Consultant Steve Graves is a big fan of membership directors and their function in bolstering membership numbers in clubs. “The private club industry has been improving because of these talented professionals,” Graves declared during the World Conference on Club Management last year. As an expert in membership marketing, Graves has ideas about how clubs can allow their membership directors to function more effectively.

Graves believes the membership director should (1) be more of a facilitator and less of a recruiter and (2) play a significant role in membership retention. “Just as a personal trainer does not work out for you so you will lose weight, nor does a membership director have responsibility for the entire selling process,” he said. Members find new members, he emphasized. A membership director facilitates the sale of memberships. “The membership director produces a game plan for successful membership development – which includes retention.”

Contributions the membership director can make to keep members supportive of the club include:

  • Training staff to talk positively to members. “Train them to tell members how satisfied they are and how well the club is doing,” Graves said. “Private clubs do a horrible job of controlling the message. Good rumors are hard to start; bad rumors take on a life of their own. If you don’t control the message, someone else will.”
  • Pinpointing what you are known for (“We are the best at…”) and talking it up among the staff and members. Get the members to talk about their club as much as they talk about their universities and charitable organizations. “Do you truly have members who can articulate, with pride, what is your recognizable brand or story?” he asked. “How can you expect your members to tout the benefits of club membership to their friends when they themselves cannot define them.”

Graves does not think the membership director should be on commission. The person should be salaried so he or she can be more focused on member satisfaction. Instead of commissions, use merit bonuses to reward successful membership retention and satisfaction, plus member-staff rapport.

“Most private clubs focus solely on recruitment when retention is equally important,” Graves said. “Focus as much effort on retention strategies and your club will be rewarded with both a lower percentage of attrition and a higher percentage of recruitment.”

The Private Club Advisor – February 2018