How to Dominate the Golf Outings Market
HE WITH THE BIGGEST DATABASE OF GOLF OUTINGS PROSPECTS AND THE BEST FOLLOW-UP SYSTEM WINS!
Golf outings can be very profitable for your golf club. A wise man once said that fishing for whales made more sense than fishing for minnows. For daily fee clubs, going after group business can be a lot more rewarding than looking for 288 new players every day. For private clubs, golf outings can provide a welcome source of additional income.
In this article, you will discover how to build your golf outings business in five ways through:
- Repeat business
- Referral business
- Your website
- Targeted direct mail
You’ll also book golf outings through walk-ins and other “accidental” means. These bookings are not predictable or controllable but will increase when you implement the systematic programs discussed here.
ENCOURAGING REPEAT BUSINESS BY STAYING IN REGULAR CONTACT
The easiest and most obvious way to increase your golf outing business is to sell your existing clients again.
As simple as this idea is, of the hundreds of golf courses I have visited, only a handful do more than send last year’s golf outing planner for a particular event the traditional John Doe thank-you letter (and perhaps an additional postcard) some time near the start of next season.
This, of course, is not enough! Not nearly enough. You need a systematic plan to keep your club in front of golf outing planners regularly. Treat past clients as valued friends and do what you can to help them. Some groups like variety for their events. Even if a particular group doesn’t come every year, they will come back more often if you keep in regular touch.
Follow up with calls to each of your golf outing contacts at least three times a year after their event at intervals of:
- 90 Days
- 180 Days
- 250 Days
But your phone calls are only part of your new contact program. Your existing golf outing database of past clients should be contacted on a continuing basis throughout the year with a series of letters, postcards, and calls — and small gifts, depending on the value of the business. You cannot afford for another golf course to gain their attention or business. Stay in touch monthly! That’s right, 12 times a year.
If you follow this step, and this step alone you will guarantee yourself more business. Just make sure the letters you send are creative! If you contact your past clients every month, you will generate more than your share of inbound outing calls. In fact, if your database is big enough (over 400), you might well generate enough inbound calls to meet your outing goals.
If you stay in touch with past golf outing clients each
month, the resulting increase in
business will astonish you!
BUILDING OUTING REFERRAL BUSINESS
The main point is that you should be cultivating — and regularly contacting — referral sources as well as direct prospects. This means that you ask people about groups that have outings. Cultivate possible referral sources. Ask for leads from:
- Your members or regular golfers (“Does your Rotary Club hold a golf outing, or could they use a new fundraising idea?”).
- People who book outings with you now (“Who else do you know who holds outings?”).
- Local high school and college golf coaches.
- Influential people in town (bankers, board members, politicians).
- Your personal contact list.
- Golf courses in other towns (their outing clients might like variety, and you can return the favor).
- Local sporting goods and golf businesses.
- Everyone else you can think of.
BOOK MORE GOLF OUTINGS ON THE INTERNET
Make sure that the outings portion of your club’s website is presented in the form of a sales letter and feature the outing button prominently on your home page and elsewhere. This is much stronger than simply announcing to the world in bullet form that you are in the market to hold an event if one happens to be going!
Having the proper sales pitch on your website is important for several reasons:
1. People buy for their reasons, not yours. You need to provide them with clear benefits for booking their events with you. That means not simply listing what you offer, but providing REAL BENEFITS! Think of the outing page on your website as an infomercial, an electronic salesperson representing your club. That means providing answers to common questions, using testimonials from happy customers, and proving point-specific benefits of why your club deserves the business rather than your competition. Include photos of attendees having a good time.
2. It is not uncommon that the person in charge of finding a venue, for instance, a secretary, does not know that much about golf. By providing a point-specific set of reasons for holding an event at your club, that person can either make a good decision or simply print out your well thought out sales pitch and present it to whoever actually makes the decision. This is the next best thing to having you talking directly to a decision maker. Write good copy that covers all their questions and answers them!
3. People want information on meetings and events when they need information on meetings and events — which in today’s world is 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I am writing this at 9:38 PM on a Friday night! I could just as easily be surfing the web looking for my next golf outing venue! Which is why it’s critical to have a request form that someone can fill in and e-mail to you about their event. At one club we are averaging almost one online outing request for information a day! Every day!
4. Your website should be programmed to tackle the most frequently cited problem by outing planners: lack of follow up! When an outing planner sends a request online, an automatic e-mail should be sent at once acknowledging the request and stating that someone will reply the next day. But it doesn’t have to end there!
Your website can also be programmed to send out a follow-up letter in a week. It might say something along the lines of “By now you should have received your information kit in the mail. If not, please let me know at once. I just wanted to let you know about a special offer we have this month that gives each of your participants a $25 tee prize at no additional cost!” (If your website can’t send such follow-ups, click here!)
You could follow up the first note with another automatic e-mail a week later highlighting the benefits of having an event at your course and ask whether they need anything else to help with their decision. For that matter, it can go on and on, sending automatic e-mails until you switch it off or they ask you to stop. The great part of all this is that once you have a developed a good series and your customized letters are programmed into your site, they just work on automatic pilot!
LOOKING FOR OUT-OF-TOWN BUSINESS?
If you are in an area that gets a lot of convention traffic or out-of-town business, don’t wait until the planners try to find you in your home state. Hit them in theirs. Recently one of our clients in Orlando told us that he booked two outings in one week, one from New Jersey and the other from Palm Beach. He was running banner ads on the AtlanticCityGolf.com site and they clicked through and booked an event.
Running banner ads in other targeted states is a great way to reach prospects before they ever look in your market! Of course, they may also find your website searching for outing providers in your area.
You can rent and use targeted e-mail or postal lists to drive out-of-state traffic to your website as well.
Local convention-and-visitor bureaus and Chambers of Commerce frequently have lists of booked conventions and meetings, sometimes years in advance. Sometimes this information is available online. For example, if I go to the San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau website, I can see what groups have booked for the next year.
Smaller groups that are tracked by convention bureaus and Chambers often book meeting rooms and hotel rooms at the larger hotels. Both convention bureaus and hotels frequently send out information to their inquiries that include information about local attractions. If any of your local bureaus or hotels do that, see if they will include your golf outings sales piece (you might want to prepare a special one that identifies you as the golf outing specialist for out-of-town groups).
BUILDING A LARGE LIST OF NEW OUTING PROSPECTS
In any given market there are only so many charity events, business outings, and tournaments going on. You need to have in your database the name, address, and phone number (e-mail would be nice) of the principal decision maker of at least 80 percent of all events in your area. Armed with this information, you can dominate the outing market in your area.
How to build your prospect list
1. Keep a database of all past event contacts.
2. Watch the local paper. LOOK, REALLY LOOK, at all local golf events. Watch announcements, results, and feature articles. Look at local websites, TV, radio, and cable. When you find an event, track down the organizer.
3. Ask every player who walks through your doors if their company or group holds golf outings!
4. Build a giant golf outing leads list. Build a list of at least 1000 people, organizations, and businesses that you know, or at least suspect, hold golf events each year. Use the Internet, local papers, Yellow Pages, Thomas Guide, Chamber of Commerce, and business, charity, and church directories. All can be found at your local library.
5. Telemarket everyone on your prospect list. Call every charity, fraternal organization, hospital, church, radio station, and car dealership in your area. Then add in fire stations, bars, and any other organization, company, or person you think might hold a golf event.
- Ask if they ever hold golf tournaments?
- If yes; Ask who is in charge?
- Get the name, address, and phone number of the person in charge. Try for the e-mail. (The best way to do this is to offer them something, like our booklet on ”How to Run a Successful Outing.”
- Ask when they hold their outing.
- Ask how many players typically play in their outing.
- Ask where they held their outing last year and whether or not they have booked it this year.
- Get the person’s permission to send them information on your tournament packages.
- Ask the person if they know anyone else who holds golf outings. (You will be astonished by how many referrals you will get by tacking on that simple question.)
- Enter all the data, especially any extra info you can glean that might help you sell this prospect, into the Customer Relationship Manager part of your website.
During the telemarketing effort to build your prospect list, you will uncover a number of hot leads that are ready to book an outing now! It’s quite common to uncover a dozen or more really hot leads during the telemarketing effort.
Some real examples of leads from telemarketing
- John at the Post Office would like Eagle Sticks to contact him about outing options. They used to hold their outings at the country club, and most recently at Crystal Springs, with about 100 golfers attending. They haven’t held an outing for two or three years but are currently discussing it and will be holding a meeting Wednesday to make some decisions. In the past, they’ve held their outings in October, on Columbus Day.
- Donna from the Bar Association would like someone to contact her with outing options and information for their outing. Last year their outing was held at Bent Tree in August and 110 golfers attended. The outing is always held on the third Monday in August.
- Sonya at the Car Center has not yet planned this year’s outing and would like Eagle Sticks to contact her. Last year the outing was held at another local club in August and 144 people attended.
Other benefits from proactive telemarketing
While the main goal of the telemarketing campaign is to build a database of golf outing leads, there are several other benefits that go along with the proactive nature of the campaign. You will uncover lots of informal groups such as firemen or police officers that might travel from course to course under everybody’s radar but are great sources of incremental business.
You will find groups or organizations that ask you for offers or coupons that they can give out to their group. You will also be calling several thousand people who will be hearing the name of your club. This has a trickle-down effect in driving incremental play just based on top-of-the-mind awareness and suggestion.
The way we do it
For our clients, we put together an automatic follow-up campaign designed with one thing in mind — to make your life easy! That is to say, every letter, every postcard, and every promotional item is focused on getting the prospect to call you before you have to call them!
MARKETING TO YOUR TARGET MARKET
The best way to target groups is to market your tournament packages through a combination of e-mail, direct mail letters, postcards, and promotional items. You can always end with a phone call or two thrown in for good measure towards the end of the campaign if they still haven’t called. Your competitors might take one of these actions, hitting a typical prospect just once, or perhaps twice, a year.
You are going to do all these things and keep doing them all year, to ALL your prospects!
Not a single month will go by during the season when you do not send your 400+ prospects a call to action — a reminder that your course is the best choice for their business!
If you plan your campaign in advance and systemize it as described, this is not nearly as complicated or as difficult as it may seem. When you look at the potential returns versus the actual cost of marketing you will be hard pressed to spend your dollars in a better fashion for any reason. (Legendary Marketing can do all this for you, too, of course!)
NOW IT’S TIME FOR SOME THUNDERBOLT MARKETING
Thunderbolt Marketing is a strategy that Legendary Marketing designed to hit prospects in multiple ways. We send about eight letters in a short period of time — a strategy designed to make a big impression. The technique works not only because of its frequency and repetition but also because of its creativity and ability to connect with and stimulate prospects on different levels, and even with different senses.
Gathering your weapons
There are many different ways to contact your prospects and hit them from different angles. Here are some suggestions for items you might want to consider as part of your Thunderbolt campaign. Remember the more different and creative ways you find to get your message in the hands of outing planners, the more effective your campaign will be!
We typically look to see what a club has on hand in the way of promotional items and first use simple items like scorecards, yardage books, and so forth.
Postcards are cheap to print, cheap to mail, easy to produce, and, most important, effective in keeping your message in front of your prospective clients. Rather than using one design, get four done at once (it’s cheaper that way). I like to run my cards in a theme so that each card stands on its own merits but also fits into an ongoing series that will highlight the specific benefits of holding an event at your club. One might talk about catering, others about the great range, or the staff’s experience, or the course.
Everyone uses letters to get appointments or interest but the Thunderbolt letters must stand out from the ordinary. They must challenge, entertain, inform, and interest the reader. It cannot be the typical John Doe outings letter that basically says;
“Hi, I’m Bob, call me if you ever are thinking of a golf tournament!“
Your sales letters must have at the very least:
- Great captivating headlines.
- Interesting, benefit-laden copy.
- Testimonials to back up your claims.
- A demand for action.
- A reason for acting now.
- A P.S. that sums up the entire offer.
These letters will work even better if you build them around a simple promo item. Enclose a tee, a plastic bag tag, a scorecard, or the like and not only will you ensure that your letters get opened but you will find your response rate increases dramatically.
Booklets have always been a particularly successful approach for me. They position you or your course as an expert. They have great credibility since they shouldn’t actually make a sales pitch. Rather they should lead the reader to believe that you are the answer to the specific problem that the booklet addresses. They are cost effective to produce and can be distributed in a variety of ways to add value.
Brochures are common sales pieces and one component of an overall Thunderbolt plan. However, rather than just sending them on their own, they should be used in conjunction with a letter and personalized to your client. Pages should be folded, highlighted, key-point-circled, and referred to in the letter. Make the brochure an interactive tool, not just a hunk of sales hype. Tell the prospect in your letter what you want them to do with the material. It also goes without saying that the brochure itself must be a sales piece that focuses 100 percent on selling outings.
DVD/USB drive attack
Video scares a lot of people because they think it’s very expensive and complicated, yet with today’s technology, you would be amazed at the results you can achieve for as little as $10,000 (the DVD should last you several years). A five-minute infomercial is optimum. CDs, DVDs, and USB drives also make for easy mailing.
Specialty products are also ideal for the purpose of Thunderbolt marketing and come in all shapes and sizes. There are thousands of products that are available, from the sublime to the ridiculous. I suggest using ones that are neither. Instead aim for a product that is (a) out of the ordinary (which rules out calendars, notepads, and magnets) and (b) has longevity. While our goal is to elicit an instant response from each part of our Thunderbolt campaign, we know that not everyone will be won over during our initial strikes. That’s why we want our clients to keep and cherish the items we send them so they will remember us when we return for the second campaign with reinforcements.
One particular product that I like for this is a poster. I have used several different types, from a blueprint of the perfect golf swing to a full-color poster of a famous golf hole. I have used cards that clap when you open them and others that actually talk to the prospect for 15 seconds. Be creative!
Once you have decided on the eight ways you will approach your key prospects, and have all the components in place, it’s time to start your campaign.
KEY POINT— Before you read any further: Remember, you are not sending a random pitch to a worthless list of businesses in your community taken from the Chamber book! This is a pre-qualified targeted list of REAL people who book golf outings! They are going to book an outing this year and you are going to MAKE sure that you are first and foremost on their mind each and every month!
Depending on where your club is located, you are going to want to do one of two things. If your season is seven months or longer I would mail every month. If your season is six months or shorter, you can either cut back on a few mailings or double up in the early part of the year when people in your state are most likely to book their events, sending out letters twice a month in late winter or early spring.
I like to start the Thunderbolt with some basic reconnaissance like a postcard. This gets your proposition in front of them via first class mail in the cheapest possible way and also allows you to receive free address corrections before mailing the more expensive pieces. While you often hear it said that it takes seven times to create a good impression, I don’t believe it. I have often had good response with one hit, but your chances of a positive response do increase proportionately with each subsequent mailing provided you keep the information interesting.
After a postcard, mail your outings brochure along with a tightly written and benefit-oriented cover letter.
The Second Wave
In the second wave, you should start to use your big guns. I like the idea of allowing the collateral information to build in intensity so that the very best information hits in contacts four to seven, which is when we have found response is typically at its highest point. Send them the audio CDs and videos in these waves. Write your cover letters so that each package builds on the previous package and highlights one to three specific benefits of doing business with you. Always refer to how the video, audio, or other collateral material backs up your point!
The Third Wave
The third wave starts in the eighth mailing and should be your mop-up phase. By this point, you should have had the majority of your response and now you are just cleaning up the last few stragglers. At this point, you can go back to postcards or use some of your specialty items with additional sales letters. End your campaign with a final appeal to try your club and the best sweetener you can possibly give.
Then it’s time to sit back and enjoy the business you have already generated, which may well be more than enough, or to jump on the phone and squeeze a few more clients out of your campaign.
No More Cold Calls
If you follow the ideas and strategy I have just given you, Thunderbolt marketing will work for you. Even if you didn’t get the response you had hoped for by mail, you can now follow up by phone. Everyone hates cold calling, but once you have Thunderbolt mailed that prospect (one or more times), it’s hardly a cold call anymore. You’ve sent him more mail than he gets from his mother, his brother, and his best friend combined! A common response you’ll get to your call is that they enjoyed your series and meant to talk with you.
When you call, you can immediately, with confidence and integrity, tell the secretary that Mr. X is expecting your call. You can do this for two reasons. First, in one of the last letters you should tell the prospect to expect a call. Second, the response I usually get from people who have resisted the temptation to call me is something along the lines of “I wondered when you were going to call me.”
Rather than being annoyed by a continual bombardment of mailing pieces, I have found just the opposite response from most people. I have even had e-mail and letters from business owners who told me that due to various other commitments and obligations they could not take advantage of my offers but they praised the high quality of the material and wished me every success. The majority of people respect the traits of persistence and tenacity, especially if backed up with quality. These traits are so rarely found that you will find people are positively disposed towards anyone who displays them.
Following up by phone can increase your Thunderbolt success significantly and you should certainly take the extra effort to do it, but the real beauty of Thunderbolt marketing remains in the inbound response it generates. (Legendary Marketing even offers an appointment-setting service for outings and memberships on a cost-per-lead basis.)
Fish for whales, not minnows! Outings are big income generators and should be given special marketing attention at most clubs. Build a database of quality outing leads and follow up relentlessly with a carefully thought out Thunderbolt marketing campaign!
If you follow the plan I have outlined, you will get more inbound leads than you have ever had before and, with proper pricing and follow up, can easily add six figures to your golf club’s income! This outcome, of course, still depends on your staff’s sales ability.
Don’t wait until it’s too late, get the professional help your club needs now!
Everyone thinks it can’t happen to them that the community will rally but several hundred clubs are no more…
You need professional help and you need it now in the form of the world’s leader expert in golf marketing, Andrew Wood. The author of The Golf Marketing Bible, The Golf Sales Bible, The A-Z Guide to Membership Marketing, The Membership Sales Success System and Golf Outing Sales and Marketing. He is the founder of Legendary Marketing and has worked with over 2,000 clubs, private, daily fee, resort and municipal. The fact is there is simply no one on the planet who can help your golf club turn things around faster!
During my onsite visit I will:
- Review your financial goals
- Develop a clear USP (unique selling proposition) for your golf club
- Develop a real marketing strategy
- Review and amend your pricing strategy
- Develop an irresistible offer
- Generate immediate leads (within 48 hours)
- Provide sales training materials Set up a blueprint for success
- Provide 365-day phone access
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All The Best,