Within just 24 hours I recently visited two community clubs, less than 20 minutes’ drive of each, and had two completely different experiences.
One was a sporting club at the end of our street. The club had just undergone a renovation, which boasted a large kids’ room so we thought we would take our toddler and head down for an early dinner on a rainy Saturday evening – yep I’m now one of those people who eat around 5pm it seems.
We walked in and thought ‘wow this looks different and look at that amazing kids area located right next to tables for parents to look over’.
But that’s where the feeling of love stopped.
The first person we met at reception was surly and almost growled at us when we realised we had to renew our lapsed membership.
When we asked about ordering an early dinner for our little girl who we could see starting to get the toddler hangry look, she barked at us that the kitchen didn’t open until 5.30pm and we had to wait.
No offer of a café menu or bar snacks until the kitchen opened.
We weren’t alone. Families with young kids were following us through the door and all of us had the same instruction barked at us.
I watched two families just walk back out the doors.
This was within a week of a large marketing campaign in our letterboxes telling us of their new family-friendly venue.
Yes, the facility they had created was spot on – an area for older kids and an area perfect for younger kids with clever interactive play areas and interesting and safe things to do.
Aside from the physical structure of the kids’ area, it was not what many would call a family friendly experience at all.
The staff seemed annoyed that families wanted an early dinner. They didn’t smile at the kids and they just grunted at us.
And, soon as the clock clicked from 5.29pm to 5.30pm they put the most junior person on the counter who was in training – despite a hoard of families standing waiting, menu ready and charged to order anything which cooked fast to throw at the animals circling for feeding time.
Fast forward to the second experience the next morning. We joined another family with their toddler to see the Play School roadshow at a 10am performance at another local club.
From the moment we walked in it was a completely different experience.
They had two staff members waiting to greet us and show us to the event area upstairs. At the top of the stairs, someone was there to guide us and told us with enthusiasm about the fact the club had a wonderful brunch offer, perfect for kids, for after the hour-long show and they also had a farmers markets located in their carpark, which was also great for kids.
When the show finished, I noticed the same staff member stand at the steps and farewell every family with the same story about the markets and also their club’s brunch/lunch offering.
And here’s the incredible thing. We all had come to see the show, many telling me while in the arena waiting for Big Ted to come out of their green room that they hadn’t been to the club or a club since they were younger, and how impressed they were.
One commented she was nervous to bring her kids to a club which had pokies as thought it would be right in the kids’ faces. She was impressed and a bit sheepish to say it wasn’t what she had expected.
I also watched with a smile as everyone in the line in front of me either turned off for the restaurant or walked to the markets, which is exactly what we did.
We had originally planned to go to the club for the show and then head to the nearby shopping centre to grab the girls lunch. But instead, we stayed on the grounds of the club for more than three hours and even went back in and grabbed a bottle of wine from their bottle shop to take home for Sunday dinner.
Within less than 24 hours we had visited two clubs; both had recently undergone renovations and had undertaken marketing campaigns to push a family-friendly activity. But that’s where the similarities stopped.
One made us feel like we should apologise for bringing our family; that we should eat and leave as soon as possible.
The other made us feel welcomed, encouraged us to stay and importantly, was happy to see us, as a family, frequent the venue.
The fundamental difference came down to two basic things – the attitude of the staff and the fact that the marketing campaign filtered down in every step of their offering at one of the two venues.
It’s one thing to market an activity, offering or event, but if the work around it doesn’t connect it’s just bad marketing.
The second club had secured a great family-friendly activity for a Sunday morning. They had prepped the staff. They had also thought about the fact many of the families attending the event may not have been to the club before or for a while, so they positioned staff to help them find their way to the events area.
They had the right person at the top of the stairs welcoming and farewelling us and explaining other offerings so our stay with the club wasn’t just for the hour of the show.
The club also thought about what else they could offer the families coming for this event and connected a farmer’s market while promoting their brunch.
The channels of that marketing campaign ran further than placing ads and sending out pamphlets. It looked at the customer journey and what would a parent with a hyped up child who just saw Humpty Dumpty rock out want when they arrived?
This tale of two clubs is a clear example of how a marketing campaign is only successful when it has buy-in from staff, considers the patron’s experience and follows through by offering what it is promoting.
Marketing campaigns drew us into both clubs in that 24 hour period; the service will see us return to just one of them.
This column was originally published in Clubs Queensland magazine Clubs Insight.