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« Back Post Date: Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Increasing Website Results
How to do a five minute website review to see how your website is performing. What other paths you might take to increase performance.
 
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Increasing Website Results

 

Some Suggestions for Clubessential Customers
(Useful For Users Of Other Systems, Too)

Unlike a clubhouse, which may need to be refreshed with new carpet and paint every ten years, renovated every 25 years and torn down and rebuilt once or twice a century, websites need to be refreshed constantly and rebuilt every three years or so just to keep up with rising member expectations.

Clubessential tore down and rebuilt its website product for the fourth time, introducing its fifth generation platform in January of 2005.  Since then we have introduced 28 major new enhancements and services, and a minor enhancement on average every five days.  It is not an exaggeration to say that our products are twice as sophisticated today as they were just a year ago.  We can sustain this rate of improvement because the fifth generation product has development tools eight times more powerful than those of older generations. In this newsletter I would like to suggest how you can get the most value out of your Clubessential website, taking advantage of a flood of new capabilities. 

I will begin by describing some ways to measure the health of your website with just a five minute review each month.  Next I will recap the new features and services that are now available within your website (free of additional charge).  You may not know about some of these features, simply because the rate of advance has outstripped our ability to keep our clients informed. Please read this section carefully, because you are almost certain to discover five or more capabilities or services you were unaware of.  Finally, I will outline a list of products and services which are available for additional fees.  Many of these may be pleasant surprises as well.

Before we get started, a comment on documentation: A few weeks ago I gave a presentation to the Philadelphia Chapter of the CMAA where we were unveiling a new “designer” chapter website (www.phillycmaa.com ).  A young lady came to me before the presentation asking how to do a series of things.  In almost every case, the features were available, but she did not know how to use them.  She pleaded for more documentation.  I came back from that session resolved to do a better job of documenting our new features.  I held a meeting of our Client Services group and began to describe what we needed.  When I asked what everyone was chuckling about, they told me a new support website had already been created and half loaded with documentation, helpful hints, etc. (You can see why these 15 people are called the “Git-R-Done” team).  We should be able to open this website for your use in the next thirty days.  I’m sure many of you, like the lady in Philadelphia, will appreciate it.
   
The 5 Minute Website Review
 
As I examine the websites of Clubessential’s clients, I am always amazed at the wide range of quality I see.  On the one hand there are websites so active and so full of interesting information that they must be a key focus of communication for the club, generating higher member engagement and participation, while on the other hand there are websites that are drab and stale and hardly used.  The difference is not “technical” because all these websites share the same technology.  The truth is that these websites have different degrees of success because of the approach club management has taken to electronic communications.  Some general managers, for example, think websites require the attention of a “technical person” and because the general manager may have little background in technology, they abdicate the responsibility for website success to someone on the staff  who “knows something about computers.”  This, I would argue, is a mistake.  The general manager, without any technical background, can control the quality of the website simply by doing a “Five Minute Website Review” each month.  Here are some simple questions to ask to gauge the health of your website:
  1. Is there fresh content in each area of the website?
  2. Is there a consistent style for the content? (e.g., avoid large purple headlines)
  3. Are the member email addresses up to date? (check the tracking to see what percent don’t get through).  Write down the percentage of your membership you can reach with email each month – make sure the number goes up month by month.
  4. Were there quite a few e-mailings during the month? You can look in the emailing history area.  Do the mailings you see in the history have graphical layouts, taking advantage of nice templates?
  5. Are your e-mailings designed to encourage your members to sign into the website (using SmartLinks)?  If not, your website traffic is guaranteed to be sparse.
  6. Is the calendar loaded with upcoming events?  Are the descriptions pleasing graphical “posters” or just text?
  7. Are there news items on various pages?  Are the news items graphical or just text?
  8. How many current pictures are there on the website?  Is each significant club event represented with pictures?  Remember that your member website is more like a magazine than a book – the casual pictures need to change each month.
  9. Does the directory have member pictures?  If not, is there a plan to get them?  You can get half the pictures just by asking for them (in an email).  How much does it help the club when members begin to recognize other members?
  10. Website usage has increased on average by 30% in the last year for previously installed Clubessential clients – is website usage increasing for your website?

You can see from these questions that the issues are not “technical.”   They are the same kinds of issues general managers have dealt with for years to ensure effective newsletter communications or to encourage members to have dinner at the club.  The first time you do a “five minute review” it will take more than five minutes, but once you get started looking for the right things, a funny thing happens – the right things will be there because you are looking for them.

Take Advantage of Free Features and Services
 
If you are a long time Clubessential client, you may not realize that Clubessential has improved the scope and quality of services provided to clients well beyond what the older services agreements state, so be sure to read the list of items below in case you don’t know about some of them.  In addition, Clubessential’s new development platform, released at the beginning of 2005, has enabled a rush of new features, many of which have been included in standard features at no additional cost.  In the following list, items marked “New” were delivered free of charge in the last 15 months:
  • Unlimited Personal Training.  Each Clubessential client is assigned a Personal Support Manager, backed up by 14 others.  You may arrange for any amount of personal training on the use of Clubessential products from your PSM.  If you have turnover, training new people is without charge.  If you extend content collection deeper into the organization, (e.g., letting the golf pro enter course conditions daily), training of new administrators is without charge.  Confused about a new product or feature? – just ask your PSM for a personal class.
  • CoffeeBreak Sessions.  Every two or three weeks, Clubessential holds a class for up to 100 administrators on some aspect of the website.  No travel is required because it is all done by Internet.  Benefit from hearing the questions of your colleagues, all free of charge. 
  • Unlimited Use of Standard Features.  Older Clubessential service agreements limited the usage of the standard Axis features using a system that measured the complexity of the website.  This caused clients to avoid adding content for fear of extra fees – so we went to a new pricing method that gives all of our clients unlimited usage of all the standard features (even clients still operating under the old style contract).  This means that you can have unlimited pages, unlimited pictures, unlimited surveys, unlimited polling stations, unlimited news items, etc. 
  • Roster Database.  Every Clubessential client can build a huge marketing database by taking advantage of the roster.  It includes 117 fields that can be renamed and repurposed by the club – far more than any club has ever used.  Reporting and exporting to Excel make this roster an excellent place to start collecting key information about members to improve service levels, member engagement and non-dues revenue.  It can also carry roster photos, a very important way for your members to get to know each other.  These photos can be professionally done by someone like Elson Alexandre, or they can be random photos collected from members.  This is a fun project that a member committee would enjoy working on.
  • Advanced Graphics – The architecture of Clubessential’s websites now support advanced graphics for every page while still allowing editing of every page.  Samples include: www.grandkeyclub.comwww.clubessential.com/demo.  Every existing Clubessential client has received this technology free of charge, however, Clubessential cannot afford to give away the labor of our Studio Design Group artists to transform every client’s website into a new “designer” website.  Instead we are offering a discounted design price to existing clients – the price depends on the complexity of the website, but generally is below $2,000.  For this price clients receive a complete website “makeover” that looks as good as an advertising agency site that would cost tens of thousands of dollars, and yet is still editable.  As of March 2006, Clubessential had delivered 38 new designer websites, leaving 560 existing clients to go in addition to new clients.  If you have an interest in moving to a new design, let us know as soon as possible (call Adam Nessler at 513-322-4190), and please bear with us as we work through our backlog.
  • Web-Based Editor (New).  Clubessential’s new web-based editor can be used on any PC without “installing” a program.  This allows Clubessential to enhance the editor rapidly because new versions no longer require thousands of hours re-installing every administrator’s copy.  Thanks to this new design, Clubessential has, in the last 15 months, released three significant upgrades to the editor and another major upgrade will be out by the end of April, 2006. All these powerful enhancements are designed to make it easier and quicker to keep a website current. Some of the more important new editor features are described below.
  • TwoClick Linking (New).  Frequently when designing an email or a webpage, an administrator needs to place a link that jumps to a calendar item, a document or a news item.  In the past setting up such a link required fairly complicated multi-step process.  Now, one click opens a list and the second click sets up the link.
  • SmartLinks.  Create “Paul Harvey emails” that tell “the rest of the story” on the website.  The secret of the SmartLink is that it will open the exact targeted page (even a poster for a calendar item) instead of forcing the member to start at the home page of the website and then wander around looking for the item in question.  Do you want more traffic on your website? – then take advantage of SmartLinks.
  • Editor Logging (New). Did you know that you can see every change that anyone has made to an editable area of the website?  And that you can at any time revert to some prior version?  You can also save drafts of changes without updating the live versions.
  • Graphics Templates (New).  Templates are a very effective way to save time while improving communications quality.  If you have designed a nice email layout for the general manager to use weekly, save it as a template.  Or hire Clubessential’s Studio Design Group to add professional artwork for $200.
  • PhotoSync (New).  This new utility uploads photos ten times faster than traditional methods, and operates on a “fire and forget” basis so administrators don’t need to baby-sit the uploading.  Re-sizing is automatic.
  • Advanced Navigators (New).  Our new “Never Lost” navigators can now be graphically integrated with the rest of the page, and can be horizontal, vertical, or plugged-in.  There can even be multiple navigators on the same page.
  • Advanced Usage Reporting (New)Now you can examine not only how many members are visiting which pages, but even which members signed in on any given day.
  • Slide Show (New).  You can open one or more slide show windows on any number of pages in the website.  One or more categories of photos can be selected from the online gallery.  Using this slide show feature, an administrator can take 100 pictures of an event and have them visible on the website before the members can reach their cars.
  • Email Tracking (New).  Have you noticed that you now have a complete history of every email ever sent, a list of recipients, and even the time of day each member opened the email, if they did?  You can also examine which email addresses failed to work so you can easily maintain the quality of your email addresses.
  • Scheduled Emails (New).  Did you know that you can now schedule emails in the future?  You can even set up recurring emails.  And the list of recipients will be determined at the time of the mailing, to take advantage of new information gathered in the meantime.  This feature makes incorporating emails into event planning much more practical, because they can be set up at planning time instead of in the rush of the actual event.
  • YellowList (New).  Wouldn’t it be nice if your members could direct business to their fellow members by looking through a rolodex of companies and services offered by other members?  This listing feature lets members enter their own information, including categories and key words.  Ask your Personal Support Manager to set it up for you, then do a nice mailing to your members announcing it, with a SmartLink to the right page.
  • Dynamic Groups (New).  Dynamic Groups are created by defining “inclusion rules.” This means you can pull out any selection of members based on the marketing data in your roster database.  These groups are called “dynamic” because they get recalculated whenever you use them – so for example, if the group includes members who have joined within the last year, the group will reflect each month’s new additions at the time of a mailing.
  • Excel Exporting (New).  Exporting of data to Excel has been integrated throughout the Clubessential website.  In the case of Dynamic Groups, this means you can export any of the 117 fields in the roster to Excel, giving complete reporting and exporting flexibility.
  • Session Based Security (New).  Most club website products, other than those from Clubessential, still rely on 1990’s “token based” security, which works by passing important security information over the Internet as extensions to page addresses (for example, look at the codes following the “?” in this address, taken from a Jonas website: http://www.memberstatements.com/login/login.cfm?CFID=1472341229&CFTOKEN=444238714 ).  Today this kind of security is inadequate.  For example, someone could pick up a security token (by cut and paste or through the use of a “sniffer”) and suddenly turn himself into the editor of the website.  It is also possible for hackers to pick up security tokens and gain access to directories and email addresses - the next step could be sending an email to members pretending to be the club administration and asking for sensitive information.  Clubessential has replaced this old approach with the much more secure “session based” security, which is only available to vendors using a modern architecture and platform like Microsoft’s .NET.
  • Search Engine Optimization (New).  In its most recent rewrite of its systems, Clubessential changed the way its pages are structured to make them “search engine friendly.”  In addition, Clubessential interlinked all of its 600 customers, thereby securing a much higher “page rank” for every client. 
  • Voice Messaging (New Pricing).  Want to make 400 quick telephone calls to tell members a broken pipe has caused postponement of the Spring Fling?  This feature is available to every Clubessential client at the cost of 20 cents per successful call (our pricing in the past was significantly higher).
  • Multi-Level List Display (New Version).  In the past, Clubessential’s multi-level list allowed the display of a hierarchy of documents or pictures up to nine layers deep.  The new version makes changing the order of display easier and allows placement of other items, such as slide shows, graphics, news items, etc. on the same page as the list.
   
Extra Cost Features & Services
 

In addition to all of the new standard features listed above, Clubessential has introduced many new add-on products and services.  If you would like to see further information on any of these, ask your personal support manager or email Adam Nessler at anessler@clubessential.com.  Items marked “New” were released in the last 15 months.

  • Online Store (New-April 2006).  Organizes products into unlimited categories with up to four levels of sub-categories.  Includes product search by key words.  Allows unlimited attributes, such as size, color, style and pricing for each item type.  Items can be hidden or displayed with a single click.  Payment methods include (optionally): bank transfer, credit card, or member billing.
  • RosterSync (New Release).   RosterSync transfers data in the member billing system to the online website database, eliminates the need for duplicate entry of data and prevents the accumulation of errors.  Clubessential supports 12 member billing systems from 8 vendors.  The second generation of RosterSync added the ability to convert raw accounting data to member-facing data through the use of a special “conversion stencil” that is custom designed for each client.  So even if your accounting vendor uses strange codes to specify member privileges, you can translate those codes into meaningful words for the members. 
  • Media Services.  Do you want to host a video on your website?  Clubessential has dedicated high speed servers for this purpose.  A typical hosting charge would be $20/month for an eight minute film, with no limit on the number of viewers.
  • Online Member Statements (OMS) (New Release).  172 Clubessential clients display their members’ statements online, including, in most cases, drill down to individual chit displays that give full details of each transaction (not just a title saying “food and beverage”).  The latest release of OMS allows clubs to “brand” their statements with graphics and adjust the way the statements look in dozens of ways.  It can even handle multiple accounts per member, multiple minimum requirements, and accounting periods that end partway through a month.  Email about items can be sent directly to accounting. 
    OMS works with 12 member billing systems and the most common point of sale systems.  Its Jonas interface, for example, is more directly integrated with the Jonas files than Jonas’ own interfaces, runs at least ten times faster and does not require any additional software from Jonas.  Clubessential’s Open Systems strategy allows clients to have, for example, a Jonas member billing system coupled to a Micros point of sale system.  The latest release of OMS added “auto-update” capability so if an accounting vendor starts installing a new release, Clubessential can propagate the necessary OMS adjustments to all clients in half an hour.
  • SPAM Blocked Email (New).  This multi-layered SPAM filtering system blocks over 97% of all SPAM while virtually eliminating false positives.  This product is for use by club staff who want an email address such.
  • FormBase (New).  Would you like to create a database of prospective members or prospective banquet hall users?  Or perhaps just compile a list of parents willing to volunteer for swim team car pools?  Clubessential’s new FormBase product supports creation of custom forms that members or visitors to the website can fill in and submit.  The collected data is saved in a database with reporting and exporting to Excel.  Some national tournaments are using FormBase for registration of volunteers. 
  • WebCams (New).  Some clubs would like to allow “snowbirds” to view the warm weather in Florida, others would like to let members see the weather at the pier or the finishers at the 18th hole.  It used to cost nearly $10,000 to put up a webcam, but now the price is down to $1,500 for a weather resistant wireless camera.  Clubessential can open one or more windows on your website.
  • Online Member Payments (New).  Allows members to pay their bills by clicking a button.  Uses CheckFree, the largest web payment service in the world.  All sensitive data is stored on CheckFree’s financial servers.  Funds are transferred directly from the member’s bank account to the club’s.  Fees are an eighth those charged for credit card transactions.  Optionally, credit card payments can be accepted.
  • NewsStand, MyNewsStand (New).   Spice up any page of the website with current news (refreshed every 15 minutes) from over 10,000 sources on the Internet.  Tennis news on the tennis page, golf news in the golf area.  Members can set up their own news page with nine areas selected by type, geography, company, zip code, etc.
  • Content Loading (New).  Need to jumpstart your website but don’t have the manpower to set up all the content?  Clubessential will load the entire website with content you provide, formatting it to conform with your branding, for a modest fee.  Email Adam Nessler at anessler@clubessential.com for a quotation.
  • Content Management (New).  Would you like to outsource the upkeep of the website content on an ongoing basis?  Clubessential will load the entire website and then continue to format ongoing content submitted by the club staff for a long as you need the help.  You can also turn this service on during the “busy” season and then off when your administrators have more time during the off season.  Email Adam Nessler at anessler@clubessential.com for a quotation.
  • Search Engine Tuning (New).  Clubessential has completed a two year restructuring of its products to make them search engine friendly – these changes are incorporated in every Clubessential client’s website at no additional charge.  However, if a client has an important reason to get high placement in the search engines, there is one final step that will fully optimize their website: the “tuning” of the content on the website.  For a modest fee, Clubessential will go through the website page by page, restructuring the content to optimize search engine results. Email Adam Nessler at anessler@clubessential.com for a quotation.
   
455 Delta Ave  · Floor 4  · Cincinnati, OH 45226  ·  800 - 448 - 1475
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