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
6. Drive Traffic to Your Web site
7. Add Artistry
Next Week's Installment:
Step 8 of 10 to engage your membership with email
Last week we discussed some easy and inexpensive ways to create professional looking emails so your electronic communication with members measures up to the quality of your newsletters, brochures and facilities.
This week the subject is “targeting.”
A Contract To Communicate
When you send emails to your members you strike a deal with them, even though you may never discuss it. The deal is this: You agree to send them information they want to read and in return they agree to open the emails and read them. If you violate your side of the bargain by sending them uninteresting or irrelevant emails, the deal will break down and they will stop reading. Then your electronic communication channel dies.
Think of each email sent to a member as a value transaction. >From the member’s perspective there is a cost of taking the trouble to read the email, and there is the benefit of finding out something they want to know. As long as the benefits of an email outweigh the cost of reading it, the member will keep reading and you will strengthen your communication channel. But if you send an irrelevant email that has no value to the member, the member loses on that transaction and your communication channel will weaken. So “targeting” is the process of making sure each email you send has a positive net value for the member reading it.
Most people think of targeting as the process of sending a mailing to a selected group of members, and while this is true, the real secret of targeting is AVOIDING sending an email to all the rest of the members. As long as you keep in mind that it is costly to send emails to members who won’t benefit from them, you will see how important it is to target your mailings to interested groups.
In order to target emails, you need to define groups of members, the “target market segments,” for your club. Your Web site vendor probably allows you to define four kinds of groups:
- Static Groups. Defined manually by club administration. Example: Board of Directors. Use Static Groups when you want complete control of group membership.
- Opt-In Groups. Created by club administration, but “opted into” by members themselves, by selecting groups they are interested in from a list located on their personal profile page. Use opt-in groups when club administration doesn’t want the overhead of capturing the preferences for each and every member who wants in or out of a group.
- Event Registrants. Use these groups for reminders and to identify member preferences.
- Dynamic Groups. Defined by club administration through “Rules Of Inclusion.” Whenever the Dynamic Group is used, the system will search the online marketing database to see which members fit the Rules Of Inclusion. For example, suppose you want to mail to members who: a) have attended a wine tasting in the past; or b) have joined the club in the last year; or c) live in the same zip code as the guest bartender for an upcoming event. A set of Rules of Inclusion can easily select this group. Dynamic Groups can be defined for all kinds of purposes.
Take the time to define your groups carefully. Once set up properly, they are very easily maintained.
Build A Marketing Database
Groups, especially Dynamic Groups, depend on values in your Web site’s marketing database. Most vendors’ products allow you to capture 100 or more “fields” of information. But where do these values come from? It’s actually easier to build up a marketing database than you might first guess. Here are some approaches:
- Start with the data in your member billing system. Some of the fields kept there will be useful. Make sure you realize that the raw data in the accounting files may not be in a form that is “member-facing.” For example, there may be cryptic codes, some values may be in all capital letters, and some values may need to be split into parts or combined before the data is useful in the marketing database. Synchronizing programs are available that will convert the raw accounting data into member-facing marketing information and then automatically load it into the online database on a recurring basis. Your staff spends a lot of time collecting accounting data – you might as well put that data to good use in your communications targeting.
- Open other fields in the marketing database so members can edit them, and allow the members to characterize themselves by updating their own profiles.
- Send out surveys asking the members to describe their interests – these surveys can be a great way to alert the membership that certain services exist that they may have forgotten, so the surveys can be useful even before you make use of the data. Most Web systems today offer survey capability at no extra charge, so the only cost is your time thinking up the questions to ask, and you can save those for re-use at a later date.
- Keep lists of attendees at various events. Over time, you can use this information to identify characteristics of your members. For example, based on attendance at several events, and maybe even the buying habits of certain members, you could enter “yes” in a field indicating an interest in Scotch and Scotch tasting events.
Don’t expect to build your member marketing database in one big campaign. Instead take every easy opportunity to capture a little more data and then be like an elephant – never forget.
Schedule Mailings Ahead
Targeting mailings at the last minute can be difficult, because the relevant information to define the targeted group typically takes some time to assemble. It is always easier to gather the information comfortably over time instead of facing a deadline. A tiny amount of planning solves this problem. For example, create the emails associated with an event at the time the event is planned, instead of at the time of the mailing. Schedule the mailings in the future using a Dynamic Group or based on attendee registrations (make sure your emailing software recalculates the members of the group at the time of the mailing, not the time of the scheduling). Once the mailing is scheduled in the future, use the intervening time to gather, comfortably, the data that will govern who falls into the targeted group.
Use Branding To Target
So far we have discussed ways to target members by restricting the mailing just to those who are interested in the subject matter. Another way to target mailings is to allow the member to delete mailings they are not interested in before they take the trouble to read them. Suppose, for example, that a member shows consistent interest in Saturday night dining, and so is included in the “Weekend Specials” mailing. By “branding” this mailing with a distinctive look, perhaps with a special logo or graphic layout, the member will know what the mailing contains without reading it. So on a weekend when the member will be traveling, he can delete the mailing without reading it. By taking this extra step to associate certain kinds of information with a distinctive graphical look, the club is upholding its side of the “Communication Contract” and will strengthen this communication channel. If you take this approach, just make sure you don’t randomly include extraneous information in one of your “branded” emails, because your members will not expect anything extra to be there and may delete it without reading.
If you fulfill your side of the communication contract by reducing the “noise” your members receive in your emails (items to read that bring them no value), the members will reward you by reading your messages. Target your mailings to strengthen electronic communications.
Next week we will discuss ways to track the results of emailings.