Marketing a golf club in today’s environment is a very, very difficult task. It requires every bit of talent, skill and expertise available.
First, the basic concept of hitting a white ball around a field is unchanged in over 400 years.
Second, although played by about 23 per cent of Canadians, the game doesn’t appeal to everyone.
Third, some extremely intelligent people are and have been trying to create new, innovative ways to sell a green fee for some time now. Other than discounting, combining of product (bundling) and booking starting times over the internet, little has changed in the past 50-plus years.
Most recently, third party booking has entered the equation. The best known so far is a company who offers a scheme that involves an owner/operator providing some quantity of free starting times in exchange for exposure to thousands of patrons who book their games over the internet.
Of course, the internet in this case, means their cell phones.
It is a common practice for a foursome of golfers to contact the golf club via cell phone while sitting in their car dressed and ready to play. They can call a club, review the day’s starting sheet and rate schedule and book a starting time that is reserved with a credit card.
Five minutes later, having selected a fee and time that suits them, they appear in the pro shop. In fact, staff working behind the service counter can watch the whole process unfold on the computer monitor and never touch the keyboard or answer the phone.
I have heard of clubs generating as much as 50 to 60 per cent of their pay-as-you play revenue in this manner.
If you don’t have some form of internet booking, you are not in today’s business of selling greens fees. However, a word of caution: if every time is available at a discount, sooner or later the discount becomes the real price.
I’m still old school. I believe quality outlasts discounts.
Unfortunately, there is little opportunity to provide service to discount-seeking customers, but it can be done. You see, people don’t choose golf, it chooses them.
The long tentacles of outdoor living, enjoyment of the unbeatable challenges, the intriguing history and the wonderful fellowship reach out and capture all golfers. It is addicting, attractive, consuming and refreshing. In a word, it is magnetic.
As a golf retailer, it is your job to find ways that turn your facility into an opposite pole that attracts the magnet. Keep in mind that there are just as many ways to create a like pole that does just the opposite. It is a 50/50 equation.
The customer is the beans and the owner/operator is the coffee pot. No beans, no coffee. You must find ways to attract them to your facility. Once they have chosen you, it is up to you whether or not they return.
Therein lies the magnet analogy. What ingredients do golfers want mixed into their golf experience that day that will make them want to return?
No doubt, their day begins long before they arrive on your property. They already have a preconceived opinion of you based on your reputation, your website, possibly your telephone skills, marketing presentation, location and pricing.
Upon arrival, their opinion is either reinforced by initial appearance or degraded. They will allow you some latitude as it pertains to the entrance and parking area, but their internal scoring system kicks in very quickly with signage, convenience and contact with personnel.
The scoring kicks in quickly once they enter the pro shop. Cleanliness, friendliness, efficiencies and value begin to shape their feelings.
Strange as it might seem, the most important staff are those who initially welcome patrons and those who attend the departure, the all important first and last impressions, the bag drop.
Oddly enough, most companies and organizations are operated in a pyramid of staff qualifications. The manager is deep in the back of the house, surrounded by his/her most qualified support team, etc.
Greeting the customer, the most important task, is delegated to the most inexperienced, ill-equipped person.
I recognize that the chief surgeon is more effectively deployed in the operating room instead of parking lot valet, but wouldn’t it make sense for the bag drop attendants to receive upper level training?
Shouldn’t they have access to the starting sheet, so whenever possible, they can welcome guests by name or book a return date? They should be fully versed in membership sales products, corporate outing coordination and availability of the course for events and/or club policies?
Shouldn’t they be completely involved in a well-designed lost and found’ program, emergency measures, and general directional information? Shouldn’t they be dressed appropriately, clean-cut with hats on frontward to best represent the club?
These are not simply “the bag drop kids”, they are the Arrivals and Departures Concierges. They are the Customer’s Control Centre of Attitude and Mindset as it pertains to the overall perception of the club.
The Departures Concierge is perfectly positioned to receive all compliments, feedback, complaints and suggestions. Do you include them in your weekly staff management meetings or discuss such information with them?
If a patron’s enjoyment depends so heavily on one crew of staff, shouldn’t they be taught and prepared to receive every player as though patrons are a king or queen for a day? After all, the patrons think they are!
Bag drop personnel are the single most important crew of employees working at your club. As such, they need the tools to do the job.
Perhaps, the structure of management might produce better results if it were to be rectangular instead of a pyramid — people qualified to meet and greet, followed by people qualified to coordinate their day and ultimately, people qualified to manage the business!
Every cog in the wheel is important, but none more than the concierge.