In the first of a 3-part series of articles by Promote Training, the golf club management eLearning specialists, we look at how referral marketing can create a valuable source of new members for a golf club.
Membership referrals are simply new members who have been introduced to the club by current members.
The concept of referral marketing is nothing new – indeed, there has been plenty of research on the subject with many studies professing the virtues of referred custom as opposed to new custom from complete strangers.
So why is the concept of ‘referral’ so potentially rewarding for our club?
Benefits of Referrals
The power of recommendation
People trust the opinion of other people in their lives that they respect – family members, friends or work colleagues. For instance, we’ve all watched a television programme that we’ve heard other people talking about – that’s exactly the same referral principle. We heard it from people we know therefore we trust their opinion.
Unlike many other forms of marketing, referral is laser targeting at its most effective. Members know their friends, family and/or work colleagues pretty well. They can spread your membership message to the very audience you want to target.
Due to the nature of referral the quality of the data is more likely to be correct, without false email addresses or such like.
A trusted sales pitch
We’ve all had the unfortunate experience of being on the receiving end of a door-to-door sales person. No doubt most of us didn’t buy anything from them based on issues of trust. How could you be sure those products they were selling are genuine? How do you know they’re going to work? How do you know they’ve not “fallen off the back of a lorry”?!
“Trust” is an important part of the buying decision for any consumer. We are far more likely to buy from someone we trust – so to encourage members to perform our ‘sales pitch’ for us will be making full use of a perceived trustworthy communication channel.
See the research below conducted in the Nielsen Global Survey of Trust in Advertising. Powerful proof indeed.
Huge volumes of people
Not just huge – the entire world! Certainly the entire world if you are to believe in the theory of six degrees of separation. This is the notion that everyone is six steps away, by way of introduction, from every other person in the world. It’s the underlying principle of social media in many ways. You know six people, who each know another six people, who each know another six people – and by the time you do that six times you have a connection with, well, absolutely everyone.
Golfers like to talk golf
It’s true in many cases that golfers like to talk about golf. It stands to reason – golf is their pastime and their leisure pursuit of choice. It also seems that the sport itself has a lot of conversational ingredients. It almost sparks debate and conversation, perhaps as golfers try to rationalize exactly why they play like they do and/or why Rory McIlroy plays like he does. In any event, if you invite a golfer to talk about their golf they usually have a fair amount to say.
It attracts the same types of people
It is often the case that people get on better with other people ‘of the same type’ as them – “birds of a feather flock together”. When you are encouraging members to refer people to the club – you are encouraging people with similar characteristics to them. They may be similar in terms of political persuasion, affluence, professional background, age range and/or in terms of social attitudes. This then helps create a membership body that mixes well with each other, encouraging a happy and harmonious group of customers.
Referred members are less likely to leave
We like to call it “stickability”. It is in the dictionary:
“A person’s ability to persevere with something; staying power”
This is the notion that someone can be more ‘attached’ to a club and therefore less likely to leave. It’s a topic that plays more of a part in our membership retention course, but it’s worth mentioning as a benefit to referred members. As soon as they join they know at least one person at the club, which gives them an instant familiarity and makes integration into the club’s day-to-day happenings a lot easier. This often means they’re a lot less likely to leave in the immediate future as they are socially tied to the club.
Placating Members with Referral Opportunities
It seems some golf club members believe that commercial common sense and financial prudence ends at the gates to the club. They want their club to remain a largely exclusive hideaway from the outside world – to be a hidden sanctuary from society. The very same members are usually the first knocking on the Managers door with incredulity at seeing external advertising of the latest membership promotion.
This is where a pro-active, highly-valued and visible referral campaign within a club can go a long way to placating such members, who rightly or wrongly feel aggrieved at any external membership promotions.
In itself, it won’t convince them of the need for the club to grow the number of members – but it may help convince them that they also have an opportunity to personally benefit from the growth if they refer new members to the club.
In fact, it’s true to say that the preferred route to growing a club’s membership base is through referral, for all the reasons already given. As such, there doesn’t appear to be any logical reason why a club wouldn’t implement a member referral initiative if it were also advertising externally for new members.
Referrals are the lowest hanging fruit – they’re the easiest to pick.