Seasoned Interim Sales Executive Turns Around Declining Membership at Prestigious Club

Church view

The Challenge

Although the Rideau Club is one of the oldest and most prestigious social hangouts for Ottawa’s political and social elite--including Canada’s first prime minister--membership numbers had been slowly declining over the past few years. The majority of members were aging and the club was having a hard time attracting younger recruits, due in part to its dated reputation as an old-school boys club. The board knew it had to recruit for a new sales and marketing team member to help grow membership, but having never had an employee in this capacity, didn’t know exactly what they were looking for. 

The Recommendation

The Club had originally reached out to Odgers Berndtson looking to hire a more junior membership coordinator, but after hearing the business problem, the Odgers Interim team suggested bringing in a more senior sales executive who could do more than simply manage the membership process, focusing more strategically on business development, innovating product offerings and growing membership with new audience segments.

Odgers Interim recommended Ted Wagstaff, an experienced sales and marketing executive with a strong background facilitating corporate partnerships and a robust network of professional contacts. 

“Ted has been a driving force in helping to revitalize the Club’s image and offering, strengthening its reputation as the best place to be in Ottawa for social and business networking. His efforts have contributed to consistent increases in new members and a decrease in member attrition.”

--Carol-Ann Goering

The Solution

As an interim sales executive, Ted started by developing a strategic roadmap to diversify the Club’s product offering, in order to attract new audience segments. Key roadmap tenets included:

  • Re-evaluating the Club’s product offering and developing some new options, like a trial program to help curious potential members see the value of joining.
  • Running a weekly cocktail event for current and prospective members, which has gradually grown into a dynamic, energetic social with recent attendance numbers at an all-time high.
  • Leveraging relationships with key influencers in the Ottawa business community who could act as Club advocates.
  • Driving reputation revitalization by helping to catalyze a more vibrant, energetic, younger and more inclusive culture.
  • Revamping the member onboarding process by adding more structure and touchpoints to help new members meet as many current members as soon as possible.
  • Improving the member experience by running new types of events--like tasting events, social nights--to help reposition the brand with a younger audience with diverse interests.
  • Focusing consistent time and effort on proactive sales outreach and business development, and putting a process in place to build the membership sales funnel.

The Results

While incremental changes that started to happen almost immediately, Ted’s strategy was showing strong results at the six-month mark. Just over two years later, the Club is on the verge of creating a waitlist to account for the high demand for membership. Proactive sales outreach has been effective, but at this point, happy engaged members are spreading the word faster than any business development campaign.

Key results included:

Proactive sales outreach has been effective, but at this point, happy engaged members are spreading the word faster than any business development campaign. In 2017, the club accrued its highest annual recruitment numbers in the Club’s 152-year history!

  • 148% YoY growth in annual recruitment
  • 9X growth in weekly event attendance (2017-2018)
  • 60% decrease in forecasted membership attrition over past years
  • 50% of new members are aged 40 and under over past 20 months

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