Know Your Members, Know Your Strategy

Know Your Club Members

The amount of change in society is so significant, it is essential that leaders develop an individualized strategy for their club.

The starting point for this process is often a comprehensive survey of the members. They are the owners and primary users, so it is important to have a great understanding of their needs and desires as you set off on the journey of creating the club of the future.

Surveys work particularly well in the club setting as the members are an engaged set of consumers. While many businesses struggle to get measurable feedback from their customers, that isn’t the case with clubs. Most members will be eager to participate in a survey, giving you a rock-solid database on customer preferences. Club leaders would do well to leverage this unique opportunity. Why assume you know what members want when it is so easy, and politically astute, to have accurate facts on their attitudes?

The youngest members and recent joiners are the most fertile source of new members.

An important part of your survey process is a complete and thorough cross-tabulation of member segments. It is vital to understand perspectives of the club by different age groups and tenure of membership. While there are obvious reasons to strive to have all members highly satisfied with the membership experience, it is essential that the youngest members and recent joiners are also thrilled with the club since they are the most fertile source of new members. This is true for clubs of all sizes and types, whether it is a typical country club in the north, a club in the south serving retirees or a family sports club.

The opinions of all members are important in quality control, but your younger and newer members matter the most as they concern new member attraction. Every club has an up-and-coming segment that most closely reflects the attitudes of other younger people in the primary target segment. By modeling your experience to serve this group, you are, by extension, creating a club that will appeal to those who are most likely to join. In addition, the first thing a new member does after they join is call up their closest friends and invite them to their new club. This creates exposure to a whole new set of potential members. Since one of the most important elements of club success is replacing members who age out with new members, this is an important part of a club’s regeneration process.

Strategic Planning Process

Strategic planning is the process of identifying what a club needs to be in the future and developing action plans that make it happen. As with any business, a key to success is being aware of the trends and consumer preferences that are likely to have an impact and reacting accordingly. Creating this vision starts with a good understanding of where you are today. This information will need to be blended with a thorough understanding of the external environment – trends, population demographics, competition – to develop a plan that helps the club grow and prosper. Your starting point is a detailed understanding of those people who are most likely to populate your future.

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About Frank Vain


Mr. Vain provides consulting and planning services to private clubs throughout North America and Asia. Through use of specialized services including membership surveys, strategic planning, operational analysis and facility long range planning, Frank assists clubs in developing individualized strategies for their unique situations.

Mr. Vain joined McMahon Group in 1988 and has more than forty years of experience in the management and development of hospitality properties including private clubs, athletic clubs, resorts and restaurants. Frank is a Past President of The Country Club of St. Albans, an 800-member, 36-hole country club located in Missouri and he is the former owner of Concord Sports Club, a 1,700-member family athletic club in St. Louis. Frank was elected to the Board of the National Club Association in 2011 and served as Chairman in 2018-19.

Mr. Vain is a native of Philadelphia and a graduate of Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He is a featured speaker at the annual Club Managers Association of America World Conference, National Club Association National and Regional Conferences, Major Golf Associations and at regional chapter meetings of club managers and leaders.

He has written numerous articles that have been published in Club ManagementClub Director andBoardRoom magazines. Frank was named the Gary Player Club Educator of the Year for 2012 and 2015 by BoardRoom magazine. He is the co-author of McMahon’s Club Trends®, a recognized industry benchmark on the trends and issues affecting private clubs.

More articles by Frank Vain
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