For most golf course operators, marketing is the bane of existence. There is a lot to manage, and with the ever-changing landscape of digital marketing, even more to learn. Because of all the facets of marketing can be nearly impossible to keep up with, we’ve put together 5 of the most common marketing mistakes made by golf course operators. The tips and recommendations that you’ll read below are virtually evergreen. This isn’t so much to tell you what you’re doing wrong, but to shed light on some marketing best practices that are oftentimes overlooked.
1. Trying to Market to Everyone, All the Time
A show of hands from those who send every email-blast, to every customer in your database, every time. You don’t have to lie to me, we’ve all done it. However, this doesn’t just apply to email marketing. Segmenting your targeted audience into specific groups, based on interest, proximity to your course, buying frequency, etc. is an ideal way to ensure your message gets to the right people.
Advertising platforms like Facebook, Google, and others make it easy to market to the people you have determined would be interested in your product or service. Let’s say your golf course just opened a new, full-service restaurant and would like to get more people in the neighborhood to try it out. Rather than targeting the general population of the area, you could show your ads to families with a household income above $100,000, that live within 5 miles of your golf course. The results will be a more engaged audience, with higher conversion rates, and lower customer acquisition costs.
2. You’re Not Tracking The Right Metrics
Technology has opened a lot of doors for business owners in recent years, especially when it comes to tracking the results of marketing campaigns. However, many golf course operators still use the old-school “feel” method for judging the success of their marketing investments.
You know what I’m talking about. Maybe you’ve run an advertisement on Facebook to promote a Father’s Day Special and now you “feel” busier than last year. You may have even compared the rounds sold this Father’s Day to last year’s numbers and saw an increase. That pretty much solidifies that your Facebook ad was a success, right? Not so fast. Correlation does not equal causation. While we can assume that the Facebook ad was to blame for the increase in revenue, we all remember what assuming does to you and me.
With the proper use of 3rd party analytics software, we would have known the actual, quantifiable success of that Facebook ad. While it does take some expertise to setup this type of tracking functionality, the data derived from it is invaluable. When you track the right metrics and can determine exactly which marketing efforts are providing the best ROI, you can make smarter decisions that will ultimately lead to a more profitable golf course.
3. You Don’t Have a Clear Marketing Plan
Golf course operators are busy, to say the least. Between dealing with vendors, managing employees, keeping up with the course, handling the finances, and finding some time to sleep, marketing is not always on an owner/operator’s priority list. Unfortunately, this usually leads to a marketing “plan” that is reactive by nature, causing last-minute, low-quality material that is only marginally effective, if at all.
Planning a yearly, or even quarterly marketing strategy will help you produce well thought-out campaigns that work towards a common goal. Your social media, email, search engine, and print marketing can now come together to help move the needle much further than just one channel alone. Creating a budget, determining which platforms yield the best results, and forming relationships with vendors that can help you execute your marketing strategy are all things that should take place prior to the golf season starting.
**Note: While not applicable to every business, companies should budget around 5-10% of their total revenue for marketing, depending on growth potential and competition in the area.
4. You Think Social Media Alone Will Do the Trick
When you think of marketing in 2017, social media is likely in the front of your mind. It’s a timely, intimate, and effective way to market to new and current customers. However, it won’t get you very far if you rely on it 100%. Social media is not a catch-all, by any means.
Marketing works best when all your efforts are working in synergy. While social media can get you in front of your followers, time and time again, it struggles to convert followers into paying customers at the course at times. Email marketing and search engine marketing (SEM) have much higher conversion rates than social media and are far more likely to bring new customers to the course. Social media, on the other hand, is one of the best tools for customer retention, which brings me to the next mistake.
5. Focusing on New Customer Acquisition Without Tending to Current Customers First
There’s no sense in trying to acquire new customers when your current customers are unhappy or under-served. That’s a little bit like putting the cart before the horse, don’t you think? If your golf course has been seeing a trend of fewer rounds played by regulars, a lack of repeat play, or less revenue although active customer count has remained the same, the last thing you should be worried about is getting new customers.
While new customer acquisition and current customer retention can work in unison, it’s important to identify if your golf course has any fatal flaws before investing in finding new clientele. If your golf facility is hemorrhaging current customers due to bad course conditions, undertrained staff, lack of amenities, emerging competition, or for any other reason, you’ll need to address that before moving forward with any kind of acquisition marketing.
Keeping your current set of customer happy is much, much less expensive than finding new ones. Even if it’s a course quality issue, it will cost you much less to give the greens and tee boxes an overhaul, than it will be to find a new batch of golfers. The moral of the story is that marketing to new customers is a complete waste of time and money if your golf course has customer experience problems.
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