Here in Dunwoody, our local swim and tennis clubs are starting to think about attracting new members, which should just come down to a simple online sale. Something I’m quite familiar with from nearly 20 years worth of running various online stores. Although I’ve never really thought of myself as being “in sales”, that’s exactly what I’ve been doing my entire adult life. And now with, I’ve carried over that experience and many of the same tools to my client’s websites to help them renew current members, and more importantly, sell to brand new customers.

A little history… In 2002, I signed up for this new thing called Google AdWords. My first ad I paid a penny per click for. Those were the days. Since then I’ve spent close to a million dollars advertising with Google alone (okay more like $867,000). My total ad impressions are 5.27 BILLION! I won’t even blink that many times in my life.

All those ads led to a store to buy something – the most fun thing in the world – software tutorials. Ugh, who wants that right??  Fortunately for me, that’s a product I could both sell well and produce myself. A nice formula that to this day brings in online sales with near-zero customer contact. I let the website do the selling, and try to bring my target market there. Which brings me to tip 1…

Tip 1: An enticing website means less hand-holding.

It always helps to show, not tell. This is where a pretty website comes in. Prospective members probably won’t ask for a tour if there are plenty of pictures online. If you’ve seen one tennis court you’ve seen them all. Emphasize the Americana – Fourth of July events, cookouts, the family atmosphere, the friendship’s their kids will be missing out on if they don’t join.

A website is just glossing-up what they already want, then leading them to go buy that thing. It’s no more complicated than that. My home club has increased memberships by 50 in the past few years. Yes, 50!

Tip 2: People buy at all hours.

Your store is always “open” when you sell something online.  The customer doesn’t need to think a physical mom-and-pop store is open to purchase something. They should trust that they will get what they paid for no matter when they purchase.  For our client’s, we make sure new members can reserve tennis courts and access the gated-off areas of the site right after a purchase. This helps inspires buyer confidence that they are actually purchasing a membership versus just dumping money into the club Paypal account and hoping to hear back from someone before Summer.

Fun fact – I see my clients get new-member sales past midnight all the time. My current theory is these sales involve alcohol and either the husband or wife winning some sort of argument about their social life sucking.

Tip 3: Don’t slow down your own sales with unnecessary steps. 

If your club requires a form to be downloaded and mailed in, say “Buh-Bye” to any chance of an impulse purchase. And if the buyer is truly indifferent about which club they join (perhaps they live between two clubs), and that other pool can make them a member instantly, you can guess who gets the sale.

Tip 4: Paypal speeds up that final, most important part – taking the money.

Most people have purchased something through PayPal before, so they already have A LOT of credit cards and bank accounts on file. Think about the sites / services you buy most frequently from and how often you have to re-enter your card info. It’s rare right? Places like Amazon, Marcos, Uber and so on, your card is already stored with them. By offering Paypal your website gets to already be one of those frequented places.

When PoolDues sets up a new club with our membership/billing platform, we send a test payment to every one of our clients. In doing so, we usually spend more time filling in the shopping cart than we do on Paypal’s site. Think about that. It takes longer to fill in the cart requirements (name, phone, and address), then it takes to actually pay – given that Paypal usually isn’t prompting for new payment info to be filled in.

Tip 5: Payment options matter. Like, really matter.

New members are usually charged an Initiation Fee at a Swim and Tennis club, and here in Dunwoody that can get close to $2000 for the first year when you add in the actual dues. Insisting on that payment by check is absurd.

Put yourself in the buyer’s shoes. If you’re going to pay 2 grand for something, guess who gets decide where that money comes from. You. And you’re the only one in this transaction that actually knows if you’ve got that $2000 to spend right then and there. Which is why accepting credit cards is important. If your lack of payment options causes a buyer to delay paying, any number of life changes can kill the sale entirely – the oven breaks, they get in a car wreck, mom or dad gets a relocation offer, they make friends with a family at a different club, and so on. Bottom-line, you’ll never know why they didn’t join because you lost them insisting on a piece of paper to be mailed in.

And yes, there’s always a small percentage cost to accepting credit cards (with Paypal it is 2.9%). But 97.1% is a helluva lot more than zero.

Tip 6: Follow up AFTER the sale for more info.

If it feels like you’re rushing new members to pay, well, good! It should be quick. You’re in the business of capturing potential LIFELONG members! If you lose a prospect, chances are they end up at another pool and your next interaction with them is on the opposite side of a swim meet. How many families ever switch clubs after paying a hefty initiation?

So don’t sweat the small details. You can always follow up later if you need to ask them something, sign a waiver, get a spouse email or phone number. PoolDues clients can even send a custom follow-up email on a per-product (membership) basis. 

So is your swim and tennis club struggling with new member sales?

If so, let’s look at how you are selling currently…

  • How quickly can a member join your club?  Is it minutes, days…. weeks? If they have to contact someone or print out a form, you’re losing all impulse sales. 
  • Are you giving them the payment options THEY want? Suck it up and accept that members should get to pay how they want. It’s THEIR money after all, you’re the one trying to take it. So don’t be picky.
  • Do you have a true online store? Cart button? SSL certificate?  Or does it look like someone just slapped a “Buy Now” button onto your homepage.