If you own and operate a golf course, then you are no doubt aware of the challenges that come with growing your business. In most communities, competition for regular players is high. Complicating matters is the fact that the pool of potential customers is largely fixed. Many decisions about where to play are dictated by a course’s location relative to the player’s own home combined with tee time availability. Sometimes it feels that no matter what you do, certain external factors are working against you in your pursuit of a thriving golf course.
Regardless, you’ve no doubt done your best to get the word out, provide a great experience, and keep players coming back again and again. Yet despite your best efforts, there are still open spots on your tee sheet. To make matters worse, it feels like competing courses have a pro shop full of waiting players. The entire situation can feel like trying to sink a fifty-foot putt with a downhill break.
This is exactly why you need a golf course marketing agency.
Before diving into how a golf course marketing agency can help your business, it is important to understand the competitive landscape for most golf courses across the country.
Even courses that host PGA events or have years-long waitlists struggle to optimize for growth. Because every tee time is a disappearing asset – that is to say its value goes to zero if it is not utilized – it can be very challenging to maintain an upward trajectory. Weeks of a full schedule of players and highly-attended clubhouse events can be undone by a single slow afternoon or, even worse, a less-than-full weekend. The waterfall effect of an empty tee box leading to lower pro shop receipts and fewer clubhouse sales means that the financial impact on the business from even a single added – or missed – player can be significant.
With average green fees in 2021 checking in at around $35 and disposable income and leisure time impacted by the COVID19 pandemic, it has never been more important – nor more challenging – to attract players to your course.
Not enough time in the day
From an operational standpoint, golf courses have a lot in common with other appointment-based small businesses. Specifically, many appointment and service-based businesses do not have enough time in the day to address every important task that can help the business grow. Restaurants cannot delay service to diners while they work on a new advertising campaign. A campground cannot tell a family-filled RV to wait for their campsite so the staff can work on a social media strategy. This is much the same as how golf course employees must pay attention to customers and guests first. That means everything else, including strategizing about growth come second, when the sun goes down, or not at all.
Golf course owners, managers, and staff understandably focus on solving day-to-day tactical challenges at the expense of focusing on big-picture goals. Important and urgent tasks like cleaning carts and setting range balls for players get in the way of strategy meetings. Planning an event in the clubhouse often takes significantly more time than originally selling the event in the first place. In fact, you wouldn’t be blamed for not spending much time on marketing and growth planning at all.
Getting serious about marketing your golf course
Properly marketing your course takes more than claiming a Yelp page and promoting occasional discounts and specials. Bringing attention to your course and facilities requires concentrated and consistent marketing effort and expertise. In most cases, marketing is not the core competency of the staff of the course itself. Most often, course staff, including the owner, are focused on running the business. As we discussed, handling day-to-day requirements takes up almost all of their time. Who has time to optimize an online advertising campaign when the greens need to be aerated?
With the golf industry expected to grow only five percent between 2018 and 2023, earning a greater share of wallet from the market will be the key to growth. That means more players choosing your course over the competition and spending more of their hard-earned dollars once they arrive. The way you market your course will play the most important role in achieving those goals. If you do not have the time nor the expertise to properly market your golf course you are left with two options. First, you can change nothing and take a chance that the status quo will suffice and keep your course in business. Or you can get serious about growth and engage a marketing agency that specializes in golf courses and recreational businesses.
Course marketing is not only about golf
While some courses think that raising rack rates is the best way to increase revenue, there are other great options that are well worth your attention. To make those options a reality you have to think big picture. You have to think about the power of marketing.
Marketing a golf course is not just about bringing the same players back weekend after weekend. You should work towards maximizing interest in memberships, leveraging facilities and events, and optimizing sales at the pro shop. Making the course a destination for golfers that live farther away than your average clientele should be a priority. While some courses do not feature extravagant pro shops or a bar and grill, all courses should maximize revenue in each way that they can.
That means that marketing only the quality and challenge of your course is a good start, but it is not nearly enough. Put yourself in the mind of a prospective customer. As a course owner, you must consider everything that goes into a customer choosing your course over other options. Do the carts have built-in GPS? Are there twilight specials on greens fees? Do you include breakfast with every weekend tee time before 10 am? Every characteristic of your course can and should play a role in your marketing strategy.
A golf course that does not understand this will focus on marketing just their course. However, great marketing is about more than just the course. True, players want challenging holes and beautiful turf. They also want a great hamburger at the turn and a good pace of play. Successful golf course marketing comes down to painting a complete picture of your offering in a way that will appeal to the greatest number of the right kind of customers for you.
What do golf course marketing agencies do?
Golf course marketing agencies possess the skill and expertise to market a golf course and help that course grow. A marketing agency will know how to address and promote the important items mentioned above. More specifically, golf course marketing agencies possess three critical characteristics that help them serve their clients well.
Understanding your goals
Golf course marketing agencies specialize in working with golf courses. They understand the goals of the course. They will research and understand the market and potential customers. An agency can execute the tactics necessary to draw those potential clients to the course itself. A golf course marketing agency will understand how to highlight the appealing characteristics of your course. Additionally, they will understand your target market and how potential customers evaluate their options. By melding the two, your course will have a brand story that attracts customers eager to experience what you offer. In short, an agency can help you reach your growth goals.
Consider this: The best marketing agencies in the world are not only great at the actual art of marketing. They also have a deep understanding of their client’s goals as well. Additionally, they are experts at finding ways to appeal to their clients’ target customers. It is one thing to build a great-looking website or design a great advertisement for the phone book. It is another entirely to create a cohesive and complete marketing plan. Crafting an overarching brand story is the hallmark of a great marketing agency.
Knowing your target customer
Knowing your prospective audience is of additional critical importance. A quality golf course marketing agency will research the demographics of your target market. Once your market is defined they will use that information to build out c
ampaigns and marketing strategies. Just as you wouldn’t see a general practitioner for open-heart surgery nor a general specialty attorney when you need a criminal defense lawyer, you should not choose a marketing agency for your golf course that does not have specific expertise working with golf courses! Understanding the audience and taking your message to that audience will maximize your chances for success.
Targeting customers just by geography is too limiting. There are so many more demographic and firmographic characteristics to utilize. Characteristics like household income level, frequency of play, age, and gender are all important for marketers. Your agency partner will create personas and action plans for each segment of potential customers.
Getting the word out
A marketing agency specializing in golf courses will have experience with the right channels to to connect your course to your target market. Television and radio can be effective offline advertising methods. Pay-per-click advertising and social media posting are a great way to connect online. There are a near infinite number of ways to connect with your target audience. Your agency will know which levers to pull for maximum results.
Regular newsletters to your mailing list, scheduling events opposite competing courses, promoting your own hot deals…your marketing agency will address your target market in a variety of ways. Even better, your agency will be measuring the impact of your marketing and course-correcting over time to maximize the return on your marketing investment.
How the right golf course marketing agency can help
The right marketing agency will implement a strategy and execute upon it. Making your course a desired destination for players is just the start. As important is making sure they spend money when they arrive and that they return in the future. Solving those challenges comes down to great marketing. By defining what makes your course special, understanding your target demographic, and taking your message to market, a golf course marketing firm can help your course find new life with an expanded customer base.
It is important to recognize that marketing is an investment in the future. Working with an agency should lead to more opportunities for your business to thrive. If you are serious about taking control of your course’s future then the time is right to work with a golf course marketing agency and Teesnap can help with its Managed Marketing Services.
Learn About Teesnap's Managed Marketing Services
We help our golf courses Thrive with innovative marketing tactics that help to keep your tee sheet full, your pro shop busy and your event services booked.