Critical Positioning

Critical Positioning

December 15, 2015


If you have plans to make 2016 the best year in the history of your club and course, you should make sure you know your competitive position. If you don’t, stop everything you’re doing – budgeting, planning, staffing, even cutting the grass – and define it. The right position is that critical to your success.

An organization’s position is what it owns in the minds of customers and consumers. Companies with established positions include Southwest Airlines, which owns inexpensive, no-frill flying; Apple, which owns computing simplicity and has at least partial ownership of technological innovation; Google, which owns search; and Häagen-Dazs, which owns premium ice cream. When we think of those industry segments, we not only think first of those brands, we also believe they are in a category by themselves – a category of one.

Not a Tag Line or Slogan

A position should not be confused with a tag line, a slogan, a mission statement or a logo. A position is an expression of a sustainable competitive advantage. Those other things only communicate a position. That’s why Jack Trout and Al Ries – who literally wrote the book on this (“Positioning, the Battle for Your Mind”) – say positioning is not what you do to a product; rather it’s what you do to the consumer’s mind to make sure the product (or golf course) is correctly positioned in the consumer’s consciousness.

But, you might be asking, “What does positioning have to do with me? I’m a superintendent/food-and-beverage manager/membership director – not the marketing person. My answer is that everyone is a marketer. It doesn’t matter what your title is or what your job description lists as responsibilities. If you’re not doing everything you can within your sphere of influence to drive customers and prospects to your facility, you’re not doing a complete job. That’s true in any profession – maybe more so in today’s competitive golf marketplace, where new members and loyal customers are our most valuable currency. And the job starts with understanding your position.

An Exercise in Positioning

So how do you go about deciding what your club or facility’s position should be? Positioning exercises at major corporations can take months and cost lots of money. But there are ways to shorten the process, control costs and still get effective results.

Your objective is a well-crafted positioning statement that defines your unique competitive advantage. Writing on, authors Ford Kanzler and Athol Foden say a positioning statement should answer two essential questions from the customer’s point of view: “What’s different about your business?” and “What unique benefit is derived from your product or service?”

The best way to address those questions is through a disciplined research process If you decide to manage the process in-house, here are four steps that will lead you to the position that’s right for your facility.



Shop the competition. Play their course, tour their clubhouse; while you’re there, listen to what people are saying about what they like and don’t like.

Convene a focus group. Invite a group of longtime members or loyal customers to a site other than your own and ask them why they’ve stayed a member and why they keep coming back to your course.

Host an offsite meeting of your staff. Include department heads, assistant managers and hourly employees. Ask them how they think you could win against competitors? What can we do that they are not doing? What do they hear members and customers say they love – and hate?

Crunch the data. Take all of the input from the various audiences and distill it into as brief a statement as possible – no more than one or two sentences – that clearly defines your target audience and what you offer that is not available anywhere else. Tattoo your new position on your forearm so you won’t forget it.