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« Back Post Date: Tuesday, October 18, 2005
Building A Marketing Database Step By Step
How to collect information about members step by step, event by event.


Building a Marketing Database
Step by Step

By Dr. William D. Ivers, CEO, Clubessential

Whether they realize it or not, busy clubs create many mini-databases. These are collections of information about tournament registrants, prospective members, prospective home buyers, swimmer car pool drivers, and dozens of other groups. Most of these mini-databases are written on pieces of paper and hard to organize. Often the are thrown away only to be rebuilt the following year or when the next big push on membership is started. Perhaps the biggest drawback of these hand-built mini-databases is that the club staff must enter all the data themselves, when actually it is the members or visitors who know most of the answers.

Clubessential created its new FormBase to replace some of these paper mini-databases and to allow clubs to incrementally capture marketing data which will, over time, become an invaluable marketing database. A description of the FormBase is shown nearby, but I thought the best way to make clear how it can be used would be to describe a real-life example:
One of Clubessential’s customers (who just happen to have six Jack Nicklaus designed courses) had a problem: they needed to inform their members about their tournaments and then take reservations. They had some especially difficult obstacles:

  • Each tournament had a different theme, often with different rules. Each tournament therefore required a different entry form with unique data items.
  • The club wanted to make each event memorable with appropriate branding, color themes, etc.
  • Somehow the club needed to inform the members about each tournament without overwhelming them with communication. Since there were over 100 tournaments a year, this was a significant problem!
  • With so many tournaments, the logistics were crushing and needed to be automated to help the staff and provide better service to the members.

In the past the club had created an elaborate 100 page document which was physically mailed to members and also emailed in the form of a PDF file that each member could download. The expense of printing and mailing this document, and the difficulty of downloading a very large PDF file, made both of these distribution methods less than satisfactory. Members preferred to be actively reminded of the upcoming events without having to page through a huge document. The club management asked us how the web site could be used in this situation.

We decided the best way to post the information would be by date, in the calendar, because then the members would only see the information that was of current interest. The calendar would show, in a special bold font reserved for tournaments, the name of each tournament on the day scheduled. When clicked, a full “poster” for the tournament would open. This could be several pages long, with pictures, graphics, and other touches such as special colors and fonts to match the theme of the event. The poster could be created easily by the staff using the standard Clubessential editor. Somewhere on the poster would be a place for the viewer to click to “Register” for the event. This is where the FormBases are used (see the FormBase description in the “Advances in Web Communication” column).

For each tournament, the administrators decide what questions need to be asked of registrants, and a form with those questions is designed using the FormBase form generator. The colors, pictures and other branding elements of the event are carried over on the form. As members register, the data are collected in a database that can be reviewed by administrators. Call-in registrations can be entered by club staff, so there is one common list of registrants everyone shares. Special administration only fields can be set up to capture logistical information about each registrant (for example, is there some associated fee to be paid? Is there a favorite caddy? Does the registrant require special security preparations?).

Once a registration (or cancellation) is made, a confirming email is sent to the registrant and another email goes to the staff person in charge of the event. Administrators can view the registration data in several ways, print reports and export the data to Excel. The database is permanent, so next year there will be a history of who has attended this particular tournament, which can help in converting events into member traditions.

Emails can be sent to registrants at any time. One or two reminders always boost attendance, and after the event is over a nice thank-you email with a collage of pictures is a nice touch that raises service levels and participation.

I chose a particularly complex situation because it illustrated the use of all the features of the FormBase. But automating much simpler mini-databases can still save time, improve service and, over time, build up a knowledge base that will the be the heart of an active marketing program. No club ever lost a member because they knew too much about them.