Making Golf Marketing Work - 10 Simple Ideas
Post from golf writer and golf blogger Kevin Markham. This post originally appeared in full and unedited via Kevin's blog in a 2 part post.
How many British golf clubs out there would you say are hip and trendy, living in the now, reaching out to the younger golfing generation?
Sadly, many golf clubs are trampling their way through marketing undergrowth that is so tired it has been flattened, widened, paved and turned into a super highway of indifference. Magazine and newspaper advertising, posters on the walls of nearby clubs and lists of Open events published on websites are the stalwarts.
One of the pioneers of modern advertising, John Wannamaker (1838-1922), famously said:
"Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half."
And yet clubs persist in taking out ads with no direct response mechanism and, therefore, no way of tracking an ad’s effectiveness. They may claim it’s about ‘raising awareness’ but that holds little sway in a market driven by value and time constraints, and where deals are constantly available on the Internet.
What about Social Media?
To say that there are endless marketing opportunities through Social Media is an understatement. Consider the dozens of channels out there, from Facebook to the less well known Reddit and Vimeo, and it’s a whole new world to explore.
Unfortunately, too many clubs do not feel that adventurous.
The kids of today will be the golfers of tomorrow. Clubs need to understand that while the average age profile of a UK golfer is 42 (British Golf Industry Association), younger golfers live and breathe Social Media and the Internet. Most of their information comes through these channels and clubs need to embrace that.
Over 90% of clubs now have websites, most have Facebook pages and some have Twitter accounts. You might even find the occasional link to Flickr or Instagram, while some of the hotel resorts will have Pinterest and Google+ too.
The question is: are these clubs using Social Media channels effectively? For many clubs the answer is ‘no’. Marketing is low on the list of priorities because the person in charge of it is rarely a marketer. And when budgets get cut, marketing is – erroneously – one of the first expenses to be slashed.
Ten Ways to Improve Your Golf Club Marketing
Here are 10 ideas that clubs can use to make their marketing stronger – they’re free or cost relatively little money and they include Social Media, websites, traditional marketing and plain old common sense.
1. Website Imagery
Your golf course is your most valuable asset, so show it off. If you haven’t got strong images, get some and use them. Pay a photographer to take images that you can use on the website, on web directories and in marketing material.
2. Website Layout
Consider your website audience, especially visitors. A lot of sites are focused on the members, which makes you look insular. What are the two things visitors want to see and know when they visit? Your course and your green fees… so make them instantly visible. Create a dedicated Gallery of course images and make it easy to find. Include hole numbers and/or names.
3. Website – Non Golf
A website doesn’t have to be solely about golf. Help potential visitors by including local accommodation options and other events, festivals and attractions in the area.
Facebook presents an excellent opportunity to interact with your members and past and future visitors. Talk about changes to the course, discuss rules, explain course maintenance issues, show photographs taken by golfers, introduce/review special events (charity days, weddings, birthdays, poker nights), respond to praise/criticism and create an online community. In other words, make it more than just about the weekend scores.
Facebook is a two way street, so ‘like’ other pages of interest (nearby courses/hotels, etc.) and communicate with them, view their updates and support them. Promote their events, inform your visitors and who knows what you might get in return.
The principles of Facebook also apply to Twitter, except you now only have 140 characters per Tweet. For some clubs, Twitter feeds are for pumping out weekend results and nothing more. In such cases, the person Tweeting sees no ‘return’ on their time and the account dies off. Twitter is about interaction, being part of a conversation and not being blinkered to your own cause. Give your followers something interesting to read, ask questions, congratulate others, announce special events at the club, and link to relevant media articles, local hotel offers, restaurant reviews and weather reports.
Remember to 'search' your own club name to see if there are positive/negative comments being said about you. That way you can 'listen' and respond to the issues.
6. Giveaways (Facebook & Twitter)
Think about it: a fourball costs you nothing and yet offering a fourball through Social Media stimulates interaction and interest in the club. You can ask for submissions via email and build up a database that can be used for future marketing purposes.
7. 'Free' Marketing
Social Media is one form of free marketing. The golf forum (such as Golfshake’s) is another – where the general golfing masses discuss all things golf, including the best courses, equipment, hotels, golf breaks, players and tournaments, and course conditions. This can be used as free research and it allows you to see what is (or isn't) being said about your course.
Then you have publicity and press releases. They’re not ‘new’ but getting a Press Release right is beyond many businesses, let alone golf clubs. There’s no point using a scattergun approach to news that isn’t actually news. Firing off a release to all the local papers might get you a paragraph of coverage, but it uses up goodwill for the time you have a really interesting story. The same applies to golf magazines – they’re going to be interested in big stories (a new nine holes, a new clubhouse) but a ‘new green’ story won’t cut it.
8. Looking After Your Visitors
Here’s a scenario: four visitors arrive and start splashing out on gear and balls in the Pro shop. What if the guy behind the till says ‘Lads, you’re buying all that stuff, let me knock a fiver off your green fees’? It’s not much but it acknowledges that these golfers are bringing income to the club. The club loses £20, but they’ve gained so much more as the golfers will remember it and spread the word. And they may spend that £20 in the bar.
9. Sign Posts to Your Course
Obvious, but often ignored. GPS may make this redundant these days, but there’s nothing quite as reassuring as a signpost pointing you in the right direction. There’s no point having a product if your audience can’t find it. What’s more, if they can’t find it and/or turn up late, it can mess up the timesheet and the enjoyment of others.
10. Grammar and Spelling
Yes, they matter. The person producing golf club brochures, emails, newsletters, website copy, Tweets and Facebook posts needs to know the difference between your and you’re… there, their and they’re… and its and it’s. On Twitter and Facebook these mistakes are everywhere. No, it’s not cataclysmic, but silly mistakes can reflect negatively on your brand, i.e. your course/resort, and it’s such an easy thing to get right.
The above ideas are not earth shattering: they’re simple things to implement without costing an arm and a leg. They can increase your presence, reach wider audiences and encourage (and keep) new business. Golf Marketing doesn’t have to be hard - it just takes a little effort.
Image Credit: The original photo is the copyrighted work of zone41 via Flickr (www.flickr.com/photos/zone41/)
Kevin Markham is an Irish golf writer, blogger and photographer who writes for a number of Irish and UK golf websites & magazines. His book 'Hooked: An Amateur's Guide to the Golf Courses of Ireland' was published in 2011 and reviews all 350 golf courses which he played whilst travelling round Ireland in a campervan.
To read his blog visit: www.theirishgolfblog.com
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