At a time when we all have to be conscious of wasteful spending, examining your staff costs — the most costly variable in the website equation — is important. For most clubs, the largest component of the marketing and member communication budget is staff overhead followed by printing and postage. Over the last several weeks we have taken a close look at the website features that truly engage members and drive down costs while also noting some other features that do not justify consumption of staff time. The following examples show how your club can take advantage of these features to improve the visibility of your website while keeping costs low.
Leverage Staff Time Through Automation:
Certain aspects of website management can be set up to run automatically without any further effort by staff members. Using automated options is a great way to leverage staff time by eliminating repetitive tasks:
Automatic personalized emails can be sent by the website:
Send an automatic email notice to members who are 60 days past due. An automatic email notice reduces the amount of time club staff spends on collecting debt information and soliciting payment and can include “personalization” such as the amount that is past due and member’s name.
Send an email to members who have not signed in recently – include their username and password in case they forgot. Club staff will be freed from calls asking for user name and password while event participation will increase from exposure to the website.
Every week or month send invitations to members to celebrate their upcoming birthdays or anniversaries at the club, with some kind of incentive such as a free dessert. An automated incentive notice is an easy way to encourage increased member activity at the club.
Send a personalized email to members with high minimum balances, reminding them that they only have so many days to take advantage of the balance.
Some staff members spend a lot of time trying to keep the website roster in synch with the accounting information. The double entry of data is costly enough, but little errors creep in, causing member irritation and reducing website traffic. Automated synching eliminates members from viewing inconsistent versions of the same information. Automated synching saves staff time and improves member service.
Member billing questions can consume many staff hours. A successful online strategy requires that statements are updated on a daily basis, in order to achieve the potential reduction in calls and increase in site traffic. If staff members have to perform a manual upload process every day, costs are multiplied, and there is a good chance that this will not always happen, which can frustrate members. Automating statements on your website is worth the investment.
Staff members spend many hours taking reservations – for tee times, tennis courts, dining, parties, massages, professional lessons, etc. Now that easy to use reservations systems are available in all these areas, clubs can save staff hours and improve service by installing them. Clubs report experiencing a 60% drop in repetitive telephone calls as a result of members using online reservations. In addition, website traffic can increase by a factor of ten, opening opportunities to communicate with members that are not only free of charge but require no additional effort by the staff.
Streamline Website Upkeep:
Staff members take time to maintain the quality of the website content, which should be fresh and professional in appearance. Here are some steps that maintain quality while saving staff time:
Make use of graphical templates for emails, website news and event announcements. Hundreds of these templates are available from your website vendor. They add a professional look to simple text, make your events and messages more appealing and require almost no staff time to use.
Your vendor probably offers a high speed photo upload utility (Clubessential’s is called PhotoSync and is free of charge). Without such a utility, uploading 150 photos of the children from the Halloween party could be an all-day effort. With a high speed photo upload utility, you just trigger a mass upload and continue with other work – 15 minutes later, the upload will be done.
Posting photo albums on the website is a great way to keep content interesting for members, with low staff overhead. Albums can appear on any page and can be shifted to display new batches of pictures in seconds.
The best photo displays include text identifying members. Every opportunity to remind members of the names of fellow members is valuable. In the past, adding text to pictures and creating a coordinated display was a painful process of building one entry at a time. Now, tools are available that let you enter the text very quickly in a spreadsheet grid.
Staff education is another way to streamline website upkeep. Educated administrators are always more efficient than those who try to “learn by fumbling around.” Your website vendor probably offers video tutorials about using various tools. Any staff member who will be working on the website should watch them. Clubessential also offers “CoffeeBreaks” where administrators join remote demonstrations of certain features and can participate with 75 plus other club administrators by asking questions in class.
Reduce the size of your website. Many clubs have added sections on a wide variety of topics without thinking about the overhead of maintaining those sections. By examining the statistics of website traffic, you can determine which pages may not be cost effective. Site statistics should be available directly on your website. Note: pages including historical items such as pictures from the last four lobster-fest parties, should not be cut because they do not change and so do not result in staff overhead.
Avoid Administrative Sinkholes:
In tough economic times, going back to the basics is always a good idea. Focus on increasing member traffic, increasing the level of member engagement and reducing attrition while at the same time reducing staff overhead. Avoid the latest fads and “bells and whistles” that soak up staff hours while generating little result. Here are some areas to avoid emphasizing:
You may have heard recently about a new innovation called the “members in-box” that is supposed to solve all mail delivery problems and eliminate SPAM. We know this is not true because we have offered this feature since 1999, and the members’ in-box has never generated much traffic. Members want to get all their email in one place, and they will not go to the website just to open the club’s email. Instead of wasting time on this feature, improve your list of email addresses and focus on consistent delivery of interesting emails that are targeted to the appropriate member groups and have links back to the website.
Due to the popularity of sites like Facebook, Linked-In and YouTube some industry providers have been promoting the value of content created by your members. The claim is that by allowing members to upload photos or videos or enter into some kind of discussions in club blogs or forums, you will create a steady flow of fresh content. Although member-generated content can seem exciting, the potential risk and increased labor far outweigh any perceived benefit. With member-generated content, clubs run the high risk of members posting inappropriate, offensive and even libelous content as often seen on YouTube or Facebook. Managing user-submitted content is overwhelming because it requires a vigilant monitoring of media and comments.
Imagine one club member posting an offensive comment or picture about another club member’s wife. Or imagine your staff having to referee your membership by telling them what they can or can not put on the website.
Your website is the online voice, image and presence of your club. Content control must be kept by the club to deliver information of a quality appropriate of your organization. Unsupervised content does not belong within the confines of your club nor the club’s website.
A sound strategy and implementation to share content is through the many different online tools available such as photo galleries, emails, notices, surveys, polls and contact us forms to name a few. By employing these communication options you have the advantage of sharing communication without losing control.
When prioritizing all the ways you could use your website, be sure to take into account which activities soak up the most staff time compared to those which generate a strong result with modest overhead. Understanding and implementing these valuable tools and concepts that streamline your staff’s workload can save your club money, while helping to increase the visibility of your club’s website
If you would like further information about the Event Manager or the NetCaddyTM Reservations Suite, CLICK HERE or call Jim Dries at 513-322-4186.