If there’s one type of business that is afraid of selling, it’s the membership business. Whether you sell gym memberships or golf club memberships, there’s been a long-standing stigma around the word of “selling,” as if it were a sleazy and cheap thing.
But, why is that? Perhaps it can be tied to the people engaged in the selling process. Some being unqualified retirees just volunteering their time for the fun of it. Or a part-time high schooler, pushing random brochures to every visitor not bothering to ask their specific needs.
It’s no surprise that sales is not the strongest point of membership organizations considering the staff members they employ, for better or for worse. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We’d like to explore a way to overcome the marketing and sales obstacle that prevents you from bringing more members in. First, we will identify exactly what prospective members need. Then we’ll share a secret weapon, the chatbot, as a means to overcoming some of the staffing challenges your membership organization may face in its selling efforts.
MAKE SENSE OF YOUR PROSPECTS DESIRES
Every prospect that comes to visit will be on a different step in their journey. Very rarely do people buy memberships upon their first contact. The buying process has shifted dramatically over the past couple of decades thanks to growing competition both direct, and indirect. Various stages of that prospect journey require a savvy salesperson to quickly interpret the unique needs through a series of inquiring questions. Examples might include:
- The dreamer, wanting to learn more about how they might benefit from the club offerings.
- The economist, wanting to weigh the pros and cons through analysis for their own ROI.
- The enthusiast, wanting to dive in straight away and start today.
Knowing each journey will have its own line of reasoning, a marketing strategy would require a path to success to address those specific needs. As PCMS President Susan Greene says, “Your goal as a membership director shouldn’t be to make the sale, it should be to move the sale forward.”
With that logic, a chatbot offers multiple selections to address each prospect journey. Want to sign up for membership right away? Let’s process that payment and get you an ID. Need to learn about our pricing packages and match the right one for your specific needs, here are some options based on your feedback.
How does it all work, and why would a chatbot be a superior choice as opposed to using a live human?
Chatbots automate your existing processes in the digital space as virtual assistants. In the past, people might visit your club property in person. But in 2021, nearly everyone will conduct a preliminary investigation through your online website. They will explore the website contents to find relevant information pertaining to their needs. A chatbot facilitates the journey by being a resourceful guide on that journey.
There are limitations to human service in a business environment, for which a chatbot compensates. These include:
- 24/7 Availability: Even outside of 9-5 business hours, the chatbot will service any time of the day.
- Instant Feedback: No long waiting times on the phone when the chatbot is available to respond at each beck and call.
- Omnichannel: One chatbot can serve multiple prospects at one time, not limited to 1-on-1.
- Consistency: Data is updated and shared in real-time for accuracy.
- Insightful: Every prospect interaction yields considerable data to improve future marketing and sales activities.
- Personal: Conversations are saved and the chatbot can pick up on the prospect journey through its lifetime.
In short, chatbots are enhancing “the club experience” by providing brilliant first impressions. According to Statista, 43% of global shoppers research products online via social networks. This is a strong indicator that your prospects will learn about you on the Internet before they set foot in your front door. So have a strategy for connecting online.
GUIDE YOUR PROSPECTS IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION
Joining a membership organization is a commitment people take seriously. And the approach to selling has often been compared to a series of short sprints, akin to a relay, where prospects need to be coaxed according to their journey. The salesperson, or chatbot in this case, should identify the prospect’s position in the sales cycle and cultivate a plan to guide them to a sale.
In other words, learn to marinate a lead and score it over its lifetime.
We can take a tip from Nir Eyal in his book “Hooked: How To Build Habit Forming Products” where he explains the process of how habits are formed with our everyday tech. Using chatbots in your UX design, you can use the four-step process of triggers, actions, variable rewards and investment.
When a prospect visits your membership website, they can be greeted with a small chat bubble in the bottom right with an enticing message. Something like, “Want to lose weight” if you run a gym or, “looking to score a hole in one” if you run a golf club. This is the trigger, or the ‘hook’ that gets a prospect engaged.
When they click on the chat bubble, the chatbot can take the conversation forward by deducing their specific needs whether it be the dreamer, the economist, or the enthusiast. The actions of the prospect drive the varying rewards that should delight them and strike what psychologists describe as dopamine hits.
Once rapport through engagement has been built, the chatbot get the prospect to invest in some kind of CTA. This might be collecting contact details, scheduling a tour of the facility, or just setting up an online consultation with a staff member. A very important consideration is the variable part of the reward. Here, as prospects continue to engage over the lifetime of the conversation, the chatbot retains previous interactions and adjusts to the appropriate stage of the journey.
As mentioned earlier, not all prospects buy the first time they engage. So, the sales process should be thought more as a 30-day habit-forming process instead of the traditional “three-hour tour”.
THE TECHNOLOGICAL SHIFT TO EXCELLENCE
A good membership organization knows how to adapt its marketing and sales to meet consumer wants, needs and community expectations. Famed membership expert Gabe Aluisy provides a detailed analysis of membership marketing in his book “The Definitive Guide to Membership Marketing,” from which every membership organization can benefit. The valuable role technology plays cannot be understated.
Chatbots are at the forefront of facilitating marketing, sales, and even membership support through their intuitive conversation interface enhancing “the club experience”. Through powerful features that humans can’t simply replicate because of associated costs in time, money and conditioning, chatbots are a force to be reckoned with.
Robert H. Dedman Sr, founder of ClubCorp said, “With members, everything is possible! Without members, nothing is possible.” There is no truer statement to whether your club will succeed or fail.