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October 2019

Setting the Pace for Member Acquisition

By Scott Kauffman

Back in 2013, when mobile-based marketing was still in its infancy, entrepreneur George Stavros saw an opportunity to help the struggling private club industry stimulate membership sales through this type of upstart technology.
 
From the perspective of Stavros’s new Pacesetter Technology company, mobile was skipping right past private golf, and he realized the only way to get the attention of this stagnant sector was to design something that truly enhanced the overall member experience. So, the first Pacesetter app was born, successfully combining beacon technology and name recognition for a better bag-drop experience and faster food-and-beverage ordering – on or off the course.

Now, Pacesetter’s app is transforming the membership experience when it comes to the age-old private club referral system. Stavros credits Medinah Country Club general manager/COO Robert Sereci, who’s always “on the cutting edge” for the latest innovative technology inspiration.

Indeed, at a time when many top clubs still use a paper-intensive, cumbersome system that puts the onus on members, Sereci figured there has to be a better way for club members to go about doing this in today’s digital world and challenged Stavros to come up with a solution.

You know the routine, Sereci says. A member wants a friend to join, so they call the membership office and ask for a packet, which they can send to their friend. The membership office emails or mails them the information and then the member emails or mails the packet to the friend.

Then the friend receives the packet, reads it, puts it aside and forgets about it. It just shouldn’t be this hard for the club – and the member, Sereci points out. Or, if the club is the type of place where the prospect is to call themselves, that might be too forward, Stavros says, so that call might never be made.
 
Now, thanks to Stavros’s newly tweaked Medinah club app, members can invite a friend to join with a push of a button. Medinah was Pacesetter’s first club in the world to develop and roll out this new member-referral application, and it’s just an addition to the club’s app that already allows members to pay bills and do routine things like book tee times. 

The way it works is each time a member refers a friend either by email or text, the friend is required to download a guest version of the Medinah app. The app is loaded with information and photos – everything a prospective member would want to know about Medinah.

And now, instead of getting buried and lost under a pile of paper somewhere at home or in the office, the “digital brochure” continues to reside on the phone of the prospective member as a constant reminder.

“So no matter what, you might look at your phone 3,000 times a day, you’re going to see my Medinah logo,” Sereci says. “We go wherever they go, and you see my logo all the time.”

Sereci acknowledges the Pacesetter mobile software technology might not be cost effective for many, but it’s already paying off in less than two months of being launched with one new member signed up and two other prospects in the process of applying.
According to Stavros, the full app development is $10,000 upfront plus $1,500 a month for a custom app that features numerous membership applications as well as the prospective member’s app.

 “When we started to build the software (for the original app) it was based on the simple premise to help general managers improve the member experience,” Stavros says. “At the time, nobody was using mobile technology to help them deliver it, and yet everybody’s walking around with this super powerful device in their pocket.

“We are always thinking about the ways it can be leveraged in the private club market. Our whole thought is if it’s top of the mind, let it happen. Push of a button.”
 
Scott Kauffman is a golf business writer and is regular technology columnist for Golf Business. You can contact him with tech news at iwritegolf@gmail.com.

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