Long before he became famous for the hat, videos, books, academies and high-profile students that are part of the deal for one of the world’s most recognized golf instructors, David Leadbetter was trying to make a name for himself in Florida.
He offered to write an instruction piece for Golfweek, which was eventually called “RX for Par,” and offered remedies for readers’ ailing games.
“That was my first venture into publicizing myself and it was amazing how that got around,” said Leadbetter, who was in Vancouver yesterday to promote Callaway’s Free Lesson Program, a joint venture with the Canadian PGA.
Leadbetter has since become a highly-recognizable brand among golfers, something that all golf professionals should be striving for, even if their profiles aren’t as widespread as his own. Writing newspaper or magazine articles is one way to capture the attention of the surrounding community.
“It’s the old thing that ideas or products are great if you can get them out there in the public eye. Just sitting, waiting for the phone to ring is not necessarily going to get the business. Word of mouth is a big thing in our business, for sure,” said Leadbetter.
One way to get golfers talking is by presenting an image that says a professional genuinely cares about the games of the people who decide to use his/her services.
“Work with a couple of young players, help develop them even if you’re not charging them. Really guide them and mentor them,” he said. “If you can do a good job in that area, it’s amazing how that filters through to parents and friends of parents.”
“I always found that, if you give stuff away to a certain extent, you get it back tenfold,” he said of working with youngsters.
“We all want to make a good living, but one has to look at it from the standpoint that the more giving you are, the more caring people think you are, the more people have a much better opinion of you as an instructor,” said Leadbetter.
It’s that good feeling that people have about an instructor that causes them to consider lessons for themselves or their friends and families, so there are professional rewards for volunteering your time to help develop a youngster or two.
“We’re more than just teachers. We’re advisors. We’re administrators. We’re where people want to come to learn. They can put their trust in our hands in order to help them play this game,” said Leadbetter, adding that golf is a quality of life pastime and good instruction plays an important role in that mission.
“We’re helping people in a way that we probably don’t ever realize. We’re actually helping people with their attitudes towards life and that’s the power of golf,” he said. “You’re really becoming a part of their lives. You’re not just saying, `Hey, that’s my rate. Call me when you need a lesson.’”
Showing people that you care about their games is part of a marketing strategy that entices golfers to return and use your services, according to Leadbetter.
“For instance, you have a camera and you take (video) of people over on the first tee and say, `Hey listen, if you want to come back and I’ll analyze it with you.’ How simple is that?” said Leadbetter, adding that impromptu session can pay dividends, not only with future lessons, but also equipment sales.
For that reason, Leadbetter believes the Callaway/Canadian PGA Free Lesson Program will have added benefits for pros who sign up.
The program offers a free 30-minute golf lesson with a participating Canadian PGA professional to consumers who purchase a set of irons or a driver from the company’s 2009 line before July 31. Making a good impression in that free lesson may lead to paid lessons down the road for a teacher of the game.
“We say, `Listen, we’ll make a blueprint for your golf game,’ then you give them a plan and people work towards that plan. It’s not just, `Okay, take a lesson and come and see me in a couple of weeks,” said Leadbetter, once again emphasizing that caring is a better alternative.
“You tell them this is what I’d like to do. I want you to take a series of 10 lessons and I’d like you to do this, this, this and this and we’ll work on our plan and I think we can really help you enjoy the game more because, let’s face it, the game’s a lot more fun when you play well,” he said.
So, marketing doesn’t have to be exclusively about advertising or beating your chest about how good a teacher you are. It’s also about being a people person.
“It just takes imagination and being a little bit of a marketer and promoting that you know what you’re talking about,” he said. “You can certainly promote yourself in a way which is done tastefully.”