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WHAT OUR PARTNERS ARE SAYING

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The Latest from The Index

Palm Beach National

Course marketing strategies — a case for casting a more strategic net

Aug 21, 2019

Golf has been chipping away at the notion that it is an “elitist” pastime for many years now. But the reputation lingers to some degree and, intentional or not, some courses continue to feed the perception. Whether or not that’s good for business depends on which side of the fence you’re on.

“Here’s the bucket I sit in,” said Mike Hendrix, vice president of business services for GOLF Business Solutions. “I’d rather get some money from a lot of people than try to get a lot of money from a few people. I realize I am an outlier to some degree, and there are operators who say they don’t want certain consumers. They want to be one of Golf Digest’s 50 toughest courses in America and market to that golfer. I am 180 degrees counter to that. Getting some money from everybody is a better way to run your business today in my view.” Before concluding you are in the golf lifestyle business — one where all golfers live and breathe the game and are in constant pursuit of the perfect swing — Hendrix suggests operators first ought to consider themselves to be in the disposable time business. At the end of the day, every consumer has a certain amount of disposable time in a day, week, and month. What golf course marketing strategies are you adopting to get their attention and commitment to spend some of those hours with you?

Joe Dahlstrom, COO of Paradigm Golf Group, which manages multiple golf properties in South Florida, as well as the western and southwestern U.S., is blunt about how his company positions those golf properties. “I’d rather have any brand position other than that old ‘we’re the longest, we’re the toughest.’ That demographic is shrinking so fast. If you are banking it all on the four guys who want to work on and groove their swings, you will lose.”

Dahlstrom’s brother, Mike, who serves as vice president of sales and hospitality for the company, added, “We have done the research and the studies, and when you look at the daily golfer, the game has become more of an activity than it has ever been. It’s about getting together with pals, family, as couples for a few hours of sunshine in a beautiful setting and fresh air.”

For that customer, for whom there are many more multiples than the golf-swing-obsessed “purist,” it’s all about the experience. “Our philosophy,” Mike said, “is to ensure that every time anyone comes to any of our properties, they leave believing two things: We are nice and we are cool.”

That means greeting guests by name and engaging them in conversation at every one of their properties. Depending on the market, they may also hand out free popsicles and rum shots on hot days. Palm Beach National in Lake Worth, Fla. – which recently underwent a $1 million-plus renovation to install new greens, tee boxes and more – offers complimentary use of Bluetooth speakers to every group that wants to play their music on the course. It all adds up to creating distance between what they offer compared to their competition.

As such, Paradigm’s brands also require a different approach to management. “We try to identify who the face of the club will be when we start working with a new property,” Mike said. “Our employees have to be cheerleaders for the product, and they have to make the customer feel like he is the most important person in the world. That means our managers become more PR people than, you know, golf geeks. It’s a new concept for some of them, being out front on social media and in videos. But once they see the response, it empowers and inspires them.”

If that seems as though it flies in the face of convention, the Paradigm Group is fine with that. “One of the first questions we pose to a potential client is ‘how do you feel about change?’” Joe laughed. “Because they have to be open to doing things differently than they have historically if they want to see more revenue and rounds.”

He cited a customer in South Florida who increased revenue exponentially by casting a wider net in their market. Joe suggests not relying solely on old promotional models. In this example, the course had granted member status to locals year-round. "Through the tourist season and peak season, these members grabbed all the best tee times and paid the lowest rates," Joe said. "It’s interesting to note that we also noticed they also tended to complain the most and created the most strain on resources, but they generated the least amount of revenue." Joe believes you have to be willing to look at these kinds of programs with an analytical eye and adjust appropriately. "Protecting your prime tee times is the most important thing," he said. "If you are going to give them up to annual memberships, make sure you set up a structure to get maximum value."

Does all of this mean hitting the total reset button for golf operations that are keen to increase rounds and revenues? Not entirely. But it does mean opening yourself up to a broader mindset, which may conflict with some long-held notions about the golf business. It’s what Hendrix and his Plus team at GOLF Business Solutions work on every day for their clients.

“We are much more focused on winning the attention of specific golfers in our clients’ specific local trading zones,” Hendrix said. “Every golfer has a wallet, and we’re trying to figure out what can we do to grow our share of their wallet and steal that person away from more movie watching, binge watching and the other entertainment options in front of him.”

Discover more on how GOLF Business Solutions can streamline your course operations and help cast a wider net. LEARN MORE.


Starter with a tablet.

Solutions for golfer acquisition

Aug 21, 2019

A thirsty football fan will choose to buy a beer from a stadium vendor to avoid missing some of the game. Moviegoers must endure commercials and coming attractions while waiting for the main feature, whether they like them or not. Own a printer? In many cases, the manufacturer owns you—as a purchaser of replacement cartridges.

Captive-audience marketing and selling can be found throughout the U.S. economy, but you’ll very seldom encounter it in public golf. That’s why golfer acquisition is such an important ongoing activity for course operators in a typical market. And because a public golfer can be so “un-captive,” it becomes somewhat complicated to define acquisition—or its sidekick, golfer retention. “One takes up where the other leaves off” is a fair way to describe their relationship.

In the view of Nicole Roach, senior director of digital marketing for GOLF Business Solutions, course managers can benefit by subdividing acquisition into multiple categories and track the progress of each. “Someone can play your course once, play it multiple times, or join your loyalty program – those are all ways of including them in your acquisition data,” she says. “This can be called ‘acquisition’ if you can just get the person to provide a name and email address or get them to sign up for your SMS messages containing offers and other content.”

The golfer you’ve never heard of who books a round but then cancels it should still be considered one more you’ve acquired, she believes. “You add that person’s data and now your audience is one golfer ahead,” Roach says. “Audience building is what it’s all about.” It helps to know certain patterns underlying your course’s play. So, if you recorded 25,000 rounds last year, was there an 80-20 rule in which 2,000 golfers played 10 times each and the other 5,000 rounds were played by a couple thousand folks playing a few rounds each? Roach points out that when you acquire Golfer A and Golfer B, one may have been totally worth the effort, the other less so. “One way to look at it is to ask whether a given round could have been booked at a higher rate than what you actually got,” she says. “You make that happen by increasing the part of your audience that is relatively less cost-sensitive.” It’s valuable to know your total “uniques,” she says, i.e., the number of different people who teed it up at your course.

To determine a comfortable cost-per-acquisition (CPA), Roach suggests looking at your gross margin (per round) across a full year of operation and using that as a benchmark. “If your margin per round is $8, spending $8 in marketing and other outreach efforts to acquire a golfer is very sensible,” she says. Obviously, you’re not devoting all your profits to this one purpose, just using the margin metric to create an acquisition rule of thumb. If you’ve plugged along and amassed a fairly large and relatively active pool of golfers who are engaged with your course, you don’t want to slide backward. No database goes a year without drop-offs, but the GOLF Business Solutions viewpoint is that losses should be minimal. “It should always be under 5 percent, and with our client courses we shoot for under 1 percent,” she says.

How does a golfer you’ve acquired become one that you’ve lost? That’s always the little mystery that needs solving. It starts with defining the period where the losses occurred and looking closely for whether any notable changes were made. “‘What did we do differently’ is the question you want to ask,” says Roach. That could include emailing golfers too often, emailing them too seldom, changing your message, discontinuing specials, or some other shift.

“That’s where email is particularly helpful,” Roach says. “It gives you the most response data. You can count your opens and click-throughs and usually find what you need to reverse a negative trend fairly quickly.” Of course, there are trends in your database and trends in play—two different (though perhaps parallel) performance areas. On the play side, loss consists of the “defector” whom you’ll program into the software as a somewhat regular customer—with a per-year minimum number of rounds—who stops showing up. “You can set that for 30-, 60-, and 90-day flags to be sent up,” says Roach. “You’re talking about a player who’s gone dormant that the course wants to reactivate more than re-acquire—and there are incentives you’ll use to make that happen.”

Caring for the database that holds and shows your acquired golfers is like caring for the turf on your fairways and greens. Frequent and consistent checkups are the way to go. “We suggest that courses look at their databases on a monthly basis, at least—really the more frequently the better,” Roach says. “That lets you see your trends and gives you a way to aggregate enough results to make good conclusions, plus sufficient time to plan your next initiatives.”

Golfers have lots of choice, so the very fact that you’ve built a large following of players who are engaged to a certain degree and could become more so is a tribute to the quality and consistency of what you bring to market. And some of them you’ll please to such a degree that they’ll find you downright captivating.

To learn more about our solutions, CLICK HERE.


Golf Advisor reviewer

Leveraging course reviews for better business

Aug 07, 2019

By Brandon Tucker, Managing Editor, GOLF Advisor

At GOLF Advisor, our editorial staff writes expert golf and travel content about courses all over the world. But many of our readers come to see what other golfers – not those in the business but just like them – have to say about a golf experience. It could be to help them plan their next local round or to aid in their next golf trip.

Our five-star ratings logic weights the most recent reviews in order to provide the most accurate reflection possible of the current experience. In 2019, we're on pace for a record year of course reviews from our community at GOLF Advisor. Since revealing the platform at the end of 2012, we have more than 30 courses that have over 1,000 reviews and more than 2,600 with over 100 reviews! These active courses have a leg up against their peers by providing authentic information on what the facility experience is like. Such a mass of reviews provides golfers with further confidence about whether the experience is right for their next round.

GOLF Advisor sets itself apart from other consumer review platforms because only golf courses are reviewed; you can't review a car or your dentist here. Also, the other general platforms only have one overall category, so, it's difficult to truly know how into golf the reviewer is. GOLF Advisor not only has overall category, but SIX subcategories that let the golfer rate everything from conditions to friendliness. And their profile shows how many reviews they've written, as well as the option for handicap and age information. Golfers can filter reviews by which players and reviewers are most like them. Useful!

Even the highest-rated courses on our platform receive negative reviews or comments from time-to-time. If what the review said rings true, comment on it using your official GOLF Advisor course account and let them know you are aware of their experience and working on it. It's also totally within your right and constructive to readers to point out anything in their review that is a misunderstanding, or statements that are factually inaccurate. It's possible that even if the reviewer is well meaning, they were provided with bad intel or were misled. By having your staff actively engage with customers about what they liked or didn’t like, you are sending a clear message that your facility is looking for any possible ways to improve.

It's not too late to join in. There are many tools in your arsenal to help encourage golfers to share their experience. Be sure to include a link to your course page in email and social communication. You can also add a ratings widget to your golf course website. Ask your GOLF Business Solutions rep for window decals and other signage. But face-to-face communication is also key! Your pro shop staff, greeters and outside service staff should all be asking for feedback on the experience.

If you have a GOLF Business Solutions booking engine, you can have your rep turn on post interaction emails to trigger a notification to golfers to write a review based on their last visit.

For courses in the north, be sure to take advantage of the last month of peak season to grow your review count, and for courses in the south, prime time is right around the corner! Don't let the sun set on your chance to receive more reviews!

To learn more about GOLF Advisor, CLICK HERE.