Monday, November 18, 2013

Making Golf Marketing Work (part 2 of 2)

Following on from the first part of this article on Golf Marketing, here are six more ideas that golf clubs can pursue to build business. As said previously, these vary from the social media sphere to the downright obvious (and yet people still get them wrong).

Generating Customer Loyalty can wait till another time.

5. Twitter
The principles of Facebook (see number 4) also apply to Twitter.

There are so many golf club Twitter feeds pumping out only the weekend scores that it’s painful to see. 140 characters is not a lot, but if all you've got to say is Paddy O'Shea won with 42 points, please don't bother. Members of your club can get that information from other sources.

As a result, the account dies off after a few months because the person tweeting sees no ‘return’ on their time. Twitter is about interaction, being part of a conversation and not being blinkered to your own cause. If all you do is talk about yourself, people are going to get bored... remember those days in the bar telling members of the opposite sex how amazing you were, only to find they tired of you rather quickly! It's the same thing. Give your followers something interesting to read, ask questions, congratulate others, and link to relevant media articles, local hotel offers, restaurant reviews and weather reports, announce special events at the club… in other words, try to make your course the centre of an area that golfers (and tourists in general) will want to visit. 

And if you have good, relevant, interesting news/stories then target the right people on Twitter (and Facebook) and get that conversation started.

Remember, there are plenty of people on Twitter who do a lot of shouting and not a lot of listening… don’t be one of them. Also on that note, remember to 'search' your own club name to see if there are positive/negative comments being said about you. That way you can 'listen' to the issues and respond to them.

Headfort Old's par three 14th
6. Giveaways (Facebook & Twitter)
Think about it: a fourball costs you nothing. Offering a fourball through Social Media stimulates interaction and interest in the club. Headfort Golf Club offered a monthly free fourball and did very well out of it. Indeed, the club has one of the better and more active Twitter feeds, along with Ballyliffin and, recently, the Ballesteros Course at The Heritage.

7. 'Free' Marketing
Social Media is free marketing. You don’t pay for it (although you can if you feel so inclined), but it does take time and effort to understand how best to use it and to get the most from it.

Then there's the golf forum, where the general golfing masses come together to 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. The big Irish one is Boards.iePopular UK ones are GolfshakeGolfMagic and Golf Monthly

There is, however, another ‘free marketing’ channel and, in the current climate and state of golf, anything free should be embraced. I’m talking about publicity and press releases.

There’s nothing new here but the number of badly written press releases I see is disheartening. Never mind how to write a strong press release, 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.

Stories don’t always have to be about golf – you could have rare birds nesting, a pair of swans with eight cygnets, a member who has won a non-golf event or award, a new wind turbine… the local paper may not be interested, but specialist magazines might be. It keeps interest in your club ticking over.

8. Looking After Your Visitors
A story doing the rounds at the moment (thanks JE) is of two Americans playing at Killarney. They buy up half the Pro shop (shirts, caps, etc.) and then get charged the full green fee. They pay it without complaint and off they go.

What would be the impact and positive word-of-mouth generated if the guy behind the till had said: ‘Lads, you’re buying all that stuff, let me knock a tenner off your green fees’? A tenner isn’t much but it’s a gesture, a recognition of who these golfers are and the income they’re bringing to the club. The club loses €20, but they’ve gained so much more as the golfers will remember it and spread the news. They’ll look at their ‘free’ €20 and, maybe, use it to buy a meal in the clubhouse.

If we’re boasting céad míle fáilte let’s at least try and live up to it. Consider the ways you can improve the 'customer experience', from the guy in the Pro shop taking green fees, to the people serving food to the signage on the course. And for crying out loud, would someone please make sure there's enough hot water for a shower. Thank you!

9. Sign Posts to Your Course
Very, very 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. And visitors don’t always come from the main road, so please bear that in mind. And yes, it is part of ‘marketing’ because 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 golfers turn up late, it can mess up the timesheet and the enjoyment of others.

10. Grammar and Spelling
I’ll try not to be a pedant about this, but please can the person who is producing golf club brochures, emails, newsletters, website copy, Tweets and Facebook posts learn the difference between your and you’rethere, their and they’re… and its and it’s. On Twitter and Facebook these mistakes are everywhere. No, I agree, it’s not cataclysmic, but there are enough of us who still care. More importantly, it can reflect negatively on your brand, i.e. your course/resort.

For instance, I’ve given copywriting lectures recently and I ask this question:
You’re paying €500 for a wristwatch and the brochure copy selling it is littered with typos and grammatical errors. Don’t you wonder that if they can’t get the simple things right, such as the English language, just how reliable is their watch-making ability?

Take a look at the following Tweet I saw this year. If you see nothing wrong with it, by all means ignore all of the above.

“Visit our club this weekend. Your welcome to play it’s charms their and then for €40pp.”

I hope that these will prove in some way fruitful and help golf clubs attract visitors (and members, too)… but if you want to carry on in the Dark Analogue Age of marketing be my guest. I'm not suggesting that newspaper/magazine advertising is wrong - not at all - but if that’s your preferred route please, please, please put some codes on your ads and ask your prospective customers to quote the code for a 10% discount, free pint or whatever. Then at least you’ll appreciate how effective your ads are… or aren’t. Golf Marketing isn't hard - it just takes a little effort.


  1. I am sorry to say, but social media is not free. Just think about the content development, community management, visual development. We should not neglect those areas within an organization (in this case a golf club) that will be influenced by our social media operation (e.g. customer service, product development team, legal department, marketing and communication teams etc.).

    If you want to understand better how to use social technology in everyday golf club operations then check out my post:

    1. Fair enough Miklos, but I'm not really talking about the technology side of things - I'm referring to golf clubs setting up Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest/Flickr accounts and interacting with members and prospective visitors. That side of things is free as it doesn't cost anything more that time.

    2. Dear Kevin,

      Well, to set up an account on the above mentioned channels are free. However, when you marketers start to develop their social media channel then they will realize that content development, promotions, ads etc. will cause them extra expenditure. Community management (=interacting with members) and development demands continuous investment from the marketer side.