The Coronavirus pandemic is, and will be documented as, one of the hardest things business owners of this generation will have to face. Golf courses are no exception. With rules and regulations changing almost daily, golf course operators have had to quickly adjust their business strategies just to remain open.
That said, Coronavirus has also opened up some unique opportunities. Courses that are willing to experiment have been able to capitalize on the rapidly changing landscape in golf, resulting in more tee time reservations, membership leads, etc. In this article, we’ll go over COVID-19 and its impact on the golf industry so far, as well as opportunities that your golf facility might be able to take advantage of right now.
Increased Search Volume
Here at 1-2-1 Marketing, we leverage Google and the other search engines a lot. In fact, for most of our clients, it’s the #1 channel for new customer acquisition. Believe it or not, Coronavirus has actually caused an increase in search volume for golf in the US. When comparing May 2020 to May 2019, search volume for the topic “golf courses” has increased by 40%. So far in June 2020, search volume is up 15.90% over June 2019 and is on pace to be over 16% again this month (written on 6/29/2020).
This increase in search volume is caused by a larger demand for golf. With Coronavirus playing a major role in limiting the number of activities we can still enjoy, the game of golf has generally been considered safe to play. In most parts of the country, golf courses either never shut down or were one of the first types of recreational businesses to re-open. In fact, as I’m writing this, local boat ramps are still closed, while nearby golf courses are open for business.
As a result, golf has recently become more attractive to those looking for a pastime. This is causing many non-golfers and casual golfers to dust off the clubs. These are folks that haven’t played in a long while or don’t play very often at all. These are the same people that are causing a substantial increase in search volume for golf-related keywords. The industry should be focusing on capturing these people as life-long golfers.
The most effective way to capitalize on this increased search volume is through SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and Google Ads. With Google being the #1 channel for new customer acquisition for most courses, a 10-15% increase in searches for golf is a massive opportunity. With the lifespan of Coronavirus uncertain, Google Ads take the advantage over SEO. Google Ads can be created, up and running in just a few days, where an SEO strategy can take months to fully implement.
For those of you looking to try and capture this increased demand or simply want to give this a try, the best approach would be to first set up a Google Ads campaign and commit to it for a month or two. This will allow you to accomplish the goal of getting in front of these non-golfers and casual golfers, without sinking too much time into the project.
Response to Social Ads
Just weeks after the Coronavirus pandemic started in the US, we started noticing increased engagement and conversion rates on all of our client’s social ad campaigns. This includes Facebook and Instagram Ads for golf memberships, tee time specials, wedding venues, and anything in between.
Similar to the search demand increases mentioned before, the increased response to golf-related ad campaigns on social media is likely a direct result of more casual golfers considering the offers. It makes sense that before COVID-19 a percentage of these non-golfers and casual golfers wouldn’t stop scrolling, but now that the game of golf has become more attractive during these times, these ads are grabbing their attention.
As a result, we’re seeing customer acquisition costs plummet, for private and public clubs alike. In the past, it may take months to find an offer that gets a good response, while currently, it seems like everything hits. This makes for the perfect time to give social ads a try if you haven’t done so already.
With all of this pent-up demand for golf at the moment, there are still some limiting factors that may cause you to have to adjust operations, of course. Some operational limitations are caused by local rules and regulations, while others might just be put in place by the club to keep customers safe. In some parts of the country, golf facilities are limited by the percentage of occupancy. Some clubs have adjusted the spacing in between tee times, which limits the “supply” during a time when demand is high. Another limitation would be if your club is requiring a “one cart per person” rule. Depending on the size of your cart fleet, this may also limit supply in a big way.
The trick to marketing success in the times of COVID-19 is to find the right balance between supply and demand. If you’re a public club, this may be promoting “specials” during times of the day when demand is lower. Another popular approach to avoid these limiting factors is to sell non-inventoried goods, like Annual Passes, multi-round vouchers, and gift cards. The great part about these is that they also stimulate customer loyalty, which can help revenue all year long.
Additionally, we’re also seeing some customers using this opportunity of demand outpacing supply to raise their rates. We’ve had some courses increase their rates upwards of 30% with no impact on rounds played. This strategy is certainly specific to your operation and works well with a new customer acquisition campaign using Google Ads.
Give it a Try
Contrary to popular belief, now is a great time for golf courses to be investing in themselves. Golf has picked up a lot of momentum during the COVID-19 pandemic and we’re seeing significant performance improvements for the vast majority of our clients. It’s important to be conscious of your club’s limitations, but also know that the pool of golfers is larger than it’s been for quite some time.