The Club That Secretly Scares the S*** Out of Me

I love a challenge, but this time I thought to myself, “Maybe I’ve bit off a little more than I can chew.” My agency’s newest client is a tough one. This club has mostly everything going wrong for it. It is located in a pretty remote spot with very little residential population. Its membership has been tapped time and again for referrals and has run dry. It has a very expensive initiation fee, over $100,000. It’s a true golfer’s club, and there are really no family activities. There’s no gym to speak of. There is a skeleton staff. Their prospect pipeline can be counted on one hand. Most would say this is a recipe for failure in today’s world. I said, “bring it on,” but I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t a little nervous.

Now, don’t get me wrong, the place does have a lot going for it too. The golf course has an incredible design, created by a world-renowned architect. It’s in immaculate condition. The clubhouse is a rustic paradise with gorgeous furnishings. The staff is friendly, professional, knowledgeable and they are hard core golf fanatics. The problem is, there are very few people who value those sorts of things in today’s world. It’s a shame really, but it’s a fact of life.

So how am I going to re-ignite interest in this place? I have to turn these perceived weaknesses into strengths. I have to get people excited to visit this property. Once they visit, we have to retain that excitement. Oh, and winter is coming. We have maybe one good month to make it happen before we have to wait until spring. Ok, it’s time to buckle up.

I’m going to share with you what I did. Spoiler alert: today as I write this, there are 125 membership prospects and 41 of those prospects are playing the course in a shotgun event with the members. It has been a massive success. My hands have stopped shaking and there’s a big grin on my face as I type. And yes, more than once I’ve lifted both arms above my head, looked up and said, “Yes!”

I’m going to take you through my recipe for compelling marketing that works. There are no gimmicks, shortcuts or shady tactics. Successful campaigns are a combination of targeting, timing, copywriting, engaging visuals, simplicity of action, and immediate and consistent follow up.


Choosing the right demographics is absolutely essential to the success of any campaign. Without it reaching the right eyeballs or ears, the perfect ad can easily be a dud – and an expensive one at that. A good marketing agency will help you narrow down age, gender, income, affinity (such as golf, tennis, wine, etc.) and proximity to your club. There are other criteria that can go even deeper depending on your situation and needs.

For this campaign, we decided to target men and women between the ages of 35 and 55, who were known to be golfers, with income exceeding $500,000 and who were within a 25 mile proximity of the club.


Lots of folks don’t consider timing when they run a campaign. I always do. I study days of the week and even hours of the day that get the most engagement. Whether it’s the time of day a social media post goes live or the specific day that a mailer lands in a mailbox, I try to take all of the available information into account. Certain times will simply yield better results than others.

In addition to this, you’ll want to consider what holidays, local events and important dates might conflict or interfere with your message being the most effective as possible. Timing your campaigns around things like “back to school” or tax season can have a major impact compared to other times of the year. Both are great opportunities where people are looking to use those discretionary funds.

As an example, one of my clients up in Michigan makes sure not to schedule events when Michigan or Michigan State are playing at home. They know attendance will suffer.

Lastly, knowing your market’s ideal window of opportunity can be extremely helpful for getting the most out of a campaign. Some markets have many planners and some have a last minute culture to them.

For this campaign we were short on time, but we wanted to give at least three weeks of runway for folks to RSVP. We hustled to get the mailer and social media campaign up and running inside that window. The thinking behind it was that these were busy people, who probably schedule their events in advance, but still have some flexibility to be slightly impulsive.

Effective Copywriting

At the core of any effective ad is great copywriting. Great writing is predicated on knowing your audience. The more you know your audience, the easier it is to speak their unique language. When you know your target demographic, you can anticipate their needs and what types of things move them to immediate action. Empathy is crucial to being an effective marketer.

For me, great copywriting sounds personal. Nearly always, I include words like “you,” “your” and “you’re.” For instance, an ad may read, “You’re invited to an exclusive VIP experience.” When possible I even use their name.

For this campaign, we did in fact personalize the mail pieces with each person’s name. The headline read, “NAME, You’re Invited,” and was changed out on each piece depending on the first name of each prospect. I felt it was important to spend a few extra marketing dollars to personalize the mail pieces, since we were dealing with high net worth individuals who appreciate a personal touch. In this instance, I footed the bill myself to do this, and I’m glad that I did, because the piece received nearly twice the response rates that I estimated.

Engaging Visuals

If you’ve ever attended one of my keynotes or seminars you’ll know that I’m critical of photographs and imagery that lack the human element. It’s my opinion that people are attracted to people. All too often, communications pieces that clubs put out have sweeping landscape shots of the course with nobody playing, or empty gyms, pools and dining rooms. In my opinion, that’s a big mistake. Seeing actual people enjoying the facilities allows prospective members to imagine themselves there.

Beyond that, it’s worth hiring an expert graphic designer or agency who can facilitate the art direction of your campaign pieces. They are highly skilled in what visually works and what doesn’t, so trust them. Someone who knows what they’re doing will place emphasis on the right parts, such as the call-to-action. It will flow better. It will be a more cohesive and attractive piece. I know it seems fun to try and lay out your own ads with Publisher or some other design program in your office, but unless you’re professionally trained the results will be less than satisfactory, as well as a big waste of your time. What would take a professional designer one hour to do, will take you three. Your time is better spent on other things, believe me. The results always speak for themselves.

For this campaign, we used the beautiful existing course shots that the club had, but we inserted some people into the scene with crafty Photoshop techniques.. With that subtle tweak, it became a drastically more engaging image. We used the right fonts and pops of color to draw the eye to important places such as the landing page we wanted them to visit.

Simplicity of Action

One of the biggest mistakes that clubs make is to have multiple calls to action. They list phone numbers, email addresses, physical addresses and even obscure things like fax lines. When there are too many options, membership prospects get overwhelmed. It also takes up a lot of valuable space in the ad. More is always less when it comes to calls to action.

Instead, I recommend you make it easy on them and give them one clear way to RSVP or otherwise reach you. You’ll see a dramatic difference when there is only one option and it’s clear. If people want to take advantage of your offer badly enough, they’ll take the action you give them.

Also, make sure it’s simple and direct. If you want them to call, list your direct line. If you want them to take action on the web or fill out a form, then create a landing page that is specific to the event or offer you are promoting. On that landing page, make sure the form is easy to find and fill out. Lengthy forms are less likely to be completed, so keep it simple and ask for only what is necessary.

For this campaign we used a specific landing page address that was very easy to remember and type. The form itself was simple, we just asked for name, phone and email. It proved extremely effective.

Immediate & Consistent Follow Up

Don’t give your membership prospects an opportunity to be distracted or swayed by competing events and activities. It’s important to confirm their RSVP or request as soon as possible and to follow up with reminders leading up to the event as well as post-event. We live in an on-demand world where folks appreciate immediate feedback and follow up. When you do this, you’re signaling that your club is attentive to their needs and professional in the way business is conducted.

There are tools today to help you automate the follow up process and I recommend you take advantage of them. Email programs from many of the major software vendors as well as third party sites like MailChimp and Constant Contact offer pretty sophisticated automation. This will save you time during the follow up process but I’d also suggest adding a personal touch with a phone call or the like from time to time.

Research and experience shows that the vast majority prospects become members between the 5th to 12th contact. So even if  your leads don’t become members right away, keep them on your follow-up lists. The easiest way to do that is through  automation.

For this campaign we had the membership director follow up with each lead via a personal phone call. This served two purposes: it screened out those who were not serious about membership and it gave them another personal caring touch to make them feel like VIPs.

Are You Ready?

So that’s my winning roadmap. That’s how we turned this campaign and so many others into winners without having to discount or use any unseemly tactics. We owned what made the club unique, found a matching target audience, delivered a compelling message and built a follow up plan that could be accomplished by the staff. I’m not so scared anymore because I stuck to what know works time and time again.

When you’re ready to work on your next marketing campaign, I hope you’ll use this guide as a reference. If you want to dive even deeper, I invite you to download my free ebook, The 7 Elements of Highly Effective Ads, which will give you a structure for crafting the perfect ad. You can get your copy at

If you need some help along the way, I’d love to chat with you and see if we’re a fit. You can schedule yourself into my calendar for a complimentary consultation at