It was a packed house at the Country Club Tuesday night as AJ Redetzke, vice president of sales and marketing for Creative Golf Marketing, shared the details of a membership program his company has crafted for the club. (Click photo for larger image.)
[Story published 9:30 p.m. March 7] An overflow crowd – probably more than 500 people – turned out at the Country Club Tuesday night, drawn by a presentation on how to grow club membership (and maybe drawn by the free drinks and hors d’oeuvres). The membership program, which runs to July 31, offers incentives to existing members and the new members they recruit.
In a session introduced by club president Mike Martel, AJ Redetzke, vice president of sales and marketing for Creative Golf Marketing, spoke about a program his company had crafted for the club, which is on a difficult road due to a declining, aging membership. After receiving 500 RSVPs for the event, 450 chairs were set up, club officials said, and while there were a few empty seats, there were many people standing along the back wall of the Murieta Room and well back into the Terrace Lounge.
Creative Golf Marketing is an industry leader, honored regularly for its golf marketing acumen. Of the 3,400 member-owned private clubs in the country, Redetzke said, Creative Management has worked with more than 1,400, ranging from the highest caliber to modest operations.
“Your situation is common,” he told the audience. “We’re seeing this at private clubs all over the country, where attrition is outpacing applications.”
Last year, he said, Creative Golf helped sell more than $100 million in memberships, with dues and initiation fees, for its clients. “All $100 million of those memberships were through membership referrals. It’s the way that the best clubs in the country grow today,” he said.
“Our Club, Our Future” is the name of the program fashioned for the Country Club. It says members should invite friends and neighbors into the club, and it offers financial incentives to both the present member and the new one.
Marketing executive AJ Redetzke said his company has a 94 percent success rate with the program being employed at the Country Club. (Click photo for larger image.)
Stacked alphabetically on tables around the room were hundreds of “invitation packets,” each custom-printed with the name of the member who registered for the meeting. The packets, which are meant to be handed to prospective members, include information about the club, a color brochure, an application, and special initiation pricing for the various levels of club membership.
Instead of forcing a member into the role of salesperson, Redetzke said, the packet allows a member to share the membership possibility casually with a friend or neighbor.
Beyond the special pricing, the membership campaign allows new members a chance to preview the club – membership for 12 months without payment of an initiation. (The previewing member still has to pay normal dues and fees.) In the first 60 days of this preview membership, the initiation fee is available at a 50 percent discount.
Redetzke said this program, as administered by Creative Golf, converts 94 percent of preview members into permanent members. He explained the high rate of success.
“Number one, that person that you’ve invited has already got a relationship with the club,” he explained. “And number two, a person that’s willing to promise 12 months of their lives is pretty serious about something working out. They really, really want it to work. But you know what they love? They love having the exit strategy. We want them to know, if the club’s too far away, if the golf course is too hard, if they don’t fit in, we want them to know all those things before they write that initiation-fee check.”
When someone joins the club as a top-level golf member and pays the initiation fee, both the new member and the sponsor get a $90 monthly dues reduction for 24 months. There are lesser dollar incentives at every membership level.
Under bylaws amendments adopted overwhelmingly by members in voting announced last week, there will be new membership categories, intended to bring in younger members. The new membership structure and dues were discussed at two member meetings held recently.
Redetzke anticipated some audience questions and fielded a handful of others before wrapping up the hour-long meeting. The questions and Redetzke's answers:
Question: Are there no provisions for a special level of membership, at reduced cost, for older members who’ve lost their spouses?
Answer: Creative Golf recommended the board not have a membership for an individual – one golfer out of a household – because in the company’s experience this would “drastically reduce” the club’s dues revenue. There’s no senior membership for the same reason. But the new plan does offer single memberships – for an unmarried person with no dependent children – at a 20 percent discount over the family rate.
Can a social member bring in a golf member under the recruitment program and get a monthly credit?
Yes. Club members at any level can bring in new members at any level.
Can snowbirds go away for the winter and stop paying dues?
Can you sponsor more than one person under this program?
Why can’t two friends join as a twosome and split the costs?
“Because that’s just not the way that it works.” It’s not a best practice of private clubs all over the country. “We’re a private club; we’re going to act like a private club.”
Why don’t we partner with the developers building near Folsom or along Sunrise? The program should be extended beyond July 31 and tied in to these new homes. “We’ve got to start moving (the membership effort) out of Rancho Murieta,” this member said, drawing strong applause.
The July 31 end date is to create a sense of urgency to bring people into the club now. You’re correct: There’s no reason to limit ourselves to the gates of Rancho Murieta. After this program is complete, we’ll assess next steps.
“I have no idea what we’re paying you people for. We’re going to be your army of people to recruit people.” My dues are already down because I’ve recruited members. “This is nothing new, other than different classifications. What else is your organization bringing?”
Creative Golf is being paid on a sliding scale during the campaign – starting at $750 for every full golf membership and going down from there. During the campaign, the company will administer everything behind the scenes. There will be paper and electronic communications to help members recruit. A continuing effort is needed to make the program successful. “If this is the last time we talk about this, then nobody will ever do anything.” Drawing strong applause: “We’re going to have a coordinated effort that will help bring success to the club. That’s what we bring to the table.”
At the end of his presentation, Redetzke asked how many people had already thought of someone who should be given a membership packet. A substantial number of hands went up.