Tech isn’t going away. The question then is, “How do you add your club’s personal hospitality touch through the technology?” That's what Greg Gilg says, and what his team at the Field Club of Omaha, are constantly striving to figure out.
As part of the millennial generation, and with a finance background, Greg has a unique perspective of the club industry and everything that surrounds it. In a common refrain from millennials, “I do the dollars and cents and the value proposition of everything. I have no problem paying for a superior product,” says Greg. “However, you need to deliver an experience to me that is unmatched and something that I can’t get somewhere else. The nice part is that at the places that I've worked I've been surrounded with like-minded people.”
State of Changing Membership
There has been much made about the changing makeup of club membership. Just like any brand, clubs need to shift with their audience. That is something the Field Club of Omaha has embraced. “There is definitely a stark contrast between memberships at our club,” according to Greg. “Our golf membership is typically older on average. They know that the golf course is always there and they can get on it anytime they want and they enjoy that.” Social members are a different story. “The social membership is significantly younger. That means that they're significantly more tech savvy, but at the same time, they have more desires. They are constantly doing the value proposition and always want that next great thing. That keeps us on our toes. We see that as a positive thing.”
Designing the Next Member Experience
What would you do, if you could do anything? That’s almost what it feels like when you start thinking about what’s next for club events and the industry at large. The Field Club of Omaha takes first-person, personal approach. “What would we want if we were in the market? What we're trying to attract is exactly what we look for outside of work as well, that’s where we start,” says Greg. “We have what we call innovation meetings to decide what to do next.”
From that vantage point, the team at the Field Club of Omaha keeps its focus on their long-term goals, knowing that the long term is made up of many small individual experiences. “We're happy so long as you continue to pay dues—47 percent of our total revenue comes from dues. That is all we care about. Why do we care about the $90 meal you had last night that you said was terrible? Take the 90 bucks back and come back and spend 90 bucks on us as long as that makes you happy and you continue to pay dues, we will be successful.”
They’ve made what many would see as a unique investment towards that objective, hiring one person whose only goal is “to create events that lose the club money,” according to Greg. “Shawn has a litany of different events. What we're looking to do is provide value. Our business model stipulates that we will give you about anything to keep you happy.” Whether it's wine dinners, private events for members who want an intimate event, to the public wine dinners, to early teen etiquette classes they’re looking to engage and keep members happy.
Moving with the Audience
Creating a great member experience and delivering value requires communication and data about the results from that communication. That means technology, and a lot of that is new to clubs everywhere. According to Greg, “It was a very much pen, paper and maybe flyers at the club” prior to their current system. “Today, that is just not gonna work,” he said. “We've been able to make a lot of changes in a short period of time. What we're seeing now is growth in participation, and our dollars spent are up significantly.”
One thing Greg and the team have learned is that you can’t take a position of ‘if you build it they will know how to use it’ or even know what it is. “Part of the success of our communication and technology rollouts is that we don't just throw things out and let the members sink or swim. We carry them along with education,” says Greg.
“What we found is that some of our marketing is getting to our target audience quicker than we even intend or expect it to. If you can get that to your mainstream, you've won the game before you even started the battle.”
Technology Personalizes the Club Experience
What technology does is help club associates know members in more personal detail, and to have that information available across the club. It enables but doesn’t replace, the human touch of the experience. For example, Greg sees great opportunities in new mobile technology. “I can see the mobile beacon technology becoming very important to us,” says Greg. “For example, we know when Mr. Jones passes through the gate at 2:00 in the afternoon that he’s a golf member, and probably not here for lunch. Does he have a tee time? Is he coming to hit range balls? When they cross that barrier, we’ll know. We can have staff there with an iPad and a picture of Mr. Jones. They can put his bag on a cart and send him off to the range. Over time Mr. Jones is going to remember that experience and he’s going to think highly of it. That's where we're seeing it going. We need to prepare ourselves to be able to have the technology in place to create these types of very personalized experiences and scale them across the club.”
New Expectations for Clubs and Relationships
Clubs are and always have been about personal relationships and creating an exceptional experience. Technology is just one more way that clubs can elevate the member experience to deliver value and ultimately set a new standard for expectations. That is something that the next generation of club leaders like Greg and the Field Club of Omaha are embracing to great effect.
Do you Know a Next Generation Leader?
Throughout the year we’ll spotlight trail-blazers in the industry that are leading the way through member experience, programming, operations, and technology. Do you know someone that fits that description? Nominate them here.
About the Field Club of Omaha
In 1898, what is known today as The Field Club of Omaha country club was founded as the Omaha Cricket Association. Today it is the oldest club west of the Mississippi River and the jewel of Midtown Omaha. Visit https://www.fcomaha.com/
About the Next Generation of Club Leaders
The Club Industry is changing — it has to change to keep pace with its audience. At the front of that change are club leaders paving the way by blending new ideas and member experiences into something familiar and yet different. We’re featuring these trailblazers, the Next Generation of Club Leaders, to share and better understand their stories, successes, and how they will impact the future of the club industry.
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