1.) Claim & Optimize Your Online Business Listings
Probably one of the easiest and quickest ways you can increase the exposure your golf course gets online is by claiming and optimizing your local business listings. These listings include Google My Business, Bing Places, Yahoo Local, Facebook, TripAdvisor, Yelp, and more. You would be surprised to see how many local business listings contain wrong website addresses, outdate photos, old phone numbers, bad addresses, and a whole host of other misinformation.
Once you have ownership of these online business listings, you can control the information that appears on them, as well as optimize them with additional information, new photos, and by choosing the appropriate “categories” that your business falls under. Choosing the right categories can help your business appear more prominently on these platforms, which will introduce your course to more golfers as they research.
2.) Dive into Google Analytics More Often
The golf industry doesn’t give Google Analytics enough credit. It can answer a lot of questions, including where your customers are coming from, the ROI from your marketing investments, points of purchase abandonment, and more. A quick look through your golf course’s Google Analytics account can be all it takes to find weak points in your marketing efforts or potential opportunities that you may have not been aware of otherwise.
While the standard Google Analytics implementation provides a great deal of information, more advanced setups can offer powerful metrics that are hyper-specific to your golf course. A customized Google Analytics dashboard does take an upfront investment but can provide valuable data that you would otherwise never get.
3.) Shoot More Videos for Social Media
Facebook has reported that posts with videos get 3x as many views and 7x more engagement than with images. That stat alone is enough to convince any business owner that we should be using videos on social media more often. In 2019 and beyond, I think most of us will agree that video is the preferred media form, yet it has been slow to catch on in the golf industry.
A common misconception is that videos need to be professionally filmed and edited, which is costly and time-consuming. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. The most powerful social media influencers in the world use an iPhone to shoot and edit their videos, which has now even become a trend in the corporate world. The key takeaway here is that creating videos for use on social media does not need to be an expensive or tedious endeavor.
Need some help and direction in regard to producing your first video? Try Vibrant Media Production's Remote Video Production Kits. For just $499, you get a complete video production kit that can be set up anywhere and uses your current smartphone. They also help small businesses with editing to ensure the final product looks professional.
4.) Retarget Past Customers
Sometimes we lose touch with customers. Maybe they stop opening our emails or they have an email provider that filters them out into separate inboxes that are rarely viewed. Implementing a Remarketing (or Retargeting) campaign targeting past customers can help bring your golf course back to the top-of-mind. Remarketing campaigns can be set up on Google or Facebook’s Ad Network and a relatively inexpensive to run. Strong messaging or incentive to re-visit your golf course can be just what was needed to resurrect a past customer.
5.) Host More “Fun” Golf Tournaments
Golf tournaments are a blast and when they are properly promoted, they get great turnouts. Generally speaking, the benefits to the golf course are more revenue per golfer, the potential for new customers, and more certain course occupancy. We’ve been seeing great results for our clients when promoting 2 or 4-Man Scrambles or Best Ball events with no established handicap required.
Since these events are a team effort, they are easily promoted on Facebook and other social media channels, as golfers tag and share the post with their buddies. Partnered with a small Facebook Ad and a few email blasts during the weeks leading up to the tournament, you’ll get maximum ROI from a minimal marketing expense.
6.) Implement a Giveaway to Grow Your Email Marketing Database
Whether it’s a free birthday round or a monthly giveaway that’s free to enter, for better or worse, golfers love the words “free”. We all do. One of the fastest ways to grow your email database is to implement some form of free giveaway and promote it on your website. Asking for Name, Email, and Birthday in exchange for a chance to win a free round of golf is all it will take to start earning email marketing exposure.
7.) Run “Micro” Facebook Ad Campaigns
The beauty behind Facebook Ads is the ability to target users based on their interests and behaviors. However, another huge benefit to Facebook Ads is that businesses can run effective campaigns with as little as $10. We classify any Facebook Ad campaign with a budget of $100 or less as a “Micro” campaign. These Micro Facebook campaigns are great for promoting course updates, last minute specials, new menu items at the restaurant, live music on the patio, or anything else that doesn’t call for a larger budget.
Part of the reason these Micro Facebook Ad campaigns are more important than ever is that Facebook has severely limited the organic reach that businesses get in the newsfeed. Some users have even reported that only 6% of followers will see a business's post. That’s pretty dismal. These Micro campaigns help combat this by getting your posts back in front of the users that we were once able to reach for free.
An important note here is to pay keen attention to the audience you’re targeting. Since these Micro campaigns have micro budgets, you need to make sure you’re not wasting any of it. The ideal audiences to use are golfers that live near your course, people who like your page or upload a custom audience containing your customer email list.
8.) Offer Add-Ons at Time of Booking
You may have trained your staff members to ask each customer if they’d like to purchase an add-on of some kind when they check-in for their round. If you have, I commend you. However, we’ve found that offering the add-on opportunity of the time of booking can be even more effective. Some booking engines may not support this kind functionality, but if yours does, it’s a one-time implementation that can help increase the revenue you collect from each golfer. Add-ons such as lunch and range balls are no-brainers, but we encourage you to think about other opportunities specific to your golf course.
9.) Family-Friendly Events
Times are different. Gone are the days when one could work all week then spend the weekend on the course. Many golfers don’t play as much as they’d like, because they have family commitments. However, when given the opportunity to combine their favorite activity with family time, golfers jump on it. We’ve seen an increase in popularity of parent/child tournaments and clinics that offer fun for the whole family while introducing both the kids and potentially the spouse to a sport that they can enjoy for the rest of their lives.
With younger families placing more emphasis on getting kids outside and away from video games, family-friendly events are a rife opportunity for golf courses to capitalize on.
10.) Utilize Paid Search to Target Golfers in Nearby Cities
The quickest way to get in front of potential new customers is with Paid Search. Google Ads is the most popular of the Paid Search platforms and for good reason. Each month thousands of golfers in each market perform searches like “golf courses near me” and “best golf courses in [ISNERT CITY]”. Each time a search like this takes place is an opportunity for golf courses and tee time aggregators to reach golfers when they are most likely to make a reservation.
Paid Search is an investment but depending on the type of course you operate and the market you’re in, it can be lucrative. 121 offers interested golf facilities a Google Ads Potential Report, free of charge, which will shed some insight on how many people in your market are using search engines to find golf courses and what kind of investment it would take to reach them.
11.) Promote Your Gift Card Offerings
A gift card to a local golf course is a great gift for a countless amount of occasions. Birthdays, holidays, graduations, retirements, customer or employee appreciation, and so many more. That being said, most facilities only promote their gift card offerings twice a year; Father’s Day and the holiday season. Sending out a small reminder that a gift card is a perfect gift for any golf enthusiast via email and social can be all it takes to sell a few hundred dollars’ worths of gift cards overnight. Sure, you won’t sell as many as you do during the holidays, but it’s a 5-minute effort that’s worth building into your routine.
12.) Automated Email Campaigns
Automated emails are becoming the norm in today's world. We’ve all received an email asking how our experience was after visiting our dentist or a message reminding us that we left products in the shopping cart and are encouraged to complete the order. Golf courses could also automate some of their email campaigns triggered by POS data.
For instance, you could set up an email to automatically send to users that haven’t played your course in 30 days or more. Another example would be an email prompting customers to leave a review of their most recent experience at your course. These are relatively easy, one-time setups that will add another touchpoint to your marketing strategy and increase engagement.
13.) Respond to Online Reviews
Believe it or not, over 80% of consumers read online reviews before making a purchase. Golf courses are no exception. One way to boost your course’s reputation is to respond to online reviews, both good and bad. If your responses read well, sounding appreciative of customers with positive feedback and empathic of those with negative feedback, the onlookers reading the exchange will take notice. By appropriately responding to negative reviews, you can minimize the impact that the review might have on the bystander who is reading it.
14.) Update Your Website
Your website is your first chance at a good impression in many cases. Old, blurry photos or outdated content can dispirit a motivated golfer in a few seconds flat. An even worse offense is to have a website that doesn’t format well on mobile devices or is difficult to navigate. By giving your website a refresh using a responsive design, or even just updating photos and additional drone footage can help bring the “WOW” aspect your website needs to impress new customers.
Side Note: Be mindful of ADA laws and what it might take to update your website to be accessible to those using screen readers.
15.) Start Using Contact Forms
While you might prefer that customers just call your phone if they have any questions, some people just prefer to leave their information and let you get back to them. In the digital age we live in, more people are preferring the use of contact forms over picking up the phone. They’re fast, convenient and don’t require any human interaction. By placing contact forms on your website for the various offerings you promote, you’ll end up getting more leads.
Another nice benefit to using contact forms is that you can set up automated emails to initiate after someone has completed a form. An example of this would be sending your golf outing brochure after someone fills out an outing inquiry form.
16.) Create a Loyalty Program
Whether it’s as simple as “play 5 rounds get one free” or some kind of points-based structure that earns them credit to the pro shop, Loyalty Programs are a great way to keep customers coming back for more. Many POS systems offer built-in loyalty program software, but there are other independent options out there that may be more suitable for you. Loyalty programs come in many different flavors, so find the one that fits your facility’s preferences.
17.) Events Tailored for Women
Women are the biggest opportunity the golf industry has when it comes to growing the game. While women’s participation in the game of game has grown over the years, data has shown that many still find the sport intimidating and too difficult to learn. The women that are experienced golfers have admitted to having trouble finding other women to golf with. Women-led events specifically designed to appeal to other women have proven to be a hit for golf facilities around the country.
Examples are weekly “Ladies Wine & Nine” leagues or Ladies Only golf clinics tailored to showing beginners the ropes.
18.) Have Golf Outing Marketing Collateral
It’s important to be prepared when someone inquires about hosting a golf outing at your facility. Having golf outing marketing collateral on hand can be the difference between winning a losing business. Having a brochure with pricing, options, and details show professionalism. This allows the person planning the outing to be confident that this isn’t your first rodeo and that your facility is more than ready to host their event.
Golf outing marketing materials can also be displayed on the pro shop counter, which can inspire a customer who may be a business owner or association leader that may have a legitimate interest in having an event at your facility.
19.) Show Your Personality on Social Media
It’s getting more difficult to cut through the noise on social media. With so much content to consume on our newsfeeds, people have become more selective with what actually catches their attention. This is especially true when discussing businesses trying to reach customers on Facebook, Twitter, and the like. Large brands have shown us that businesses with personified social media efforts get WAY more engagement than their cut and dry counterparts.
Being funny, interesting, sarcastic, and witty on behalf of your business isn’t exactly what we all learned in college, but if done tastefully it can give your social media efforts a boost.
20.) Bundled Golf Packages
Earlier in this article, we talked about add-ons at the time of booking. However, a similar effect can be achieved with bundled golf packages. This could be a Golf, Range, and Lunch special or a bundle package of 10 rounds of golf for the price of 8. Bundling rounds with F&B is a great way to potentially get more revenue out of each customer and ultimately provide them with a better overall experience. These bundle packages also make great gifts during the holidays.
21.) Partner with Local Hospitality Businesses
One of the most beneficial relationships that a golf facility can create is with nearby hotels and conference centers. Offering special rates when booked through partnering hotels or event centers or an incentive for them to send business your way can be worthwhile. With these businesses constantly seeing a flow of new guests, it’s a big opportunity for nearby golf facilities to take advantage of.
22.) Send Out a Press Release
Making a big update to the golf course? Renovating the clubhouse? Hosting a large or important event? It may be a good time to distribute a press release. Press releases can be picked up by local media outlets (newspapers, blogs, even TV channels) looking for interesting and relevant content that their consumers might enjoy.
There are a couple of different ways to distribute a press release about updates happening at the course. The first is to submit the press release manually to local media outlets. Most blogs and local news websites have pages on their website making it easy to submit a press release or “news tip”. Some might just have a ‘Contact Us’ page, which will work as well. The benefit of submitting your press release manually is that it’s typically free and is more likely to gain the attention of the publisher.
The other way is to use a PR distribution service, such as PRWeb or PR Newswire, which automatically sends your press release to thousands of publishers. While it’s likely that these services will distribute your press release to the media outlets near you, they can be less likely to be picked up compared to sending the release manually. The other downside is that these services are typically not free and can cost a few hundred dollars or more for distribution.
23.) Use Landing Pages for Upcoming Events
When it comes to promoting events happening at the golf course, a common approach is to post a flyer to Facebook and hope people show up. While Facebook should certainly be a big part of your promotional efforts, a landing page with more details and a way for participants to RSVP, but tickets, or register for the event can help you better gauge its popularity and collect revenue in the process.
Allowing guests to pre-purchase tickets or register online can also drastically increase conversion rates and attendance. When an event-goer has already paid their way to an event (either partially or fully), they are committing to going. The same goes for those who RSVP but to a slightly lesser extent. On the other hand, those who “like” your post of Facebook or mark themselves as “going” to the event aren’t held to a high standard, with experts saying that only 20-30% of users that do this will actually attend, in most cases.
Landing pages also allow you to provide more details about the event that may not have been a priority to include in your Facebook post or email blast. By including “Click the link below for more info” in your social media posts, you’ll be able to focus on the most important aspects of your event, without diluting its effectiveness by using too much copy. With just over a second to grab someone’s attention on Facebook and other social media platforms, this could help your engagement rates significantly.
Depending on the website you have and the software it utilizes, creating a landing page may be time-intensive. Especially for unfamiliar users. 1-2-1 Marketing has a new tool available that can help make landing page creation quick and intuitive, regardless of the website provider you use – CampaignPilot. With CampaignPilot you can create a beautiful landing page for your upcoming events and promotion with built-in event registration and online checkout for easy purchasing. And that’s just a portion of what it offers, with a whole host of other features to help make marketing your golf facility easy and more effective. Check it out here - https://campaignpilot.com
24.) Create a Photo Opportunity
In an age where social media has a heavy influence over the marketplace, it’s more important than ever to make sure your business is getting noticed. While posting interesting content on your golf course’s page frequently can certainly boost your exposure, sometimes you need help from your customers to reach new users. One way to do this is to create a photo opportunity that your patrons will want to share with the world.
For some golf courses, the perfect photo opportunity is the nature that surrounds it. Your facility may be blessed with a nearby mountain range, lush landscaping, or active wildlife, all of which make for outstanding photo ops. While a beautiful setting is enough to inspire anyone, a small sign or picture frame showcasing the photo opportunity can drastically increase the participation you’ll receive.
Other golf courses might have to get more creative and invest time and/or money into creating a photo opportunity. This could be an interesting statue or stand-in photo board. Maybe your superintendent can do something with the landscaping by the first or last hole that would inspire a photo. Augusta National has the flower bed at Founders Circle. The Walt Disney World Golf Resort in Orlando, FL has a customized Mickey-themed golf cart. While those are both iconic symbols, they can be used for inspiration at your facility.
At the end of the day, these photo opportunities can create a social media wave that can help introduce your business to thousands of new people that you’d otherwise never reach.
25.) Build a Culture
While not the “marketing idea” you might have expected, you, your staff, and the culture you cultivate can be the biggest marketing opportunity available. When employees go out of their way to create social connections with customers and carry a contagious positive attitude, people will look past your facility’s physical flaws.
While some golfers may look to play highly manicured and refined courses, most just want a place where they feel comfortable and welcome. At the heart of this is an empowered team of staff members that are encouraged to start conversations, listen to guests, and provide a level of service that far exceeds the customer’s expectations.
What’s the benefit here? Your customers will become your advocates, telling anyone who will listen how great your golf course is. And that’s more powerful than anything else on this list.
Updated for 2020 & 2021
26.) "Anytime" Golf Leagues
Golfers love to compete. It is a sport, after all, not just a hobby. With COVID-19 devastating the golf industry in the early part of the season, golf facilities have been scrambling to offer their customers a way to continue to compete in their favorite events, but with social distancing in place. One idea that we've seen perform well for many of our clients in recent months is "anytime" golf leagues. Any anytime golf leagues allow golfers to play their round any time during the week, as long as they submit their score before the set deadline. Golfers have adopted this format with open arms and even praise the flexibility it gives them, rather than a traditional golf league that locks them into a certain day and time each week.
Anytime golf leagues have the added benefit of being extra convenient, opening the doors to people that couple normally participates in golf leagues. In the past, people that have inconsistent work schedules weren't likely to play in a golf league, but with Anytime leagues, these folks can participate by playing around their work schedule. This alone creates an opportunity to grow your existing league offerings and appeal to more golfers.
Although "Anytime Golf League" is what we've named this type of offering, many of our clients have put time restrictions in place in an effort to push league play to the afternoon. Something like "Play any time after 3pm, Monday through Friday" is still acceptable by most participants. This allows you to still have league play during the times when the course occupancy is lower.