By Dr. William D. Ivers, CEO, Clubessential
Here’s why a General Manager should focus some attention on email:
- Well targeted email can increase member participation at every event. How often have you experienced a sell-out? Use email well, and you will experience more.
- Email can build the bonds of community between members, making the club a more important and more permanent part of their lives.
- Email can personalize members’ relationships with the GM, the Chef and other key staff. Wouldn't it be nice to walk into a crowded dining room to be greeted with smiling recognition at every table?
- Email can tempt passive members into trying club services they never use. Engaging such members is the secret to a vibrant club atmosphere.
- Yet email is so cheap it hardly appears in the budget.
This article is one of ten that will be sent, one per week, for ten weeks.
1. Capture Your Membership’s Email Addresses
2. Be Consistent
3. Make Staff Come Alive
4. Make Members Come Alive
5. Make Events Come Alive
Next Week's Installment:
Add Artistry To Your Emails
Step 6 of 10 to engage your membership with email
Drive Traffic to Your Web site:
Last week we discussed how recurring events are converted into “traditions” through the gradual accumulation of memories in the minds of your membership. Your email and Web site can capture and reinforce those memories so robust traditions can be formed more quickly. This week we discuss a simpler issue: how to use email to build traffic to your Web site. After all, it would be a shame to create a nice Web site and have only a few visitors.
Before we get started, it is worth thinking about what other kinds of factors normally affect the volume of traffic to a Web site:
- The size of the membership.
- The percent of the membership that has high speed Internet access in their homes. This percentage grows every year. In the twelve months of 2004, for example, we estimate (based on statistics from national polling companies) that the percentage of member high speed access climbed from under 40% to over 65%. So the fraction of your members eligible for electronic communication is growing very fast and will continue to grow until it reaches 100%.
- Full service clubs produce more traffic than single purpose clubs such as golf clubs or hunting clubs. City clubs tend to get less traffic per member, but usually make up for this with larger memberships.
- Clubs with older memberships produce less traffic than younger memberships, because many older members don’t use the Internet. However, this generational difference is disappearing because the fastest growing segment of Internet use is the older segment.
- Online tee times boost traffic, but only if the member signs on to the Web site to make tee times, instead of going to an independent tee times Web site. You should require that tee time requests can only be initiated from within your Web site, after members have been exposed to the latest news on club activities. Place the link to tee time reservations carefully so you drive traffic through areas you want members to see.
- Web sites which can display member bills online have higher traffic, especially if the club uses minimums. As with tee time reservations, you should tie the statement review into the Web site in a way that maximizes exposure of members to upcoming event news.
- Clubs that take online event registrations or court reservations or dining reservations, all tend to have more traffic. Think about it this way: there is an advertising benefit to taking online reservations.
- Web sites that are kept current and contain useful information always receive more traffic than static or out of date sites. Find easy editing tools so more members of the staff can contribute and can be held responsible for their part of the Web site.
- Web sites that are well organized and easy to navigate tend to bring back repeat traffic.
Building Traffic with Email
Every email to your membership, if designed properly, can be used to entice members to go to the Web site. Remember that everyone who can open their email has the technical ability to go to the Web site, especially if you give them a direct link to get there. So if you want to split the content of the email message between the email itself and an area on the Web site where more information is posted, this is not a big inconvenience to your email recipients. As you create each email, you want to keep in mind two objectives: 1) The primary purpose of the email and 2) nudging the member to visit your Web site. Just imagine how much member participation would improve if each and every member receiving your emails ended up wandering around your Web site reading all that content your staff worked so hard to post – it’s an objective worth pursuing. And it’s easy. Once you realize that every email has a secondary purpose of generating Web site traffic, you will think of ways to make it work. Let’s go over some examples:
- Send Invitations to Visit The Web Site. When you first launched your Web site, you probably sent out an email to invite people to visit. (Hopefully you had a campaign to gather email addresses first). What’s to prevent you from sending out additional invitations to visit the Web site? Every time your staff puts in another hour adding content to the Web site, you could send an invitation to see the new material. This works much better if you have the ability to link directly to the new material inside the Web site, so that your link does not just take the member to the front page.
- Tease Visits With Partial Information. Let’s suppose that you are holding a series of “Guest Bartender Fridays” where you dress up selected members in bartender vests and have them invite all their friends and neighbors. You plan to host parties with different bartenders each week for 8 weeks. You pick some of your most popular members, the Fredericks, the Freys and the Smiths, for the first night, then take lots of pictures. The following Monday, out goes an e-mailing with two of the goofiest pictures and a short story, with a link for “More pictures of the Frederick/Frey/Smith party”. The link jumps directly to a nice collage of pictures in the Web site, where each week another collage will be added. Be sure to add captions with names so you keep reminding members of those other folks they forgot. With your Web site tools you can track how many people click through to view these pictures, and chances are the traffic will build up over the series as more people hear about the parties and the pictures. Not only will your parties be a big success, but you will have introduced many additional members to all the other types of information they can see on the Web site, including the names of some members they didn’t know.
- Bribe Them With Coupons. Suppose you send out an email that explains that the Board believes the Internet will play an escalating role in building bonds between members and their club. Go on to say that the value of the Web site is multiplied by each additional member making use of it. So the Board, in order to encourage this form of communication, has agreed that everyone who signs up for Lobstrocity (your annual lobster fest) will get two coupons for free drinks. You could even make it a policy that members signing up for any event online will receive two free drink coupons. This program will be popular and will alert members to events they would not have otherwise attended. Think of those coupons as very inexpensive advertising.
- Create An Extended Version Of The Newsletter. Maybe today you produce a 16 or 20 page newsletter. It gets printed at a high cost and mailed to all members monthly. What would happen if you printed a nice 8 page newsletter instead, but created a 20 page electronic version and posted that on the Web site? Then you could send an email to all members with a link directly to the extended electronic version of the newsletter. This would save the extra cost of printing and would encourage more members to sign on to see the extended version. You could also post an archive of back issues, etc.
Well, we could go on with ten more ideas, but the key ingredients are these:
- Use email to alert the member that new information is available, but don’t just give them the information, give them a link to the Web site instead;
- The link must jump to the right information directly – if you force them to wander around looking for the information, they will be frustrated and won’t click through any more;
- Use every opportunity to introduce members to each other and to the services you offer at the club;
- Continue to build archives of information on the Web site about past events and traditions.
Next week we will examine how to make emails more attractive and more effective by adding artistic touches. We will show you how you can create a professional design at minimal cost and effort.