Defining Your Golf Course's Market
What types of people make up your customer base?
What motivates them to play or join your club?
Few clubs ever take the time to answer these critical questions in any detail. (Which is good news for you!) Once you have answered these questions, you will be in an excellent position to redirect your advertising and promotional efforts, refine your sales methods, and tailor your marketing to the specific segments most likely to respond. This will give you a significant advantage in your marketplace.
The more specific your target audience, the more effective your marketing will be. This is one of the hardest concepts for most people to grasp. After all, don’t you want all the business you can get? The answer is: No!
For example, let’s say you have a very long and tough Pete Dye designed course. Do you really want to attract beginners and weekend duffers? If so, you are destined for six-hour rounds at the expense of angering your avid golf customers.
You should instead pinpoint your best customers so that you can target market to them. It’s no surprise that seniors respond differently than business golfers. Social players respond differently than serious players. Women respond differently than men, and so on. The more you can segment your market into key groups, the higher your response rates will be!
Be sure to download and complete the worksheet found here to nail down your best markets. By doing so, you’ll be that much closer to increasing players or memberships, driving more play and boosting sales and profits!
Back when I taught karate for a living, Darren Willard was the perfect client I ever had. He was an athletic nine-year-old boy with a photographic memory and a penchant for learning. He took private lessons, came to all the tournaments, and his parents ALWAYS paid on time. They supported all the promotional events, referred their friends, and constantly made glowing comments instead of complaining.
Ah, if only there were more Darren Willards in the world! The good news is that there are, but you have to find them.Willards in the world! The good news is that there are, but you have to find them.
Can you describe the qualities of a perfect customer at your club?
You probably immediately thought of someone at your club. That’s great because the first step in finding more perfect customers is understanding what they look like. These are the people who:
- Pay full green fees
- Bring guests
- Buy from the pro shop
- Take lessons
- Attend special events
- Play in tournaments
- Spend money in the bar and restaurant
These are your very best customers... the type of people you need more of. They’re your “A” clients, the top 20 percent from which you derive most of your income. With more players like this...well, you wouldn’t need more players!
Think of 20 people at your club who fit your description of a perfect member, player, or homeowner:
- What is their age?
- What is their income?
- What do they do for a living?
- Where do they live?
- Ten, twenty, thirty miles away, or more?
- What do they read?
- What kind of player are they — avid, social, business?
- What exactly are the qualities of a perfect customer for you?
Do this exercise with your staff, use this worksheet, and try to come up with 20–50 people who seem to be the perfect clients. Take a look at their profiles because from now on these are the only type of clients you want to attract!
The basic universe of golfers includes males and females between the ages of 7 and 80— not very limited! To be effective with your marketing you need to segment clearly definable groups.
Why do people play golf?
Golf experienced explosive growth between the 1970s and the year 2000. Expansive television coverage and a few superstars by the names of Palmer, Nicklaus, and Woods played a key role in generating interest in the masses. Nicklaus, and Woods played a key role in generating interest in the masses.
The number of people who now play golf is stagnant at around 26 million. When Legendary Marketing asked a cross section of golfers why they played, we received a wide variety of answers.
Let’s categorize some of the more commonly expressed reasons so you can see what percentage of your market falls into each category.
- The addict. Loves to practice, play, compete, gamble.
- Fitness. Enjoys the moderate level of exercise.
- Outdoors experience. Likes the open air.
- Social. Likes meeting new friends or prefers the type of friends one makes on the course.
- Retirement Leisure. Occupies one’s retirement.
- Business. Combines business with pleasure. Golf is practically a necessity for the modern executive.
- The fad golfer. Watched on TV and decided to “give it a try.”
- Junior golfers. Kids like fun; parents like safety.
- Female golfers. A growing group.
Each of these segments may be represented in your customer base. Although many people fall neatly into one of these categories, you must relate to each person as an individual and understand what makes him or her tick. It will make a huge difference between a high customer retention rate with maximum profits versus high attrition rate and minimum profits.
Now, let’s take a closer look at each group.
The die-hard, addicted golfer is ready to try anything that might improve his game. Golf is a way of life, a crucial part of his psychological makeup. Without it, he feels incomplete and unfulfilled. It’s not unusual for him to relate to everything in terms of the sport.
The addict practices hard before and after rounds. He studies golf periodicals and instruction books, and frequently equipment specifications. Putters and drivers are the most commonly discarded former friends! The addict is a good customer and will be among your most loyal and supportive allies, but is likely to expect the same devotion from you. He or she is not necessarily a low handicap golfer.
The light exercise fan or seeker of outdoor experiences
The golfers or would-be golfers who play for exercise or a love of the open air should not be ignored. The inherent beauty and attraction of the game turn many of these people into serious golfers or even addicts!
The social golfer
The person seeking social contact through golf may want to make new friends, meet members of the opposite sex, or spend more leisure time with a spouse or significant other who is already a golfer. The social golfer can develop into a more frequent player.
The retired golfer
People are living longer and staying active in their retirement years. This rapidly growing group is turning to golf as a form of recreation, exercise, and social opportunity. In fact, about 40 percent of all rounds are played by seniors.
Most seniors are on fixed incomes and are very concerned about their financial well-being. They are generally cautious with their money and always looking for bargains. Be very mindful of this when you market packages and specials aimed at this group. Seniors shop around and compare prices. You will need to be competitive to attract their business.
The senior golfer is often set in his ways. He doesn’t want to change what he has for breakfast, his daily routine, his budgeted expenditures, and his backswing! Don’t be discouraged by these peculiarities. Seniors comprise one of the largest groups of golfers and play more frequently than most. Their flexible schedules present you with a golden opportunity to drive more mid-week play.
The business golfer
This golfer is in a hurry, expects results, and demands value and an adequate return on his investment. He is usually constrained by time and will appreciate (more than most) flexibility in scheduling, prime tee times, and so on. Are you providing the business golfer the right setting for business deals?
The fad golfer
This individual may have become intrigued with the sport in any number of ways. Boredom with a current hobby may have set in. A change in lifestyle may have occurred. The precise reason need not concern you. The important fact is that you now have an opportunity to sell your services to this person.
Fad golfers usually don’t stick around very long, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that a student who seeks you out after watching a tour event on TV will quit. Some of them who enjoy the experience may eventually become dedicated players. You can also count on them to be an excellent source of referrals.
The junior golfer Kids
Kids love to try anything that is new to them, anything their peer group is involved in, and anything that is fun. Additionally, parents often seek an activity for their children that is safe and enduring. When you direct your marketing efforts to this group, emphasize the fun aspect to the kids and the safe, responsible aspect to the parents (who pay the fees!). Friends and playmates of youngsters in your program will often enroll too. With a little encouragement from you, these friends will, in turn, bring their friends and the cycle will continue. Summer programs can generate extra income.
The female golfer
Women comprise the largest, and possibly most significant, emerging golf market. Women represent all categories described in this module...addicts, businesswomen, and so on. Presently most are interested in the exercise and social aspects of golf. (Mixed foursomes are becoming more and more popular.) Nevertheless, the competitive instinct is definitely a factor and can be easily observed in women’s club tournaments and team play.
It’s important to take into account this large and growing sector of the golf population when researching your area. The number of women who play and take lessons will only continue to grow.
Other potential market segments include:
- League players
- Out-of-town visitors
- Summer/Winter members
- Hotel customers
- Guests of major employers
- Students and faculty
The segments and motivations discussed in this chapter are by no means comprehensive. Take a look around to see how many of your customers fit these profiles. Knowing who your best customers are and understanding them is enormously valuable in aiming your marketing efforts accurately and effectively. When you have a better understanding of what motivates people to come to your club, you’ll do a better job of attracting them.
The online survey is by far the most important and effective tool you can use to define and segment your market. You can learn more about a player and his playing habits in two minutes than your competitors will learn in a lifetime. What’s more, your website can be preprogrammed to follow up throughout the year with targeted promotions sent exactly to those people most likely to respond, based solely on their answers to these questions.preprogrammed to follow up throughout the year with targeted promotions sent exactly to those people most likely to respond, based solely on their answers to these questions. Online surveys can be as simple or extensive as you wish. The sample below is a from a very extensive survey that has had great success. With Legendary Marketing's technology, you can build a unique player history over time. Below is a list of the data that is collected and its use.
Your potential market
Consider a few general statistics. In any given market, approximately 10 percent of the population in your immediate area will have some interest in playing or learning to play golf. A much smaller percentage, about 4 percent, are avid golfers who play more than 20 rounds a year. Using a population base of 100,000, that means the potential market of golfers in your area is no more than 10,000 (travelers excluded). The avid market would be around 4,000 people.
- How many clubs in your area are fighting for a slice of your market?
- How many players already belong to private clubs?
- How many are still up for grabs?
- How many single players made up your total number of rounds last year?
Your primary market
Your primary market is the key area from which most of your customers will come. At a typical club, that market falls inside a 30- mile radius. At some, it may be as far as 100 miles. Within your primary market, you could identify several key groups. You might also have two or three secondary markets, particularly if you have both a local and out-of-town base.
Do your homework
Buy a giant county street map and place a dot or pin representing the address of each player or member. Then draw a ring around your location just outside the largest concentration of players. This will give you a clear indication of your primary trading area.
If you take the time and effort to do this, you will likely uncover some interesting patterns. You will find small clusters of players residing in particular developments or zip codes.
You’d be surprised at how often a river or major freeway stops people moving in a particular direction. In other words, people may drive 50 miles to your club from the West but only 15 miles from the East. In this case, you will want to target more of your marketing to those players in ZIP Codes to the West of your club.
Sometimes people don’t like to cross state lines, county boundaries, or even city limits. A club located on a city’s edge might draw very few members from another city just two miles away, yet members from the same city will gladly travel across town to join. Busy intersections and rush hour traffic can either work for or against your club’s location. Identifying patterns like these can help you focus your efforts on ZIP Codes most likely to produce results.
Few clubs truly know who their market really is and thus waste untold millions marketing to people who will never visit their clubs. A small amount of time and effort spent researching your market will pay huge dividends. The more accurately you can define your “Perfect Customer” and the different segments of players to whom your club appeals, the quicker you can tweak your message. Tailoring your message to just the right type of player will deliver greater response from your marketing. Some simple market research, using good website technology and a map will give you a head start.
To get an even quicker start on successful results, click here to take our free golf marketing evaluation or call me at 352-266-2099.All The Best,
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