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2018 Growth: How clubs (and VGM Club) are adapting

Posted On: February 1, 2018 by ClubProcure in: Clubhouse VGM Club

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Over the last three months, VGM Club has been working on updating our data to create a better experience for our members. The more we know about your club, the better we can communicate with you. Every VGM Club associate updated information about more than 100 clubs to reflect their most up-to-date amenities and opportunities.

This project is part of a concerted effort to send our members relevant solutions. If your club does not have a pool, why do you want an email that includes pool solutions? You do not! We want to continue to relay only the most relevant solutions, and this project was another step in the right direction.

What We Found

While we were working on this project, a few things stood out:

  • Many of our members have spectacular websites.
  • Our members are clearly working hard to include differentiators, be it new amenities, lifestyle offerings, programs for young members, or others.
  • Many of our members are beginning to connect their websites to social media and new communication (e.g. blogging).

Clubs in our membership are at various stages in this process, but one we felt stood out to us was from Elk River Club in Banner, North Carolina. We were fortunate to catch up with their General Manager, Toni Littleton, to walk through the three bullet points above.

Tony Littleton, GM at Elk River Club in Banner, North Carolina

Your club offers a variety of amenities, and they are all easily viewed from your homepage. How important is that section for a club’s website?

Toni: People are so busy these days, we feel it is very important to have information about our amenities readily available on the website. We want prospective members to be able to ascertain quickly if Elk River might be the club for them. With so many great clubs to choose from, we wanted to highlight our unique amenities quickly for our website users. People tend to linger to watch a great video longer than spending a lot of time browsing through a website, so we also wanted our video header to convey our wonderful amenities and club.

How do you balance your marketing efforts to show off amenities to two different audiences (members and perspective members)? 

Our public website is a great tool to give prospective members a glimpse of life at Elk River. Our goal with the website is to leave qualified prospects with a desire to experience the club for themselves. It also gives our members a tool to share Elk River with their friends. We use the private members’ only site to provide a plethora of information to our members on club activities and events. We also utilize a mobile app that links to our website so club information is always at our members’ fingertips.

You manage a large facility, and unlike many of our clubs, it includes fishing and equestrian opportunities. How do you manage those amenities?

Toni: We do have several unique amenities that could be challenging to manage. I have a very talented management team that are so dedicated they make my job much easier. The Elk River membership is also committed to keeping their facilities and programs top notch. They have always been supportive of promoting staff from within whenever possible, with myself, the superintendent, director of golf, controller, executive chef, food and beverage manager, events manager, and equestrian director all holding various jobs at Elk River before moving into their current positions.  These opportunities serve to strengthen the staff’s dedication to the success of the club. I truly believe this support from the membership is a unique aspect to Elk River that sets us apart as much as our amenities do.

Buzzwords within the industry include offering differentiators, casual dining spaces, and using new avenues to communicate offerings to members. How do your current projects reflect those buzzwords?

Toni: We have three projects in process this winter. We are renovating our grille kitchen, which is the main service kitchen. The new space allocation will allow us to serve our members in a more efficient manner. Casual and outdoor dining continue to grow in popularity. To accommodate this demand at Elk River, we are adding a covered patio with a grille and bar (see above). This will be our new casual dining space and will seat up to 68. Our tennis courts are also undergoing a renovation this winter. They will be reoriented and new seating spaces added for viewing and socializing.  All of these changes are in response to the more active and casual lifestyle of our membership. As you can imagine, in a member-owned club it can be hard to get approval for large renovations. We had a 94% approval rate for these improvements and related funding when we put it to a membership vote last fall. In addition, we had over 30 members voluntarily contribute in excess of $1.3 million to ensure these projects could be completed.  It has never been such an exciting time at Elk River; and I am thrilled to be a part of it.

We are also committed to keeping our Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course in top condition. Our director of golf and superintendent have done a hole-by-hole study of the course and submitted ideas to improve playability for higher handicap players and new challenges for the lower handicappers.  We prioritized the projects and have completed several over the fall and winter and will continue to work on this improvement plan over the next few years. We put a lot of emphasis on our golf operations, especially our instructional program. We added the Bear’s Den Learning Facility last year, with state of the art equipment and training. Our director of golf is also a certified fitness trainer and our director of fitness. This provides a great avenue for us to help our golfers utilize their fitness program for the utmost benefit to their golf game.

We spent a lot of time last winter redesigning our members’ only website and app. These have proved extremely useful in keeping members up to date on all of our projects. We have an online photo album of the projects that we update every week or two with pictures. Members are SO excited to see the progress and anxious to get back to Elk River this summer to enjoy their new amenities.

We have made a concentrated effort over the past 3-4 years to build these “differentiators” into our programs and amenities, and the response from members and prospective members has been amazing.

How are you planning to grow as a manager in 2018?

Toni: One of the biggest challenges when you have been at a club for a while it to not let yourself and your staff grow complacent with the thought of “it’s good enough.”  We are working hard this winter to make sure we have programs in place to utilize our new spaces for the maximum enjoyment of the members. We are studying menus, training procedures, and many other facets of operations so we will provide not only wonderful new amenities to enjoy but great programming too.

Do you want to learn more about how VGM Club can help your facility? Visit our website at www.vgmclub.com or call us at 800-363-5480.