The key to successful marketing is your club’s database

Tania Longmire
By Tania Longmire October 19, 2011 09:24

The key to successful marketing is your club’s database

As winter draws closer, the number of visiting parties decrease and the frequency of member visits to the course start to decline, it is a time of year when thoughts should be turning to winter work.

Clubs have the opportunity during the autumn to review what has happened over the past year. This may include determining if their previous expectations have been met, ascertaining if their objectives have been achieved or evaluating if their various policies have been effective. In effect a thorough analysis of all available data. This pre-supposes the information exists and can be readily accessed.

Interestingly, I often find clubs failing to record even the simplest details or not utilising technology to its fullest extent to capture more comprehensive data. It follows that those same clubs then make decisions based on assumptions, which might be totally erroneous or simply repeat what went before, ‘because it appeared to work’. Without the rigour of analysis, how do they know?

While one golfing season may not be identical to the next one, most clubs that capture even basic information do tend to find patterns emerging when data is analysed. The information produced and patterns identified can assist secretaries / managers to make better-informed recommendations or judgements.

Come this time of year, clubs will find themselves falling into different categories: those that have detailed information, more often than not held on a computer system; those that have information captured via a basic manual recording system; those that have little or no valuable data available. The amount of additional work required to take real value from the data is dependent on a club’s starting position.

One of the decisions a club secretary / manager should be considering for next year is what promotional tactics should be employed to market the course to visitors. A starting point for this process may be determining whether more or fewer visitors are required and confirming an approximate revenue target.

These aims can then be set alongside the information taken from this season. Aspects such as the proportion of repeat visiting parties and likelihood of them coming again; the average travel time taken to come to the course; the main reference sources of information for first time visitors; the average size of visiting parties; the reason for the visit, for example society fun day out or corporate entertainment; the most popular choices for golf and catering packages; if golfers are only visiting this course or if it is part of a multi-course golfing trip.

The list could go on and on, but from the above it can be seen that specific data is being sought. A logical question would be, why? The answer is, in order to ensure that future promotional activity is both efficient and effective, the target golfing consumer must be properly identified and carefully defined. The greater the detail, the better chance there is of success. Fewer details usually mean more inefficiencies, that is a waste of money and a waste of time. Commonly, this manifests itself in a statement made by the club secretary manager to me along the lines of “my promotion isn’t working” or “we tried advertising once, but it didn’t work” or “marketing is expensive”.

Using some of the previously mentioned ‘aspects’ we can tease out the thinking behind securing this data.

Proportion of repeat visitors – if the figure is 60 per cent, future marketing efforts may involve actions to encourage more re-visits when they are at the club, for example play again vouchers, prize draws or e-mail shots post visit to bring forward bookings. Conversely, if the percentage is low, say 20 per cent, could there be a mismatch between their expectations on booking and their findings during the visit? In which case the club must quickly identify the problem(s) and rectify the situation.

Average travel time – please note this is not referred to as average distance, since in today’s world, travelling 15 miles in rural Scotland may take 20 minutes, but in south east London may take one hour plus. Use this to draw a radius around the course and confirm where visitors do come from at present and where they could conceivably come from in the future. If one of your tactics is to advertise in local papers or regional golf magazines, all you need do is identify those that service the relevant districts.

Main reference sources – critically when clubs are promoting in a number of different ways, for example advertising in newspapers or golf magazines, securing a listing in golf directories, using your own or other websites, it is preferable to know what is working, that is, generating enquiries, what type of enquiries these are, and what is not working. Avoid the situation where the interpretation is, for example, advertising in newspapers’ works per se, instead determine if one paper is producing better results than another.

Average size of parties – clubs may handle a variety of visiting party sizes, but by calculating the average size they can easily estimate their worth. If clubs can introduce incentives or offers to help boost the party size, this should pay dividends in terms of overall visitor expenditure. Monitored annually, clubs can ascertain trends and take appropriate action.

Reason for visit – yes all visiting parties come to play golf, but the experience they require leading up to and during that visit will largely depend on the nature of the group. For example, a sales director entertaining his best customers wants them to: win the game, enjoy good food, be provided with great service and feel valued. Alternatively, a golf society organiser is often looking for: good value golf and catering, a relatively straightforward golf course and sociable clubhouse environment.

Identifying what various categories of groups are looking for means that specific issues can be highlighted in the promotional tactics. Once enquiries have been received more detail can be probed to ensure that the club tries to meet all their expectations on the day.

Popular choices – most clubs will offer a variety of golf and catering packages aimed at attracting a range of different golfing groups. Some by their nature will be more popular than others. This may be because of value for money or content. Assuming that some packages make more money than others, clubs may propose directing future promotional activity at groups more likely to embrace those types of packages.

Part of a golfing trip – while this information is useful, supplementary questions might include: How many days is your trip? How many courses are you playing? Which courses are they? How often do you undertake a golfing trip? Where have you visited in the past? Listed in this fashion it appears to mirror the approach taken by the Spanish Inquisition, but when asked in normal conversation it becomes less daunting.

Answers to these questions provide a wealth of data, which should enable clubs to determine the timing of future e-mailings, to produce a golf course itinerary, to design a stay and play package, which meets their needs.

If clubs have already got a process in place, which provides much of the detail noted in foregoing, then this should be analysed in order to optimise its value. If your club is to be found wanting through either having a poor process or not securing comprehensive details, try to rectify the situation.

Finally, if for whatever reason your club has not previously gathered information, now is a good time to initiate the process. Although you may not have sound data to base decisions on for next year, getting your act together over the winter ensures that the nature of the information sought and how it will be gathered will be in place for next season. Permitting the club to make informed decisions for the season 2008.

Some other things which have an impact on marketing efforts to add to your winter work check list include: thinking about presentation – that is refurbishing or renewing course signage and furniture, introducing special winter playing conditions, redecorating or refurbishing parts of the clubhouse; thinking about customer choice – for example, changing menus, devising new golf and catering package leaflets, changing website details for the new season; thinking about visitor golf ability or speed of play – such as undertaking tree pruning or thinning, modifying the rough alignment, improving the bunkers, introducing buggy paths.

Arguably many of these tasks will be noted under a general work programme and not under a marketing heading. If they are that’s fine, but if not, think of the impact on a club’s marketing efforts if they are not undertaken. All the positive messages conveyed via whatever media that is used will be eroded if the customer’s expectation is not met by the actual on-the-day experience.

Winter work should include a review of last year and plan for next year, which is based on hard facts, rather than arbitrary assumptions.

This in turn should lead to a much more productive marketing effort.

Tania Longmire
By Tania Longmire October 19, 2011 09:24
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