[an article written for the Club Industry of South Australia]
As I sit at my desk in my home office, rugged up against the first blast of winter chill, I can't help but feel a bit disconnected. Disconnected from not only my work colleagues and the Members and Partners we serve, but from my family and social life. The current forced restrictions on how we live our day to day lives is providing a great opportunity to asses and understand what we as humans and Australians value most.
I know I am not alone in this feeling of disconnection, from speaking with friends, family and colleagues. I believe it is safe to say that the forced separation from those whose company we enjoy ties directly into the industry in which we operate - hospitality. The human interaction and connection forms one of the most basic foundations of running and being a Club. Each Club is formed through a coming together of like minded interest in a sport, ethnic background or community need. Perhaps this is why we, Clubs, are so impacted with the imposed isolation?
But with this, and the current incredible results for South Australians fighting the Covid-19 battle, comes the flip-side. The feeling of (literal) isolation, the disconnection from those people and things we care about, will form the backbone of 'the grand return'!
Can you picture just how much your members have missed their Club? Have you anticipated the joy and celebration that will embrace your Club when it's doors are finally flung open once more??
As a marketer, this is what I look to harness. Talking about a venue's return, on the other side of these forced closures, forms an opportunity to build on the excitement and anticipation of your members and supporters. And in real terms, it's not that far away, so it makes sense to start work now.
So let's take stock of where we should be focusing our marketing energy as Clubs, and capitalising on this anticipation for when the green light is finally given to reopen.
One would hope you have continued to be present and engaged on your social media pages throughout your venues closure. If you have not, now is the time to kick things back into gear.
Fair enough not all Clubs chose to continue operating as a 'take away' venue and understandably some would consider the work of posting on your Club socials while closed a waste of time - but I would suggest that now is the time to shift that mind set. Now is the time to start rebooting the interest of your long lost followers and create some buzz around what you plan to do when the Club reopens.
Perhaps its a photo of a cold beer on your Club bar with the caption 'We miss you and can't wait to see you soon'. Or maybe one of your bistro favourites with the manager digging into it with the caption 'Looking forward to having you back before Manager X eats all the food'. Or perhaps a simple photo of your empty footy/cricket/soccer oval with the caption 'Hands up who misses us the most?'
These references to what your members and supporters like most about the Club will work to remind them of how much and why they miss you. The question style caption also helps to boost your engagement and therefor organic reach to non-members and followers.
This is a big one for Clubs as it is often one of the last things we think about in the age of 'Socials'. So if and when we have a re-open date to announce, your website should form an integral part of the marketing around those announcements. Include any re-opening events, special offers, news of interest and of course update the opening hours!
Better yet, why not update your website completely and launch it in line with your Grand Reopening? Consider the coming months as an opportunity to rejuvenate the Club and it's 'brand' in the online world.
When a re-open date is confirmed and you put plans in place to capitalise on the absence your members and the community have felt during the closure, it is the perfect opportunity to connect with your members through your monthly newsletters, emails or any other form of direct communication.
Many Clubs have refrained from communicating with their members in this form since their closure, first and foremost because they had nothing to share with them. Completely understandable. But let me tell you, when a Club is set to re-open and you have a mailing list of avid and interested supporters, they can't wait to hear from you!
The form this communication takes could be one of two. A full in depth newsletter providing information on what has been happening in and around the Club since it's closure (renovations, staff having babies, purchasing of new equipment for sport etc), or a single topic 'We are Opening Again' email. Perhaps tie this to a reopening event or detail on what will be happening around the Club when you do open. Will everything be returning to normal (happy hours, entertainment, lunch specials etc) or will there be new and exciting things to announce?
There is no doubt the forced closure of our Clubs over the last few months has tested the resolve of all Club Committees, managers and staff, both personally and professionally. Every single Club has had a completely different journey through this time and there should be no judgement made on how each has handled this time.
The work Clubs SA has been doing to assist it's members during this time has been ever present, working to not only support members but to advocate on behalf of them and the industry to those key decision makers enforcing the unprecedented closures and restrictions.
Now we too must start shifting focus and ensuring Clubs are bracing themselves and preparing as best as possible for when they reopen their doors. Creating the anticipation through marketing strategies is just one of many facets that those who run Clubs must consider.
If you require any guidance, feedback or support in relation to your Clubs online presence please do not hesitate to contact me. I would be happy to free review your Clubs online footprint and provide any hints and tips I think might boost these areas prior to reopening.