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Golf instruction can be a key to building your base of golfers

Desire to improve meets the urge to play

Apr 17, 2019

Desire to improve meets the urge to play

If you purchase kibble at a pet superstore you’ll get an email asking you to “rate the experience.” CRM, or customer relationship management, is infiltrating commercial activity ever-deeper—it’s the best way for any business to retain the clientele it has and ensure a decent supply of new users.

But nobody takes lessons in how to scoop dog food into a bowl. Golf instruction, however, is widely available, sought after and comes in more varieties than ever these days. Experts in golf-course CRM see it as one more valuable tool for attracting, engaging and retaining customers.

One such expert is Nicole Roach, Senior Director of Digital Performance Marketing for GOLF Channel businesses. She views the benefits of teaching and coaching in both “macro and micro” terms.

“If you’ve got novice players coming to you for Get Golf Ready 1 or GGR 2, you might be adding to the total golfer population, and capturing that new golfer for your own facility,” says Roach. “You could also use your range and lesson area to connect with an experienced player who books rounds regularly—though not at your golf course. Maybe he attended your early-season clinic or showed up for a spring demo day and bought a couple wedges.”

You’ll want contact information for both these people, which may mean getting creative with a special offer or some other opt-in technique. Obtaining an email address and a number where they receive SMS messages is ideal, but one or the other also is fine.

Collaboration is necessary in this effort. If the teaching pros at your course are employees, you can easily work with them to make lessons and clinics a business-builder on the green-fee side, as well as the instruction side. If they are independent contractors, the path to productive synergy may have twists and turns. But the potential is truly there. Among self-employed, full-time teachers, there’s been a lot of talk recently about a) funneling their lesson-takers onto the facility’s tee sheet and into its grill room or golf shop, and b) getting some credit for it.

It comes down to customer “tags and flags,” as Roach explains. It’s common that golfers who play XYZ Course in April and May then don’t show up again for six weeks get tagged as “Defectors” in the system and, thus, receive a special invitation to come back. The same approach could apply to customers who visit the facility much more for instruction – by creating tags and reach-outs that might influence their money-spending patterns to your liking.

“If you haven’t done any of this, it might be best to take small steps initially,” says Roach. “Start with a few data points—ones you know you could take action on, as soon as the pattern you’re looking for shows up.” For example, she says, moms who bring their kids to a camp session could get asked to try a putting challenge while their child is on-property. Those moms who participate would then get an email inviting them to a bring-a-friend women’s group clinic on a weekday evening.

If 30 people do the putting challenge, how many will convert to the evening clinic? What’s a good number for that? “If you experiment this way and your call-to-action gets weak results, you can discontinue it and turn your attention elsewhere,” Roach says. “Set goals and move on if you don’t reach them.”
 

Among full-time golf instructors, there are trends and practices about which a savvy course manager should know. One is the strong push toward a “gateway product,” known to most teachers as the New Student Assessment (NSA). Instructors in the GOLF Academy network have been converting NSA customers—all first-time visitors—to long-term lesson programs at what many would call an astonishing rate, i.e., well over 50 percent. At some point, the affiliated golf course will want to create an NSA tag and track how much tee-time business a coaching program this robust can produce.

The other trend is group learning, which goes beyond the traditional golf clinic to create repeated, assigned groupings that balance one-on-one teaching with “supervised practice.” Golfers react well to it, thereby convincing many instructors that training and practice as a communal activity has strong potential. That’s good for the tee-time side of things, which is communal by nature. People will practice together, then play together, is the notion—you could find a way to track this pattern and, of course, ways to encourage it.

 

GOLF Business Solutions has the tools to help

You already know about GOLF Business Solutions and its multiple avenues for assisting and advising golf operations. But you may not be aware that it now includes a robust set of teaching-coaching assets. These include the 100-location GOLF Academy network, a membership program called Proponent Group, and the new Instructor Plus full-service marketing platform.

The core mission of GOLF Business Solutions, to maximize play and profits at public golf facilities, is more and more becoming dovetailed with a parallel mission: to professionalize the industry’s instruction category and boost profitability for those who teach and coach, meanwhile ushering in new players. That’s what Instructor Plus is all about. If you’re a GOLF Business Solutions partner course, start a conversation with your on-site teaching professionals about taking advantage of what Instructor Plus has to offer.


Choosing an solid opening date can be better for business

Apr 17, 2019

There are GOLFNOW resources to assist you

In cold-weather climates, winter oftentimes ends and then cruelly changes its mind. Golfers who’ve been shoveling sidewalks and rolling puts on the den carpet fondly wish for a start to the season. The courses that do the best job of telling them winter is over and it’s safe to roll into the parking lot generally reap rewards for doing so. That’s been the longtime view of Dan Hardy, who covers the Great Plains region as a Senior Area Sales Manager for GOLF Business Solutions.

“A course’s best-practice at this time of year is to pick a date, do a full open, turn on the tee sheet, post times wherever you can get exposure for them, and reap the benefits,” says Hardy. “Courses that commit to a full open will always do more to promote themselves and boost utilization. A tentative open, the ‘maybe’ approach, puts doubt in peoples’ minds, and as a result you fall off their radar.”

Hardy can back up his words with real tools to help a client course navigate that dreaded return of chill and winter precipitation. He knows that when lousy weather comes roaring back, it’s something of an issue to have people on the tee sheet who need timely information about what’s going on.

“Obviously, course operators don’t want have to deal with those reversals, mainly because of the hassle of calling people back and straightening out the arrangements,” Hardy says. “For that they can rely on our GOLF Business Support department, or our Answers service. We’ll make the phone calls as soon we get word of a closure.”

Meanwhile, if you enthusiastically flip the switch sometime between St. Patrick’s Day and the Masters it may feel like you’ve got the market to yourself. “This time of year you get a shot at making new friends and gaining new customers,” Hardy points out. “It’s a great opportunity to perhaps land a lifelong customer.”

Bob Schulz agrees with Hardy’s point about expectations. “Golfers in cold-weather areas are thankful for the upbeat attitude of a full open and are not expecting mid-season service or mid-season rates,” according to Schulz, who is PGA Director of Golf at The Sanctuary Golf Course in the Chicago suburb of New Lenox, Ill.

Despite its reputation for fierce winters, Chicagoland can have spurts of mild weather in just about any month, and will sometimes deliver an early spring. When Schulz started at The Sanctuary 15 years ago the policy was full shutdown after Thanksgiving and no real hurry about opening back up at winter’s end.

“Those were the days when people like me could take a four-month vacation,” says Schulz. “Things are different now. Our course really doesn’t close in the winter. The Sanctuary did 770 rounds between Dec. 1 and the second week of March—which generated $11,560 in green fees, plus what we did in the grill and in merchandise.”

He says his best performance ever in that time period was over $40,000. “What public golf course wouldn’t want that bonus revenue?” he asks. “We’re full-time and we’re here anyway. All December we’re here doing gift cards. Most of the winter rounds are walking, so there isn’t a whole lot you have to do,” to service play.

The Sanctuary is aggressive with its tee-time marketing during peak and shoulder season—the annual goal is open the online tee sheet on March 1. But the course switches to a first-come, first-serve approach during periods when so many booked times get cancelled due to weather. And when it’s cold, it also gets dark early, so golfers often become concerned about a late-morning or early-afternoon time they’ve booked and call around trying to improve on it. “It’s better that they just show up, come inside to pay, then go off the tee,” Schulz says.

He admits that if winter play led to serious turf damage he would have to change his approach, but that’s not the case. Only one of his greens gets a tarp cover, the rest keep their cups and flagsticks in place. Pitch marks are really a non-issue, given the frozen surfaces, and what few there are recover quickly when the April sun pours down and the grass jumps out of its dormancy. Even on those January days when carts are let out, Schulz and his crew don’t have to worry about damage to cart covers—the customers show up with cart covers they’ve actually purchased themselves—they bring their own heaters, too.

“People want to be outside, that’s really what we’re selling,” says Schulz. “Then they come inside, and we’re the place where they hang around to eat and drink.” When the part of the year that most Midwestern people call golf season does arrive, his course already has momentum—this year’s Masters and the Tiger comeback only adding to it—plus a loyalty factor among golfers that translates to business success.


Knowing your competition

Benefiting from competitive data

Mar 29, 2019

Plus Vision eyes your competition 24/7; use the intel to help maximize your rounds and revenue per round

 

It’s important to know what your competition is doing with their pricing and how much inventory they have at any given time. The only question is: "how do you get that information?"

You could call their pro shops under assumed names and ask for a number of tee times to see what’s available; drive by their parking lots to see how full they are; visit their websites on a regular schedule throughout the day and log what’s available and for what price. In any case, you would need to have a lot of free time on your hands to get all this accomplished.

For those without that kind of free time, GolfNow Plus Vision automates this data collection, monitoring your competition’s websites and capturing all publicly accessible data in real time for your consumption at your convenience.

“Our super-users of Plus Vision, both those who use our Plus teams that work daily on clients’ businesses and the clients themselves, make it a morning routine,” said Mike Hendrix, Vice President of Business Services for GOLF Business Solutions. “It’s simple, the layout is intuitive and easy to understand, and in a couple of minutes you can get what all of your competitors are doing today, tomorrow and the upcoming weekend, which typically are the four days that are most important to our clients.”

The importance of competitive data to overall revenue management really can’t be overstated. Brian Skena, Manager, Business Services, Plus - also a PGA Member - makes it an essential part of his work on behalf of his clients. “My team is responsible for the brand and revenue management of our clients, which means we manage their entire online presence — inventory, website, social, position in their market and helping golfers find them with the right products at the right price at the right time. Competitive analysis is a big piece of that puzzle.

For some, pricing the competition is the only consideration. “We have hundreds of clients who are hyper-focused on competitor pricing,” Hendrix said. “And that’s fine. They are running their businesses on their theories. I don’t personally subscribe to that kind of pricing policy.”

Skena agreed. Plus Vision is a tool that very quickly tells you where you stand against competitors; he pointed out. “That piece of information fits into the overall revenue management process. We do well for our clients by creating a good inventory and branding through the use of auto-pricing, which follows a set of rules based on a variety of data. All of that leads us to a certain price under certain conditions. It is not about a race to the bottom.”

In fact, it is about holding or even raising prices when the data indicates. “Typically what we see in Plus Vision use cases is an understanding when your competitors have little inventory left,” Hendrix said. “Now you can connect those dots and make sure you aren’t lowering prices when the inventory landscape indicates supply is low so demand for your product will be high.”

Plus Vision is one of the tools that can instill confidence in your decision making. Also, when employed with other revenue management weapons like auto-pricing, Skena pointed out another significant return for golf operations: “When they see the results, and we are driving more rounds, a story emerges about who the golfers are. We see a unique booker, a different kind of golfer who is responding to the actions we’re taking.

“We as an industry have been talking forever in terms of ‘if we can get each golfer that plays our course to return one additional time than usual, we'd have a record year,’” he continued. “That’s what these tools give us an opportunity to do. It’s a new world out there, and we have to evolve. Vision and the other revenue management tools are how we do it.”