Retaining Members Through the Holidays

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Our members are bombarded by invitations to club events during the holidays in addition to their regular social calendar. We spend months planning these activities, from Brunch with Santa to Hanukkah Dinner and New Year’s Eve. We do our best to exceed the expectations of our members and the guests they bring to our Clubs. But it’s hard to compete with Mrs. Smith’s hosted Christmas cocktail party at her home verses spending over $100 at the Club and then having to drive home.

The key to this obstacle is early communication. Get members committed before the other invitations come in, and encourage them to host their events at the Club.

First, communicate your upcoming events at least 60 days out. A “save the date” card is appropriate if you don’t have all the event details just yet. If members don’t know about an event, they can’t mark their calendars or plan to attend. Don’t just email a save-the-date message. You want your members to come up to the club and spend the holidays – and their money – so spend a little on mailing them a nice invitation. Get their attention, and get them to inquire about these events.

Second, engage your membership. Share photos from last year’s Gingerbread Decorating night in your newsletter, in your weekly email blast and on the website. Show your members that these events are club traditions that should not be missed!

Third, plan an evening for adults. We focus a lot of energy on family events, but an evening with your spouse and a few friends is a great escape from holiday stress. Offer child care during the event to make the decision easier. Have your members bring a gift for Toys for Tots or a white elephant game (or both)! If you haven’t had success with this in the past, you may need to change it up a bit. Allow members to invite a guest couple, or offer a mixed company office party.

Fourth, hire a photographer to capture these events. As we all know, our members want to see pictures of themselves and people they know. Your preferred wedding photographer could gain some great rapport with the membership by shooting more member events. You will see a huge jump in email messages with members’ photos attached, not to mention a huge cross promotion opportunity.

Fifth, communicate the benefits of hosting a private holiday party to your membership. If Mrs. Smith is planning to host a holiday cocktail party for her friends and family, make sure she knows that she could host her event at the club with first class service, great food, holiday ambiance and no hassles.

Lastly, get outside the Club’s walls and coordinate a few hours of volunteer work with both members and staff. This is a great way to interact with members outside the club as well as help your community. Invite your local newspaper editor to cover the day, and you’ve created a community interest story to be seen and shared by your members and prospects.

I hope you have the opportunity to implement some or all of these ideas through the holidays. And I hope you’re inspired to implement a New Year’s resolution into your 2011 retention and marketing strategy. Membership at a private club is a lifestyle choice. Let’s strive to exceed our members’ expectations and make each visit an experience that outshines the last.