Monday, November 11, 2013

Making Golf Marketing Work (part 1 of 2)

The Heritage. Despite its woes, it has strong marketing.
How many Irish and British golf clubs out there would you say are hip and trendy, living in the now, reaching out to the younger golfing generation?

Yea, that's what I thought too! A lot of our 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 is at the core, with posters on the walls of nearby clubs and lists of Open events on the GUI and other websites proving the stalwarts. Some of these will always work but unless clubs put codes and direct response mechanisms on Press advertising they’ll never know if the money they spend is getting a return.

One of the pioneers of modern advertising, John Wannamaker (1838-1922), once 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 that have no way of being tracked and tell the reader very little. They’ll claim it’s about ‘raising awareness’, but that holds little truth in a market place 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 the obvious Facebook to the more obscure Reddit and Vimeo, and it’s a whole new world to explore. I am certainly no Social Media guru: apart from Twitter and Flickr, and a stuttering presence on Facebook and Pinterest, I still live in the Dark Analogue Age… but I know a fair amount about marketing, so I understand the power of ‘new’.

Sadly, a lot of golf clubs don’t.

Put bluntly, the kids of today are going to be the golfers of tomorrow. Clubs need to understand that while the average age profile of a UK golfer (the GUI has no average age for Ireland) is 42*, younger golfers live and breathe Social Media and the World Wide Web. All their information comes through these channels and clubs need to embrace that.

* British Golf Industry Association

Golf Clubs and Social Media

99% 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 18th at Druid's Glen - the Resort uses a good array of
Social Media channels
That’s all fine and well, but are these clubs using Social Media channels effectively? Based on how clubs operate these days – member clubs specifically – the answer to that question is ‘no’. Marketing is low on the list 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 opportunities to make your 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. I currently charge €500-€800 to photograph a course, which is little more than that quarter page ad mentioned above. It also gives you far greater coverage.

Carlow's 17th green

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. Don’t tuck the link away down the bottom of some ambiguous drop-down menu (e.g. under the ‘Members’ tab); don’t list ‘Gallery’ and then only have images from recent prize-givings and Captain’s Day; do create an easy to navigate gallery that introduces the holes by number and/or name so visitors know what they’re looking at; do show as many and as much of the holes as possible – let your visitors decide how much or how little they wish to see.

3. Website – Beyond Golf
A website doesn’t have to be solely about golf. Help potential visitors by including local accommodation options (e.g. Ballyliffin) and other events and attractions in the area (e.g. Concra Wood). In other words, make it easier and more attractive for golfers to visit the area.

Views over Concra Wood's 1st hole

4. Facebook
Facebook is not just a place to post results from the weekend competitions. It 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 what’s happened on the course.

A lot of clubhouses have fallen quiet these days as purse strings have tightened and drink-driving rules changed. Facebook is not a replacement by any means, but it can get conversations started that can be carried onto the course and then into the bar/restaurant.

Remember, Facebook is a two way street, so ‘like’ other pages of interest (nearby courses/hotels, etc.) as well as individuals (if Facebook lets you – which will depend on how you set up your Facebook page), and communicate with them, view their updates on a regular basis and support them. Promote their events, inform your visitors and who knows what might come your way. 

1 comment:

  1. Hi Kevin. Some good points there. I acted as PRO for Wicklow GC this year so an area Ive been interested in. If your club has a signature hole encourage and allow visitors to play it from the back tees if they want to, particularly if the back tees make the hole a great one. Wicklow GC 6th hole from the nose as an example. Avoid Like & Share "competitions" and "like" farming as this will only drive away more loyal followers than it will recruit. Instead, find something you wish to promote and invest as little as 20 € on promoting the key message(s) you want to promote through FB. I reached over 5000 people this way earlier this year, granted only a fraction of whom would be in a position to avail of the offer in question.

    Can be challenging to balance the appropriate level of engagement and interaction with your members versus becoming embroiled in controversial or heated debates. Its all about challenging the old school reticence of putting something in writing versus engaging with your members to keep it active and alive.