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E-Marketing to Increase Membership and Attendance

Tom Pasha

When you hear the phrased “E-marketing,” most of us picture the long-promised renaissance of targeted advertising, when we can direct our messages to an eager audience of qualified buyers.


That would be great, right? 


Isn’t that how the e-marketing and internet were supposed to change our lives, increase sales, decrease expenses and make our business and personal lives easier?  As many of us now know, that turned out to be a fantasy, where most of current e-marketing promotes prescription drugs from overseas, lower mortgages, bigger body parts of all sorts, and apparently thousands of people in third-world countries who want to send us money!


So what happened to E-marketing?


As business people, we want to use e-marketing as a way to increase our membership and attendance, but our results have been less than dramatic.  What part of the e-marketing puzzle are we missing?


The biggest flaw in e-marketing is assuming that everyone who receives an e-mail will open it and act on it, regardless of the message or context in which it was sent.  With the hundreds of e-mails we receive everyday, only 2% are opened at all,  and even if you are sending e-mails to your current membership, if you are having more that 15% of them opened, that mailing is considered a huge success.


While golfers are admitted web-heads, the golf industry needs to realize is that E-Marketing consists of the following three important parts:

  • Websites that are inviting, exciting and interactive;
  • E-mail programs that match the website and draw people to them
  • Promotional steps that encourage recipients of the e-mails to open them and act on them.

The puzzle piece is that many campaigns may include one or two of the above, when it’s critically important to have each of the three steps work together.  Design an integrated campaign that includes your website, e-mail and promotional releases that have a professional look and feel, and you will set yourself above the competition.


Websites are the most critical part of any e-marketing campaign.   There are hundreds of books and websites on building websites, but from a marketing basis, be sure you provide the following:

  • It has been estimated that with all the Internet usage, the actual time you have to make a good impression to a website visitor is less than 2 seconds!  Promotional websites have to jump off the screen, promote your course or event and make a lasting impression in less time than it took to read this first sentence.
  • Websites become more highly rated on the search engines by optimization programs and frequent updates.  Optimization occurs when your web designer submits a series of descriptive words, or “meta-tags” to the hosting service.   The quality of the meta-tags dictates the success of the website.  Next, be sure to update your website constantly—the sites that are updated most frequently are the ones that rise to the top of the search engines.
  • Make sure your website has a strong layout, inviting and highly interactive:  make sure there are areas to read, a guest book to sign in as a visitor, blanks to request information and downloads and areas to register for events.
  • E-Mail programs are informational updates sent to your database—make sure they are also clear, concise and offer the recipient a reason to look up your website.  The phrase “What’s In It For Me” is critical here, as you want your prospective members and golfers to go to the website and learn more about your club and tournament.
  • Finally, you have to have promotional steps underway to direct people to your website and to open your e-mail campaign.  You should have a scheduled series of promotional announcements to drive golfers and members to your website.  A Public Relations or marketing professional can help you with this effort, but the basics include sending promotional items to your local newspaper’s business section, adding a promo to the member’s magazine or e-zine.  For non-profit planners, be sure to send frequent promotions to the newsletters and e-zine of your charity, both locally, and on a statewide and national basis.  For every promotional release, have your e-mail and website listed as a link.


Once the basics of your e-marketing campaign areas are designed, it’s time to use them to drive membership and attendees.   


To maintain a good website, check your website daily to make sure all the links are working and updated.  Add something to the website at least once per week, including using your website to promote events.  As basic as it seems, some organizations bury their event information in a link, instead of showing it prominently on their homepage!  Make sure all your employees, your planning committee and current membership has a link to your website on their e-mail signature line.


For e-mail campaigns, you might start with a monthly electronic magazine, or an “e-zine,” to keep the event fresh in everyone’s mind.  You probably receive several now, so keep them brief and informative to they are read by the recipients.  You should have an “Opt-Out” section, where people can ask to be removed from your distribution list.


When you send out an e-mail, the newest tactic to have people open and retain the materials is to make it “viral.”  By Viral, it is not some computer virus that destroys your hard-drive, but a way to have your recipients forward your e-mail to their friends. Try including a planning tip, a golf technique, or even a funny video attachment that your recipients will send onto their friends.  Be sure to add a “Send to a Friend” option to your e-mail that links directly to e-mail.


Have your committee members send you their e-mail address book as a starting point for a promotional e-mail campaign.   Have them review their address book, deleting those who would not have an interest, and send the rest to you; you can send the list a custom e-mail letter from your committee member, inviting them to go to the website or sign up for the tournament.


Be sure to get the word out through promotional releases.  Simply write a brief note on your course or event, add a website and an e-mail address, and you’ll be directing people to your website for additional information and to sign up.  Most charities have a national, regional and statewide websites, so be sure you have these blurbs added to them.


Finally, as the best all-around way to increase membership and attendance, be sure to have someone call every new sign-up or member, welcoming them to the group and asking for a name of a friend or associate who might also like to join.  There are very few sales that are closed entirely on-line, and most golfers who are attending an event or joining a club know other golfers who may have a similar interest.  Having a personal touch to follow-up on the e-marketing campaign will help drive immediate results and confirmed sales.  


Any e-marketing campaign begins with a website that is promoted by an e-mail campaign that is supported by promotional messages and public relations.  To be successful, all three parts must work together and have a uniform look and professional feel.  It may take several attempts to bring your e-marketing campaign to an excellent level, but with the right approach and fundamentals,  your can fill your course and your tournament tee-sheets.


And compared to other e-marketing you may have seen, this works much better than waiting for a check for “$40 million US Dollars” from a petroleum office in Nigeria!


Tom Pasha is the Executive Director of GEMA, the Golf Event Managers Association. GEMA is a national organization of golf event planners, golf facilities and vendors, dedicated to increasing and improving golf tournament business, attendance and professionalism on all levels. Based in Orlando, Florida, GEMA focuses on marketing programs to help event planners maximize membership, attendance and sponsorships and works with golf facilities and merchandisers to increase their contacts and business in the tournament golf market.

Tel: 407-891-2252 | Fax: 407-891-6428 | E-mail: tpasha@contactplan.com | www.contactplan.com

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