While ‘word of mouth’ referral marketing is still considered king, private clubs that also incorporate and invest in digital strategies are experiencing a significant growth of new member prospects and club interest.

If you could go back in time and buy Apple stock in 1980, you would be filthy rich today. We are always looking for those golden opportunities that if seen and acted upon in time, will catapult you or your organization towards success. For the private club industry, that moment is happening now.

Undoubtedly, tradition has played an enormous and positive role in the success of private clubs in the past and continues through today. However, it can be argued that many private clubs have taken a too traditional approach to their marketing strategies. Clubs often site “tradition”, “prestige” and “exclusivity” as their defense for having a minimal, almost non-existent online presence and strategic membership marketing strategy.

Fundamentally, word-of-mouth marketing is actively designed, influenced and encouraged by the organization to create an environment that rewards consumers to engage and creates brand advocates. This strategy will always be the most effective methodology for introducing prospective new members to a private club. However, considering the landslide of communications and social interactions that are now taking place online, private clubs, in general, are failing to influence and engage in digital, strategic marketing initiatives.

And it’s in this strange phenomenon that an enormous opportunity resides.

Social media and search marketing may have been deemed unnecessary and even inappropriate years ago, but fast-forward to 2016 and our society is now classified as “hyper-connected.” Here is the good news, actually the GREAT news: Clubs who combine their traditional methods with digital strategies can quickly and cost effectively capitalize on the enormous digital space and funnel the online opportunities directly into their inbox. These efforts go well beyond an invitation from a member to a prospect. When combined, word-of-mouth marketing with an emphasis on social media and search marketing is a subtle, yet powerful force of nature that dramatically influences decisions. It can be intensely personal and can inspire your prospective consumers to learn more about your brand.

Referral marketing, when paired with social media and other digital strategies, is remarkably effective when it’s done right. Creative Golf Marketing has recognized this unique opportunity for significant member growth and club interest and is leading the charge by employing these methods for many of our clients. In the very near future a clubs ability and understanding of a strong online presence and strategic engagement will be crucial to a club’s ability to survive and thrive.

With 100% certainty, you can be sure that your website and Facebook page are being viewed by new member prospects. Making sure your Facebook page is optimized and utilizing the best practices to present and appeal to new members is of utmost importance. Your club is constantly competing for searches and social media real estate with other private clubs and industries fighting for your prospective member’s discretionary time and spending.

According to the Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising Survey, 92% of people trust recommendations from friends. The top three trusted sources were recommendations from friends, online consumer opinions and editorials. Private clubs must be providing relevant content which will create an engaging community who is proud to share their stories online with their friends, family and social audience.

By utilizing social media, private clubs can leverage their digital channels with more traditional strategies to connect their brand, course and amenities to hundreds of qualified prospects. Regardless of the medium and format, private clubs that accept the merging of tradition and technology within their marketing strategies will always be in a stronger position.