The Blog of Dr Paul Bedford
Member loyalty is of extreme importance to any club, it is the base that member retention is built on. Many clubs find that their ‘loyal’ members often defect to the competition, because of price, location or that its just a new facility. Yet we find that there are clubs that have ‘members ’ who are loyal to the extent that they love them, will never leave them and will be willing to pay more money for the same product/service. Usually we find these types of ‘members ’ in sports, music, and charities.
For example, when have we heard of fans giving up support for the Boston Celtics or Manchester United, just because they didn’t win the trophy? Or when have you heard of people flocking to the music stores to buy a particular music album just because it’s on sale. People will only buy music they love, not because it offers more points, is cheaper, or just because it was conveniently available. Similarly, most people who donate money to a charity usually do so because they feel emotionally attached to it. Many people support Save the Children, or Greenpeace, because they feel strongly about what these organizations are doing.
The problem is that these particular people don’t fall in the ‘normal’ category of business. Can we get members to love our clubs, and how do we do it? After spending years doing research into this area, I’ve finally found some answers. The good news is that yes indeed you can get your members to love you, and it wont cost you very much money either. These members are loyal to an ‘extreme’ extent that they feel emotionally attached to your brand / club. They will never search for alternatives (unless if you don’t offer what they’re after). These members will not only spread good word of mouth, but go out of their way to tell others. Moreover, these guys will be willing to pay more to receive the same service / product that you have to offer them! In fact, I’ve found that these members are willing to spend up to 20% more money. Overall, they are between 20 to 50 percent more profitable than other types of ‘loyal’ members.
Hence, the million-dollar question is, how to get member to love you? The following are some steps which may help in achieving this.
Focus on member delight.
Nearly all the marketing experts have one thing to say, marketing is about member satisfaction. However, member loyalty is about delight, and not satisfaction. Delight does not necessarily mean that you try to surprise the member every time. Instead, often members will be delighted because you consistently deliver a high quality service! One of the key differences between members who just like, and those who love a club is the level of satisfaction. Members that love the club are extremely satisfied whereas others were only satisfied.
Appropriate service recovery.
To err is human. However, the manner in which we handle a service failure will determine if our members will hate, like or love us. The recovery has to be timely, and appropriate to the level of mistake that you’ve committed. Members who said they like a club but not enough to love it, were of the view that service recovery was ‘too little, too late’. Others who loved the club said that the recovery was very quick and much better than what was
Post what you have done to rectify a problem on your member only Facebook page so everyone can see you did what you said you would do.
Don’t compromise on quality.
No matter what your target audience, make sure that you offer the best quality in your market segment. Members who love their clubs always have had a positive perception of the quality. These members are of the view that the level of quality at this club is better than competition. Even if you sell to the lowest segment in the market, you need to be better than the competition at something, and service cost nothing.
Never forget the member.
Member’s needs are constantly changing. The reason a member joined a club, is not the reason they stay. Clubs that are good at winning member loyalty, always keep in touch with their members. They know what their needs are, and how best to satisfy those needs. These clubs can sense the changes in the member requirements and then quickly act upon them to fulfill the needs. Facebook now provides us with quick and easy communication channels and a feedback service all in one and its free.
Focus on providing a unique service.
Even if you’re selling at the budget end of the market, you need to differentiate yourself. Best practice clubs seem to focus on providing a unique service, instead of merely selling memberships. This is a factor that usually gives clubs an edge over competition, and also makes members feel good about the club as a whole.
Focus on the club image.
Interestingly building a positive image about your club helps members not only to be attracted to your club, but also to feel good about you. So keep it clean. Developing a positive club image is highly crucial in the initial stages of new member loyalty. Another approach is working with your community is an easy way to promote your business and member loyalty. Organize a 5K run that start or finishes near your club. Invite people to shower afterwards in you club or give away t-shirts to finishers with your club identity. Have different colours for members and non-members so members feel special.
Know which members are likely to progress to the love phase of loyalty.
These members need to be nurtured, and made a part of your club. It is with the help of these members, will you be able to build a wider base for loyal members. Length of membership is an early indicator, but work on visit frequency and achieving goals as a real measure. When members get the results they joined for they will love you long time.
Finally, don’t expect results to happen overnight. My research indicates that for members to love a club there is usually a specific time frame involved. This can vary between 30 to 50 visits. You need to work hard to build a system in your organization that can cultivate love among the members. However, with time this hard work will pay off in terms of greater member retention, lower attrition, improved levels of profits, increase in employee morale and a better brand image.