I purposely divert from the most direct route when driving from my home to the office and my office to home to drive by a very esthetically pleasing golf course in my community. While the course is looking beautiful these late spring days, something is missing. First, I just do not see the folks on the practice teaching facility I normally see. Usually, the long-standing pro can be seen from morning to night on the teaching tee working with individuals or groups. Only one day this week did I see the pro teaching two individuals. The other obviously missing sight is the traffic on the course during non-league hours. This is a public course reasonably priced and well maintained and usually showing consistently high rounds played.
I received an email this week from the organizer of a local fund-raising golf tournament we have sponsored for the last ten years. The tournament is in late June. As of this week only 35% of the slots had been filled and the sponsorship was down.
My observations, while anecdotal, appear to be accurate based upon reporting being done by facility operators and industry manufacturers.
Current research seems to indicate that this year rounds played will be down, players will be looking for deals in greens fees, golf purchasing will be down, there will be more closings than openings of facilities and openings will be delayed.
On the positive side, the golf industry tends to be supported, by consumers at the middle and upper end of income brackets. Many folks belonging to private clubs and paying monthly fees will try to maximize their expenditure by continuing to play as much or more than usual. Leagues usually collect their money all before the season starts so golfers once committed to the league will see the season through.
As discussed in my May 2nd blog, “Success from Adversity,” it is more important than ever that you remain aggressive in marketing and take extra special care of existing customers if you want to vault out of the current recession rather than climb out when the opportunity arises.
Saturday, May 23, 2009
Friday, May 15, 2009
If you want to distinguish your facility in today’s competitive market, seek out individual and collective opportunities to exercise an extra level of customer service. Whether it is having your pro walk up and down the tee line offering on-the-spot advice or insuring there is adequate seating for the elderly or others with disabilities. If seniors can rest while practicing, they will buy a larger quantity of balls. If a customer gets a few free pointers from a pro, the odds are increased they will come back and possibly take one or more lessons or take advice when it’s time to replace or update equipment.
We had the chance to learn this important lesson several years ago on a very warm and muggy day. My wife and I were working at one of our ranges. The range was quite large almost 1000 ft wide and 1000 ft deep. Just about all the way at one end of the tee-line, we noticed an elderly gentleman holding his chest while bent over at the waist. I was concerned that he might be having a heart attack. I sprinted down to his location and by the time I arrived, he was getting ready to strike a golf ball off a rubber tee. I waited until he finished his swing and asked him if everything was ok. He said yes and stated that he was in a cardiac rehab program and was starting to exercise after surgery. He said it still hurt him to bend over. I asked him if he had a few minutes and suggested he sit down on the nearby bench while I recovered a piece of equipment from one of the storage rooms. What I had sitting in the storage room was a small mechanical automatic teeing machine that worked reasonably well but was not durable enough for constant use on a commercial range. I would always buy these gadgets to see if they were feasible for use at our facility. I set this teeing machine up and showed the gentlemen how to activate the delivery arm. Within a few minutes, he was hitting away with a smile on his face. When I saw him packing up, I went to recover the tee machine. He was very thankful and promised to return everyday if I would let him use the machine. He also promised to tell his cardiac rehab group about the accommodation. Not only did we have one satisfied customer, but also his positive review of our efforts led to a regular flow of folks needing a little assistance.
Remember, often times it is the intangible, no cost effort that will lead to positive results for your business.
Saturday, May 2, 2009
As the season gets into full swing, we are all feeling the effects of the down economy. There are opportunities for all of us in these situations. We have the opportunity to let our customers know that our business is confident in its ability to weather the economic storm. The credibility of your business will only be enhanced through any positive public relations efforts during tough times. Proactive marketing in a down economy will act as a defense against declining sales and will allow for increased market share by coaxing customers away from competitors. Keeping your name in front of potential customers is the key.
We all know that at some time in the future the economy will come back. Your competitors will start advertising again. If you have continued to advertise through these rough times you will have a competitive edge. Your return to prosperity will be stronger and quicker than your competitors. "Marketing News reported that in 2001, companies that maintained or increased their marketing efforts managed to boost their market share and outperform those organizations with decreased marketing by almost 250 percent. Organizations that aggressively marketed increased their market share by 1.5 percent, and the organizations that managed to survive the recession and decreased their marketing budget only gained 0.2 percent..”
So let’s say you agree with my proposition. How do you convince yourself if you are the owner to keep spending money on marketing and advertising when you are cutting everywhere else in your budget? Rethink your methodology for starters. Use different tools to keep your name and message in front of customers. Use the internet. Emails, blogs and websites are all cost effective tools for getting the message out. If you are not using these tools now, then it is time to learn. Marketing your business requires entering the age of Web 2.0. A second way to stay in front of your customer base is to use other enterprises assets to get your name out. You can offer to host (or at least allow use of your facility) a public charity event in your area for a popular charity. A hole-in-one, a putting or miniature golf competition will generate traffic and get your name out. Let the charity promote the event through its channels. Your facility will get innumerable positive exposures.
Use this opportunity to see what works. Ask customers through electronic surveys or by just making sure to ask as they pass the cash register how they heard about you and what they are looking for.
During difficult times it is more important than ever not to lose good customers so listen carefully to what they are saying. As discussed in an earlier blog, find palatable alternatives for customers. Possibly pursue the sale of a set of new grips or shafts rather than trying to force a sale of new clubs. While discretionary spending will go down during tough times, customers will spend on products with perceived value. Use your limited advertising dollars to promote brands all ready established in the market place. Don’t offer “re-shafting specials” offer “XXX brand re-shafting specials.”
Give yourself every chance to successfully weather the storm and be prepared to seize every opportunity when we climb out of the current economic circumstances.