Identifying Niches Within Your Private Club Membership

Last month, I addressed many different methods that can enhance your private club events and make them a success year-round. In that column, I briefly touched upon the importance of targeting niches within your membership; however, I think it’s important to delve a little deeper into this topic.

Targeting niches within a larger audience has become a leading marketing trend over the last decade within the private club industry and beyond—and for good reason. This technique has continuously proved itself to be one of the most effective marketing methods available. This is doubly true for private clubs. In fact, I would argue that it’s one of the most overlooked yet effective ways to increase overall member engagement at your club. Want to know why member niches are important and how you can use them to your advantage? Keep reading for a quick crash course!


Why Should You Care About Member Niches?

Any experienced manager can tell you that not one club membership consists of people that are all alike. Even within the overarching membership, you’ll find groups of people that have different backgrounds, experiences, and interests. Some members live and breathe the game of golf and are looking for activities to supplement their golf experience. Some members are passionate about cultivating their wine collections. Others may find themselves interested in activities like birdwatching or speed walking. Discovering the factors or characteristics that unite members into these specific niches is invaluable.

Once you understand what niches exist within your membership, you can begin creating programming that caters to these specific interests and inspires engagement. It’s far more likely that your members will be committed to events and activities that spark their specific interests, rather than more general programming that is intended to please everyone. Sparking this kind of engagement is invaluable, because it creates a sense of community among members—and when you create a sense of community, you are creating true value. Ultimately, it’s this sense of “true value” that every member seeks when they sign up to be a member at your club. This is exactly what can make member niches such a powerful tool in any private club manager’s arsenal.


What Defines a Member Niche?

Member niches can be “sliced and diced” in a variety of different ways. One of the most basic methods to begin identifying member niches is by using demographic information: age, gender, ethnicity, income, etc. After all, activities that might appeal to young professionals may not appeal to more seasoned retirees. However, keep in mind that niches don’t have to be solely defined by traditional demographics. When you consider how to create a sense of community within your membership, don’t be afraid to get creative.

For example, when I managed clubs, I used to call our new members the “freshmen class,” and it wasn’t uncommon for the “freshmen class” to bond and participate in different activities together. They may have been from all different backgrounds and walks of life, but they found a connection in being new to the club and trying to find their place in the community. In a way, this uniting factor created a small community of their own.


How Can You Find Niches Within Your Membership?

The best way to discover member niches is to look to the members themselves for guidance. Social committees are one of your greatest allies. Having a large social committee populated by a diverse set of members will generate a multitude of ideas for different activities and events. It also allows you as a manager to discover what your members get excited about—whether it’s playing bridge or birdwatching.

You will rarely be able to anticipate the unique set of interests that your members have and the singular kinds of experiences that they crave. What’s the best way to find out? Just ask them! When Chambers performs focus groups at clubs across the country, members often open up about their thoughts on different activities, events, and “clubs within a club” (or intraclubs) they believe would enhance their overall experience. I knew of one club that ended up having a motorcycle-focused intraclub because a select group of members enjoyed this unique hobby. This wasn’t anticipated or contrived by management—it came to be from the shared interests of members.

During my time as a club manager, I tried my best to remain present but silent during social committee meetings. Rather than trying to influence their thoughts and feelings, I took these meetings as an opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of the club’s membership and their diverse set of interests and needs. As a manager, you don’t have to have all of the answers—and a lot of the time, you won’t…or shouldn’t. Instead, focus on being a facilitator. Members should always be the driving force behind any event or activity that the club puts on. After all, members listen to other members. Word-of-mouth and peer relationships—particularly if members share common interests or experiences—will always trump even the best marketing efforts.

My point? Communities arise organically. They cannot be forced into existence. Keep your ears to the ground and listen to what your members want. They may not all want the same things, but there is one desire that they all have: to be part of something greater. By helping them capture this feeling and identify their shared interests, you ultimately provide value in their day-to-day lives. And isn’t that what private clubs are all about?


Stay tuned for next month’s Perspectives from the Other Side, where we’ll take a deeper look into how we can adjust our communication methods to suit different member niches and demographics.


How have you targeted niches within your membership to keep members engaged? Comment below!

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