shameless plug for my book. There of tons of pipeline building techniques in there. But I will give you two, I won't hold you waiting breathlessly.

I think that what Rick mentioned there - creating an organized membership referral program - is probably your best shot, because those are your brand champions. Those are people who are already engaged, who are already members, who love what you are putting out - at least I hope they do. Find those people in your club, and really turn them into champions for you, with something that's incentivized for them, possibly. 

For outside leads, I'm going to go ahead with social media. Specifically, I'd be looking at LinkedIn and Facebook. LinkedIn is great because with LinkedIn, you connect with them there and you actually have their email address which you can then put into an email funnel. You can do an automated series, for instance -maybe 12 emails over the course of a few months, and give them some great information and keep track of them. I like Facebook because it can be so super-super targeted, and you can find golfers out there who, maybe like Rick mentioned, just moved into the area, or fit a certain age demographic, a certain income. You can get really hyper-targeted, there. So Facebook and LinkedIn would be my social media avenues.

RC: Those are good, those are both good. Yeah, if we take a look at all those things I think your pipeline is going to be pretty robust. 

Question Number Three

RC: Now we go to question number three, and this comes from Anna Lacy McMains at The Club, Inc in Birmingham, Alabama. And, unfortunately, she let me know that this is going to be her final question in the private club industry for this time, as she'll be moving on. Thank you, Anna Lacy, for this call and all you've done for the industry. 

Anna Lacy McMains: Hi guys, this is Anna Lacy McMains from The Club, in Birmingham, Alabama. I was just wondering, what is your take on referral incentives for current members bringing in prospective members? I know clubs have offered either cash or trips or food and beverage credit. But do you see these incentives as good, or bad, or can you offer any unique things that have worked at a club?

GA: So my take is that most private club members have a fair amount of disposable income, or else they probably wouldn't be private club members to begin with. So I don't think that the monetary benefits, like 'Here's a $100 credit at the dining room' or stuff like that really gets people excited. I think that what does get people who have a high net-worth excited are once-in-a-lifetime, extraordinary experiences, things that are exclusive, access that not everybody else gets. And I think if you can create some of those types of incentives; maybe it's trips or visits to a winery in Napa Valley - I've seen really exclusive chef's tables - things like that that your normally wouldn't get even if you had the money, I think that's the stuff that would get people excited. So give them that access, and I think you'll have some great results there. Rick, what's your take? 

RC: I think referral incentives are a microcosm of a larger issue in our industry. Often times, the answer to a lot of our questions is incentives, and I think that's a low-effort answer and you're just trying to throw a wide net out there to to see who you can get. What I prefer when it comes to this is more of recognition of the members who are giving you it. Often times, that's what people really like. They like the spotlight to be on them. And if we're offering sales or trips - I do like the trips, if you're going to go with anything, something like you said, very exclusive, would be my answer. But at a healthy club, the members are going to naturally want to invite their friends and family to be members at the club, so I think that's just the route to go.  Get the club in a better position, and you'll see those referrals come in to place.

But I also like to a recognition, and I go back to when I was at my first club, Hawthorn Woods Country Club in Chicago. It was an Arnold Palmer design. So what we were looking at doing was creating the King's Court. It was a beautiful plaque that was going to be in the hallway where members would be going up and down, and guests would be going up and down that hallway multiple times a day. And what the King's Court was, was any member who had given two referrals that turned into current members, they got their name up on the King's Court. Beautiful plaque that everybody got to see, and that was highlighted, obviously, in club communications as well. When you get something like that, it becomes more of what a private club should be, in the fact of recognizing that these members have helped you out. And again, it's something that everyone's going to see on a day-to-day basis. 

GA: That's fantastic stuff, Rick. I love that answer.

Question Number Four

GA: Alright, here is question number four. It comes from Doug Ryan of Medinah Country Club.

Doug Ryan: Hey guys, it's Doug Ryan from Medinah. I was wondering, how do you still drive membership sales and interest when we are approaching the dog days of summer, and we begin to hear an 'I'll wait until next year' enrollment objection?

RC: Love this one, and love Doug. He's a good friend of mine, and congratulations Doug on getting the position at Medinah. That's an extremely great club to be at.

This is a difficult one for anyone in the seasonal areas in a lot of the country. Whenever I talk to my membership committee and boards about looking at these situations, from a human perspective, if I were looking at a club, why would somebody join the club without an incentive in this time of year? Whether it's the winter time, late in the season, it's just unnatural for someone to make a buying decision in those times. So you do have to give them something. 

What I always tried to look at here and was very successful in was deferred dues - whether you're going to allow them play golf now but only charge them social dues until the beginning of the next full golf season next year. That was always extremely successful. And people also like guest passes as well, you know? Give them the opportunity of 'well, if you're going to come on now here in July or August in the north, let's give you six or ten guest passes so that your friends can come out and it's not going to cost you anything. So that's what I always tried to sit down - often times, pride at the board or membership committee level says 'Oh, I joined, they can join now,' but you just have to take a step back and look from that person's perspective, and a lot of times it just doesn't make sense to pull the trigger now, so you just have to give them some nugget, and often for me it was the deferred dues or guest passes.

GA: I like the guest passes idea, by the way, because then we're bringing more potential prospects into the club. So my take would be that people are motivated by scarcity and I feel so strongly about this that I actually created a video today about it, so if you follow me on social media you probably have seen this in the last couple weeks. I really feel that you've got to set a limit, and you've got to commit to it.

So, what happens is, when you have a brand that's scarce, say, 'okay, there's only ten memberships left in this particular category, get it before it goes.' And when that type of thing happens, it doesn't matter if its the summer time, winter time, whatever, they're going to want to snap those up. You can do scarcity with either membership categories, or you can do it by 'hey, the prices are going up in September, and this is your chance to lock in these rates right now, otherwise it's going up.' So you've got to get people to commit to realize that they've got to act now, or they're going to miss out.

Awesome, so hopefully that helps, and our next question will tie into that as well.

Question Number Five

GA: This next question comes from Erica Smith, at the Atlanta Athletic Club. 

Erica Smith: Hello, this is Erica Smith with the Atlanta Athletic Club.  Do you have any suggestions for how to market to an older demographic?  And what would you do to entice them to join in their 50s, 60s or beyond? Many clubs have an incentive to join under the age of 40, but nothing offered for those over 40. 

RC: Yeah, Erica's completely correct here. I've seen very little across the country, if anything. Nothing really comes to mind as far as incentives that I've seen for the older demographic out there. With you being the marketing person, I may let you answer this question as far as answering what she just asked.

What I have seen and what I want everybody to concentrate on with this kind of question is, when you're looking at these kinds of things, always have the thought in mind 'how many of my current members - full, dues-paying members - would take advantage of this if it went in place?' And that's often times called cannibalization here in the industry - did we not think about how enticing this would be to some people who don't use a club a lot, and all of a sudden you put something in place for these older members, and you see 10-20% of your full members go to this unexpectedly. So I want to make sure if we do go through the cycle of looking at incentives for this group make sure that everything is looked at from the area of are my current members, my full, dues-paying members, going to go towards this group because that could be disastrous if you don't think about this.

I will say before giving it over to you, that these kinds of members have usually been at clubs before, so they would be easier members to on board to your club, because they've probably been members of clubs before - they know how things work. So it is an enticing group for that aspect. So I'm going to stop there and give it over to you for possibly the true incentive area.

GA: Alright, Erica. Well, the first thing that I want you to do is immediately erase the word incentivization from your vocabulary when it comes to the marketing message of the club. Rick alluded to this earlier, and he was right on.

So what you want to do instead is you want to build value and showcase that value. So how do you do that? You create facilities and activities that appeal to that demographic and then you let everybody know about it. So how does that happen in practice? Some things that work at other clubs that we've seen around the country - they want things like pickle ball, the old guys like to play cards and get their poker in, the old ladies like to do mahjong. They like the exclusive wine dinners, things like that. Come up with what those activities are, see what's working across the country, and start to implement those things, build out those amenities in your own club.

And then if you want to talk about how do you actually go about reaching them? Well, if you want to get back to social media, I think Facebook, again, is the one that that age group is using. I'll give you an example. I showed my dad how to use Facebook just last Father's Day, and now he's literally a Facebook addict to the point where if I post something, or my cousins post something, people in our family or his close friends, he's responding within a minute of it going up. So he must be living on this thing. I say it's like crack for old people right now. So if you want to get into where to market to them, right now I think Facebook is a great place.

Want to be on the next edition of The Inbox? Visit and leave us a voicemail. The best questions will get answered on the show.


Check out the other episodes of The Inbox


the-inbox-episode-1-blog-preview-1.gif the-inbox-episode-1-blog-preview.gif the-inbox-episode-3-blog-preview.gif the-inbox-episode-4-preview-screen.gif the-inbox-episode-5-preview-screen.png