Your Website is Not Your “Brand”
Your club has history. A lot of history. And while you want to pay tribute to the rich past, as the operator you are also looking to remain relevant in a very modern, fast-paced world. Sound familiar? If you know your "brand" needs a facelift, be sure to look beyond just your website in doing so. A website is a powerful and important interactive feature for your members and potential members, but a club’s brand is communicated in all facets of the business, not just your online presence.
What is "Brand" and How is it Developed?
Essentially, a “brand” is the collection of experiences and perceptions the member (or potential member) has with your club. It’s the sum of their entire customer experience. Brand is developed through a complex mixture of interactions, feelings and personalities that make your members love your club – or make a potential member crave to be part of it. Developing a “brand” is a strategic process thoughtfully intertwined throughout the entire organization. From the development of style standards that outlines use of fonts, colors, formats and templates, to succinct messaging that is carried throughout all printed and digital communication as well as spoken verbally by the staff, “brand” permeates all areas of the member and guest experience.
Your Website's Role in Club "Brand"
Your club’s website may be the first impression for a prospective member or a guest coming to the club and should accurately reflect the club’s overall brand through appropriate font styles, messaging, images, and ease of navigation. When misaligned, it can create an instant level of dissatisfaction.
For example, while traveling in the past few months I had a reservation at a small boutique hotel. When I spent some time on the hotel's website, I was excited for my stay, as the images and the descriptions seemed very polished and luxurious. However, when I arrived, the staff attentiveness was lacking, the standard operating procedures for the hotel were lackluster and represented a two-star experience – not what I was anticipating. This is an example of the online experience totally misaligned with the actual guest experience. Be sure to keep it representative of what a member or guest will experience when designing your website. While flashy images and flowery text can sure make a site look amazing, you don’t want to oversell your property.
Your Employees' Role in Club "Brand"
The website is only one piece of a multi-dimensional marketing strategy. Whatever messages you develop for the website should be carried through staff training and how they engage with members and guests. If you intend to portray a warm and welcoming environment and you describe this through your messaging, then your staff should be ready and prepped with appropriate greetings that relay this warm welcome. If, on the other hand, your club’s brand is best represented as formal and professional, the greetings and language used in member interactions should also be more polished and formal. Staff must be equipped and trained with proper language and phrases that are closely aligned with your club’s brand.
The key to building a successful brand can be found in some of the most iconic brands we know today, like Nike, or Harvard, or Titleist. A consumer of any of these brands can look at something without even seeing the company's logo and instantly tell that it’s associated with that brand. Consistency in brand elements builds trust and recognition over time, which leads to loyalty of your members and active interest by non-members. So be sure someone at your club ‘owns’ the responsibility of protecting the club’s brand. If you need help establishing (or updating) what the brand is exactly, RCS Hospitality Group can help. We will partner with you and your key stakeholders to identify the key elements of your specific ‘brand’ and lay out guidelines for your staff to uphold in order to achieve a consistent brand experience. We can take outdated messaging, outdated image assets, outdated fonts and layouts, and give you a fresh appeal that makes your existing members proud and potential members more interested.
So, while your website is the digital representation of your club and will reinforce your brand with images, text and stories for potential members, there is so much more to refining your club’s brand than just this channel alone. It’s looking at every level of your Member Experience (MX) and ensuring that it’s consistently delivering on your promise.
Rachel Carter is a consultant with RCS specializing in membership marketing and communications strategies. Recognized as one of the "Most Influential Women in the Club Industry" by Board Room Magazine,Carter is a contributing writer for trade magazines including Golf Business, Club Director and Board Room Magazine and in a selection panelist for Distinguished Clubs.