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Focus on the Trees, Not the Forest.

We are all aware of the phrase, “I can’t see the forest for the trees.” Membership retention is critical to the long-term success of any private club and for a long time it has been more of a ‘macro discussion’ (the forest) rather than a ‘micro effort’ (the trees).  As clubs across the country try to simply keep pace with annual attrition regarding new member growth, studying data and focusing on keeping members happy and engaged is becoming a critical part of a club’s on-going strategic plan. But where do you start?

In Jordan Peterson’s book, 12 Rules for Life, rule Number Four is to ‘Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today.” In our industry, we suggest to ‘Compare each member to their yesterday, not to another member.” Each member has a certain level of activity at a club. When you only compare members against each other, you’re missing a very important data point; their own baseline. This is exactly how club leadership and membership professionals should look at membership retention and be aware of club attrition rates.

Only looking at a macro level of your membership’s activity levels, club usage, spending, number of guests, overall engagement and even reasons of resignation is misguided. When you are able to look at all of these variables as a whole, it is easier to find out what makes each member happy, engaged and what really matters to them and improve upon that consistently, day in and day out.

Every club has access to an overabundance of information on their members. That is great news. What is key to reducing attrition is using that information to obtain a better perspective of each member and identify those indicators that illustrate ‘negative trending activity levels.’ To do this you should look for members who are not using the club as often, such as spending, rounds of golf, number of guests, wine purchases, visits to the club, etc…

One thing to remember is that spending reports are not equal to trending reports. Spending reports simplify the facts to ‘who is spending and who is not.’ The problem with that is it does not give you the ability to see subtle, yet important, changes in member trending activity levels and indicators that can quickly become material.

  • Do your spending reports realize that Mr. Jones has gone from golfing four rounds a week to two? No.

  • Are spending reports able to then detect these subtle, yet material, trends for hundreds of members in each classification? No.

We all know that small things can make a big difference, such as saving money, eating healthy or exercising. Saving a little here or there can add up quickly. On the contrary, spending a little here or there can add up quickly. When you analyze monthly snapshots and focus on the activity levels and engagement trends of each of your members individually, you can quickly identify those members who are less engaged, ‘at risk’ and closer to resignation.

This is when a club needs to find creative ways to influence and increase their respective activity levels and engagement within the club. An action plan should be designed to implement these strategies to re-engage and increase these activity level indicators that are specific to each member. These action plans will work when they are more precisely implemented rather than more broadly implemented.

If you can connect with each of these members through meaningful engagement and ensure the services, amenities and enjoyment at your club provide more value than the amount of money and time spent by your member, you’ll be on your way to a higher retention rate. Higher retention equates to a stronger and more prolific dues line for the club.  It's well worth the effort.

Stare at each tree not the forest. Don’t look at the members of your club as a whole, look at each member individually and you will be amazed at what you see.

If you would like additional information regarding our ALI (Activity Level Indicator) monthly reports and membership retention, or how to identify your own ‘at risk’ members, please call AJ Redeztke at (800) 526-8794 or by email at At Creative Golf Marketing, our goal has always been to provide the guidance and solutions to reinvigorate, promote and market the private club industry.

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