Sustainable Marketing Plan

It's Time to Grow Your Business

In 2008, the economy took a huge nose dive.  To make matters worse, the main road to my family’s golf course was closed with a 20 minute detour.  If you’re ever curious about how to lose money at lightning speed, talk to me about that glorious year.

When the road finally opened (just in time for winter, of course), I knew that there was no way that I could possibly save the golf course simply by cutting costs.  I was going to have to market the course back into recovery. That’s when I began going to the Marketing School of Hard Knocks. Let me tell you. That is a degree that I’m more proud of than any others I’ve received.

In my first year of designing a marketing plan, I started small.  Three live concerts, a junior and women lesson program, plus a big promotion for Memorial Day.  I spent time writing emails, designing flyers, writing TV commercial scripts, and passing out calendars to my golfers for these promotions.  It was successful.

The following year, I added a few more.  I included a Christmas in July promotion and we celebrated Labor Day weekend in style.  It worked well, so I added a few more the following year.

Eventually, I had gotten our promotional calendar busy enough that I was no longer very efficient.  I had trouble keeping up with the number of emails I needed to write, flyers I needed to create and my computer desktop was a mess of folders and files that had zero sense of organization.

After five years of adding more and more promotions and marketing prowess to my golf course, I became overwhelmed.  The programs and promotions were working, but I was tearing out my hair with overwhelm of how could I possibly keep this up?  I had staff members and family who could see I was overwhelmed and wanted to help me, but I didn’t have the foggiest idea how to tell them to begin.  The only thing I really needed to get it all done was a few extra hours in the day.

In the fall of 2014, I listened to a podcaster who was explaining how she planned out her year.  I was immediately fascinated by the systems that she had put into place and how she was able to delegate tasks to her team to help prevent overwhelm.  I was hooked. I studied her and listened to that podcast about ten times until I thought I could take a stab at creating a marketing plan that would be sustainable from one year to the next.

GOOGLE SPREADSHEETS TO THE RESCUE

If you have followed with me for long, you know that I have a major love affair going on with Google and its spreadsheets.  I think they’re magical.

I decided to create a spreadsheet to help keep my marketing calendar organized.  It first looked like a calendar and then slowly transformed over the years into so much more.  

The off season was spent, loading in all of the events and promotions that were scheduled at my family’s golf course.  When I was done, I begin adding links to documents containing emails that I had stored in my Google Drive. This process helped me to eliminate the computer desktop overwhelm because I no longer had to hunt down the email that was written to promote my junior lesson program.  It was directly linked within my spreadsheet!

The spreadsheet also worked as a visual aid for my golf course’s long term goals.  Slow times and what was planned to help them was clearly visible in black & white. I can take utilization reports from my POS and create promotions to encourage play during slow times.

ADDING MORE & MORE

I linked to all of my events to their calendar page on my website.  This helps me to quickly update the events from one year to the next.  In December, I click on each link and update the pricing and dates of what I plan to do in the following year.

Over the years, I began adding more to my sustainable marketing program like Facebook posts, App Push notifications, Instagram stories and more.  Each year, I look at my marketing calendar and decide how I might make it even better in the coming year.

Because the spreadsheet is an accumulation of my entire year, I can quickly add more to my overall marketing strategy.  I can track promotions and how successful they were in my business. If they weren’t as successful as I thought they should be, then I can include additional marketing materials to help promote.

Sometimes those promotions just needed to be dropped because they were a flop and no amount of marketing would make them be a success.

Yes.  Sometimes you just simply have ideas that crash and burn.

A HELPING HAND

Two years ago, my nephew went to play rugby in New Zealand.  He was having trouble getting a Work VISA. One day, he asked me if it would be possible for him to continue to work at the golf course even though he’d be living on the other side of the world.

Because of the power of Google and its spreadsheets, I can share my work with anyone.  Including my nephew on the other side of the world.

He and I began working together using my Marketing Spreadsheet and I discovered something amazing.  Not only had my spreadsheet helped me to get better organized at finding the marketing materials in one place, but it also allowed me to easily assign tasks to helping hands.

For years, I had staff who would offer to help me, but I never knew what to tell them to do.  There are always slow times at the club. Rainy days, off season, or consistent slow times in the week.  Why don’t golfers like to play when it’s 110 degree? I can only have my staff clean and organize so much around the clubhouse before they start giving me the side eye. 😏

Since I keep my FB posts, App notifications and emails in my Marketing Spreadsheet, I am able to easily assign tasks to my staff.  Rainy day? No problem. I can easily show my staff how to help. Suddenly all of my App Push notifications are scheduled and it makes me hate the fifth rainy day in a row a little less.

Before my Marketing Spreadsheet, I never knew how to easily tell someone to help me when they offered.

In case you’re wondering, yes, my nephew did help me from the other side of the world.  I also continue to use my college staff after they return to school in the fall by allowing them to work from my marketing spreadsheet.   It’s a giant weight of overwhelm was lifted from my shoulders.

NUTS & BOLTS OF THE PLAN

Over the years, I have met many golf operators who ask me how I’m able to be as productive as I am.  My answer to them is always my Marketing Spreadsheet. Good news! I’m sharing it with you to use for yourself.  That’s right. We’re talking years of work that I’m passing right along to you because I think you’re awesome.

Here’s a worksheet that you can download which explains all of the aspects of my spreadsheet.

In case you haven’t grabbed it yet, here’s my Marketing Spreadsheet.

INVITATION

In February, I’ll be teaching a class on how you to use this system at your own golf course at the Golf Business Conference.  There’s still time to sign up!

Just start easy like I did with a few promotions.  Over time, you’ll be able to easily add more promotions and events to your course’s calendar.  Before long, you’ll no longer need to adjust your budget by making cuts in your departments. A marketing calendar allows you to GROW your business.

 

How to Upload Your Email List to Facebook

Create a Warm Audience

If you're a little scared of Facebook Ads, then I suggest you start with the people who are already familiar with you.  Those are the people who are on your email list.  It takes less than 5 minutes of time to complete for you to have an audience that is a great way to test what ads will resonate with your golfers.

Put this on your calendar to upload at least once a month.  Your email list doesn't automatically upload into Facebook without you going through this procedure.

Five Ways to Create a Clean Database

Have a List Building Mindset

Your database is more valuable than the land that your golf course sits on, yet it receives the least amount of attention.  Chances are that you have taken great lengths to make sure your grass is green and well manicured.  How much time have you spent to help grow your database?  If you’re like most golf courses, you’ve spent less than five minutes even thinking about it.

Since the term database seems more like a computer programming word, I’m going to put its importance into perspective for you.  Your database is your Guest List to the daily party at your course.  That’s right.  Every day, you’re throwing a great party.  You’re waking up early to make sure the food is prepared and your lawn is manicured.  You’re throwing out the red carpet and providing a great experience.  You’ve called in extra help to make sure the traffic flows well and the clubhouse is clean and tidy.

My question to you:  Who are you inviting to your party?

Most golf courses spend hours preparing for the party and completely forget about the guest list.  Your guest list has old addresses, bad emails, wrong phone numbers and you rarely bother to send out the invitations.

If your Guest List is old and tired, here’s some great ways clean up your Guest List (database).

IDENTIFY DUPLICATES

Just like sometimes you have to move the furniture and vacuum under the sofa, the same holds true for your database.  It often needs a good spring cleaning.

Have you ever received more than one invitation to a party?  The invite seems pretty in-genuine to the end user.  Your guest doesn’t really feel all that important when they’re receiving multiple invites to the same party.

Clean house.  Identify duplicates and DELETE THEM.  This helps save you money since you’re often charged based on the size of your list AND it gives you a fresh start.

DELETE USELESS USERS

I get it.  I feels really good to “brag” about the size of your Guest List.  However, if you only have names of your guests, there’s really no reason to brag.  Who cares that you have 30,000 names in your database?  Names have no value to a business.  The value comes in the INFORMATION about the name.

When you’re preparing for a party and you send out invitations, how good is just a name?  If you only put a name on an envelope, will that person receive the invitation?  No.

Just a name is pretty useless.  You don’t know where they live, don’t have their email and you can’t call them to invite them to the party.  Yet, the name tricks your staff into thinking that person is important.  They call for a tee time, the staff looks up their name and never once pay attention to the fact that their information is 555-555-5555 and the address is 1234 Main Street.

I recently switched point of sale providers.  When I transferred my database, I deleted every single person who didn’t have an email address.  Ouch.  That hurt because it was over 10,000 people.  But, just the names weren’t doing anything for my guest list.  Just the names weren’t being invited to the party.  They weren’t receiving any of my information about my golf course.  Just their name had little to no value for me.

After deleting those names, I opened the course for the season.  In the first three days, I was adding “new” people left and right because their name was no longer in my database, so my staff had to enter them like they were a brand new customer.  Guess what!  In those three days, I added 192 names, phone numbers and email addresses to my database!!  THAT is something that I can use to invite over and over again to the daily party at my course.

PRUNE INACTIVE CONTACTS

If your guests completely ignore you, no longer live in your area, and don’t engage with you – it’s time to prune them.  Most email marketing services charge based on the size of your database.  If the people you’re sending emails to never open them, then they aren’t much use to you.

Send out an email a few times a year with a confirmation that they still want to be a part of your list.  This will help to make you look good in the eyes of your email service because you have high engagement and open rates.

CREATE A SYSTEM FOR STAFF

Ah yes.  The staff.  Previously, I depended on my staff to input all of my customer’s information.  That’s a good explanation of why I would have 10,000 people in my database with only a name.  Staff gets lazy.  Staff gets busy.  Staff doesn’t appreciate the value of customer information.

Studies show that an email address is worth between $25 – 60 to a golf course operator.  Does your staff understand its value?

My staff prides itself in being extremely efficient.  They can check in golfers very quickly and get them out to the starter in great time.  Often times, that speed comes at the expense of database collection.  I am constantly explaining to my staff that only one foursome can tee off at once.  What good does speed inside of the clubhouse do if there is a back up on number one or the starter has a line waiting for carts?

Just like Disney, the check in process at a golf course is designed as multiple “holding tank areas,” so that each golfer receives a good experience.  At Disney, you first ride on a ferry boat.  Then, you’re in a ticket line.  The time passes quickly and you don’t realize that it took you over an hour just to get inside of the park because they were so good at distracting you with multiple “holding tank areas.”  The golf course is no different. Train your staff to take their time.  The information to a golfer only needs to be done once and then they’re in the system.

  • Engage Your Staff
  • Set Goals
  • Reward Positive Behavior

I’ve set a goal for my staff that I want to add 10,000 names and emails to my database this year.  They all know the goal.  They are all buying into why it needs to be done.  I’ve also set a goal that those names will produce an additional $50,000 in revenue.

In my staff check in area (where they check the schedule), I have a drawing that has a growing line to our goal.  It’s visible to all.  At each major goal point, we have a staff party planned.  At the end of the season, the staff who collected the most number of emails will win a prize.

You have to create a system, so that data collection is fun and the importance of it is clear to your staff.

PROVIDE A WAY FOR GOLFERS TO INPUT DATA

In the end, the staff is often too busy.  We’re a pretty busy course, so sometimes it simply is too difficult to take the time to do it right.  That’s why I have multiple touch points where my golfers are inputting their own data.  It’s a much cleaner and efficient way to get good information.

iPad Kiosks

These are simple stands that are around the clubhouse that are designed for email collection.  Just hop on Amazon and search iPad kiosk.  Most of the kiosks at my club are designed to join the birthday program.  The golfer inputs their name, email, birthday and phone into the kiosk and they receive something for their birthday via email.

The iPad works with an app that is provided by my email marketing service.  Ask the company that you use to send out emails for their opt-in app.  If they don’t have one, then switch services because yours is old and outdated.

Here’s a few that I know have apps:

  • Constant Contact
  • MailChimp
  • Aweber
  • Campaign Monitor
  • Drip

Website Offer

Include a pop-up with a good offer.  No one wants to sign up for a newsletter.  You need to entice them to sign up to join your list. Give 20% off their first online purchase.  A free bucket of balls.  The options are endless.  An email address has value, so make sure you’re providing something to thank them for signing up.  Simply enticing them by saying, “Sign Up for my Newsletter” is like asking them “Do you want more junk email in your inbox?”  Guess what?  No one wants that.

Website Forms

Every form that is on your website should be attached to your database.  That means that every time someone signs up for a lesson program, golf outing, inquires about an event, or league, their information is added to the database – automatically.

Landing Pages

Every promotion that I run includes a landing page.  The golfer only receives the offer or coupon if they opt-in to my list.  This method allows me to add 500 or more people to my database over a three day period when I run promotions for big holidays like Father’s Day, Fourth of July, etc.  I can also segment my database by the opt-in offer they signed up to receive.

If you put on the mindset of Building Your Guest List, then you’ll begin seeing many ways that you can capture information.  If you have any sort of an offer, then the golfer needs to provide you their information in order to receive your discount.

Golf Outing Incentive

One of the hardest golfers to add to your list are the ones who play in golf outings once a year.  You might be thinking, that you don’t really want to market to them if they only play once a year.  What if you were able to get them to play one more time?  Play in one more outing?  Rent your facility one time?  Every name has value.

For golf outings, we provide a giveaway to the outing participant when they fill out a form with their name, email and phone number.  That giveaway can be a hat, a golf towel, a sleeve of balls, a come back coupon.  You decide what will work for you and your golf course.

 


 

One last tip for creating a clean database is more along the lines of what NOT to do.  Don’t allow someone else to collect information on your golfer and then not share the actual golfer information with you.  You’re the one who is providing the experience.  Make sure you’re the one who is also receiving the database.

I used to do promotions with radio stations and television.  They’d have some deal they offered in exchange for air time.  A few years ago, I started asking them for the database that they collected from selling my product.  Guess what!  They didn’t want to share it with me, so I stopped doing those promotions.

If you’re using a third party for your tee time distribution, make sure they are sharing a clean database with you.  After all, you’re the one throwing the party every day, so the least you deserve is the information to the people on the Guest List.

Your Breakthrough Year

What's yours look like?

I’m in full planning mode for the upcoming year.  How about you?

When I first started spending a decent amount of time to plan out my season, it was very complicated and cumbersome process.  There were many moving parts, content, marketing, emails and strategies put into place to help me accomplish my revenue goals.  I was learning as I went, so I wasn’t very efficient.

As I’ve grown as a business owner, the easier this process has become.  Not necessarily because I’m building on the previous year (which helps), but I’ve also learned something valuable that is true of most business owners.  I have learned that it’s a pretty natural tendency to make things more complicated than they need to be.  When I stay focused, then my business strategy looks like something that I can tackle. (more…)

Best Ideas for Your Golf Course

What happens when you go to six golf conferences. . .

I’ve been on a speaking tour for golf conferences this last month.  I’ve really enjoyed it because I have gotten to know many people who have provided me with lots of different ideas that I can implement at my golf course.  Many of them are very simple changes that will make a huge difference.

Since it’s the start of a new year and you might be making plans for change, I thought I’d share my top five favorite ideas with you that you might be able to implement at your own course.

At the Indiana Golf Conference, they had a speaker who was in the baseball business.  It was so interesting to hear all of the many similarities between the baseball business and golf.  The first two ideas come from him. (more…)

Are You Drowning?

It's Time to Crush Your Competition

Have you ever wondered why the growth of golf is stagnant?  I’ve sat through countless presentations that make a good case for why the game of golf isn’t growing.  It takes too long.  It’s too difficult.  It’s positioned as an elitist sport.  It’s too expensive. I’ve even attended a seminar where they blamed the lack of growth in the game on the fact that minorities don’t enjoy the sport.

They make a good case, but when you truly think about it.  They’re just a bunch of excuses for a poor marketing effort by the entire golf industry.

People sit in stands for more than four hours watching a sport.  They binge watch on Netflix for more than four hours.  Heck, they even wait in line at Top Golf for more than an hour to get a stall. There are many things that people buy that are expensive, but they don’t gripe about it, like a good mattress, a high end car, good running shoes, quality dress pants.  Not to mention, have you looked at the price of refrigerators lately? They walk in with certain expectations which are then met – whether it be related to price or service.

Why is golf struggling then?

In my opinion, it’s struggling because of an industry wide lack of knowledge on how to properly market the sport. (more…)

Facebook & Google Audit

Are You Open?

With the onset of colder season temps, I was reminded of an audit that many golf courses need to perform on their Facebook and Google Listing.

Why, you ask?

Did you know that Google Maps will mention that your business is closed if your business hours aren’t set?  Yep.  When someone asks for directions using Google Maps, then Google will say, “Are you sure you want to go here?  It looks like it’s closed.”

To you, this might seem like a minor thing, but let me tell you about the younger generation.  I have two children who drive in my family and they don’t know how to get anywhere without the assistance of Google Maps.  From experience, I can tell you that they believe Google Maps whole-heartedly when it says a business is closed.  Don’t let this happen to you!

Golf courses can often have some pretty strange business hours.  It is confusing to your golfer as well as people who are doing holiday shopping.

Take a minute to update your Google & Facebook hours. (more…)

Creating a Holiday Promotion

Follow These Steps to Success!

If you aren’t taking advantage of the holiday season, then you must not like making easy money.  Golf courses are notorious for their lack of marketing skills.  That’s what makes marketing for the holiday season so easy for a golf course.  The media does the marketing for you.  Everyone knows about Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  The public just needs to be told that you’re participating.  You can be pretty successful with very little effort or marketing know how.

This is a huge gift (pun intended) to golf course operators.  Basically, you just have to deliver something that is worthy of gift giving and you’ll be profitable.  The best part about a holiday promotion is that the mentality to spend money in our customers is already created for you.  Your golfers and more importantly, your golfer’s loved ones, are programmed to spend money on these two days.

You just have to do SOMETHING!

(more…)

Proper Email Structure

I Should Probably Use that Degree...

Have I ever told you about the story of how I wasted thousands of my parents’ dollars?  You know the one.   It starts off where I go to college for four, ok, fine.. five years, to get my degree.  That degree I really wanted, so that I could be a high school English teacher.

Then, I got offered a job and decided to turn it down, so I could be married and have kids instead.

It’s a great tale. Unless you’re my parents and you’re out all of that college funded money.

Up until today, the main way in which I used my fancy degree was that I can speak the language fluently.  That’s right folks.  I can travel to England and can speak like a native!  Cheery-O, mate.  Wait.  Wrong country.

Today, we’re going to talk about writing copy in your email.

Do Your Emails Put People to Sleep?

I get hundreds of emails a day and I’m sure you do, too.  Some are promotional, while others are important and are worthy of a response.  When it comes to the promotional emails that hit my inbox, I primarily delete 50-75% of them without even opening them up.  If I’m lucky, gmail will do all of the work for me and they’ll end up in the promotion tab which basically just sends my promotional email to my spam filter.  When it comes to the promotional emails that are left, I only read a few  on a consistent basis because I enjoy reading them or I find their information valuable.  Otherwise, I’m outta there.

I’m guessing your assessment of your inbox is about the same.  What does this mean to you as a golf course operator?

Guess where your golf course’s email is ending up in your customer’s inbox?  That’s right.  It’s heading right for the promotion tab where it basically turns to unread spam.  Cue the wah wah waaaaaah.

If it’s lucky enough to sit in the promotions tab with a slim chance of being read, then your subject line has to put up a big fight and do its best to appeal to the reader until it’s (hopefully) opened.

If your email doesn’t have what it takes, then it’s going directly to the trash pile.