Knowledge Library

Holiday emails with the tools in GOLFNOW Central

Engage customers through the holidays and off-season with the tools in GOLFNOW Central

Nov 18, 2019

Staying in contact with your customers is a critical function for any golf course — even during seasonal closures. If you’re starting to make preparations for either closure or significant downtime, you can create and schedule email campaigns in advance to share golf course news, holiday greetings, and upcoming events with your golfers through the marketing tool within GOLFNOW Central (GNC).

Advanced scheduling allows you to focus on other business tasks that you face during the off-season, while still maintaining a crucial touch point with your customers so they are ready for that first day of the season.

 

How-to setup an email

Setting up a campaign in GOLFNOW Central couldn’t be easier. Simply select Marketing from the top menu and then choose view under campaigns. You will then be taken to the 'Campaign Movement' screen at this point. Click the green 'Create a New Campaign' link at the top right, which takes you to the Campaign Editor screen.

Now, complete the six tabs to customize your campaign—customers, promotion, email, text message, social media, and schedule and review.

 

Customizing your campaign

The Customers tab allows you to define the audience for your campaign. You can decide if everyone who opted-in to receive marketing messages from your course gets this notice, or you can narrow the list by pre-defined groups by selecting customers with specific course tags attached to their names.

Next you can decide to include a promotion with the campaign, an email, a text message or send your campaign out via your social media. When creating an email, you can choose to embed tee times directly into the email for fast, one-click booking. Also, don’t forget to use the administrative settings to add your social media links and logo for a professional-looking email every time. You can send yourself a test to make sure you are happy with your finished product on all platforms and services.

The final tab, Schedule and Review, lets you send the campaign immediately or set it up to be sent at a later date. Once your campaign is scheduled, you can always go back and review it by selecting the Scheduled tab under Campaign Movement. There will be a blue line that displays the send time for that campaign.

After sending out your campaign, you can utilize the “Analytics” tab to gauge its effectiveness. From “opens” to “clicks” to “bookings,” you will have the insight needed to adjust future campaigns for consistently higher conversion rates.

Need help? Contact your GOLF Business Solutions representative for ways to make the most of your next email campaign.


golf marketing for instructors

Better golf marketing in minutes: 5 tips you need to try!

Nov 07, 2019

Leverage the Value of Distance-Control with a Free Wedge Fitting

It’s a tantalizing question that instructor Rob Noel posed to golfers in his database: “Do you really know how far your wedges carry?” Many players who care about scoring aren’t sure at all, and it weighs on their minds when they’re inside 130 yards trying to pull a club. Noel invites them to a “Free Fit Friday,” in the noon to 4 p.m. time slot, featuring TrackMan for accurate measurement of carry distances. Structure of the afternoon was based on 30-minute sessions for each participant, with the chance, in Rob’s words, to “turn yourself into a scoring machine!” Benefit to the teaching professional is profit off wedge sales as well as an intro for non-students to see how competent and dedicated this academy’s coaches and clubfitters really are.
 

Use Nameplates as Rewards and Recognition for Regulars

Golfers see their names on cart signs, bag tags and lockers, so why not on the range? Even if you all you use are plastic plates that with an erasable surface, players will still enjoy seeing those beautiful words—their own first and last name. The plates you order could even have pre-printed titles, like “Golfer of the Week” or “Fast-Improving Student” or “Top 20 Most Improved.”. You don’t have to have one of these plates ready for every student every time—instead use them as an incentive for people who don’t yet have one, as well as a reward and retention tool for lesson-takers who are in your book already.
 

Hand Out Impact Decals on the Range

In the GolfWorks online catalogue you’ll find iron impact decals in rolls of 200 for $30. That works out to 15 cents apiece, a very small price to pay for the chance to create a meaningful connection with a range user who isn’t your student but seems like a good candidate. Make up a small poster showing a half-dozen used decals with off-center hits, blurred dimple patterns and other indicators of sub-optimal impact, topping it with the headline: “What Do These Marks Mean?” On a select basis, invite golfers to take 3 or 4 decals with them when they pick up a basket of balls, then upon their return they can show you the imprinted decals. It will likely be the first time they’ve ever used impact decals or impact tape, which makes this a great conversation-starter potentially leading to lesson signups.
 

“My Golf Teacher Reached Out to Me!”

Apparently this was the excited thought that went through the minds of 10 students who received texts from New Jersey-based instructor Brian Dobbie. The question Dobbie sent to his students, none of whom were currently active in his book, was disarmingly simple—he asked: “How is your game?” The message went out to the 10 golfers simultaneously and results came back to Brian quickly. All 10 golfers responded and the outreach resulted in Dobbie booking three standard lessons plus one playing lesson. He puts this nice success down to “the importance of following up,” in all kinds of different ways—including a quick, simple text.
 

Take Lessons in a Skill besides Golf and Blog Your Progress

Instructors are often advised to take lessons in tennis, guitar, fly fishing or some other motor skill, in order to remind themselves what the motor learning process is like from the student’s side. But if you ever do take this advice, don’t miss the opportunity to bring your golf students inside the process of what you’re being taught, how you’re going about practicing and what kind of progress you’re making. It will increase their respect for you (especially if you practice faithfully!) and it will build a narrative quality into your messaging, as your progress continues.


Discover all GOLF has to offer instructors! To check out our tools, tips, and more, CLICK HERE.

 


beyond yelp reviews

Beyond Yelp reviews: consider a secret shopper

Nov 07, 2019

Go through checkout at a big retailer and the cashier is bound to ask, “Did you find everything you were looking for?” Apparently there is research telling Target, BestBuy, and the other big boxes that consumers would spend more money if store inventory were somehow different or if items were displayed differently—so they constantly ask us about it.

Public-facing businesses—and golf instruction is no exception—can learn something from watching chain stores dig for data about the customer experience. The extreme way of doing it involves the trained “secret shopper,” hired from a legitimate agency and posing as a customer. Online reviews have reduced the need for secret shoppers, but they’re still around, supplying objectivity and professional reporting.

A marketing specialist with expertise in golf shop retailing, Jackie Beck, got hired a few years back to do some secret shopping in the instruction category. Beck was given a list of 50 contacts—academies as well as solo teaching pros—and told to proceed as any curious golfer would. She studied the instructors’ websites, checked on prices, called or emailed to inquire about available services and in some cases attempted to book a lesson.

In a presentation that Beck later made to a gathering of coaches—some of whom were among the 50 she had secret-shopped—her report had the attendees studying their own websites on smartphones, real-time, as she went through actual examples of what she saw working and not working. In many cases there were broken links within websites, long scrolls to get to important content, missing information, weak photography and a general failure to “tell the customer what makes this teacher a great choice.”

Beck found a disconnect between golf shops and the lesson tee, especially for teachers who are independent contractors at public courses. The staff in those shops are trained to promote the golf operation but not the lesson business. Beck addressed this issue, asking: “Is the golf shop delivering messages to you, with accurate information about people who have called asking about instruction? If you suspect that’s not happening, have a few people you know and trust call in, inquiring about golf lessons.” Consider “hiring" a former junior golfer who went on to study marketing or management at college then returned home with a degree. Trade a 3-lesson series for an objective report on what the customer experience was like, in fine detail.

Beck understands that instructors have to address the operating details of their business in small doses. “Prioritize the things you want to check on, and take them one or two at a time,” she advises. Are golfers arriving on-property and getting confused about where to go? Are there messy or cluttered spaces they would find unpleasant. Is noise a problem at certain times and places? Are the restrooms clean? Are the range balls noticeably deteriorating?

Unlike a BestBuy or a CVS, golf facilities aren’t chains that all look alike. That gives the instructor a chance to liven up the surroundings and add a little sparkle, making return visits more enjoyable.

“Your teaching skill is the big draw, but a golfer’s overall experience will play a part in whether they want to come back,” says Jackie. “If it’s a $75 lesson and they feel the experience was worth $100 they will automatically come back.” It takes a long time to learn how to teach effectively, and yet being around for a long time can dull your eye and ear for what’s pleasant, interesting and appealing about the details of a visit.

One final point Beck makes is focused on programming, and the need to bring flexibility to it. “Some instructors will schedule a ‘Chips and Sips’ clinic for women and be overly concerned about whether chipping can be taught properly in this type of setting,” Beck observes. “I say, ‘Who cares?’ The women are happy. Some nights they’ll be fine with skipping the golf part altogether—let them!” If you have reservations, ask directly whether social-night only is of interest to the participants. “Ask and listen,” Beck repeats. “We have to get over the idea that we know better than the customer.”

To learn more about our instructor offerings, CLICK HERE.

 


Instruction Programming

Instruction Programming: What to offer and how to explain it

Nov 07, 2019

Golf instruction comes in a wider variety of formats than it used to. To expand their audience, teachers keep adding programs of different types. We’ve seen instruction tailored so that it’s more social, more technology-based, more focused on scoring, more geared toward women, or otherwise customized.

Lately a new line of thinking has come along to offset this programming trend. Special formats and event-based teaching are still being offered and continue to attract golfers. However, they’re getting pushed to the side and kept separate from the “main course” product, which is long-term coaching relationships that remodel golf swings and produce significant game improvement.

Research shows that rewiring a golfer to truly change motor patterns takes months or even years, plus steady practice to attain interim goals. The results are dramatically pleasing to the golfer, and the coach-student relationship that develops is a big source of job satisfaction for instructors. In good part the happy ending is due to the long and emotionally painful span of time in which the embarrassed golfer has dealt with a sense of futility about their play. A fair number of people commit to long-term coaching right at the point where they’re ready to quit the game.

Meanwhile, financial compensation to the teacher improves significantly when the lesson book is filled out far in advance with these every-week or every-other-week clients. Eventually this scenario leads to rate increases. Next time you hear of an instructor who raises rates, check to see if they have a growing stable of committed long-term students—you’ll find this is virtually always the case.

Because the long-term student is so valuable—and because he or she is always going to be a minority within of the instruction-minded population—the coach needs a “sales funnel” with a very wide feeder end. That coach also needs a “gateway” product, usually called a New Student Assessment or New Student Evaluation, that large numbers of players will undergo.

Out of the pool of players who come through the gateway—and their total could be 100 or more over a season—perhaps 20 to 40 percent will enter long-term programs. They’ll buy lessons in 10-packs, 20-packs and 30-packs, and they will make the journey from frustrated and par-deprived to become mid-80s or even single-digit players. Their investment in the coach-student collaboration is key to the golf instructor’s business plan and yearly income. Both parties win.

How does this model impact programming and your menu of instruction options? It starts by putting the New Student Assessment front and center, where it can do its job of filling up the wide end of your sales funnel. Lots of options and details about formats and special events will confuse your best prospects, i.e, the people who legitimately want to improve. They scroll through academy websites, see all the diversity and intricacy and get overwhelmed. In many cases these golfers have spent a long time postponing the decision to try and end their frustration. They need simplicity and a clear path to improvement.

Instructors have long used programming to let people know they are up on the latest developments in the field, from TrackMan diagnostics to AimPoint green-reading to the use of a communications “locker” for sharing video, notes and practice plans. There’s logic to this, but again it’s a possible source of confusion and even intimidation. There are students who in general are impressed by technology, but there are others who shy away from it. Telling people about your certifications and the tech tools in your teaching bay is well and good, but you can do it in descriptive copy that’s distinct from your programming information. Don’t let it detract from the messaging that encourages new students to come meet you and get assessed.

The other extreme is clinic programming that’s fun, social, relaxed and looks inviting on the club calendar. Nothing wrong with this, either. Just don’t let it cloud the message about long-term coaching and how to get started on it.

On your website you can do all this through clear communication that keeps the gateway product, a New Student Assessment or whatever you use, separate from your tech talk and from the fun, “intro” events you offer. In email marketing you can offer the specials and one-offs selectively, and let people know they are “events” that don’t come up on the schedule regularly. In social media messaging you can carry along the same approach.

Being versatile is a good thing and having lots of ways to meet golfers is valuable. Getting the best return on your investment in training, tech and marketing is always about having a filled-out lesson scheduler that stretches weeks or even months into the future, booked up with thrilled students who rave about you.

Create a gateway product, build a sales funnel to feed it, and tailor your menu of services so that you and your best customers achieve meaningful rewards over the long haul.

To learn more about our instruction tools, trainings, and tips, CLICK HERE.

 


golf course software

Golf software ‘walk-thru’ help

Oct 03, 2019

The value of technology in the workplace depends on the ability of staff members to use it.

The GOLF Business Solutions tool for tee-time inventory and revenue management, GOLFNOW Central (GNC) has been developed with ease-of-use as a high priority. That’s evident to anyone who watches a course operator log into GNC and smoothly navigate its array of business functions. As for operators still learning how GNC works, you could listen to the Partner Support team at GOLF headquarters field their myriad tech questions and readily sense the value of that support.

But for the busy operator who prefers a more hands-on learning approach, GOLFNOW wanted to take support a step further in order to help users of the platform leverage it more efficiently and confidently. That’s why the “WalkMe” project was undertaken. Launching in phases through summer and fall, WalkMe is a built-in program of step-by-step instructions on how to accomplish all tasks within GOLFNOW Central's function tabs.

Log in to GOLFNOW Central currently and you’ll find a WalkMe upgrade in five function modules:

  • How to: Check Holiday Inventory
  • How to: Update Live Inventory
  • How to: Load Live Tee Times
  • How to: Set up Dashboard Reporting
  • How to: Access Performance Reports

More will be added on a rolling basis during the fourth quarter, and similar modules will be implemented for GOLF Business Solutions’ G1 management platform.

Overseeing the project is Chris Alvarez, Manager of Business Services Support for GOLF Business Solutions. Alvarez touts the visual design of the WalkMe tool, which features a “Need Help?” tab in the lower-right corner of every page, plus embedded modules that are active depending on which tab you are utilizing in GNC. During the walk-through, boxes framed in red – easy to identify but compact enough to avoid blocking other content – help indicate where an action is needed. He expects WalkMe to give operators an extra level of assurance that they can quickly perform the tasks and adjustments that lead to improved bookings and margins.

“With how-to information of any kind, a lot of the value lies in when you need or want to access it,” says Alvarez. “This is relevant with WalkMe for GNC in a couple of ways. Just as you hit a key point in the performance of a task, the instructions pertinent to that task become available to click open and read. The other timing factor is about work you might want to do in the evenings, when other forms of support may not be available. WalkMe is a big help in that regard.”

To encourage use of the technology, the GNC welcome page has a bouncing click-box installed on its lower right corner. Operators can get started there and receive an orientation showing where the how-to information is embedded and what it looks like as you access it.

“Walk Me interacts with the user intelligently, providing a variety of examples on how to execute each step of a task,” explains Alvarez. He recommends starting with the Update Live Inventory function and next, because of the time of year, the Check Holiday Inventory task, where WalkMe assistance is particularly intuitive—using WalkMe to fill in knowledge gaps on such a core part of the GNC suite will accelerate the process of making it second-nature to use the platform generally.

Naturally, a golf course staff using the GNC platform will have people with different learning styles. That’s another reason why the WalkMe tool adds value. In the process of training 20-plus colleagues internally at GOLF Business Solutions in the use of GNC, Alvarez has noticed that comprehensive front-end tutoring has its limitations. “We’ve tried all methods here,” he says, “and the greatest success seems to come when the new user can jump in and learn by doing. They get a certain number of reps and then the light bulb comes on. WalkMe caters to that approach.”

Going forward, WalkMe will be able to provide shout-outs to new features as they’re released. Look for best practices of inventory management to be featured in ensuing WalkMe upgrades, along with recommendations about effective strategies that emerge directly from GNC users.

Advancing to a high skill level in the use of GOLFNOW Central is a proven competitive edge. “We’ve noticed over time,” says Alvarez, "that operators who engage with GNC the most tend to see the greatest ROI benefit from their GOLF Business Solutions partnership.” It’s another example of the fact that business technology is valuable, but mastery of it is valuable in the extreme.


Dynamic Pricing

Dynamic pricing during seasonal transitions

Sep 18, 2019

The time has passed for letting the calendar dictate pricing. The times they are a changin’ … on the calendar, that is, as summer turns to fall. This is a common refrain this time of year and for many golf courses, it means checking the calendar to see when they are supposed to change. But is this really the best strategy?

“One of the main discussions we have with our golf course partners is smoothing their transitions coming into and out of seasons,” said Brian Skena, manager, Plus by GOLF Business Solutions. “It doesn’t make sense to abruptly change rates just because the calendar says so. Rather, we would advise to change rates because demand says so.”

It’s a discussion often met with an incredulous look as operators say, “We have always changed our rates at certain points on the calendar. It’s the way we’ve always done it. Our customers expect it. Gosh, it’s published right here on our rate card we have posted in the pro shop.”

“Why have a physical rate card that shows your rate is “x” from this date to that date?” Skena said. “Golfers don’t need to know the price months from now. Let dynamic pricing come into play.” As evidence, he points to the hotel and airline industries, which have made massive profits with dynamic pricing while conditioning consumers to expect prices to reflect demand. “You don’t see airlines and hotels advertising that their rates rise and fall on certain dates. Demand determines what price you see.”

Chris de Laat, Owner of Mayfield Golf Club in Caledon, Ontario, Canada, no longer uses a traditional seasonal calendar to make pricing decisions. “The catalyst for pricing changes is performance,” says de Laat. “Softer days need aggressive pricing and promotions, while busy days warrant higher prices.” de Laat operates by a pricing matrix with a list of criteria that influence his decision-making, including: historical APR; seasonal temperatures; daylight hours; course conditions; competitor pricing, and more. “A motto that resonates for me states that ‘Time is a perishable item – unsold times equate to lost opportunities."

More operators around the country agree. They look at rates during seasonal transitions, but don’t completely rely on the calendar. The consensus is there are a host of other contributing factors unique to individual markets that should influence changing rate on demand, such as weather, course conditions, tourism, etc.

Many of these operators partner with GOLF Business Solutions and its Plus service for rate guidance. Having this support mechanism, and historical and market data it can offer, instills confidence in their decision-making and the timing of their pricing decisions.

Skena said with Plus’ full-service staff, they can be incredibly responsive with clients that are communicating regularly with them. “We can price really well off historical data,” he said. “And when courses are more proactive and willing to communicate with us, we can definitely extend their high seasons.”

To learn more about dynamic pricing and Plus services, CLICK HERE.


Eaglesticks Country Club

GOLF Business Solutions' Advanced Marketing Program extends reach, fuels new categories

Sep 18, 2019

Among the thousands of partner courses that have benefited from GOLF Business Solutions’ decade-long focus on technology, marketing and their position within the world’s largest tee-time marketplace – GOLFNOW – there are many that seek to explore additional business opportunities beyond the tee time.

While still catering to their core golfers, these facilities also hope to attract more casual players, particularly those who might value a club affiliation for social events and networking. These courses are entrepreneurial-minded and are seeking to increase event revenue from events, such as weddings, retirement parties, bar mitzvahs, corporate receptions, and the like.

Enter the new Advanced Marketing Program (AMP) from GOLF Business Solutions. AMP is designed to leverage GOLF’s technology and outbound marketing expertise to reach an audience beyond devoted golfers, and to sell products and services that complement a course partner’s existing daily fee business.

Parker Ross, Brand Specialist for GOLF Business Solutions, has been leading the effort to introduce AMP to the marketplace and uncover the full potential of this new program to further drive business success for its course partners.

“There are best practices within golf course marketing that you follow to optimize a client course’s inventory and build market share among golfers who book rounds online,” says Ross. “That’s not necessarily the path you go down if your goal is conducting a new membership drive – you’re trying to reach a different kind of golfer. Nor is it the optimal way to show your clubhouse and event amenities to non-golfing brides-to-be if you’re looking to drive wedding business. There are people in your geographic market who are very much worth targeting but who really don’t get touched in the normal course of doing business.”

Successful work in these areas requires expertise in landing-page design, paid search and social media marketing, as well as in-depth understanding of both golf course website and ad platform analytics to improve campaign performance and optimize spend across channels.

Ross and colleague, Chanté Osborne, have overseen an AMP beta test run on behalf of EagleSticks Golf Club, an upscale daily fee facility outside Columbus, Ohio. EagleSticks features a Michael Hurdzan-designed 18-hole course and a large, impressive clubhouse featuring event spaces capable of accommodating groups up to 400 guests.

Eaglesticks recently launched a “Club 30” membership drive (celebrating 30 years in business) with the goal of selling 1,000 golf memberships at the promotional rate of $89 per year (note: Club 30 members pay a cart fee with each booking).

A similar campaign was also launched to help generate wedding leads for EagleSticks’ sales & events director, with targeted search and social media ads driving traffic to a custom-made landing page. The campaign generated nearly a dozen leads within its first month, an “exponential increase” over years’ past, according to EagleSticks General Manager Kelly Morrow.

“My comment to the GOLF Business Solutions team was, ‘You know more about technology and market reach than we do, so let’s work together,’” says Morrow. “As for memberships, our first sale came in late July, not long after the launch, and within six weeks our total was close to 100 sales. These are new people to us, more of a casual player—we definitely have the sense that they’ll be good spenders.”

“Without the marketing power of GOLF Business Solutions it would have been very difficult to get the word out about these two programs,” says Morrow. He’s unquestionably proud of the product that EagleSticks represents and sees the immense value in attracting a newer and larger audience to see it for themselves.

To learn more about our AMP service, CLICK HERE.


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.

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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.