Soho House: Digital Practices That Every Club Should Learn From

High-end private clubs have a habit of playing it safe, but Soho House & Co has embraced digital marketing with the enthusiasm of a startup — helped along by forward thinking leadership from investors like Ron Burkle and Founder Nick Jones. Its digital footprint includes over 60 sites, incorporating a weekly club newsletter through its members only app and expertly curated content from staff from across the brand’s 18+ properties.

The driving force behind its digital strategy is Kris Shaw, Digital Director at Soho House & Co. Shaw had been the in-house social media manager for brands like the BBC and MTV before moving to Soho House in 2009, right in the middle of the worst of the economic recession. Shaw and his colleagues quickly moved to completely rebuild the brand’s digital presence. “When I joined Soho House in 2009 it was a clean slate, SohoHouse.com was a just a landing page with 6 logos and the business had just received significant investment, it was a great time to start to move the brand forward digitally.”

We were able to chat with the driving force behind it's digital strategy, Kris Shaw, Digital Director at Soho House for a quick Q&A.

PCM: Would you talk a bit about your content strategy?

Our content strategy has always been to super-serve our members. Once the customer is within our member’s portal they get access to a wealth of events, videos, podcasts and great articles. Much like our physical clubs everything interesting happens behind closed doors.

PCM: How has SohoHouse.com performed for you?

SohoHouse.com is the driving force of the business digitally- but there is still a long way we could  go to really maximise the return on the amount of traffic we get to the site.

Our Digital strategy has followed the many openings of Soho House & Co over the years, which means that we have a lot of our traffic siloed into different brand websites. We are looking at ways to improve the user journeys across our 60 different sites and apps to make it a much simpler experience for our customers.

PCM: When you began rethinking Soho Houses digital strategy in 2009 your digital plans probably seemed quite ambitious. How did you get buy-in across the company?

It was a collaborative effort. There was significant buy in from our senior team who all appreciated our need to launch a new members experience online. We had to take the whole company on the journey, which involved a lot of presentations explaining the vision of what we wanted to do and the change it would mean to our customers and internal processes.

PCM: What have you learned about digital in past 5 years since taking over as Digital Director?

The most significant challenge that I’ve seen for the hospitality industry over the last few years is around integrating into the multitude of third party software services that we use.  It's very difficult to present this as one unified experience to the customer.

There are very few brands that can exist without some kind of internal development team these days. Five years ago, mid size brands could still exist with their entire digital portfolio managed by an external agency, now that seems increasingly inefficient.

Contact Private Club Marketing to assist your club with its digital footprint and to increase online engagement with our creative services team. From email newsletters, to curated content and social media growth, our team of proven professional can assist your club with professional online marketing services. To learn more and to discuss your club's needs, contact us at [email protected] or call us at (949) 743-5793.

Private Club Marketing has the most engagement and followers of any club marketing and branding company. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Should Private Clubs Outsource Marketing or Go In-House?

How dynamic is your current membership/marketing team? Many private clubs are learning that outsourcing marketing responsibilities can be a good idea.

To decide whether you should outsource your entire marketing strategy, part of your efforts, or none at all, you need to really understand your club and its capabilities.

Continue reading

High-end clubs ‘afraid’ of digital and social

High-end clubs are “afraid” of digital and social marketing because opening up information about their club to a much wider audience flies in the face of the exclusive nature of private clubs, according to Zack Bates, CEO at Private Club Marketing.

Marketing is still a “nascent” discipline in the affluent private club industry, which explains why many clubs are “afraid” of the “massive beast” of digital marketing.

“I believe many clubs and their boards are afraid of adopting new media too quickly. That’s because it means accessibility of information that you previously reserved for a select few people. It was very valuable for club to have those inside stories but now it is now available for everyone that wants to look at it.

“Social media means the democratisation of information. Do you really want to do that if you’re at the top of the private club ranks? That’s a question that fundamentally a lot of clubs may not have answered for themselves.”

The luxury market, beyond private country clubs, for products such as high end watches, the issue of adopting digital and social media is even more challenging, and warns marketers in these categories against using digital marketing for the sake of it.

“I wouldn’t immediately say ‘go digital, go social’. I’d be very careful to think through why you’re doing it and what purpose it serves before you go and do it,” he says.

Internal Club Branding

We spend weeks, sometimes months, developing our “marketing strategies.” Examining and monitoring our members and incoming prospects. Who are the new members we’ve brought in over the last 12 months and where are they coming from? How are they enjoying the club? What is their usage? Are they bringing in the guests that could potentially become new members themselves? These internal reports are invaluable to the growth of our prospect list and retention of our membership.

However, there is an area that is almost always forgotten in the planning phase of our new year strategy or the restructuring of the previous year’s concept: training staff to understand and reflect our message and brand.

The truth is, branding starts from the inside out. Do your employees believe in your product and the services that you offer? Are they standing 100% behind you in the mission of your brand? Are they living your brand? It is important that your employees are informed and involved in the new initiatives and strategies that take place within your club.

I recently attended a presentation for sales and marketing professionals where the participants were asked to raise their hands if they thought their business would not be around in the next 15 years. Nearly half the room raised their hands! Fifty percent of those business’ brand managers didn’t believe their own message. Now you can imagine that this can only trickle down through the staff culture. If your staff is unable or unwilling to support your marketing efforts, it can have detrimental results. How do you begin an internal branding campaign within your company?

  • Step 1: Synchronize Your Brand Personality, Values and Corporate Culture
    Your marketing team should be working closely with your Human Resources team to ensure that the common values of your company internally and externally are in sync. At your upcoming staff meetings, play quiz games about the history of your club, upcoming events and who the new members are.
  • Step 2: Get Your Employees Behind Your Brand
    Align your criteria for recruiting and rewarding employees with the criteria of the brand value. Look for the right skills and aptitudes that will represent your brand promise effectively. Sometimes the best incentives are recognition. When I was a member relations director at ClubCorp we had a recognition program called “STAR Card.” The Members were encouraged to recognize the staff with these cards when they went above and beyond. Rewards were given to those employees based on a point system for each card they received.
  • Step 3: Reinforce and Repeatedly Explain Brand Values and Behaviors
    Use your internal communication to reinforce and explain the values and behaviors that reflect your brand promise. Your employee newsletter should be similar to your member newsletter, recognize those who are excelling, new hires, new members, promote upcoming events and then quiz random employees about the content in their newsletters. Continuously do this until it becomes second nature.

If you thought the process of involving your staff was not important, take into account that your employees meet, greet, and assist your members in many different ways. They are the face of your brand. Engage your staff right from the start and encourage individual input. Use your staff as a focus group – after all who knows your clientele better than they do? By doing this, you will not only get support from your staff but you will be given insight and ideas that you otherwise may not have considered.

Private Club Social Media Policy

Just thinking about writing a social media policy makes us cringe. It's one of those tasks that membership and club managers know should be a priority but will find any excuse to avoid. And yet for all the procrastinating, it's not that difficult a task. To help, here are a few things to consider when writing your policy.

Why do you need a social media policy?

Given the explosive popularity of social networking, it's likely your employees are already actively engaging. Considering the public nature of social media and the rapid-fire speed at which information can spread, without proper guidelines in place your Club is exposed to risks. These risks range from employees “social NOTworking” on company time to an employee posting offensive content that causes serious damage to your Club's reputation.

By providing clear guidelines on what's appropriate and what's not appropriate, a social media policy will help mitigate risks and contain fallout in the event of a breach of conduct or a full-on crisis.

Equally important, a social media policy will help mobilize some of your greatest advocates: your employees and members. Everyone at your club has a role in shaping your reputation, and the more voices sharing relevant content about your golf course, tennis facilities, dining room, spa, fitness center, events, etc. the greater your reach. The policy should encourage staff to support your social media activities rather than discourage them for fear of breaking rules.

Request Our Sample Social Media Policy

 

Related Articles:

Social Media Policies…
Why Employers Must Consider Implementing Them
by Andrew W. Singer, Esq. and Jason B. Klimpl, Esq.