Marketing matters: How much should a golf club invest in marketing?

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir July 15, 2018 09:16

In his first column on marketing, Stephen Nicholson, the general manager of Oxford Golf Club and former group golf marketing manager at QHotels, explains how much of a golf venue’s budget should be allocated to promoting the facility

Coming from a sales and marketing background, I’m used to seeing CRM systems, KPIs, sales targets, ‘cold calling’, marketing schedules and strategies, brand guidelines, automated posts, PPC advertising, PR campaigns and briefs, A/B testing, conversion reports and analysis the world over.

When I stepped into the breach of my first general manager role at Oxford Golf Club and I mentioned any, some or all of the above to the directors, for the most part it was like I was talking an alien language. So, for those of you reading this and thinking, ‘what is this guy on about?’, don’t worry, you’re not alone.

I’ve been in the role 18 months now and I can proudly say that due to X, Y and Z we have managed to recruit over 100 new members and increase revenue in every area of the business. However, what I haven’t managed to do is implement even half of the elements I mentioned in my first sentence.

How have you managed to generate that many new members and increase business? I can feel you ask. Knowing how golf clubs operate and how challenging it can be to implement effective marketing techniques; my column will aim to help you realise some of the untapped marketing potential within your establishment.

The first thing that every business must have is a budget specifically for sales and marketing activity – so, go and ask for one!

Stephen Nicholson

As a general rule of thumb, five to 10 per cent of a business’ turnover would be classed as sufficient allocation of funds for this. But, when an average UK golf club’s turnover is £1 million, that’s an awful lot of money to spend when most have never spent any!

This is where we can find some leverage in terms of getting some kind of budget signed off from the board. If we should be spending 10 per cent and haven’t been spending any, then, imagine what we could do with just five per cent. A few rounds of negotiation later and hopefully you will be left with somewhere in between two and three per cent.

My first-year budget for marketing was roughly 2.5 per cent of the company turnover. Due to the success we’ve had, I’ve been able to ask for more this year. I was fortunate because the officials of the club brought me in to be commercial and improve our sales and marketing efforts, and they realised that I needed a budget to help us do that. For a lot of clubs there will need to be more work established and presented to the board in order to get their buy-in. Case studies from other clubs that have been successful should be used as should general market data like I’ve just presented to you.

Regardless of how much budget you have, the other item that needs to be taken into account is time. To even post a consistent amount of content on social media takes time, and so at the very, very least the officials at the club need to invest in your time, or someone’s time in order to see this through effectively.

In the next article I will discuss brand partnerships and how joining together with other local businesses can help to generate sales and increase awareness of your golf club in your local area.


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir July 15, 2018 09:16
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1 Comment

  1. angus July 13, 12:32

    Having come from a Marketing background in the Hospitality & Catering industry, I can totally emphathise with the difficulties of the role that Marketing in golf clubs plays … with little (or no!) budget! Lucky to be involved directly now in a new golf venture as Marketing Director & (minor) Shareholder … so no excuses not to get the required investment in a deliverable Marketing Plan & Budget! Will follow this series of articles in The Golf Business with interest.

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