Easy, Low-Tech Member Retention Program that Works

I can already hear you saying it…….

“You want me to keep track of the interactions I have with every member?! I just had one of my golf staff call out sick, my cart person never showed up this morning and i’ve got 144 on the tee sheet. Right now all I am worried about is getting these players to the tee and around the course in less than 6 hours without anyone getting hurt.”

Or, maybe that’s just what I was thinking.

When I was asked to come up with a member retention initiative for the fall and winter season, my first thought was, ‘How can I make this work without having to do more work I don’t have time for.’ Now, that’s not to say I didn’t believe it was important. I just knew that if I was able to design the program where I could actually execute it in a way that mattered, I had a chance of making it work.

The key to the success of this program was my manager allowing me to create it based on what I thought would have the biggest impact. He would have to agree with the idea, but I got to come up with it. And that is probably why it worked. It has to make sense to him, but first it had to make sense to me, since I would be running it.

Many mangers make the mistake of doing the opposite. They come up with an idea for retention because the math looks good on the financials, tell the staff what they are supposed to do, and give them a report to fill out to prove they are doing it. This changes the focus of many pros to ‘how to I get this report done?’ Rather than ‘how do I achieve the goal.’

I personally have been in both situations. I have seen this retention program reduce winter member resigns by 25% in one year to record lows. And I have seen that same number yo-yo back up above record highs when minimal support and staffing levels by ownership and management are not maintained.

Who’s most at risk of leaving?

The idea for this program was inspired by a story you may have heard.

The story goes, that at a private club, the golf staff got together and listed the 20 members they thought were most at risk of leaving the club that coming Winter. The Head Professional arranged to play at least 9 holes with each of them before the end of the season. Can you guess how many of those members were still at the club at the end of the winter? All of them.

Now, I have also heard similar case studies that have this number at more like 25% resigning, but even with this more conservative math, the results are still pretty impressive.

Or are they?

Are “at risk” members really that at risk of leaving? Have you ever tried to kick an “at risk” member out of your club? They hang on for dear life like you hold onto that To-Go burger you grabbed from the kitchen 6 hours ago that’s still sitting on your desk. – “Yes, you can use my computer to setup the tournament. BUT DON’T TOUCH MY BURGER!”

And if you know someone well enough to think they are likely to leave the club, haven’t you probably done enough to help keep them already without further pandering to their every whim and demand? What about the other 480 members of your club? Just because they go about their business, paying dues, and not making a fuss, are they not entitled to some attention? I certainly thought it was time to give them some attention. They are 95% of your dues paying members after all.

The Process

Our focus became establishing a connection with members where there wasn’t already one. We needed a way to determine who we needed to focus on, rather than just trying to connect with members we already knew well. We needed a benchmark to determine who we hadn’t made a connection, a plan for connecting and with and a system tracking our progress and results.

To start, I went and printed out our entire member roster. I made a column down each page for me and each of may Assistant Professionals. It’s easiest if you can import the members into a spreadsheet to do this. Each of us took a run through the list. If we read a members name and immediately could picture them, then we put a check mark next to their name. (See example. I wish I could find my originals.)

Member Tracker Example

For any member that we all knew, we removed their name from the list (in the example, Rick, Nancy and Sam would be removed). We then printed out the remaining names. So, what we had left was a list of members at least one of us didn’t know well enough to check off. Out of about 500 golf members, I think I had 160 names still left under my name. Overall, there were about 230 members at least one of us didn’t know super well.

Over the next two months, that filtered list lived at the golf shop counter. When each of us would arrive, we would look at the tee sheet and see if there were any members on that list. We would then add a note to notify that staff member when the member arrived.

The goal of the program was to have one personal interaction with every member on that list when they came out. Sometimes the interaction was short because you remembered the member and some things about them the moment you saw them. In that case a handshake and a simple, “Hello, great to see you out playing.” or “Did you get your daughter moved into college OK?” would suffice. Other times you may need to drive out on the course to introduce yourself to a new member you haven’t met yet.

The level of interaction depends on the circumstance of that relationship. It’s not about what was said so much as just connecting. Hopefully, just the gesture of taking the time is enough for them to feel a connection to you and the club. If not, and you don’t remember them a week later, don’t worry. We have a list for that.

We also made if fun by coming up with a leaderboard. We tracked our totals on the whiteboard in the office. The goal was to get the list as small as we could by season end. We tracked the results by the percentage of members you were able to check off your list since staff started with different numbers. I didn’t lose, but I still ended up buying the beers for the team to celebrate.

The Results

In those last two months of the season we reduced that list in half from over 200 members to just over 100 members and had missed only one member that was on our list who visited during that time.

It was a short program but that winter our resignations went from 121 the year before to 87 that year. At a club that sells a lot of new membership each year and has a lot of people resign that 34 members was a retention record in the recorded history we had access to. At an average annual dues only value of $5,000 per member that means we started the next year $170k ahead of forecast.

Of course we didn’t get to see everyone in person at the club. Like I said, there were still 100 members or so we didn’t see in those last 2 months of the year. So, our General Manager made sure to organize a handwritten note campaign to go along with our efforts. Each manager took part of the membership to write a handwritten thank you note to members thanking them for being a member.

Learnings and Opportunities

While we did this effort to directly impact retention in the coming winter months. I think that constantly revisiting this process can have a great impact on membership satisfaction and retention year round.

It is always one of my first recommendations to professionals, of all levels taking a job at a new facility. Print out a member roster, or handicap list if you are public, and see how many members you can get to know over your time there. And if you have access to it, compare how those members do in retention and revenue generation compared to others. It could be a great thing to include in your resume if you can show a connection between the two.

Since I wanted to keep this solution “low-tech”, I left out the opportunity to scale this interaction online. By using online platforms and social media, I could have connected with many more of the members who didn’t make it out to the club in the those last couple months and through the winter.

Finding My Focus

48 hours ago I was pretty sure I was not going to post my most recent podcast episode titled, “Why Golf Professionals Hate Social Media”. After some encouragement I decided I would post it. That ended up being a good decision.

For years, I have been creating content with no real agenda other than to educate myself on new media landscape and then report back to whatever portion of the golf professional community that would listen.

It wasn’t until recently that this journey took on a semi-crystalized, let’s call it sparkly goo, form of an idea.

It happened when I made the connection between being a golf instructor and trying to teach someone how to use new media for business or personal growth. I realized that to make an impact, you have to know what is important to each given golf professional you work with. You have to know the type of facility they work at, the type of pro they are, the ambitions they have personally and professional, and general strengths and talents that they possess.

With this new perspective, I hope to teach. I hope that given my experiences as a PGA Director of Golf, Instructor, Merchandiser and many other roles I have had over my nearly 30 golf professional journey, I am able to communicate the opportunities for golf professionals to use new tools at their disposal without having to learn too many new things and keep focusing being a golf professional.

Just like the game of golf, new media and technology should make our lives easier. So whether you are trying to get that first assistants job out of school, or tying to land that GM spot at a top 100 facility, this is for you.

To stay up to date on the latest, be sure to drop your email into this website for exclusive content, subscribe to my youtube channel and follow me on IG and Snap @PGAjay.

My Initial 2nd Generation Boosted Board Review

First impression is that it was well worth the wait for the 2nd Generation Boosted Board (6 month delays due to battery safety issues….good call Boosted Boards) and even more fun than expected. 

Even as someone who grew up bombing the San Francisco Bay Area’s Piedmont Hills as a youth, there is an adjustment to this board for sure.  Being under power is a very different experience and the Boostedboard Dual+ (most powerful available) packs some serious torque and stopping power. But after a few weeks and only one “minor” fall, I am much more confident. But even with the new sensation of being under power I was immediately surprised at just how stable the board is at its top speed of 22MPH. 

That’s about it for now as I will probably do a full review of the 2nd Generation Boosted Board in full later but wanted to share my initial thoughts. 

Starting to use Vimeo.com to share my movies.

I have decided to start posting my  videos on Vimeo.com in addition to YouTube. With the recent news of Vayner Media starting a relationship with Vimeo.com, it seemed like a good idea to get in now.

Click to WATCH VLOG002 on Vimeo 

I have heard, that it is a much more polished (artsy for lack of a better term) level of content creation and that seems true from my initial impression. I think it will be a good resource to see what people are creating and look forward to using it.  

The only problem so far is the limit to how much you can upload each week. You can upgrade and pay each month to upload more, and I may do that, but not until I am posting enough to use the upgraded data. And this could be part of the reason the content is so good as well so maybe not a bad thing. 

Have a great new year and thanks to everyone for an incredible 2016.  Looking forward to some incredible things to come in 2017!!!!

The Next Chapter

This last Saturday was an emotional last day as a PGA Director of Golf.   While I am excited about the next chapter in my life, I cherish the memories and relationships I have been fortunate to gain over the years.

Thanks to everyone who helped me get to where I am today and special thanks to my wife Jennifer, my family and my friends for their support. I am grateful for all the friendships I have gained over the years and appreciate all the kind words you all have shared with me over the last couple weeks. Special thanks to Michael Vanderveer and Dan Johnson for being the two best assistant pros in the biz and great friends.

I look forward to staying active in the PGA and continuing to focus on http://www.PGAjay.com. I appreciated everyone staying in touch and look forward to continuing such great friendships.

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