For a golf segment shaking off the effects of a deep recession, creating growth is a top priority. But many club owners and managers don’t know where to start, often confusing tactics with strategies. Before launching a bona fide strategic planning process, the well-intentioned souls are talking tactics, such as senior discounts, Fling Golf and $5 pitchers of beer.
Strategy is the game plan that precedes the activity. Where it doesn’t, owners and managers are left with a disconnected set of actions that may do little to accomplish their key objectives. Here are some suggestions to jump-start strategic thinking and the strategic planning process:
Know your market
Develop a thorough understanding of the demographic and psychographic needs and expectations of customers, members and prospects. By researching your market to identify people whose profiles match your existing customer profile – or the ones you would like to add to your target list – you can market more cost-effectively.
Next, create a comprehensive communications plan that develops and maintains regular and meaningful communication with the targeted market segments. Many clubs develop great messages and interesting programs and fall short of communicating with the frequency and reinforcement that “sticks.” The most effective clubs use multiple media – postcards, letters, emails, social media, video and photography – delivered regularly and with a consistent message.
Appeal to underserved needs
Women and their families represent underserved segments for most clubs. Ask the women of your club what programs they want. Invite them to offer ideas and put their suggestions into action. You will gain favor with current members and begin to attract new ones when your club develops a reputation as a safe haven for children and a hub for family activities.
Busy professionals recognize the importance of recreational activity and a healthy lifestyle in the mix of their overall well-being. Integrate sports, fitness and training programs with quiet places that are equipped for business use with video conferencing capability and secure online access. When members see a trip to the club as something that is easy to add to their routine, they’ll come more often.
Expand the value proposition
Many clubs continue to offer the same programs they did when members first joined. We are a society looking for the new and improved. When you add new programs that help your members or golfing customers better connect with other members and golfers, you have expanded your value proposition. And if the recession taught us anything, it’s that people pay for value – and not much else.
So make it easy for members and customers to have a quick answer to the question, “So what’s new around the club or course?” Is it FootGolf, Nordic walking, oversized cups on the greens or a fire pit on the patio, where members and their guests can gather to socialize? At some clubs, it is off-site special interest travel – for wine tours, continuing education and historic or entertainment events.
But how do you know what will create buzz among your customers and members? You really won’t – until you give something a try. Find people who are interested or enthusiastic about an activity and let them help you launch a trial program. There’s value simply in trying something different, especially at facilities where tradition (read: the same old thing) rules. Not all programs will attract interest and support; all that means is that you must be willing to keep trying.
Most clubs with established market segments need new energy, ideas and members. Look around the community you serve. It probably doesn’t look like it did 10 or 20 years ago. But if your club does – if it’s still trying to survive by serving the same people – that may be its biggest problem. When you make diversification a strategic goal, you create a pipeline for increased inquiries, the lead list grows, friends begin recruiting their friends and membership begins to accelerate again.
The key to a successful strategic plan is the careful understanding of the destination. What do you want for your club members? Great strategy requires great understanding of the methods by which growth is possible.
Henry DeLozier is a principal in the Global Golf Advisors consultancy. DeLozier joined Global Golf Advisors in 2008 after nine years as the vice president of golf for Pulte Homes. He is a past president of the National Golf Course Owners Association’s board of directors and serves on the PGA of America’s Employers Advisory Council.