When I first took over managing my family’s golf course in 2004, I really wanted to provide a magnetic calendar with all of my upcoming promotions and events to all of my season pass holders. (We’re primarily a daily fee course, but have about 175 members. We stopped calling them members and call them season pass holders because that title gave them more authority than we were willing to allow. Ha.)
I was young and naive. Before I knew it, I had been talked into the wonders of direct mail marketing and decided that printing 2,500 magnets would be a much better buy, so why not buy them? Then, I was introduced to the wonder of purchasing physical addresses based on location and interests. I didn’t know this even existed! What will they think of next? I could buy 2500 addresses for only $50. Who cares that it costs thousands to send the stupid calendar, right?
Before I knew it, I was spending a significant amount of money on a beautiful magnet that I was sending out to the general public within a certain radius of my course. My naive self thought I’d be rolling in the cash with all my great promotions that everyone was going to be banging down my door to attend.
Crickets. That’s what I got.
When I think about it, I’d like to take my 26 year old self and sucker punch me right square between the eyes. Then, I’d like to have all of that money back, so I could pay for my son’s college bills of today.
It’s kind of like when you stop smoking and you think about all of the thousands of dollars you wasted because you made a bad choice when you were young.
There’s nothing quite like the school of hard knocks. My family has been so amazing at allowing me to experiment and stretch myself. See what works and what doesn’t. Yes. The magnetic calendar was a one and done idea. Thankfully, they never talk about it or hold it over my head.
Sadly, that wasn’t the last time I was talked into a good deal.
Radio stations, Television reps, and the like are conditioned to use the right words and show great numbers that make you think that you are going to reach 100,000 people and you won’t know what to do with all of the business that they’re going to bring to your doors. I don’t know how many times I’ve been talked into doing a live promo on my course. I’m embarrassed to say, honestly.
Crickets. Every. Time.
“We’ll bring a car to give away!” They say.
“Our most popular DJ’s will be there to interview all of your golfers.”
“Let’s give away the farm! It’ll be great!”
“Let’s plan a Halloween Haunted House with a corn maze.”
Why do we fall into these kinds of traps? One simple reason. Lack of planning.
You see, the thing that I failed to plan when I made my lovely magnetic marketing calendar was the execution calendar that is really the backbone of the marketing.
I don’t beat myself up about my mistakes. (Most days). Especially if I’m able to learn from them.
While my beautiful magnet marketing calendar was lovely to the eyes and hung on people’s fridges or filled their waste baskets, my execution calendar stunk it up. Without that execution calendar telling me when to email, when to post, when to hang flyers or cart signs at the course, that pretty fridge magnet became like all of the other things on the fridge. It just simply blended in with everything else.
Case in point.
I have had a picture of a very muscular fit woman hanging on my fridge for the last four months. I put her there to help motivate me to lose weight and to think twice before I ate something tempting from the fridge. After about two days, I didn’t even notice her anymore and grabbed for that bag of cold Reece’s peanut butter cups and ate them. All of them. She’s still hanging there, even after the countless number of times I’ve grabbed for the Ben and Jerry’s and cheese curds. My husband finally asked me recently, “Can we remove this woman from our fridge? I feel like she’s false advertisement.”
In order for your marketing calendar to not blend in with all of the other noise, you need to play an Execution Calendar that aligns with it.
Your Execution Calendar gives you the HOW! How are your golfers going to find out about what you are doing at your course?
My favorite part of the execution calendar comes into play when my radio station rep walks through the door with his next great gimmick for golf courses. Let’s face it. He knows golf courses are all desperate. They know we don’t have a clue what we’re doing and they make it sound so amazing. Then, they say, “We only need $500 and we’ll take the rest in trade.” So many times my lack of planning got me caught in many dead-end promotions that seemed more like donations to my local radio station.
You know what I do with them now? I say, “Sorry. That doesn’t fit into my marketing.” Then, they move on to the sorry sucker up the street. What a relief!
I take that $500 and spend it on targeted Facebook ads which actually targets golfers who play my course. Let me tell you. I get much more bang for my buck than with that massive blanketing marketing that radio and tv provide. Who cares if 100,000 are going to hear your ad if only two of them are your perfect golfer?
Have you heard of podcasts? Have you heard of TiVo?
Did you know that the average person only listens to 9 hours of radio a week? Talk about a massive waste of advertising dollars. Between podcasts and TiVo, the efficiency of those ad dollars is diminishing daily. Don’t even get me started on the yellow pages. I’m not sure how they’re still in business.
The last yellow pages delivered to my house was so small that it wouldn’t even work as a booster seat for young children any more.
YOU’RE MORE THAN A GOLF COURSE
Let’s dive into this a little more and think about what type of business is your golf course. Have you ever struggled with your advertising? What do you market? Is it your golf course? Driving Range? Golf Shop?
The answer is often very difficult to answer. The only real answer is that you just want to make money. Have you ever considered precisely how you’re plan to get that done?
When you haven’t thought about what you’re going to promote in order to move that needle to the black, you’re starting off your year behind the eight ball.
The first time I sat down to plan my execution calendar, I realized something that I had been struggling with for years. Golf courses are actually about five businesses in one.
Restaurants serve food.
Clothing stores sell clothing.
A dentist office provides care for your teeth.
What about golf courses? What are they?
They’re a golf course, first and foremost, but they’re also potentially:
- Learning Center
- Practice Center
- Events Center
- Miniature Golf Course
- Footgolf Course
- Frisbee Golf Course
- Business Team Builder
- Online Store
- Yoga Center
- Social Club
When you really thing about it, it’s no wonder that golf courses are so terrible with marketing. They have many businesses under one roof, yet most are only marketing one or maybe two of those businesses to their full potential.
Where does that leave you?
It usually leaves you, as the golf course operator, scratching your head in the off-season wondering where you’ll be getting the money to make payroll.
Here’s the deal. I’ve come to a massive conclusion. We are doing it all wrong!!!!!
We are completely ignoring the businesses that make up our golf course that pull their weight when weather or economy are affecting our bottom line.
Have you ever heard:
A bride who says, “We aren’t getting married anymore because it’s going to be too hot.”
Anyone who says, “I’m not going to buy any gifts for this holiday season because there’s snow on the ground.”
No. You’ve never heard those sentences, yet we act like we hear them all of the time.
Let’s look at how we might fix this problem. I’m going to assume that most of us spend a majority of our marketing and advertising dollars spent in the area where we make the most amount of money. For most, that’s on golf.
Then, we completely forget/ignore all of the other businesses that are under our umbrella.
Not anymore! Let’s talk about how we’re going to fix that.
SET YOUR BUSINESS GOALS
The first thing you need to do is list your top five business goals. This will help you to be laser focused on where you want to have your wins. Business goals should have a financial impact to them that states how much money you want to make if you achieve that goal.
For example: I want to increase my tournament income by $150,000.
If you’d like to push yourself, try writing goals that have a good, better best component to them.
Better Goal – I want to increase my tournament income by $90,000
Best Goal – I want to increase my tournament income by $150,000
It’s important to set your business goals, so that the promotions and events that you decide to include on your marketing calendar at your golf course are aligned with what what areas of your business you want to expand, grow or increase in revenue.
The added benefit to this step is that it might help you stretch your mind to consider those other businesses that are under your golf umbrella.
For instance, if you want to increase the sales in your Golf Shop by $50,000, you’re going to come up with a method to drive that business to your shop.
PROMOTIONS AND EVENTS TO ACHIEVE THOSE GOALS
The best thing to do is to brainstorm all of the many things you’d like to do at your golf course. Once you have that list, you can see which ideas will help you to achieve your business goals. This helps you to keep your focus.
When you have so many different businesses, it’s very easy to get distracted or overly ambitious.
Keep yourself focused, then select promotions and events that will help you be successful.
Let’s look at an example.
In the example above, my goal was to increase my tournament income. If that is my businesses goal, then I need to figure out what I’m going to do differently in my business in order to reach that goal.
Here are some events and promotions that I might include in my calendar to help attain the business goal I set for myself.
- Organize a Craft Beer Open
- Organize a Seminar for Golf Outing Coordinators
- Create a checklist for outing coordinators
- Staff competition for most sales calls
- Contact local church groups
- Raise golf rate, but include digital leaderboard and outing website
When you think about these events and promotions, which ones would appear on a public facing calendar (better known as that pretty magnetic calendar I had made in my youth).
For the public, I might have the Craft Beer Open and the seminar date for outing coordinators. Where do the other promotions go? They are things that I will use in order to achieve my financial goal, but they aren’t necessarily things that I want to publicly advertise.
In the same meaning, just putting the date of the Craft Beer Open and the Seminar doesn’t tell me how I’m going to let people know about these events. That’s where I need to build an execution calendar.
Now, we need to organize the HOW!
Organize a Craft Beer Open
I need to create flyers, write Facebook posts, and a Facebook event page. I might also want to write a one off email specifically about the details of the event and I will want to include it in my weekly newsletter that is emailed to my list every Monday at 10 a.m.
Organize a Seminar for Golf Outing Coordinators
For this, I will want to create a flyer, write Facebook posts and create an event page. I might also write a blog entry about the benefits of attending the seminar. Then, drive traffic to that blog article.
Create a Checklist for Outing Coordinators
Then, I might want to create a sales funnel using Facebook Ads where the ad drives them to a Landing Page that provides them information and a way to opt in for the interested person to download a checklist that I’ve created. This checklist might have the Top 5 Mistakes all Golf Outing Coordinators Make When Planning their First Outing. If you wanted, you could create more than one checklist. By creating more than one checklist, you’re segmenting your list, so you know which coordinators have never planned a golf outing before and which ones have planned one before. Your other checklist Ten More Ways You Can Raise More Money for Your Golf Fundraiser.
The sales funnel would put those two types of outing coordinators into an email sequence of 3-5 emails that continue to provide value. In one of the emails, you might include a coupon that says, “If you book within the next 24 hours, we’ll provide each one of your golfers with two drink tickets for your golf outing. People love to brag about a deal they were able to get.
Staff Competition for Most Sales Calls
Create a competition among staff members with how many sales calls they can make within a month of your off season. If each staff person makes just two extra calls a day, over the course of the month that would be at the minimum of 60 additional calls. If you close 10% of all your sales calls, then that is an additional 6 new golf outings for the month.
Contact Local Church Groups
Churches are constantly looking for fun things to do and it’s usually easier to get to a decision maker at a church than it is at a large business where you’re hunting down the HR person.
Provide them with a free lesson clinic prior to the outing or maybe you only arrange for the youth group to come out to hit balls on the range. You supply them with free rental clubs. Maybe you can an area of your property that can be set aside as a picnic area where the church group might have a devotional or set up tailgate games.
Raise golf rate, but include digital leaderboard and outing website
It’s very hard to raise your rate to the place where it needs to be, so it might make more sense to raise your rate if you are including an additional service such as digital leaderboard or website that they can use for promotion. Maybe you including some training videos they can give to all of their participants. Video your pro/instructor giving a 2-3 minutes lesson on how the best strategy to use in a scramble format.
It’s no wonder my 26 year old self had such a poor result to my “pretty” marketing calendar. I had only listed those couple of public facing promotions and didn’t do any of the heavy lifting that is required in order to truly be successful.
THINK LONG TERM
To build a solid execution calendar, you need to be thinking about long term growth. This is going to be a calendar that might takes years to fully perfect.
When you begin writing emails and newsletters for your promotions, these are going to be things that can be used year after year. Yes. It is time consuming in the first year, but it will get easier and easier. Create your calendar in Google Drive or store it in a shared Dropbox folder, so that it can be a collaborative effort for all of your staff members. My calendar is stored in Google Drive, so that my brother, mom and I can all work on together.
Chance are that right now, when you write an email, it’s a one and done deal. You use the email once and it never does any more work after it’s read. Think about what you might be able to do if you write an email that is used again year after year in order to promote a program at the golf course.
Now your hard work has a purpose.
The same can be said for your social media marketing. You can use the same images and posts year after year, so make them count and make them look good the first time.
WAYS TO PROMOTE YOUR EVENTS AND PROMOTIONS
To be successful, you’re going to want to be organized. So many small businesses, golf courses included, don’t take the time to plan their marketing, so that it flows in a nice sequential manner.
There are many areas around your clubhouse that you can be using to help promote upcoming events and promotions. When you know which ones you plan to use for each promotion, it makes it much easier to stay organized. You can spend one day a month writing the emails or newsletters, so that you’re dependable and golfers are informed.
When you make cart signs, you can include four the of the upcoming promotions on them rather constantly being behind the ball fighting an uphill battle. It will be time consuming for the first year to create this, but if you do it right, your execution calendar will work hard for your for years to come.
You don’t need to reinvent the wheel every year.
Here’s a list of ways to keep the public informed about Events & Promotions:
- Social Media
- One Off Emails
- Cart Signs
- Napkin Holders
Social media can be organic posts, but it also might include paid traffic on any number of social media accounts. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linked In, etc.
You’re going to want to keep track of the promotions and events that you only want to write posts about and those that you want to spend some money boosting or creating a Facebook, Twitter or Instagram Ad in order to promote.
Writing blogs about events or providing tips is a great way to have good SEO (Search Engine Optimization) reach for your site. Google will look at your site as the authority on that subject.
If you have trouble coming up with blog material, then I suggest you upload instructional videos from your pro/instructor to a website called www.rev.com They will translate videos for you very inexpensively. Boom! With a little tweaking, a blog post is written!
One Off Emails
These are emails that are sent about a specific event or promotion. From observation, this is basically the only type of emails that most golf courses sent.
A newsletter is a round up of activities taking place around your course and/or your weekly blog post. Golfers should be able to depend on the delivery of your weekly/monthly newsletter AND they should look forward to reading it because it has value.
Golfers sit in a cart for four hours, so take advantage of that space. Put your cup placements or information about your course if you don’t have some activity that you’re currently promoting.
Remember that these signs might get wet, so make it easy for your staff to find more to print, so they can do some of the marketing effort for you!
Many snack bars have napkin holders at every table that include advertising space. Create some 5×7 cards with the upcoming events taking place at your course. The design of them should be nearly identical to the cart signs, so this should be an easy win for you!
Make sure you are taking advantage of selling food and promoting events right from the computer in your golf course. Take the time to include all of the ad copy from one year to the next, so you can build on to the next year.
There are times when a commercial might make sense in your overal marketing plan. Store all of the scripts in one place. You’ll find that there is a very wide degree of script writing skills from one writer to the next. Keep them all in one place on your computer, so you can refer to them.
Although very old school, flyers work for specific events. You need to be selective in how many you have hanging around your course or they can quickly become like the magnetic calendar and fall into the scenery and lose their effectiveness.
Many businesses are switching to a computer based menu option. If you’re using a Power Point for your menu, then this is a great place to advertise.
This is a very different way from how most golf courses operate. Previously, I was not this intentional with my marketing. I’d think of something one day and then do it the next week.
The problem with that is that it lacked the momentum needed for a truly successful event AND I had no way to measure my success.
When you tie your promotions and events to an overall business goal, then it’s very easy to make adjustments when you see you aren’t reaching it. It’s also very easy to see when you’re hitting it out of the park and might consider pushing yourself just a little bit more.
To help you think a little more about your marketing calendar, I have created a 5 Day Golf Marketing Success Challenge which takes you through the thought process of how to create something truly amazing that will bring your golf course great success!