Don’t worry, we’re here to clear up any confusion you might have. Over the years we’ve learned a lot about golf marketing. So, let us share some of the insights we’ve learned from our industry partners, customers, and our own experience as a new golf management software provider.
It’s not an easy task to market a golf course anymore. Non-digital costs are extremely high and only produce mediocre results. Online advertising space is becoming more and more expensive while organic search results are getting harder to show up on.
The big tee time distributors take up a ton of marketing space these days too. Golf operators often feel forced to rely on barter sites as their primary marketing tool. These operators concede that investment in a self directed marketing strategy is a waste of time and money.
We want to prove that golf operators don’t have to feel trapped. In fact, we believe tons of marketing opportunities exist if you use a little creativity, solid data analysis, and comprehensive club management software.
Let this white paper take you on a journey. We want to help you understand:
For the golf industry, millennials have been an elusive group. There are a few theories as to why: some operators say that younger audiences don’t want to play the game and that golf is a dying sport, while others believe that millennials just don’t like playing their golf course. Either way, a trend exists where most golf courses don’t offer anything at their facilities with millennials specifically in mind. The reality is that millennials actually do enjoy playing the game now more than ever. So, golf courses need to consider the lifetime value of winning millennial customers since these young golfers will be playing for a long time.It seems like a simple concept, but many golf operators miss it: if you want millen-nials to play your golf course you need to cater your operation towards them. Here are a few concrete golf marketing strategies we’ve discovered that will help your golf course reach this young demographic.
Mobile, mobile, mobile!
On average, millennials spend upwards of 5 hours per day using apps on their smartphones. Interestingly about 8% of those 5 hours is spent in the phone’s brow-ser and the rest goes to mobile app usage. This means that millennials who want to play golf will not be looking to book a round on your website. Instead, they’ll search for tee times on apps they installed directly on their smartphones.
Millennials are extremely comfortable on their cell phones and are willing to download apps if they genuinely believe it will enhance their experience. Automated curbside check-in is one mobile app feature that is sure to enhance the player experience. Imagine how much you can empower your golfers by giving them the ability to check themselves in from the parking lot instead of at the front desk. Millennials demonstrate a preference for automated processes and prefer to skip the line to check themselves in. Not only does curbside check-in make the experience of playing your course unique and interesting, it also cuts front line staff costs!
Want all the benefits of a mobile app at your course? Sign up for our mobile app pre-order here!
Make tee time booking a social platform
Another powerful advantage of using a mobile app is the ability to implement a social booking platform. You can drive a lot more reservations by giving your players a social profile that includes handicap, preferred playing partners, and historical scores. A good mobile app should provide users with an ideal tee time and the golfer’s preferred playing partners when creating a reservation. With mobile apps, it’s so much easier to expedite the booking process and delight customers with an optimal reservation
The best part of having your customers use a custom mobile application is that you get so much more control over your audience. Mobile apps create a powerful marketing channel since they allow you to send push notifications for reminders, promotions, and course related updates. Now, you can get marketing real estate directly on the front of your customer’s smartphone. This quality of ad space is coveted by marketers because it is known for encouraging a higher than average engagement rate. Reach millennials where they are most comfortable, directly on their cell phones.
Encourage a creative and fun culture
Has your golf course ever been accused of being too old school? Too often ma-nagers in the golf industry are resistant to making changes to golf course policy or updating menus and pro shop offerings. Unfortunately, to rejuvenate your golf course you need to try new things. Chances are millennials want fun events, menu items, golf products and apparel you might not even know about yet.
There are a few ways to update operations at your course and golf management technology can help. You can collect data through your POS and detect what items resonate well with your audiences. You can segment your database and nurture the younger players who frequent your course. Plus, you can even in-tegrate your golf management system with customer loyalty software to make nurturing loyal customers simple and effective. If you’re looking for ideas, check out this list of 12 things millennials want at the golf course.
Sell uniqueness and experiences
At the core of your golf marketing philosophy, you need to understand that millennials want unique experiences. You don’t want them to feel like they’re merely playing at a copycat version of their parent’s country club. Don’t tell your younger audiences that your facility is just another place to play golf. The rewards are massive if you make your course a unique and diverse experience for newcomers. The best part is that they’ll keep coming back to get that same awesome experience over and over again.
Golf managers who aren’t stuck on a legacy system know this: modern golf management technology gives you the power to regain control over your customer base, capture crucial data, generate excellent reporting, and utilize the best golf marketing tools available. Best of all, cloud based systems update themselves automatically so you don’t have to constantly keep buying new software. Instead, cloud based golf management systems are built up over time with your feedback in mind.
Data is the number one golf marketing tool
When golf courses aren’t benefiting from the power of data analysis, they miss out on the ability track how customers interact with their business. Modern technology now lets you track touch points across every single part of your operation. These touch points provide important insights that can directly inform business deci-sions. If you collect data from your CRM, online bookings, pro shop POS, restau-rant POS, mobile app, email marketing, customer loyalty software and accounting software you’ll know:
Knowing absolutely everything about your entire customer base is so important for honing your marketing angles, choosing marketing channels, and iterating your strategy. If you know your customer intimately you can craft the perfect message and deliver it at the perfect time. Ultimately, you’ll drive more reservations and purchases at the pro shop and restaurant because your messaging stuck and was meaningful.
Integrate your operation with the best software on the market
If you work in a cloud based system you can take advantage of its open Application Program Interface (API). Cloud based systems with open API’s are capable of integrating with a vast number of cloud based software companies. Systems like this can integrate with some of the best software available, including awesome marketing tools like Mailchimp, Lightspeed E-commerce, and DynamicRevenue Services. With an openAPI it’s like you are employing ateam of specialized developers for every single application you add to your system.
Get golf management software that’s built with marketing in mind
Modern cloud based golf marketing software is tailored for the daily marketing needs of golf operators. Your tee sheet can now broadcast promotions and messages directly to your Facebook audience. Since social media is all about being consistent, use your tee sheet software to ensure all promotions and messages make it to the audience that follows your Facebook page.
In the old days, promotions and discounts were only offered through print ads and flyers. These aren’t necessarily bad channels. With modern golf management software however, print ads can easily be enhanced with memorable promotion codes usable for redemption when booking online. Print ads only get a couple seconds worth of attention so draw in attention by advertising promotions alongside all the shiny new technology you use at your course. This is a real strategy for differentiating your course from the other courses in your locale. Plus, you can promote your website and mobile app while also tracking the success of any print ad you publish so you know whether your print ads are generating a decent ROI.
Best of all, modern cloud based club management software permits the promotion of green fee deals online with ease and efficiency. Now, golf operators enjoy a greater degree of control when deciding when and where to discount tee times. Deal promotion is especially effective when a user friendly booking widget exists directly on the front page of your golf course’s website.
Watch how Chronogolf could help your club by asking a free demo now!
Are you worried that your website is not showing up when prospective golfer searches for tee times in your area? Golf operators are noticing that when it co-mes to search results, online tee time distributors are very good at getting their websites near the top of every golf related query. A lot of courses are battling for real estate on Google, they too want to rank for the keywords golfers typically use to search for tee times in your area. So, between the online tee time aggregators and all the local operators there is a ton of competition to rank higher on Google searches. If you want to rank higher, now is the time to develop golf marketing strategies that will finally get your website ranking better than the competition.
Massive tee time distributors usually have a very high search engine ranking since they have such huge websites and invest hundreds of thousands of dollars into search engine optimization (SEO). This means that a search for a round in your area will likely display their website above your course in the search page result. If you partner with the distributor it’s not necessarily a bad thing since your course will still appear on the distributor’s website. However, it’s always better to rank higher than the distributor you work with so you can encourage online bookings directly on your tee sheet, instead of through an aggregator. Not to mention that a higher search engine rank puts you ahead of the competition.
If you’re afraid of these fancy terms like SEO don’t worry! Employing these 6 easy strategies will get your website ranking higher on Google.
Google can tell whether your website is designed according to best practices and standards. If your website does not adhere, you’re telling Google that your operation is inferior to other websites that sell tee times online. Use simple web design tools such as Wordpress and you’ll be able to ensure that the content on your website adheres to current SEO standards.
We understand that optimizing websites and making sure modern web design standards are being respected is difficult and time consuming. Thankfully there are golf marketing agencies out there than can bring your website into the 21st century for very reasonable pricing. These agencies are experts in crafting user friendly websites that follow Google’s standards, enhance your golf marketing strategies, and are guaranteed to rank better on Google searches.
To improve rankings on Google your golf course needs a blog that publishes posts regularly. By investing in a small golf blog you can engage your audience with content, create a channel for online promotions, and develop a larger following. Blogging tells Google that your website is an important place where golfers can find meaningful information. Proving that your website is a credible source of meaningful content will tell Google’s search engine algorithms to put your website in front of more people when they search for green fees in your area.
Ask whoever developed your website if they can add a blog page and then recruit your smartest, thought leading employees to write golf related content that will impress your audiences. Even a simple post about upcoming events at the clubhouse or a recap of last week’s tournament can do wonders for nurturing your customer relationships, promoting your golf course online, and improving search engine result rankings.
Get serious about making content for your audience.
We can’t stress enough how crucial it is for your golf course to be present on social media. Social media can reach a large yet specific audience over many channels such as Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. In 2018 you absolutely cannot skip this free and far reaching golf marketing tool. If you yourself are not very tech savvy, there no reason a young person working at your course can’t handle the social media accounts. Don’t worry right away about paying to extend your reach, learn what kinds of posts work well with your audience and then pay to promote ones that get the best engagement. Sharing content with your organic (free) channels are excellent ways of generating interest and clicks towards your golf course.
Using social media not only puts your course in front of a larger audience, it also improves your search engine results since Google is able to register traffic from social media to your website. Using social media is a further means of proving that your course is a meaningful online community that provides quality information to golfers. Plus, if your making blog content you now have a great new channel to share all of those blog posts you worked so hard on.
Okay this one’s pretty easy. You just have claim the business through Google, chances are they already have your course listed with limited information. All you have to do is prove you are the owner of the business and then provide detailed information about the course, opening hours, and a few pictures. Now your golf course is much more likely to show up when people search for tee times in your area and when you do show up they’ll find detailed information about your facility.
Take this a step further and make sure your business is registered on Bing, Yahoo, and Facebook too. This helps increase your footprint on the web and is crucial for making it easier to search for your golf course online and ultimately improve your rank in search results.
This one seems pretty obvious but many golf operators are not actively pushing for more online reviews of their facilities. Google can tell if your course is receiving favorable reviews on Yelp and other entertainment websites. These reviews directly determine how Google ranks your course in search queries so it may be time to consider encouraging your customers to review your golf course online. Getting favorable reviews on these websites can get you a ton of visibility and credibility in the eyes of someone searching for a round of golf in your area.
One way to generate reviews of your operation is to encourage your top 10 most loyal customers to post a review. You can also put up advertising displays that encourage online reviews around the pro shop and restaurant. Online you can promote reviews from your social media and blog channels. Once you get a few customer reviews on your golf course don’t forget to reply to their comments!
Do not forget to claim your business on reviews platforms!
If your golf operation is in a very competitive space and you are still struggling to rank online you may need find outside help. There are many media agencies that are experts in SEO and know how to optimize your website exactly to Google’s standards. This usually requires a significant investment but the ROI can be substantial if your course is operating in a competitive area where online search is a popular method of booking tee times. Golf courses that rely heavily on tourism in areas like Hawaii or Mexico serve as examples of operations that must invest heavily in SEO to attract online golf reservations.
If your golf course doesn’t have the means to hire contractors to support these initiatives, there are many resources online that can help educate you on SEO and Golf Marketing Strategies. Check out www.neilpatel.com for a ton of advice on improving SEO and driving more traffic to your website.
If there’s one topic that consistently divides the golf industry, it’s online tee time distribution. Some operators swear by it while others have grown completely unhappy with how the system works. There’s a lot of polarization and negativity in the industry these days, but we believe that tee time distribution isn’t necessarily a bad thing. What matters most is that operators get real and measurable benefits out of any agreement. If your course doesn’t stand to benefit, then there’s no reason to jump on the bandwagon.
Know your KPI’s
Knowing whether your course needs to make use of tee time distribution means taking an honest look at the performance of your operation. Know what aspects of your business are in need of improvement can help determine whether an online tee time distribution agreement is necessary at your golf operation. Before coming to a decision look at your marketing ROI, historical sales, margins, utilization, local markets, competition, and most importantly the trade agreement itself. If rounds are down and your self-directed marketing initiatives aren’t getting you getting the exposure and returns you need, either you need to re-evaluate the way you are marketing your course or you need to pursue a relationship with a tee time distributor.
Third party distribution is one part of a greater marketing strategy
No good marketing strategy relies solely on one marketing channel. Google AdWords, social media, emailing, and print ads all represent great channels for advertising your golf course. If your course relies solely on third party distribution, something needs to change. Yes, these websites will drive traffic to your golf course, but at what cost? You’ll always make much better margins on tee times sold organically through your own networks and advertising channels.
Your most loyal customers should be booking rounds through your own channels, not the third parties. Third party distributors are great for attracting new golfers to your course because they are capable of putting your operation in front of a wider audience. Ensure that you are getting maximum value from aware and loyal customers by implementing customer loyalty programs and providing incentives when booking through your channels.
Developing a good relationship with third party distribution
What frustrates golf operators the most is when third parties engage in unfair pricing of bartered tee times. Too often, the prices at which the distributors sell their tee times is much too low. Over time the low prices devalue the course and erode organic tee sheet booking as golfers search for the same low prices solely on the distributor’s website. Even worse, bad relationships usually develop around unfair contracts that take way too many tee times. We’ve heard of some contracts where operators were forced to give up a quarter of the tee sheet to a distribution network! In these kind of situations there’s just no way that the costs add up to a good ROI.
What a good relationship with third party distribution includes:
1/ Control over your customer experience
When you work with a third party distributor do you get access to modern, game changing technology? The act of booking a tee time is absolutely part of the customer experience. Your golf course should have the freedom to control how, when, and where customers book tee times. When customers have a good experience interacting with your online systems they’ll keep coming back and you’ll book more tee times.
2/ Knowing your data
Data is key for driving your marketing strategy and understanding the effective-ness of third party distribution. Demand that third party distributors be transparent with data so that you can know how well your barter tee times are paying off. If third party distribution is truly as wonderful as their providers say, the numbers should back up their claims.
3/ Owning your customers
Some tee time distributors provide data on customer interactions while others don’t. If your distributor is unwilling to share data with you, make sure you are en-acting policies that ensure course employees are collecting data. Have pro shop staff collect email, phone, and other customer information at the point of sale. Your POS itself can be used to collect data on all customer interactions. Knowing how customers interact with your course will help you determine whether ROI from distribution is actually paying off.
4/ Control over when inventory is available
Distribution can be very helpful when it comes to filling tee times that are less in demand. Chances are you don’t need help filling up your Saturday morning slots, on the other hand, Thursday afternoon may be harder to fill. Distributors are great for getting tee times that you would have discounted anyways in front of a wider audience that may not have already known about your golf course.
5/ Ability to choose between payment methods
So far most tee time distributors only offer one way of selling tee times through their websites. There nothing inherently wrong with selling tee times on a barter basis, in fact, 46% of operators prefer to sell in this way. However, when distributors offer commission and fix rate based payment methods it signifies that they are willing to accommodate your needs.
6/ Fair and transparent pricing practices
The number one reason why golf operators have turned against third party sellers is that many of them have engaged in unfair pricing. Often golf courses have seen their courses devalued by distributors who break contracts in regard to discounting their bartered tee times. These practices have instigated some major problems in the industry since golf courses across the board have had their tee times greatly devalued. If your contract is being broken, or even if its not treating you fairly, it’s time to get out.
7/ High quality, modern software
So much of the software on the market in the golf industry is far behind the modern technology curve. Make sure that if you partner with a distributor, it’s sup-ported by high quality, modern software. Get software that can provide reporting, is user friendly, and won’t hold your course back by falling behind the curve.
8/ Good customer service
Another major frustration is that some distributors don’t provide customer service that is quick or satisfying. Being in a good relationship with your tee time distributor means receiving timely responses and help with understanding the finer points of your contract, how their pricing looks, and how the software works.
Distributors are your partner, not your competition
If you really want to understand why there is so much negative sentiment towards third party distribution, ask golf operators if they believe they are in competition with their distribution partner. According to a recent study, 47% of golf operators will tell you yes and a further 26% will say they are on the fence about whether distribution is the competition.
The reality is that distributors are backed with a lot money, they have big advertising budgets and websites. There’s no doubt that in a lot cases distributors are beating golf courses when it comes to Google search rankings and online advertising. Implementing a good marketing strategy and having an SEO friendly website is a small way of fighting for online advertising space. However, it’s increasingly necessary to develop partnerships with distributors that don’t ignore you, take up space online, and misrepresent your course. It’s no surprise that studies show that the most important thing course operators want from distribution partners is honesty and integrity.
Look at the context of your golf course to know whether distribution is right for you.
Put simply, distribution isn’t for everybody. A good hard look at the numbers will tell you If your course is doing well with or without it. In one study, more than 60% of operators said that tee time distribution had no effect or even decreased revenue and rounds sold.
If distribution isn’t filling your tee sheet with profitable bookings, consider focusing on improving your marketing initiatives, providing an excellent experience, introducing a reciprocal model between courses in your locale, or nurturing your loyal customers. Taking back control of your market and your customers is the best way to reach new customers that distributors can’t.
We’ve unpacked a lot of technology in this white paper. There’s no doubt that there are lots of opportunities to take your golf marketing strategy to the next level. You may feel a little overwhelmed and maybe you’re asking yourself whether it’s feasible to implement any of this.
The good news is that for the most part, implementing these golf marketing practices is not that difficult. Modern golf management software helps with automating so much of your marketing efforts. Hopefully that’s relieving since we know golf managers don’t have a lot of extra time to run marketing campaigns. That’s why boosting marketing efficiency with automation is the best way to ensure you are maximizing reach.
Start by taking an audit of all the marketing activities you currently engage in. To know where you’re at, ask yourself these questions:
When you come up with good answers for these questions you’ll be able to determine what your marketing needs are. Make an effort to regularly audit your golf marketing strategy and then commit to iterating. Whether you choose to adopt new technology or update course standards, get a clear idea of the audience you’re trying to reach. It takes time to find that perfect marketing mix but when you do you’ll be more effective at reaching your audience than ever before.
Check more of our resources on our Knowledge Center.
Chronogolf provides innovative cloud-based software and marketing solutions to golf courses ranging from online booking, electronic tee-sheet, member management, tournaments management, customer loyalty and point of sale solutions for pro shops, snack bars and restaurants.
More than 500 golf courses worldwide trust Chronogolf as their club management software provider. Chronogolf is headquartered in Montreal, with offices in Vancouver, Toronto, San Francisco, and Paris.
Questions? Call us at 1-800-939-2618