Saturday, March 26, 2011

Have you ever held a "Major" at your club?

When was the last time you introduced a new (and fun) event for your avid members?

Have you ever considered holding a major at your club (with a twist)?

To kick off Master’s weekend and make a little cash for the club, here’s the game:

1. Announce you are going to “host a major” at your club via your member’s email addresses or Facebook page.
2. Sell teams for say...$25 per person and allow your members to create as many teams as they are willing to pay for.  Pay out the top three places with 60% of the pot going to the first place team, 25% going to the 2nd place team, and 15% going to 3rd.  The prize money won will be used in Pro Shop credit.
3. Have your member pick (1) player out of “group A” which will comprise the top 1-15 in the world rankings, (1) player out of “group B” which will include the top 16-30 players, and (2) players out of “group C” which will include any player 31st or higher in the world.  
4. Have members turn their team(s) in before 9 p.m. on Friday night (after the cut has been established).
5. Saturday and Sunday your member will play with his/her team and will include his/her current USGA handicap.  The member team with the combined lowest score wins!
6. Start the tee times early on Saturday and Sunday so that the your members can watch the telecast with their fellow members.  Drink specials?  Lunch/Dinner specials?  A club “green” jacket and picture?  That is up to you, the important thing is to have fun and increase your sales.
7. Repeat for the U.S. Open, British Open, and PGA Championship.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

When are they going to turn in their stamp book?

When I was boy, I fondly remember going to the local grocery store in my hometown of Greeneville, TN.  Of course, this was before the days of the Super Wal-marts with a nine row toy section, grocery store, tire store, and office center all in one.  The unique thing about our local grocery chain (Green Giant) was the prize section located right next to the shopping carts.  It had BBQ grills, badminton sets, glass sets, baseball gloves, dishes...and a little bit of everything in between.  If they didn’t have it on display, they probably had it in their catalog which was chocked full of 100’s of items.  Next to the catalog display was a stack of “stamp” books.  Each time you bought groceries at the store, they issued you stamps based on the dollar amount that was spent.  Once your stamp book was full, you turned it in for the prizes on display or in their catalog.  I thought the idea was genius, well, is genius still today, and don’t understand why stores don’t do something similar?  I don’t know about you, but “Value” cards really don’t do anything but fill my key ring, but I digress...

What does this have to do with the golf business?  Quite a bit actually.  

Why?  Because your members carry around (their own) stamp books on your club.  Their “stamp” book is a little different than the old Green Giant one’s I spoke about earlier, because they issue their own stamps based on how they feel about the way they are treated by your staff.  Green = good, Red = bad.

If your twenty-year old running the Pro shop is busy watching TV or texting when one of your members walks in and they act inconvenienced, Red stamp.  If they are treated with a warm friendly hello, a firm handshake, and a “how’s your game Mr. Smith”, Green stamp.

If your member has to ask for ketchup each time they order fries, Red stamp.  If your wait staff says, “so good to see you Mrs. Smith, are you playing well”, and hardly lets their glass get below half-full, Green stamp.

If your staff rolls out the red carpet for a guest, which who knows, might be an important customer, you might get 2-3 Green stamps.  Treat that same guest like a nuisance, and they might issue you 5 Red stamps.  Like I said, the issuance of stamps is based on each individual’s standard of excellence and expectation’s.  

“It sounds to me like we are in a constant no-win situation if people are that fickle”.

I believe the contrary is true.  I believe if your staff is dedicated to a Member First experience, which reminds me of places like the Honor’s course in Ooltewah, TN or TPC of Myrtle Beach, SC, you will set yourself for a growing and happy membership base.

When you give your members a great experience, they fill their “books” with Green stamps, and tell others.

When you fail to meet their expectations by hiring the constantly complaining, clock watching, and/or flat-lined employee’s who act as if their job is to simply show up, your members will issue you Red stamps...and tell others.  The only thing is, they may not tell you?

“That hardly seems fair”  I mean, we do everything we can but we aren’t the Hilton or Disney.  Sometimes bad employee’s slip through the cracks.  Not everyone has a great day, every day either”.

No, everyone can't always be in a chipper mood naturally, but one of my mentor’s said it best, “in almost every area of life you struggle with, “fake it until you make it.  Act as if...and you will become it”.  

Greeting someone with a friendly hello and a “nice to see you today” doesn’t take a Disney training program.  Nor does a quick follow-up after a complaint handled with care and respect.  

If your membership drive rarely yields new member referrals, I wonder if it has anything to do with the number of Red stamps your members are carrying?  
Or worse, how many of your members are one Red stamp away from leaving?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Old guard or New school, which one are you?

In my hometown of Knoxville, TN, there are two major gyms:  Old guard and New school.  

Old guard had all of the business for years.  They had old equipment that wasn’t a very big priority to fix.  Their membership prices increased steadily over the years and they had zero customer service.  

Had they become complacent?  You bet!

When New school came to town, they brought in new equipment, a more lively atmosphere, better pricing...and quickly, they took a huge chunk of market share from Old guard because Old guard thought that running the same playbook for the last twenty years would work for the next twenty years.  Ooops!

Despite the proliferation of Wal-marts, Super home improvement stores, and online tee times for basically cart fee, I believe there is still a market for personalized service.  Look no further than Old guard and New school, and you will see a giant transformation in the health club business with (now) huge monthly calendars jammed with events/classes and more personalized service, i.e. personal training.

Why, when people are so pressed for time and squeezed financially, do they double and sometimes triple PER MONTH what they spend on a health club membership to have someone count reps and lead them through a work out?
Drive down the interstate and main thoroughfares of town and you’ll notice that nearly every other billboard Old guard and New school advertises on contains a message about personal training.  

In fact, immediately after they say, “press hard, the third copy is yours”, they do a pitch on their personal training the point that you can’t refuse because the value is so high (the first session is usually free).

Of course, that would never work in the golf business...

Golfers just want to log onto, play for $25, skip your $6 lunch special (you do have a daily lunch special right?), and pass on the happy hour short game clinic’s you hold on tuesday and thursday evenings for $20.  Private/group lessons?  Nah, that would never work.

Are you serious?

I don’t know anyone that doesn’t want to shave five strokes off their score by learning a 
decent bump and run or blast from a greenside bunker.

I don’t know anyone, that if they could eliminate their slice wouldn’t play more or bring a few guests on a more regular basis.

Doesn’t it make sense that happy customers/members are more likely to spend more money with you in every other area of the club?  

Aren’t you more qualified, since you gave Mr. Smith a few lessons, to tell him which set of irons would best match his swing over that twenty-two year old at the local golf shop?  I think so!

“We offer lessons, the thing is, very few people want to take them”.

No, they want to take them, they just won’t because they don’t believe your Pro is worth what he/she is asking for a lesson or frankly, they are rarely asked.  Not a good combination!

...but what if the offer were so enticing they couldn’t afford not to take them?  

1. What if you offered a guaranteed 25% reduction in their handicap in trade for a six lesson commitment with value priced “tune-up’s” (10-15 minute quick checks) for when things were just a touch off? 
2. Are you good enough to promise “one to two less clubs into every hole” for a lesson package?
3. Have you ever considered doing a once per month “lunch and learn” series for your members/guests in your grill room on the flat screen and/or dry erase board?  
4. Do you have a student that has improved dramatically because of your lessons?  Why not feature them in your club’s monthly newsletter, facebook page, or (outdated) club website each month?
5. What if you offered a free lesson to anyone that referred a new student?  

“Look, I don’t think you get it, we have 250 members right now, and out of that number probably 25-30 have EVER TAKEN A LESSON with our Pro”.

Actually, I do understand your dilemma.  Your club thinks that comma PGA means people are automatically supposed to sign up for lessons without being asked, without sufficient proof of success, or offered anything of value...and/or your Pro is doing ten other things besides teaching your members which you (falsely) think saves your club money, but actually ends up costing you more than you can fathom.

People won’t leave because you are servicing them too much or offering too many services with an offer they can’t refuse.  No...they leave you when you become Old.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

State of your Club - Test

1. Your Fine Dining sales are down considerably since there are now twenty restaurants within a five mile radius of your club and they all charge around 25% less than you in an updated atmosphere.  Do you: 

A. Decide to serve creole remoulade with the blackened Sea bass.
B. Increase your average per plate from $24 to $26 and leave the portions the same.
C. Decrease your average per plate from $24 to $22 and decrease the portions slightly.
D. Switch to grass-fed beef, free-range chickens, and fair-trade coffee exclusively.
E. Consider closing the fine dining all together when only 15% or less of your membership actually uses it.

2. You have few, if any juniors ever tee it up and you know that like churches, if you don’t get young people involved at your course, they’ll go elsewhere.  Do you:

A. Ignore them. They are a nuisance and few eat Sea Bass.
B. Reduce the price of Chicken Nuggets and Fries from $7 to $6 and add an extra Nugget. 
C. Serve mini-pizza’s.
D. Tell them to learn to play Tennis, “because the Tennis Pro has more programs”.
E. Build junior friendly tee’s, hold several junior camps/instruction days throughout the year knowing that when kids get involved, parents often follow.

3. You have few, if any women playing your course.  Since they are increasingly more responsible for the decision to join a club vs. fifty years ago, you decide to:

A. Ignore them, they are too slow and clog up the course.
B. Add Karaoke.
C. Tell them to learn to play Tennis, “because the Tennis Pro has more programs”.
D. Add “fit” selections with a red heart symbol on your menu.
E. Come up with more lady friendly events.  Decide to embrace them like gold knowing that they love to socialize and spend money at the club vs. their male counterparts.  They often involve their children.  They frequently take more lessons and attend more clinics/camps because they aren’t as ego-bound as men.

4. You are losing members faster than you can sign them up and costs are increasing, should you:

A. Raise your price, decrease service, and fire people because everyone knows that when demand goes down, price should go up.
B. Assess your members for your losses.
C. Add “theme” nights to your Friday night dinners, like “Asian Fusion”, “Tex-Mex”, or “Taste of Rome”.
D. Eliminate or severely reduce your initiation fee and add an extra month free to spice up the annual membership drive.
E. Increase your value proposition for your members by offering more services in the Pro shop, more clinics at reduced costs, more camps for ladies/kids/beginners.  Reduce your dues to members that bring in new people as long as they both remain members.  Consider dropping fine dining all together if only 15% of your membership actually uses it.  Put profits back into the course instead of the restaurant which is usually a financial drain.

5. Your Golf pro does half the lessons his counterpart did twenty or thirty years ago and now people are getting lessons, attending clinic’s, and buying equipment for the same price you could sell it to them for (since everything is sold at suggested retail) at everywhere except your club, you decide to:

A. Let the competition have the lesson/clinic business, since most people now learn the game on YouTube.
B. Save money by firing most of the Pro shop staff and make the Golf Pro check people in, answer the phone, and get range balls.
C. Sub-contract out your Pro shop to a third party, since the Pro is too busy checking people in, answering the phone, getting range balls, and not giving lessons.
D. Promote your Golf Pro to Gm/Membership Director/Restaurant Manager since The Golf Channel’s program, “the Golf fix” is how people learn to swing a golf club these days.  
E. Embrace the concept that fewer people will quit the club because they are being serviced “too much”.  Have your Golf Pro do what he/she loves which is give lessons, hold clinics, play more with members, etc. vs. spending time on Facebook or watching TV in the pro shop.  Also come out of the dinosaur age and take trades towards new equipment.  Places like Edwin Watts and Golf Galaxy use this to fight ebay and other online competition + they play up the “custom-fitting” angle huge knowing that people will wait a few days for perfectly fit equipment for them.

6. You have heard adding a gym might pull in the younger demographic that you have always wanted at the club, do you:

A. Say, “that’s nice” and do nothing.
B. Clean out a 1,000 square foot space in the clubhouse and add some equipment circa 1985 because back then, Nautilus was “cutting edge”.
C. Buy a “Total Gym” and treadmill and call it “the gym”.
D. Spend $100,000 on a quality gym that only twenty people use on a regular basis.
E. Meet with a “real” local gym to work out a deal for your members knowing that if people really wanted a gym they would go to one, instead of a time warp you call a gym.

7. You just created a Facebook page for your course after seeing 500 million people validate it, what do you do next:

A. Post the 2005 pictures you took with the clubs 2.1 megapixel camera.
B. Post a daily weather report for a week and then quit since only 100 people joined the first month.
C. Let people know you added creole remoulade to the Sea Bass dish for $28.
D. Do nothing because you think you get more hits on your home page you made in 08’.
E. Post daily on any pertinent information your members and potential members might find of interest knowing that once someone becomes a fan, they automatically get daily feeds about your club (for free).

8. You have a few consistently belligerent and unruly members at the club that everyone considers quasi-GM’s, should you:

A. Do nothing, that’s just the way private clubs are.
B. Try to be friendly towards them but do nothing since you need members.
C. Add a cheap happy hour and buy bigger mugs.
D. Tell them about your decision to add creole remoulade to the Sea Bass.
E. Have a heart to heart discussion with them individually about etiquette and the expectations/responsibilities of being a member, that if they don’t agree to going forward, will end in their termination. You do this for several reasons:  1) They probably don’t have enough friends to truly hurt your business, 2) Their monthly dues are costing you new member dues, 3) Once the precedent is set, incidences of unruly behavior will go down immediately.

9. Your course was designed by one of the best classic architects (Ross, Raynor, Mackenzie, Tillinghast, Langford, and/or Flynn) in America, but it bares little resemblance to the original design today, you decide to:

A. Keep cutting your course superintendent’s budget because “our restaurant is where the action is”.
B. Change your advertising to reflect the real architect today: John Lafoy, Bobby Weed, or the 1982 board. 
C. Plant more tree’s so the city will honor you for going “green”.
D. Continue to advertise that you are a “classic course designed by ”__________________” because few people know the difference.
E. Embark on a restoration project that involves collecting pictures, drawings, and routings of the course as it was originally designed to create excitement within your membership and make the course more playable since 3/4 of the tree’s that exist now on your course have NOTHING to do with the strategy intended for it.

10. Your course is in dire straits and is one unfortunate accident away from shutting down, you decide to:

A. Do nothing since it has been around for 50-75 years surviving the great depression, wars, and stock market crashes.  “It will never go out of business”.
B. Cut your course superintendent’s budget, fire (more people) people, triple your efforts on the restaurant hoping that spending 250k-500k on a fiscal loser will keep members from leaving.
C. Raise your pricing because 225 people at a higher price vs. 400 people at a lower price works better in the long run...and have a membership drive.
D. Borrow 3-5 million for a new clubhouse but spend nothing on the course since people join a private club for the clubhouse.
E. Work towards implementing the answer E to the previous (9) questions because you finally realize 85% of your membership joined (or will join) your club because of the golf course and not the other way around.