There is nothing more exciting than researching the newest Apple product, making the trek to the Apple store to make your purchase and then getting home and opening the sleek, white box to unveil your new computer, tablet or phone.  When you power it on, you’re greeted with “Hello” in many languages. Then, you have an easier than ever set up process that your device walks you through.

Why? Because companies like Apple know that the transition to new isn’t always easy for people.  Focusing on setting you up to fully utilize the product is key and makes Apple’s approach to the ‘consumer experience’ special.  So that led me to start wondering, “what does a private club do after the sale to continue helping you?”

Through my personal experience administering membership initiatives for over 400 private club clients, it’s safe to say I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to new member orientation processes.  With most club staff members handling multiple duties, the new member introduction/orientation process many times falls through the cracks.  It is surprising how many private clubs do not have a formalized process in place for new members.

“A first impression can be nearly impossible to reverse or undo, making those first encounters extremely important, for they set the tone for all the relationships that follow.”  -Unknown

Clubs need to take the “Apple approach” and start off with a strong first impression and focus on the introductory phase of club membership.  Just like Apple, spending time properly integrating the new member into the club’s customs and culture builds a healthy, connected relationship from the start.  With a high number of first time club members joining private clubs today, no club should assume that new members understand how to book a tee time, how to rent a locker, or sign up for youth swim lessons.

But, the introductory process into club membership does not lie solely on the Membership Director or General Manager; it is vital to have all departments and representatives the club involved.  By including the entire management team, new members will have a better understanding of the club membership and a stronger connection to the club.  Think of each management team member as an application on your phone or tablet.  Each of your team members should work together to help new members better utilize and enjoy the benefits and advantages of their club division (golf, tennis, swimming, food and beverage, etc.)

One of the most common membership operations is the “New Member Orientation Party”; an event designated specifically for new members.  Many successful clubs have held a “Showcase” event where each department head has a table in the ballroom to showcase their department.  New members are invited to the Showcase Event to learn how to use each and every element of their new purchase (membership).  While there are success stories from events of this kind, scheduling conflicts will always be a concern.

An interesting way to integrate new members into the club lifestyle is to allow each club department to formally make an introduction to the new member.  The Golf Professional and Tennis Professional can extend a complimentary golf and tennis lesson to the new member, the Fitness Instructor can extend a personal training session, and the Membership Director or General Manager can invite the new member to dine for lunch or dinner and share their favorite entrees or desserts.  By allowing every department to have their own approach to new member orientation, the process is engaging and effective.

The connection between the club and a new member starts on Day 1 and providing a consistent, positive experience from the very beginning will maximize your ability to develop members who are not only “just a member” but life-time advocates for your club.