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As the membership director of a private club, you wear many “hats” (that’s an understatement, right?). Most notably is the membership growth, engagement, and retention “hat.”

Many facets of marketing your club are beyond your control (i.e. course conditions and/or renovations, expansion of services or lack thereof) that can make your job extremely challenging at times. Yet there is one thing that can make your job(s) a lot easier, and it should be readily accessible. Sharing your club's member and staff stories can be one of the most effective ways to both retain and recruit members. And the best part is, those stories are right in front of you.

Real Stories for Real Results

You don't need elaborate stories about state champion golfers or award-winning chefs (although you'll really want to tell those stories if you have them). We're talking about the real stories that help put a face on your club — personalizing it for member engagement and recruitment.

But before we explain the various ways to identify and use those stories, let's discuss why stories matter:

  1. Stories are memorable. It’s been proven that effective storytelling increases empathy and allows the reader to see themselves in the story, making it more memorable.

  2. Stories can take us places. Stories can give your prospective members visibility into your club and your culture and can leverage what makes your club unique!

  3. Stories are shareable. The best advocates of your club are your members. Stories are a way to create “virtual introductions” of your staff and your members.

  4. Stories create and build community. They can make us feel valued and build connections with members.

How Stories Personalize the Club Experience

Relationships give meaning and richness to our lives. Stories can be the bridge to making new friends and strengthening the relationships that matter most, but unfortunately, they are often overlooked and never told.

So, where do you find them? They are actually everywhere.

They are in your dining rooms, on the practice greens, they are on your swim team, and maybe even in your kitchen. The best stories aren’t easily recognizable and sometimes are disguised as ordinary, everyday events and people. That’s right, the most memorable stories are about everyday people doing everyday things.

Example: A Story of Friendship and Food

The Field Club of Greenwich Connecticut in many ways looks like most private clubs. They have dining events, they have seasonal menu features, and they have newsletters. One thing, however, that makes The Field Club of Greenwich different is their newfound commitment to finding and sharing interesting stories.

Several months ago, the communications team invited StoryTeller's President, Ed Heil, to conduct a storytelling workshop. Ed explained how adding real stories about real people would bring a new dimension to their newsletters and club communications. So they gave it a try.

Now, storytelling has become a shared mission for all staff members including the head chef, who landed the unexpected on his story-seeking mission. Here’s an excerpt from Chef’s story that was published in their recent newsletter:

Remembering Jack Stauffer is easy; he was genuine, witty, caring and funny. Jack had a great quality of making you feel that you were the most important person in the room. One evening while Mrs. Stauffer was dining at the club with guests, she mentioned that they had written a cookbook and if I would like a copy. I was amazed with all of the great photos taken of them and their family as they enjoyed a culinary journey around the world together. I added it to my collection immediately. When I had a moment to flip through the pages, I realized that this book was much more than a cookbook; it was a love story, a story of friendship and food!

Shortly after receiving a copy of the cookbook, Chef was inspired by the contents and extended an invitation to Mrs. Stauffer to join him to prepare her signature “Chicken Cordon Bleu” dish together. The featured dish became a “seasonal special ” on the weekly menu and Mrs. Stauffer became a household name.

This is an example of what can happen when a fairly ordinary conversation turned into an extraordinary connection. You have stories in your dining rooms, too.

Not only are there countless member stories waiting to be told, but there is an abundance of staff stories.

  • Maybe it’s the story of Matthew, who worked his way up from locker room attendant to dining room manager. I wonder how many of your members know that he is the son of a migrant worker and is the first in his family who went on to college?

  • Perhaps, it’s Amanda’s story that would resonate with members if they knew that most nights after working her 8-hour shift as a server, she played lead guitar in three different rock and roll bands in town.

Stories are memorable. Stories build connections. Connections build relationships.

If you want to create different kinds of connections with your members and give your prospective members a different kind of perspective to what makes your club unique, start by telling more stories.

Need some additional inspiration?

If you're still feeling stuck for story ideas, here are some options.

  • Create staff profiles and share them in emails to help build relationships.

  • Capture member testimonials (written are good but video are even better!) to share with prospects considering membership.

  • Share testimonials of the bride who married her high school sweetheart, who she met on the club swim team in 6th grade.

  • Tell how members of your club make a difference in your backyard. How about sharing the story of the three best friends who grew up living near hole No. 9 that have had a lemonade stand every year on 9/11 and are still raising money together at 25 years old!

Just remember, the story is about the person, it’s not about the event. The Mother’s Day brunch is not the headline. The first time mom of triplets won the club championship is the real story that's worth telling.

So, as you strategize to recruit new members and retain existing members, remember to seek out real stories. They may not be obvious or easy to find, but they exist. And they're worth investing your time and effort into, we promise.

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