The famed sales trainer and motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar, brought the concept to everyman language when he said, "All things being equal, people buy from their friends." He then added, "All things not being equal, people still buy from their friends." It seems like common sense, but "relationship marketing" was considered an innovative breakthrough a generation ago.
It seems simple, but if a course operator wants to sell tee times to golfers, he should try and build friendships with golfers in his area. That's precisely what John Brewer Jr., General Manager of Split Rock Golf Club in Orient, Ohio, has been doing for years. Only now he's using short videos as a high-powered, revenue-driving tool in that effort. Teaming up with his Plus Specialist from GOLF Business Solutions, Melissa De La Paz, Brewer has been planning, producing and posting weekly videos, then tracking the results and continually refining strategy.
"A local company that does video production and marketing for small businesses made a presentation to us that included some of the results they could deliver, in terms of click-throughs and likes and so forth," says Brewer. "The numbers were basically the same as what we're achieving on our own, in our work with Melissa, so that was very satisfying to see."
Golfers who follow "The Rock" on Facebook enjoy the videos and don't mind Brewer's straight-forward approach.
"We're doing this to start a conversation with our customers and see where it leads," says Brewer." It's personal. It's not fancy in the least, and maybe that's why people come into the shop and start talking about our videos and ask us what we're planning to do next."
All marketing and selling should conclude with a call-to-action—that's the accepted wisdom. However, in relationship marketing, the action isn't necessarily a purchase. Earlier this season, Brewer worked with De La Paz on a video promoting a used-ball drive that resulted in some 20 golfers showing up to donate buckets of shag balls that had been gathering dust in their garages.
"We had an unexpected range ball shortage, and I know for a fact that half our players have a big stash of scuffed balls they can't seem to toss out," explains Brewer. "We put out our request via video and got a great response. Everybody was talking about it—that's the whole point anyway, the back and forth interaction."
Mike Hendrix, Vice President of Business Services at GOLF Business Solutions, agrees entirely with the Split Rock concept of video that is sincerely personal. The point of it is making a genuine connection, not an action-driven message that a typical marketer would use.
"When you are selling golf," says Hendrix, "you're basically inducing a person to do the thing they want to do. They want to engage with their favorite activity in their ideal environment. So, let's just get the engagement process started—and video is the tool for that. It's natural and easy to consume video—especially on your smartphone, which is where so much content gets consumed today."
Led by Hendrix and Plus Specialist Gabriela Vaughan, the GOLF Business Solutions team recently introduced Clubhouse Bulletin, a video newsletter customized for private clubs as a way for them to connect with members. The natural ease and charm of Bailey Mosier, a GOLF Channel studio host, supply those qualities. Mosier fronts (and co-produces) these customized "video newsletters" for the top clubs now enrolled in the program.
By using broadcast-quality production elements, with the GOLF Channel Newsroom as a backdrop, a Clubhouse Bulletin segment holds a viewer's attention as it delivers engaging content—news, events, and important updates. Other production values include professional course imagery, a scrolling information ticker, and club-specific branding in each video.
"Club GMs and officers will view a sample segment and assume there's a high cost to get involved," says Hendrix. "But the cost of entry for a club to add this powerful communication tool and really build engagement is very reasonable." While it's generally a means of connecting with and retaining the existing member, Clubhouse Bulletin enrollment also allows a club to create an outreach video showcasing it for potential new members.
Humans are wired to process information visually–it's how our brains work. Golfers are wired to enjoy their experiences at your course or club by personally connecting with the people who provide them with service and a great product. Short videos inviting viewers to come and enjoy themselves will make a strong impression—and produce business results.
To discover more about Clubhouse Bulletin and what it can do for your course, CLICK HERE.
The famed sales trainer and motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar, brought the concept to everyman language when he said, "All things being equal, people buy from their friends." He then added, "All things not being equal, people still buy from their friends." It seems like common sense, but "relationship marketing" was considered an innovative breakthrough a generation ago.
For anyone attempting to fill a tee sheet, the gold standard in digital marketing is GOLF Business Solutions' Premium Marketing Program - an enhanced-marketing program exclusive to online tee time sales. It's been around since 2011 and continues to gain a stronghold in the marketplace.
Eligible partner courses who invest in PMP benefit from a wide array of advantageous placements and optimized positioning. The most significant advantage is top placement among the search results seen by golfers when shopping online in a particular market. That top placement has enough prominence to be a real advantage.
As an added new feature, PMP provides a newly redesigned way for participating courses to show up on the Destinations page. This top-of-page placement is sure to catch the eye of any golfer traveling outside his or her home base.
"What the golfer sees is high-res imagery and information about the property, funneling the user directly to the course's inventory page to facilitate the booking," says Matt Guy, Senior Manager of Sales Operations for GOLF Business Solutions. "Previously, the up-top placement of the PMP partner had a banner-ad look. We've moved to a tile-type design that creates a solo spotlight position above the fold."
PMP golf courses are part of an exclusive group, with just over 1,300 enrolled in the program. Being a good fit is all about how engaged and energized an operator is, and whether his/her strategic ideas align with the concepts on which PMP is based.
The product development team at GOLFNOW has tweaked and improved the program steadily, using performance analytics along with feedback from course operators. The revenue record over that period tells a compelling tale of effectiveness.
“When you look at the before-and-after for a course that joins PMP, the average revenue increase within the GOLFNOW booking platform is 30 percent,” says Guy. “Courses in the program get seen online very prominently, as part of a rotation. At times they will be shown exclusively. The overall result is much-improved click-through to completed bookings.”
The majority of current PMP golf courses have been on the platform for multiple years without interruption, according to Guy. “When a spot opens, the GOLFNOW rep in that geographic area will generally have several courses in mind as a replacement.” A belief in optimizing revenue through effective use of dynamic pricing is a primary indicator of strong potential as a PMP partner.
PMP courses are also featured in daily emails to the platform’s golfer database, which is geo-based. A significant benefit appears in the “Best Bets” email. This email is exclusive to the PMP level of partnership, which makes you the only option that the golfer arriving with cash in hand will see.
“That’s 100 percent share of voice,” says Ryan Heaton, Director of Sales Operations for GOLF Business Solutions, with emphasis on the once-weekly email, “which by any measure is a huge value.” In addition to that exclusive Best Bets positioning, participating courses also gain access to the “Book Early” email. It spotlights PMP partners and is delivered to golfers’ inboxes based on their booking behavior and similar course interests.
Similarly, there is a “stay and play” page on GOLF Advisor for every market. Although best suited to resorts, any PMP course that finds a lodging partner can provide that information to its GOLFNOW rep. Then, package links are set up so that customers get routed directly to the hotel partner and are supplied with a code to book right then and there. “Listing yourself on the stay and play page will result in a lot of very relevant impressions,” says Heaton.
There’s also the potential to get exposure on GOLF Channel’s “Morning Drive” show as well as promotion on social media postings that reach 175,000 golfers who follow GOLFNOW on the big three platforms of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
To make a move to GOLF Business Solutions’ Premier Marketing Program, you must be well-positioned and ready to try to maximize the facility you’ve worked so hard to build and beautify. PMP is unmatched in today’s marketplace. CLICK HERE to learn more.
When was the last time you spent money without first checking reviews and ratings online? Verifying what others think of the product or service has become integral to the buying process. It’s true for washing machines, hotels, restaurants, shoes and plumbers. It’s even true for golf courses.
Mike Lowe, Vice President and General Manager of GOLF Advisor, has been involved since it’s inception with golf’s leading source of course ratings and reviews.“We saw the potential for user-generated reviews and built a great foundation on GOLFNOW,” he said. “Within a year of our launch as a separate brand in February 2014, GOLF Advisor already had become the internet’s leader, having aggregated nearly 300,000 reviews.”
GOLF Advisor’s rapid trajectory has continued hosting nearly 900,000 reviews covering more than 15,000 courses worldwide. They’ve recently expanded GOLF Advisor's travel footprint through a new GOLF Channel television series, hosted trips and more. These offerings ensure golfers deciding where they want to play next will begin that search at GOLF Advisor and GOLFNOW.
To benefit users, GOLF Advisor expands its content offerings well beyond merely posting user-generated reviews. Trust is essential, says Lowe. “When you’re on GOLF Advisor versus Yelp or others, you are getting expert editorial from our writers. These ratings and reviews from the experts are matched up with peer-to-peer reviews. Additionally, from our angle, you know that the golfer giving five stars on the course you are looking at is John Smith who is 55 to 64 years old with a three handicap. It gives you, the golfer, the best of both worlds — reviews from experts and from the actual golfer that you relate to. When our writers say you can expect a great experience, you can see if golfers like you are saying the same thing.”
That attention to high-quality content has paid off. “When we launched we had no presence in the search engine rankings,” Lowe said.
“Today, a major percentage of our traffic comes from search. We rank extremely well for destinations and also really well for golf courses. That strong SEO presence not only is great for getting new customers, but also, once that golfer finds us, they use us as one of their stops. They look to us for advice.”
There is no question that ratings and reviews of your course matter on GOLF Advisor. Lowe says his team is blunt in explaining that fact to operators who may take a casual approach to customer reviews or ignore them altogether.
“It’s free, there is no cost to them to respond to reviews, change photos, feature their strongest characteristics and so forth," he continued. "They can choose to engage or not to engage. But the fact is we see the golf courses who do get involved really benefit.”
Mission Inn Resort & Club in Orlando can attest to the benefits. “To say that the GOLF Advisor reviews and ratings have helped the resort is quite an understatement,” said Drew Toth, director of sales and marketing. “Golf rounds and golf package growth are up substantially.”
Michael Bowery, director of golf for Mission Inn, echoed that view. “We have a whole mix of business we have cultivated over the years — corporate business, golf tournaments, fundraising events. When we get everyone together before a shotgun start, I’ll share the story about how special this place is. When I tell them they are about to play El Campeón and it is consistently a top-rated golf course in the state of Florida on GOLF Advisor that gets their attention.”
Bowery pointed out Mission Inn’s exemplary ratings and reviews on GOLF Advisor are a key element in the selling process.
“The tough part is getting the golfers’ attention and getting them out here. Once they get here and experience Mission Inn, they come back. I mean, we have a group that has returned every year for 43 years. But when people are planning a golf event in Orlando, and they see our rankings are so high, they add us to their rotation. Ratings and reviews are the most powerful part of the marketing mix,” Toth said simply.
To maximize its power, you must nourish your connection to the golfer and engage them in the review. Thanking someone for complimenting your course goes a long way to cementing a loyal customer relationship. And when a golfer cites something that was lacking in his or her experience with your course? Acknowledging the customer’s issue directly, perhaps even offering a bounce back round at a discount, is a proven way to restore a customer’s perception. Their review is also feedback to guide what to fix at your facility, especially if you see the same complaint more than once.
Lowe likes to remind operators — especially those concerned about negative reviews — that the overall average for courses is 3.9 stars out of five. “Most golfers are sharing great experiences. And on those occasions where there may have been a bad review because of course condition or a temporary situation at the facility, our algorithm heavily weighs the most recent six months. A bad review in the past isn’t going to poison your rating forever.”
Whether it’s mitigating a less-than-stellar review or upping your ratings review game and reaping the rewards, Lowe offers some simple advice any operation can start employing today:
“Enthusiastically and consistently solicit reviews.”
Reviews are valuable currency, and the more you have, the better. Remind golfers throughout your facility. “Print up business cards that ask golfers to visit GOLF Advisor and rate their round,” Lowe said. Have your cart and bag drop staff pass the cards out. Train them to ask every customer about his or her round and ask for the review. Some operations have iPads available so employees can ask for the review right there with the customer.
“And most importantly train all of your staff to greet guests, communicate politely and deliver top-shelf service. I work with some courses that reward any employee who gets called out in a review by name. That’s one way to incentivize great service and ensure a great review,” says Lowe.
Finally, Lowe advises all courses to put their best foot forward on GOLF Advisor by updating photos and content and to dedicate some time daily to engaging with reviewers. Two-way conversation is your opportunity to thank customers, acknowledge when you’ve made a mistake and show every potential customer the experience they can expect.
Discover more about how GOLF Advisor can boost your business today! LEARN MORE >>
Golf is a lifestyle for a lifetime. And as we golfers pursue our passion, the most popular ways we like to connect with the game is through playing, learning, watching, shopping and traveling. There’s no question that we’re always up for a round!
Members of the new GOLFPASS program, recently launched in partnership between Rory McIlroy and NBC Sports Group, are psyched about the host of exclusive, ongoing perks and benefits that not only help them make those connections but also make it easier to get out and play.
Now, golf courses that partner with GOLFNOW have an opportunity to make their own connections with avid golfers through a new program called GOLFPASS Perks.
The concept is simple and on-boarding is fast. Select the Perks you want to offer from a range of categories including food and beverage, golf shop, tee times and more. Examples include 2-for-1 drinks, same-day replay and complimentary range balls. Golfers booking tee times on GOLFNOW will be able to see that you offer Perks through a visual icon badge as part of your listing. Note that at least one selection from each category is required. Courses are also welcome to offer their own custom Perks.
GOLFPASS Perks may be new to the market but it’s off to a fast start, with 100-plus courses already participating and prior testing revealing solid proof of consumer responsiveness.
Jerramy Hainline, Vice President of Sales for GOLFNOW and Golf Advisor, has been shepherding the program from development to early deployment, including the beta test. “What we found from our initial analytics is highly encouraging,” says Hainline. “Year over year, in comparable time periods, the partner courses we studied show greater engagement with customers coming through the GOLFNOW portal and a higher spend per visit by those customers.”
Lots of valuable evidence about how Perks can motivate your customer is available through our G1 premier management solution. “We’re looking forward to having lots of G1 partner courses badge their GOLFPASS customers on the system and automatically get reports that show visit patterns and spend-per-visit, and which of the perks are getting the most usage,” says Hainline. “That is rich data for the operator to see at a glance and utilize for current and future marketing initiatives.”
Meanwhile, the GOLFNOW data analytics group will be learning more and more about GOLFPASS use in general, so that suggestions and tie-ins can be offered to course partners on a regular basis. “People who sign up for GOLFPASS who identify with “Play” as their No. 1 motivation are the most loyal, most active golfers in our whole ecosystem,” says Hainline. “The Perks icon is a course’s way to tell that group of people there is a red carpet rolled out for them.”
Photos and videos are proven ways to impress and engage with your audience.
You’ve maintained and updated your golf course to make it stand apart, but that’s just job one when it comes to image. Job two is marketing your course in distinctive, eye-catching ways that will increase golfers at your course. Society is more visual now than ever before. People respond strongly to what they’re shown - whether it's a first impression or cumulatively over time.
“A course’s website and its promotional materials can help create an emotional connection that keeps customers engaged and builds their loyalty,” says marketing expert Lindsey Mammen, director of creative solutions, GOLF Business Solutions. “One of the best ways to do that is through photography and video that’s lively and well-executed.”
Mammen drives her point home by citing statistics from digital marketing firm HubSpot, which states that embedding videos in landing pages can increase conversion by over 80 percent. They also say that adding a video to marketing emails can boost click-through rates by 200 to 300 percent. “It’s worth reviewing your visual presentation, and asking whether it’s got this kind of potency,” she said. “Will it attract, inform, excite, and charm the people who see it?”
Building blocks for visual marketing can include the course and clubhouse photos, course videos, and the design production. With the arrival of drone technology, golf courses have gained a useful and relatively affordable visual option—flyover video and still shots. In the past it was unusual to see aerial visuals of public courses, but lately, there’s more of it showing up.
Pictures and videos on websites start with homepage beauty shots and can extend to images that cover the services listed across the website. To gain a more visual advantage, courses might look at improving the imagery they use for those secondary assets. In general, pages for practice facilities, leagues, instruction, junior clinics, or 19th Hole dining seldom get a strong visual showcase. According to Mammen, “relying on text explanations to impress a site visitor who’s curious about those aspects of your business is a lost opportunity.”
Stand out from the crowd with professional drone footage and imagery
Outbound marketing, such as email and social media posts, will need to reflect or echo the visual “signature” found on your site. Email marketing fights for your audiences attention and strives to be remembered. The inbox of any customer you’re marketing to gets filled up with messages from a wide array of sources. Remember, the level of sophistication in branding and selling utilized by other marketers is what you're measured against. Engage your audience with your style of snapshots and links to short videos through email and posted across your social channels.
Promote your strengths with creativity
Sometimes a different approach to video can be effective, but keep in mind that it should be faithful to the brand you’ve created. Take the out-of-the-box efforts of Palm Beach National Golf & Country Club in West Palm Beach, Florida for example. Mike Dahlstrom, director of sales and hospitality, takes on the character of “Mikey D,” who horses around on-camera to make a point. In his short videos, Dahlstrom hangs out with regulars, paddle-boards across water hazards, and runs beat-the-pro trick shot competitions.
The tagline “P2B” is shown in a GIF animation during the intro and outro of Dahlstrom’s amusing home-movie presentations. That’s done to continually support a brand identification of Palm Beach National as the “place to be” for golfers in the region. Also, a pop-up box with "book now" call-to-action is shown to engaged users as the video clip is rolling. It’s clear that Mikey D has a particular talent for performing, and this course is dedicated to investing in marketing all facets of their business.
Palm Beach National’s approach isn’t for every golf course – and it shouldn’t be. Palm Beach National wins by focusing on visuals and staying consistent with their brand and key messaging - a lesson we can all learn from "Mikey D".
So, if your competition is sending out lively, engaging messages with clear visuals - take notice. Your recipients love the game, but marketing to them is solely based on rules of engagement.
To learn more about our marketing services, CLICK HERE.
Using 'off-course' golf to bump revenue and market share
An oddity of Japan's economic boom in the 1980s was that the millions of people who hit balls at massive urban ranges stood zero chance of playing golf on one of the country's scarce public courses.
America uncovered something similar - recent research showed Americans playing off-course forms of the game exclusively or in addition to traditional green-grass golf, according to the National Golf Foundation, whose 2018 census of "off-course golfers" came to about 23 million (up 10 percent from the previous year).
The trend toward what some call golf entertainment is a big part of the upsurge. Swinging a club at venues like Topgolf and Drive Shack, or pounding shots toward hyper-realistic simulator screens provide stress-free entertainment during manageable timeframes.
With revenue and golfer goodwill, these new entertainment options deserve attention. As announced in January, Toptracer Range technology developed and marketed by Topgolf, and the best-in-class golf course simulators by Full Swing are now included in the bundle of services GOLF Business Solutions distributes.
"Course operators with a serious interest in the new revenue and a lead position in their local market are asking questions about both these opportunities," says Joe Del Rossi, National Director of Sales, GOLF Business Solutions. "There's no difference in the product or price if you purchase Toptracer Range or Full Swing through us, but we do have alternative payment options, which include trade or cash—even a combination of trade and cash will work well, under certain circumstances."
Enhancing your green-grass practice facility in a Topgolf-like manner is the reason to bring in Toptracer Range. Toptracer Range provides a hardware and software package that tracks the flight of a standard range ball within a camera feed. It then provides real-time 3D ball flight data analytics, such as ball speed, apex, curve, and carry integrated into virtual graphics.
There will be some infrastructure work required for the sheltered bays, but there is also a mobile-based, handheld solution coming soon that will allow uncovered driving ranges to get on the map with Toptracer Range. This option allows customers to download a free app that provides stats on every shot.
"A golf facility can order Toptracer Range in coverage areas of about ten bays wide," says Del Rossi. "Depending on your clientele, you could arrange the space so that some of it is for club fitting and teaching—which the technology supports well—and some is for walk-up use by people who are just curious about the numbers they generate." There's more of that interest all the time, according to Del Rossi. Once golfers see specs, such as ball speed and launch angle, then learn more about what's optimal, they get the bug to compete against their past performance in search of improved metrics.
Using flexible payment options to add a Full Swing Simulator serves a similar purpose, subtracting the full flight of the ball while adding compelling graphic visuals, extended business hours, and protection from adverse weather conditions. "Rain and cold and excessive heat have always been a revenue negative for golf courses," says Del Rossi. "Finally, with today's simulator technology we've got an answer for that. Even on nice winter days in the Sunbelt, darkness cuts your revenue day short, so a simulator speaks to that, as well." Instruction programs and leagues also benefit, since they're entirely dependent on regular scheduling week to week.
When you sketch out a P&L pro forma statement involving one of these add-ons, higher food-and-beverage, club fitting, and instruction income should also be part of the scenario. "That's the core of the alternative golf model," Del Rossi observes, "a jam-packed bar and grill where you also hit golf shots." He tells course partners they could easily find themselves in the birthday party and bachelor party business, just through this one improvement. Meanwhile, at courses and clubs that offer quarterly or monthly range plans, Toptracer Range provides a chance to upsell the practice-oriented player.
It's early in the rollout of both products, especially Toptracer Range, which makes it difficult to assess how competition in a local market will be impacted. "I can sense that some operators might think their competitors don't have it, so maybe they don't need it," says Del Rossi. "But others seem to be thinking, 'Hey, I'll be the only one in town who's got this.' Also, that's going to give them a leg up."
Contact us today to learn more about how simulator services can boost your ROI.
AOL co-founder Steve Case visits GOLF in search of innovators and entrepreneurs across the U.S.
We talk a lot in this space about how the concepts of technology and innovation have positively affected the golf industry - more specifically, golf course operations. Many of us remember the late '90s when the "You've Got Mail" voice became a familiar sound to all AOL users and how that phrase permeated popular culture (For you movie buffs out there, it's been 20 years since Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks started an intense and anonymous online romance in the Hollywood film named after the phrase).
Former AOL CEO Steve Case, one of America's best-known and most accomplished entrepreneurs, is a pioneer who made the Internet part of everyday life. Now as Chairman and CEO of the investment firm, Revolution, Case has turned his passion for helping entrepreneurs into a search for innovators across the country.
On Monday, April 29, Case and his Rise of the Rest bus tour – a delegation of like-minded people more than 30 strong – made a stop at GOLF headquarters as part of its trek across the state of Florida. The Rise of the Rest tour visits some of the most compelling companies that started outside of Silicon Valley, New York City, and Boston. The tour's seed fund also invests in the most promising start-ups found in smaller markets across the United States.
Case's tour came to GOLF's Orlando campus to learn about GOLF Channel's transformation – how it's become more than a television network by identifying innovative technology that offers better ways to serve the modern golfer. GOLF showcases this with businesses such as GOLFNOW, GOLF Business Solutions, and GOLF Advisor – all located at the intersection of golf and technology and striving to guide our golf course partners along the way.
"We're trying to do what we can catalyze a movement, to back more entrepreneurs in more places to level the playing field so everybody, everywhere, actually does have a shot at the American dream and there can be job creation everywhere," Case said.
The GOLF Channel story is the "perfect example" of that, he said. An idea that made a lot of sense to co-founder Joe Gibbs but crazy to most people who thought it was destined to fail. Eventually, the idea broke through, and GOLF Channel became a successful media property. However, what's even more impressive, according to Case, was that GOLF kept the entrepreneurial spirit intact.
When addressing the GOLF Channel leadership team, Case said, "Smartly, (you) said 'OK, we could just continue to do that but how do we imagine a broader platform – a bigger brand, a broader company?' – and having now a whole slew of products and services is a great example of the reinvention that's required."
As we all strive to grow, it's not a bad idea to take the advice of Steve Case and take a closer look at your business. How are you reinventing yourself? We can help. Contact GOLF Business Solutions today to learn how we can streamline your golf course operations.
by Greg McLaughlin, CEO, World Golf Foundation
Earlier this week, the golf industry convened in Washington, D.C., for National Golf Day to share with legislators the many benefits our sport has on American society. National Golf Day provides industry leaders the opportunity to advocate on behalf of the game’s interests, but also to make lawmakers aware of these benefits.
This year marked the 12th annual National Golf Day and industry leaders participated in a record-high 244 meetings with members of Congress representing 41 states to discuss the game’s economic, social and environmental contributions to society.
Conversations with Senate, House of Representatives, Executive Branch and federal agencies’ directors highlighted some of the many societal benefits of the sport in the United States, including the game’s economic impact, which was $84.1 billion in 2016 and the fact that golf generates $3.9 billion annually for charity.
Lawmakers learned about the accessibility of the sport, which is evidenced by the fact that 76% of golf courses are open to the public and the average cost of a round of golf is just $35. They were also briefed on the health and wellness benefits of the sport and the environmental benefits that golf courses provide as green spaces, wildlife habitats and as filters for runoff.
Combined, these facts make a compelling case for golf’s importance to society and sharing these facts with Congress is a vital part of National Golf Day.
Golf industry representatives also give back as part of National Golf Day festivities. Each year, a community service project is undertaken on the National Mall to beautify the landmark by taking part in activities, such as mowing, planting, sod installation, pruning and more. This year marked the third year of the community service project and saw more than 200 members of the golf industry volunteering their time.
To learn more about National Golf Day, please visit www.wearegolf.org.
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.
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.