Marketing begins with knowing who your customers really are; what types of people make up your student base, what motivated them to take up golf in the first place and what they are currently looking for. Once you have answered these questions, you will be in a far better position to direct your marketing efforts, refine your sales methods and tailor your teaching curriculum. Again, your marketing must be targeted to the specific audience you wish to reach in order to be effective!
Your Potential Market
Consider a few statistics…
In any given market, approximately 10% of the population in your immediate area will have some interest in playing or learning to play golf. A much smaller percentage, about half, have taken at least one lesson. About 10% of all golfers have had a lesson in the past year. Only half of these lessons will involve instruction from a professional golf teacher. If you use a population base of 30,000, that means 1,500 out of 3,000 golfers or potential golfers in your area have never had a lesson, and 2,250 haven’t had professional instruction. Our research also shows that 80% of all golfers are dissatisfied with their game and about the same number, or 2,400 out of 3,000, would play more and get more enjoyment out of the game if they played better. Remarkably, nearly all golfers will readily agree, if asked, that they would play and score better if they took lessons. Marketing is a primary tool in helping them to take the step they agree will raise their level of ability.
You are not in the unenviable position of having to drag your target audience kicking and screaming into something they really don’t want to do!
Golfers and would-be golfers start young and play all their lives. The basic target age group, however, is males and females between the ages of 15 and 65; not a very limited group! Identifying the group or groups of major interest to you, can be easily accomplished by market research. Perhaps there is a retirement community in your area; there may be many young couples, with or without children.
Why Do People Play Golf?
An incredible explosion of interest in the game occurred during the fifties and sixties and has continued since then.
Many attribute this phenomenon to the popularity of Arnold Palmer followed by the meteoric rise to fame and fortune of the incomparable Jack Nicklaus, and far be it from us to minimize the effect of these charismatic golfing giants on the sport. The growth of sports coverage on TV, however, must have played a major role in the expansion of interest in golf from a comparative few, mostly upper income, country club members, to the broad-based support it now enjoys throughout the middle and working class elements of society.
Are you ready for this? About 26,000,000 Americans spend between $18,000,000,000 and $22,000,000,000 A YEAR on golf!
When we 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.
- Love to practice, play, compete, gamble, etc. (The addict!)
- Enjoy the moderate level of exercise.
- Like to be in the open air.
- Opportunity to meet new friends. (Social contact).
- Prefer the type of friends one makes on the course.
- Something to do to occupy one’s retirement.
- A chance to combine business with pleasure. (Golf is practically a requirement for the modern Businesswomen have filed lawsuits citing the fact that exclusion from all-male country clubs has limited their access to business opportunities.)
- Watched on TV for a while and decided to “give it a try”. (The fad golfer).
- Want their children to play golf. ( Rather than, or in addition to, other sports.)
Each of these personality groups will be represented in your student base. In spite of the fact that so many people fall neatly into one of these categories, you must relate to, and deal with, each person as an individual and understand what makes them tick. It will make a huge difference between a high student retention rate and maximum profit, or high student attrition rate and minimum profit.
The die-hard, addicted golfer is always ready to try anything that might improve their game, including lessons. Attracted to you by the quality of your instruction, they may have experience or knowledge of your ability to teach through friends and fellow golfers.
For them, golf borders on being a way of life, a crucial part of his psychological make-up, without which they feel incomplete and unfulfilled. They live and breathe golf. It’s not uncommon for them to relate to everything in terms of the sport.
The addict practices hard before and after lessons and rounds of golf. They study golf periodicals and instruction books and frequently change part or all of their equipment, putters and drivers being the most commonly discarded former friends! The addict is a good student and will be among your most loyal and supportive allies, but is likely to expect from you the same devotion to everything about golf that they them self feel. He or she is not necessarily a low handicap golfer.
Consuming interest in the game doesn’t always translate into an effective swing and intelligent approach to the problems that arise during play. If the addict has limited ability, they will tend to exhibit signs of frustration at their flaws. Your positive attitude and encouragement can play an effective role in persuading them that you are the right instructor for them.
You won’t have to look far for this prospect. They will probably find you!
The Light Exercise Fan
The golfers or would-be golfers who play for exercise or a love of the open air rather than a determination to succeed at the game and shoot low scores, should not be ignored as a source of students, and, therefore, income.
Although these players are at the opposite end of the golf spectrum from the addict, they are equally susceptible to embarrassment, which can easily lead to frustration and anger, due to inability to perform to a reasonable level of proficiency.
In fact, many of the constituent members of this group are, unknown to themselves, and because of the inherent beauty and attraction of the game, on the way to becoming serious golfers… perhaps even addicts! You will help them on the way, and they will reward you for doing so by continuing to select you as the answer to the current ‘road-block’ in their quest to become proficient.
The Social Golfer
The person seeking social contact through golf can have a variety of reasons for their attitude. The initial interview and the enrollment form may not accurately reflect their true intentions. As your relationship with them proceeds, however, you will quickly pinpoint the precise driving force that motivates each individual student. This may be a desire to make new friends, or to meet members of the opposite sex, or to spend more of their leisure time with a spouse or special friend who is already a golfer. It is initially sufficient for your purposes that they seek your assistance in learning to play.
The social golfer, just like the exercise fan, can easily develop, or be developed, into the goal-oriented student. The basic human characteristic that enjoys success and deplores failure is to be found in nearly every student you will meet. (The thrill of victory… the agony of defeat!)
The Retired Golfer
People are living longer and staying active in their retirement years. One of the biggest problems facing the senior in America today is finding ways to stay busy and involved, and to avoid the pitfalls of boredom and mental atrophy that afflict so many in their later years.
More and more of this rapidly growing group are turning to golf as a form of recreation, exercise and social opportunity. In fact, about 40% of all rounds are played by seniors.
A good proportion of seniors live in retirement communities, with or without an associated golf facility. Most of these communities include a social or recreational center where the residents can meet and socialize. They frequently publish their own newsletter. These, and other idiosyncrasies of this important target group, will help you make contact with the retired golfer.
Many seniors have never played golf prior to their retirement, and are not in good physical shape. A slow start that includes a warm-up period with simple stretching exercises is a good idea for every student but it is essential for these folks. Encourage them to show up early for their lesson, so they will be ready and able to take full advantage of instructional time spent with you. If they are beginners, you should advise them to check with their doctor whether golf is a suitable pastime for them.
The majority of seniors are on fixed incomes, and are very concerned about their long term financial well-being. This is reflected in their caution with regard to money.
They are not wasteful or spendthrift. Without exception, they are constantly on the lookout for a bargain. Be very mindful of this when you market packages and specials aimed at this particular group. Seniors shop around and compare prices. You will need to be competitive to attract their business.
They are likely to tell you very forcefully that your fees are higher than those of many of your competitors.
The senior golfer is often set in their ways. They are nervous and apprehensive of change… in what they had for breakfast, their daily routine, their budgeted expenditure, and their backswing!
You will have to be polite, tactful and subtle to persuade them to accept any modification in their attitude towards taking, (and paying for,) lessons, just as you will in suggesting any alterations to their swing.
Don’t be discouraged by these peculiarities from targeting this category of prospective student in your marketing plans. Seniors comprise one of the largest groups of golfers. They play more frequently than most golfers, and are just as susceptible as any other group to the wide range of reasons listed under Buying Motives in the Sales Section.
Do not fall into the trap of adopting a patronizing attitude toward these students, or treating them like children. It is obvious to them and not appreciated.
The Business Golfer
This golfer is in a hurry, expects results, wants value and an adequate return on their investment,
(the cost of their lessons!)
A great many business deals are hatched, discussed and concluded on the golf course. The business golfer is unlikely to aspire to a very high level of proficiency at the sport, but they need to be good enough not to embarrass themselves in front of their boss or corporate subordinates.
They are usually constrained by shortage of time and will appreciate, even more than most, flexibility in scheduling. They expect to start their lesson right on time.
Ultimately, they too may find themselves falling under the spell of that old black magic that we know so well!
The Fad Golfer
This individual may have become intrigued with the sport by watching a pro tournament, on television or live in his area, or by reading a magazine picked up during a visit to the dentist, or through conversation with a friend who golfs, or in any one of a number of ways. The idea of wearing attractive golf outfits may be appealing. Increasing 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.
Emphasize in your marketing how enjoyable this will be for the student; how much fun they will have. From an instructor’s viewpoint, fun is the most overlooked factor in determining why people choose to take golf lessons. Yet it is one of the most important ones. People of all ages and backgrounds want to have fun. There’s no way around it; fun equals pleasure!
An adult in search of fun may be difficult to spot. On their initial contact with you, they may give an entirely different reason for coming to you to take golf lessons. Later, when you get to know them better, their real motivation will become apparent. They have a little spare time to fill, and are looking for a new experience. You must use your best judgment in deciding how to deal with this customer, but the fact remains, when in doubt you can always go along with the reasons they give you for wanting lessons.
Fad golfers usually don’t stay around very long; but it doesn’t necessarily mean a student who seeks you out after watching Rory McIlroy win an event will quit after one lesson. Some of them may eventually become dedicated players. That’s up to you. If they have fun taking lessons, there is no reason why they should not become long-term students.
You can always count on them to talk about you among their friends and acquaintances, and be an excellent source of referrals.
Youngsters love to do anything that is new to them, anything their peer group is involved in, and anything that is fun and a challenge to their developing skill and dexterity.
Additionally, parents often seek a pastime for their offspring that is less dangerous and more enduring than some of the more traditional sports.
When you direct your marketing effort toward this group, you need to emphasize the fun aspect to the children, and the fun in a responsible environment to the parent, (who will pay the fees!)
A constant source of new students will always be the friends of existing students. You can reach this market through your current clientele in ways that are discussed at length in other sections.
Friends and playmates of other youngsters in your program will enroll simply because their friends are involved. With a little encouragement from you, these friends will in turn bring their friends and the cycle will continue.
The Woman Golfer
The explosion of interest in golf has been largely due to several groups of people who have become regular, even frequent players, instead of occasional participants. Women comprise the largest, and possibly most significant, of these groups.
In recent years, encouraged to some degree by the regular appearance of LPGA Tournaments on TV, and even more by rapidly changing societal attitudes, women have turned to golf in ever increasing numbers.
You will find them represented in all the categories we have already described in this chapter. Addicts, businesswomen, whatever. For the present, however, the majority are most interested in the exercise and social aspects of participation. (Mixed foursomes are becoming more and more popular). Nevertheless, the competitive instinct is definitely a factor, and easily observed in women’s club tournaments and ladies team play.
The important point is to be sure you take this large and growing sector of the golf population into account when you research your area. The numbers of female golfers will continue to increase, (and take lessons), in the foreseeable future.
The statements made about the various personalities outlined in the preceding target groups are to be taken only as a raw guideline.
Take a look around, however, and see how many of your students fit these profiles. Many may fit into two or three, but with sufficient study, you will find that their basic motivation for taking lessons will usually place them in one of the categories we have described.
It bears repeating, however, that these profiles are only presented in this manual to assist you in targeting your marketing efforts accurately and effectively. Once the prospect has come to you and decided upon a lesson plan, you will serve not only your best interests, but those of the student as well, by knowing, really knowing, the individual student and what motivated them to come to you.