Monday, February 28, 2011

Congratulations! You’re on Facebook now...?

So it’s 2011...and after seeing over 550 million people join and/or start Facebook pages, you have (finally) created a page for your course! 

Now what?

If you’re like most courses I see you’ll:

        1.  Announce your presence on Facebook in your monthly newsletter, but (for some reason) won’t put a link on your website.
2.  Commit to doing a weather report for a few days but then lose motivation because you haven’t gotten any responses thinking no one reads the feeds you post.
3.  Announce a sale of some sorts with no call to action or specific’s.
4.  Post less than 10 pictures of your club/course thinking just having a page on Facebook is plenty.
5.  Post a joke from 96’ (because it's a classic!).

Can I offer some unpaid consulting? 

You need to decide (today) if you are going to embrace this powerful medium or not.  Trying to "sort of" do it could actually make your business look worse.

What should you be doing with your Facebook page?  Building excitement and traffic! It is the most powerful, and to marketing available today.  Use it!

To create demand, imagine what pertinent information your customers/members might want.  

Here are a few recommendations to start:

·  Do a brief weather report EVERY DAY.  Yes, I know the weather channel can provide this information, but you want people to check your page, not them.
·  Post your anticipated or actual play load for the day.  Include any tournaments you may have or maintenance issues you may be working on.
·  Do you have a daily lunch special?  If not, create one and post it EVERY DAY.  I don’t care if you are only discounting the offer .50, post it!
·  Did you just get a shipment of new shirts?  Post it!  Bonus points if you post pictures of the various selections.  Triple bonus points if you have a member or customer pictured wearing one of the new items!
·  Did a member get a hole in one or shoot a record low?  Announce it to all of his/her friends.  Bonus points if you post his/her picture. 
·  Got a new member or a customer that plays often?  Post their picture here and tell your customers/members a little about them.
·  Does your Pro write a swing tip article for the local paper (if not, why?) post it on your Facebook page.
·  Do you have some professionally shot pictures of your course?  Post them!
·  Did a famous person review your course?  Post it on your page!

Get the idea? 

“Should I really do this every day?”

Yes!  Let me reiterate, 1) it is FREE.  2) Many, many people read it every day and it is 3) now the first place many people look in lieu of your companies website. 4) Your marketing stinks any way.

“Will that many people really see my companies Facebook page?”

Yes!  If they ‘like’ your Facebook page, they will automatically get daily feeds of the information you post.  Think of it as a free daily commercial. 

Still not convinced Facebook is for you? 

Pretend it’s 2006, Facebook doesn’t exist and someone told you that in 2008 someone will create a website that is free, connects millions of users, and people WILLINGLY read it every day on their phones, ipads, or laptops.  What would you say?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Clock is Ticking

How effective do you think your Course Superintendent would be in teaching the golf swing to your members?

What would happen if you put your General Manager in charge of keeping the course maintained?

Have you ever considered saving the club money by having your Chef teach Tennis lessons?

If you can’t see any of the scenario’s above working, then why does it make sense that your Golf Pro or GM is the right person to run your sales and marketing for your club simply because he studied a section in the PGA manual on the subject ten, twenty, or thirty years ago?

Think about it?

Can you imagine your Chef getting by on a few recipe’s he or she learned back when he/she started, the Golf Pro never updating himself on the latest and greatest swing theories and equipment needed to effectively convey his teaching method’s, and/or your Course Superintendent not continually educating himself on the best methods and practices for keeping your course great year after year?  

Why, when clubs are literally on life support hoping they don’t lose twenty more members, do they still believe their sales and marketing can be effectively run by a person that read an outdated Zig Ziglar book on closing a year ago, attended a one day sales seminar, or worse, bought a set of CDs on the subject?  Can you imagine listening to a CD program on the golf swing and then later in the afternoon going out and shooting three under par?  Me neither.

Back when your club was the only game in town or had one other competitor, it survived because it offered something unique in the market.  Do you really think people that aren’t members today care that your course was built in 1925?  Was built by Alister MacKenzie?  Or has Crenshaw-bent grass greens?  They will if you have someone that can effectively tell the story and invite them to be a part of it in a compelling way.

  • How does your Pro or GM effectively sell your club to the one person a month that walks in to pick up a membership packet?  How is their follow-up with prospective members.
  • Let me ask you the million dollar question...if you were a perspective member, would you buy from your Pro or GM.
  • Does your Pro/GM have a “pipeline” of people they are working on at any one moment and can they show you on paper (or a computer program) the contact dates they have made with the perspective member(s)?
  • Can they show you their notes on what was discussed?  
  • What literature or email offers they sent?  
  • When they were turned down for lunch or a round with him/her?  
  • Do they understand intimately the demographics of your geographic area?
  • How often are they speaking to current members to solicit referrals?


People aren’t going to flock to a club with 3.2 million dollars in debt, a nice clubhouse with an expensive dinner menu where few members play and fewer are excited about a calendar of events that looks the same as ten years ago.

They aren’t excited by your rich history either when you haven’t spent a dime on the course in years but keep re-inventing a restaurant that is a yearly financial loser.  

Clubs that believe they can wing it until the economy comes back with regard to sales and marketing will find themselves on the auction block when faced with competition that understands this basic, yet overlooked aspect of the business.  

Of course, I could be wrong?  I hear the Crab Bisque served with a fresh greens salad and a hot N.Y. Strip with Gorgonzola cheese really brings em’ in on Friday night!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Does your club need an Ambassador?

When would you say a customer is most excited after a purchase:  The day of or a month later?
If your answered, the day of, you are correct!
If new members are most excited the first few days after joining a golf club, why don’t more clubs capitalize on this brief, yet fertile opportunity?
What formalized program does your organization follow for integrating new people into your club?
Do you even have one?  And if not, why?
“Well yes, our Pro/GM usually blows the dust off our new member welcome packet when they join, isn’t that enough”?
Sure…it is plenty if it’s 1955 and your club is still the only place to get a drink or decent steak.  Sadly though, it’s 2011.
Have you ever considered starting a formalized Ambassador program at your club?
Here’s how one could work:
1. Find ten to twenty very active club members that live and breathe your club and ask them if they would like to be Ambassadors for the club (most would love to do this).  An Ambassadors job is to integrate new people into the club, make them feel welcome, give them a positive (members) perspective, and to expose them to all facets of your club.  They are the name and face for your club and more often then not, they are better than ten email blasts you probably don’t send anyway.  Why not utilize them?
2. When a new members joins, the GM/Pro/Membership directors mission is to make the new person feel at home.  He/she will accomplish this by arranging lunch and a round of golf with the new member within the first 72 hours of joining.  Based off of this meeting, the new member will be introduced to the various programs (you do have something besides a weekly dog fight, right?) you offer, possible new members to play with, and the expectations of the club (yes, I said expectations) with regard to their conduct.  Hand-written thank you notes should also be a sent by at least two members of the staff during this time.
“Why 72 hours”?
Why not?  The first few days are the most excited your new member will probably be so take advantage of it!
“Well our GM/Pro/Membership director is very busy and we don’t want them thinking their job is to play golf all of the time.  We would rather see him/her inspecting the number of ounces of ketchup we burn through in a month.  Trimming the budget is key in our operation….”.
If your club is still surviving by having your GM/Pro/Membership director wait in the office on the off-chance someone walks in, then by all means, the Ambassador program is probably not for you.
3. Have one of your ambassadors (based on ‘fit’ from your initial meeting) call the new member to set up a round with his/her normal group within the first two weeks.  This will let the new member quickly feel like a part of the club and will stoke his/her excitement.  Who knows you might even get a referral by doing this?
4. On the thirtieth day, have your club’s President and/or GM meet with the new member over lunch (see the theme?) again.  In this meeting, you will want to ask the new member what they like and dislike so far about the club?  How you could improve?  And if they know anyone else that would like to join, etc.
“These ideas seem a little, um, aggressive.  We want to project the image of prestige and grandeur.  We want members to feel lucky we took them instead of the other way around”.
Again, in 1955 this model probably worked great but if you haven’t noticed there are countless restaurants, bars, and new golf courses that didn’t exist back then.  Things change.
5. Follow up immediately on any new potential members your brand member suggests by adapting some of suggestions in steps 2-4.  Get your new member involved and I bet your closing ratio will double with potential members and retention will go through the roof.
Sales and Marketing is EVERY staff members job.  It is a fact, the clubs most resistant to out-of-the-box thinking are often the ones with the least referrals and most attrition.

It’s the economy...and your lack of service

“It’s the economy, nobody can keep members right now...”

“I heard XYZ club dropped their initiation fee altogether and are now offering a $500 credit in the pro shop for any new member they bring...”

“I guess we are just going to have to weather the storm...”

Nobody will deny the last few years have been pretty tough on the golf industry, worse though is when a private or public course runs the customer off for non-economic reasons. 

Howard Feiertag outlined in his book, “Lessons from the Field” the real reasons why people stop doing business with you.  The results could be eye-opening:

1% - Death.  Members and customers pass away, but only 1%?  Hmmm?

3% - Move.  People take different jobs from time to time.  Others may move to a larger home after having a few children or to a smaller home after the kids have left the nest.  

4% - Buy from a friend.  It’s always good to have a friend in the business and sometimes that is all it takes to steal a good customer away.

9% - Decide to buy from the competition.  Has your competition dropped the bottom out of their rates?  Have they offered buy one, get one on certain days?  Have their e-offers finally enticed your customer?  Has the elimination of initiation fee’s finally swayed the person sitting on the fence?

14% - Product dissatisfaction.  Are your bunkers hard as bricks or hardly ever raked?  Do the tee boxes look more like your rough?  Are your bent grass greens really poa annua?  Surprisingly, only 14% will leave because your “product” has deteriorated beyond an acceptable level.

68% - The attitude of one or more employee’s.  Ouch!  You can’t prevent death, a person moving, or a friend getting your customer/member a deal.  And let’s face it, there will always be a low-ball competitor, but chances are they will violate the “product satisfaction” item and will only get the cheapskate’s.  It is almost unfathomable that people will leave for such a (seemingly) innocuous reason, but 2/3 of your customers will dump you because of an employee’s poor attitude!  That should be a wake up call...or is it really par for the course when you consider most employee’s get less than a days training on what the expectations are with regard to how they are to treat the member or guest?  

What can your team do to prevent this?

1. Handle things promptly - When your customer or member has a issue, speed matters.  Handling something competently and quickly extinguishes what could be a big fire down the road.

2. Dump your under-performing and poor-attitude employee’s - I have never understood why businesses feel the need to keep people that really don’t do much more than fill space but it happens every day?  Why?  The old adage certainly applies here:  “It’s the people you don’t fire that end up costing you more than the people you do”.

3. Interview your best clients - We have already talked about this one, but it stands to be repeated.  Your best customers or members are a wealth of information...that almost no one uses or misses...until they are gone.  Don’t make that mistake.

4. Hire the best you can afford.  If it took 5-10% more money to get the very best person for the job, would you spend it?  Of course!  Then why don’t you?  Your team is often only as good as your worst employee.  Somebody has to be on the bottom, just make sure your bottom would be among the best if they worked for your competition. 

5. Hire ONLY genuinely nice people.  You can’t teach nice.  Most people either have it or they don’t, agreed?  It’s no accident Chic-fil-a consistently hires great people while their competitor’s seem to hire the nail-chewing-could-care-less-if-you-walked-in-the-door employee.  I would rather be served by an extremely friendly and slightly incompetent person, than the reverse, and so would most of your guests.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Free Appetizer anyone?

I turned thirty-nine today and my wife asked, “if you could do anything you wanted today, what would it be”?  I said (of course), “probably play golf”.  

Before I left out, I checked my phone which was going crazy with emails from friends wishing me a great day...and even more surprising was the number of emails I received from businesses offering me “Free dessert for your special day” or “Free Appetizer in the next week as a thank you for my loyalty as customer”.  

What neat offer did I receive from the area golf courses I play?  Nada.

Did I expect something from them?  No, not really but I find it strange that restaurants I barely spend $300 a year with or less send me offers, but none of the area golf courses do, and I’ll assure you, I spend quite a bit more playing golf.

Our customers don’t like giving out their personal information...

We don’t have a very good way to track birthdays in our system...

Then how do other businesses do it?

My course of choice could have been an easy win for some proactive owner or GM if they would have sent any of the following:

“Bring three of your friends and your round/cart is on us!  Happy Birthday”!

“Complimentary greens fee on your Birthday!  Thanks for being a loyal customer”!

“Come into XYZ golf club and receive a free sleeve of Pro V’s for your Special Day”!

Guess how many people I would have told had I received an offer like any of the above?  

It makes you wonder...when margins are tight and the number of rounds played is down, some things never change.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

It's the little things...

So yesterday I played as a guest at one of my favorite golf courses anywhere, Holston Hills in Knoxville, TN.

Holston Hills is a wonderful Donald Ross course that has remained as true to the original design as any in the United States.  I could go on an on about the course, but what really separates it from the rest is the consistency of its staff with regard to service.

I have played in the clubs two-day Invitational tournament for the last several years and may play another two to three times as a guest throughout the year...and without fail Assistant Professional, Sean Rice always greets me (with a firm handshake no less), knows me by name, and will usually chat about the state of my game for a few minutes.

I am no celebrity, but every time I see Mr. Rice he makes me feel special...and my guess is, he treats everyone this way.

Being friendly costs nothing...and is worth its weight in gold.

Greeting your guests with a little more than, “Last name?  How many are in your group today”, sets a tone.

Does your staff know your members and guests by name?

The difference in “how’s it going today” and “how’s it going today Mr. Smith” is huge!  

Ever read the classic, “How to win friends and influence people”?  More importantly, has your staff?  

In today’s economy, the difference between a person choosing to spend their hard earned dollars with you or your competition often comes down to the little things.  

Each time a guest or member walks in the door, it is an opportunity.  An opportunity to be memorable or forgettable.  An opportunity to serve.  An opportunity to grow your business or unknowingly destroy it.

Oftentimes, the least expensive touches linger longest in a guest's mind.  

What is your Identity?

In a down economy, being all things to all people is usually a fiscal loser.  It is impossible to please everyone, but many businesses in a good economy can get away with it solely because of the economy.  Specialization, unless you are selling commodities (think Wal-mart), is the trend today especially with businesses that rely heavily on service as their calling card.  

When I say “Starbucks”, what comes to mind?  

When I say “Donald Ross course”, what does that name conjure?

When someone mentions your golf course or club, what do your customers think?  And more importantly, is that the message you were hoping to convey?  

Your message or identity has nothing to do with the feel-good mission statements of the 90’s that no one read but President’s of many top companies spent days crafting (and framing), today, it has to do with your viability!

What should your Private club or course do in the next thirty days?

1. Identify your identity.

2. Live your identity.  If you are a Golf club, make the Golf course the star.  If you are a country club, make the events and family atmosphere your focus.  If you are known as the beginner’s course in town, find a way to make it more novice friendly.

3. If you can’t raise your price, Raise your value proposition.  If you are a Private club trying to grow Golf members, why does the Tennis pro always have more events than your Golf pro? How many email blasts a year do you send to your customers offering them tips on the golf swing?  

4. Change your marketing!  Most Private and public course websites stink!  If you haven’t changed the look of your site since Presient Bush left office, you might re-visit what has become the most common way people view your business today. 

  • Are your pictures up to date or do you still have those embarrassing one’s of your ‘gym’ circa 1987? 
  • Were your website pictures professionally shot or do they look like someone took them on their iPhone?
  • Is your site easy to navigate? 
  • Why are you hiding your club’s monthly newsletter?  
  • Golf is subsidizing your food and beverage business, why does your food/beverage business appear to be the focus?
  • Does your website build enough interest that people will come back again and again
  • What compelling reason would a person have to visit your club or course after viewing your website?

5. Survey your best clients (do you know who they are individually?).  Find out why they come back consistently.  Find out their likes and dislikes.  Ask them for suggestions...and then listen closely, don’t justify anything, just listen.  Whatever they say will probably be the thing you need to keep doing or implement going forward.

“I doubt any of my customers would fill out comment cards, we have tried that”.  

I didn’t say, “fill out a comment card”?  Meet with them.  Buy them lunch.  I guarantee, it will be the best $7-10 you ever spent.