When you reach down to open up your golf-course-management toolbox for some marketing utensils, all the options can be a bit overwhelming. Which ones work best? Which ones are worth the effort? Which ones stand the best chance of bringing in new players and keeping the regulars coming back?
Golf Business feels your pain, so we spoke with the executive vice president of global sales and marketing at Troon, the golf-related hospitality management giant, Kris Strauss, to get his take on the marketing strategies that yield the best returns on investment.
“In some respects, it’s still some of the basics that are moving the needle with regard to driving results and keeping your facility top of mind with the golfer,” Strauss says.
Those basics, Strauss says, include:
Proactive email marketing - Build your club’s database with your loyalists and then communicate frequently – as much as weekly. Strauss says Troon builds its database by leveraging the Troon rewards loyalty program. “Our associates capture data from visiting guests or golfers, then we communicate via email to keep the facility top of mind. And not all emails need an offer or promotion; we can just share what’s going on at a club, food and beverage offerings, leagues/events sign-ups, and retail or e-commerce offerings, etc.”
Loyalty programming – “This is the primary mechanism for data collection and it encourages spending.”
Proactive social media – Post frequently to all applicable social handles and supplement that with paid social campaigns that drive your specific needs (i.e., book tee times, inquire about membership, etc.)
Proactive public relations – Share your news, stories, course/club events that are positive in your community. “PR is a pay-it-forward effort, so what you do today to mine a relationship with media or bring an influencer to the property may help you today, but it most likely will help you tomorrow,” Strauss says.
Proactive digital marketing - Make your website your marketing hub, and devote dollars to search engine marketing and search engine optimization, paid campaigns and paid social media. “And don’t forget about photography and video. In golf, these can really help you, yet often we don’t see owners investing in professional photography or video for their websites.”
Strauss adds that a common mistake he sees among course owners/operators is their failure to make marketing a priority.
“Marketing is sometimes pushed down the priority level for whatever reason. It could be a lack of confidence in that arena, or not thinking you need to market because you’re already busy. It’s okay if marketing isn’t in your DNA. You can find a resource or company to help you.”
Srauss also recommends creating an actionable plan with an email marketing calendar, a social content calendar and a budget.
“We often get asked, how much should we budget for marketing? The reality is you don’t need much with digital marketing, but you do have to allocate some dollars. Many other hospitality-related businesses may devote 3% of top line revenues to marketing and sales – more if they are a newer product or destination – and then scale it down as they mature. Just budget accordingly.”
Another element is what he calls a “benefits orientation” in everything you do.
“Always ask, ‘What’s the benefit to the golfer?’ And ‘What’s the benefit to the person opening your email or reading your social post?’”
Strauss encourages owners/operators to watch trends and what other industries are doing.
“Watch what’s trending on social media, and look outside of our industry – not just the course down the road – for inspiration and to set yourself apart from others.”
For example, Strauss says when Troon began a redesign of Troon.com, the company didn’t look at other golf sites, but rather it examined how other luxury brands (i.e., Rolex and McLaren) were presenting their brands. It even researched how ESPN pushed out news and content.
And finally, Strauss invites owners/operators to listen to Troon’s podcast, The Turn, which he says often touches on marketing topics with industry best practices and guest speakers.