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6 top tips to convert PTBO visitors into happy club members

RYA Push the Boat Out (PTBO) may have finished for another year, but that doesn’t mean it’s all over. Now is the key time to keep the engagement going and convert visitors into club members.

Here, the RYA’s team of Regional Development Officers share their six top tips for converting PTBO visitors into members and the next steps for your club…

1. Set out clear ‘learn to sail’ pathways for beginners

Hopefully as part of your PTBO preparations you’ve already scheduled some follow on activities to engage visitors. If you’ve organised Learn to Sail or Improver courses, make sure these pathways are clear and opportunities are signposted.

If courses at the club are limited, be honest and don’t over commit on something that you can’t deliver. Be aware of volunteer fatigue!

Similarly, if courses are oversubscribed don’t feel that sending potential new members to other clubs and centres to learn is a threat to membership growth. If newcomers are not receiving the service they want from a club they will leave anyway, so it’s best to help and they will then be far happier members. Plus the club will have more sailors.

2. Break down initial membership barriers

Not everyone will join on the day. We know that people like to try again before they commit time and money. Free membership for a few months often allows this process to become more attractive and can link nicely to social events such as a fortnightly BBQ.

If you have equipment available for beginners or club members to use, tell them and make it easy for new members to take advantage of these facilities.

Are your membership packages tailored towards the type of members you want to attract? Think about how you could tailor membership options to appeal to your potential members. For beginners, membership could include learn to sail opportunities and use of all club boats for a year.

3. Communication is key!

The days and weeks following your PTBO open day are key and it’s important to make the most of these opportunities. Assign a club member, or small team to follow up with new and potential members, keep in touch, but be careful not to be too pushy.

Think about it from the newcomer’s perspective. For example, why are they interested and why have they attended the open day in the first place? And most importantly of all, make it a two-way and personal process, reach out with dedicated invitations to club activities rather than just broadcasting to everyone. 

Lastly, make sure that all communication channels are monitored. The PTBO organiser is often not the person that looks after the official club email address, so make sure to prepare for communication, including the club phone. Put in place a friendly automated response and answer phone message if this is not already in place. 

4. Stay social

Integration into the club is key for new members and social opportunities are an essential part of making them feel included and welcome. Make sure any club activity, including social events are available in a clear calendar and that newcomers are invited. It’s also a good idea to hold a dedicated induction evening or another introductory social event for new members. There is some logic in running any follow up event on the same day of the week as the original open day, as this suited the new and potential members in the first instance.

While every PTBO event is showing the club in its very best delivery mode, be mindful of visitors returning at a later date to an empty club. Plan the social events well and encourage the wider membership and volunteers to continue to offer their support – even if it’s just a friendly face!

5. Ongoing open and experience days

Ongoing events and open days provide another opportunity to reach out to your PTBO visitors, as well as engaging once again with your local community. 

You could follow your traditional open day with experience days, that are each dedicated to a different aspect of the club activity. This focussed approach, with multiple opportunities can give a wider scope and true experience of what the club does. We know this has worked well for clubs in the past. 

6. Most importantly of all… make sure you’re warm and welcoming

Never underestimate the significance of creating a warm and friendly atmosphere. Visitors may have loved their on-the-water experience but they won’t join the club unless they feel comfortable and welcome.

Remember, it can be daunting to come back to a place where you don’t know anyone. Buddy systems between new and current members can be an excellent way to address this. As well as, providing a friendly and familiar face at club events, these relationships can help new members settle in and problem solve any queries.

Many things about your club will be second nature to you and normal to sailors, but for someone new, may be intimidating and isolating. A ‘New Members Guide’ is a good way to introduce any specific quirks, unusual rules or nautical jargon they’re likely to hear around the club and make them feel included.

For more information about the RYA Push the Boat Out campaign visit www.rya.org.uk/PTBO.  For more information about keeping members engaged, visit ClubZone

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