How to improve your membership sign-up

Clubs and organisations are always looking for ways to increase their membership. We’ll share a few ideas for boosting membership numbers in this post.

But before we do, we recommend you start at home first – with your existing members.

Opinion countsBegin by asking your current members what they think

What’s the best thing about your club? What could be better? We often hear Organisers say ‘our members don’t like that’, or ‘our members prefer this’, but have you ever actually asked them?

It’s easy to think that one person’s view is representative of the entire membership, when often it isn’t.

So start with a member survey and ask for your member’s opinions and ideas. As well as being a good way of retaining your existing members by making them feel important, it will flag up any problem areas and tell you which benefits are seen as most valuable (and therefore which you should prioritise in promotion).

If you make changes in light of the feedback, be sure to pass this back to the existing members. This is a positive message that you’re a responsive club that cares about your members’ opinions, and they’re much more likely to recommend you to friends as a result.

Use your current members as referrers

Your existing members are your best promotional tools – as long as they’re feeling happy and valued (see point one above).

Word-of-mouth is more valuable than anything, but you have to give them a reason to spread it.

So provide them with opportunities to talk you up.

If you haven’t set up a ‘Refer-a-Friend’ scheme, do so now. Think about what benefit or incentive would mean the most to both the referrer and the referee.

Is offering a discount off their first year of membership fees the strongest message? What benefit will you give the existing member? Ask them for their opinion in the member survey – this will tell you what they would respond best to.

Set up opportunities to personally interact with potential new members

The worst thing you can do is set up a refer-a-friend scheme and expect your existing members to proactively put it into practice. Don’t rely on email either – you need physical touch points.

Taster Days or Community Events are a good way to get new people through the door. Ask each of your members to invite along a friend, lay on some refreshments and set up some entertainment or activity that’s relevant to your club or organisation.

This doesn’t need to be about slick marketing, it’s about getting people to experience your friendly atmosphere for themselves. Your existing members will do the promotion naturally for you.

Do make sure you have a discount offer available at the time. You need to have an incentive on offer to encourage people to join THAT DAY, like a discount on their membership fees, or 14 months for the price of 12.

Another way to get people through the door is to:

Print extra promotional cards with your membership card run

The more cards you print, the cheaper the cost per card is.

So when you send your run of membership cards to print, ask about running-on some generic branded cards at the same time. This is a really cost effective marketing tool. You can use these in various ways:

  • Give one to each existing member with their new membership card to pass on to a friend or family member
  • Advertise a refer-a-friend incentive – e.g. 30% off membership fees for new joiners when you present this card
  • Print a discount card for members to pass on that offers a discount off a meal in your restaurant, or a free session at your club, e.g. a free round of golf, or afternoon using the spa facilities.

You could also use the extra cards to:

Promote an offer locally to your target audience

This relies on you having a strong understanding of where your target audience ‘live’. You could run a series of promotional cards offering a discount in your restaurant or bar for example, and post it out to local postcodes, or to a relevant database.

This will only work though if you know your demographic, and if the potential rewards are worth the cost. For example doing a mass mail out to local households with details of your tennis club will have high wastage, as only a small percentage of them will actually play tennis.

If you’re able to isolate a group of highly desirable potential members, then consider:

  • Pre-loading branded gift cards and posting those out. A card with ‘actual’ money on (say £5 for spending in the bar) is hard to ignore or throw away.
  • Set up an incentive programme with other local businesses
    Partnering with local businesses is a great way to provide your members with valuable benefits, and to encourage participation from different groups. For example, you could come to a deal with a neighbouring hotel or attraction, and make it reciprocal. They offer your members a discount when they visit; you do the same in return.
  • Market your club where your members are likely to be
    Seems a bit obvious this one, but there are still a lot of clubs that expect potential members to come to them. You need to do some research into who your ideal member is, and what their lifestyle is likely to be. By which we mean: what do they read, what social media groups do they follow, what are their interests? How can you reach them?

Go where your members are and you will be able to find new members/leads to mine.