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Golf Event Magazine Article: Problem Solving

Tom Pasha from Golf Event Magazine

Throughout this series of Marketing articles, the Big Five Marketing Tactics: Direct Sales, Direct Mail, E-Marketing, PR and Advertising have been discussed at great length to help planners increase their membership and attendance and for golf courses to fill their tee-sheets.

But what if it’s still not working?  What if your membership is still down and your tee-sheet looks like a ghost town?  It might be time to realize the overall truism of any successful marketing campaign:

“The early bird might get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.” 

To be the second mouse, sometimes it’s best to look things over a second time and make some tactical decisions.

It takes a second look at the situation, research the causes of the problems, list all the possible solutions and select the best possible solution.  Many times, golf pros and tournament directors are focused on the tournament teeing off that day, instead of the tournaments that have not been planned yet.

With summer months upon us, many courses will be starting the planning process for budgets, sales and capital budgets that are due in the fall, but many look at their 2009 tee-sheets and tournament schedule and see some full days and many dates that need  some immediate business.  Now is the time to look at those dates and see what can be done now to fill them.

To fill tee-sheets and increase business, the first step is to realize that you can use all the staffers at your course or company and design a better plan, using everyone’s input.

An excellent way of planning as a team is by hosting a “charrette”  (No, we’ve not moved to France)  It’s pronounced  “shuh-ret” and it is a brainstorming session among all the stake-holders for a golf course.  You can invite the owners, managers, pro-shop staffers, beverage cart staffers, greenskeepers, caddies and bag staffers to the meeting.  It’s best to have a variety of staffers there, because the charrette works best when you get different backgrounds and opinions, not just the usual ones from the Tournament Director or General Manager. The goal of the charrette is to have the all the staffers, managers and owners share in the problem-solving effort and become part of the solution.

When you schedule a charrette, be sure to send out a note, explaining that you need everyone’s help in driving new business.  In the note, tell the invitees how many rounds were forecasted in 2008, how many will actually be consumed in 2008, how many are booked for 2009.  You might include a list of the tournaments that are currently booked.

Next, when you schedule a charrette, it’s important to let everyone know they have to come prepared to talk about a single topic, improving sales.  Make sure you allow several days to a week from scheduling the meeting to the meeting day, to allow people to prepare for the topic, and for you to make sure they come ready to participate.

A charrette has to be a fun, enthusiastic, professional and goal-oriented addition to the Marketing process at your golf course.  Make sure you invite lively, sharp and involved staffers so that it becomes a learning and team-building event along with a business-building strategy.  The moderator, whether it’s you or someone on your team, should be a strong speaker and very upbeat and encouraging to the attendees.

Send out the following questions for everyone to complete and bring their answers to the meeting:

1) What works to bring in tournament business?

2) What do our golfers say they like about the course?

3) What’s standing in our way to having a great 2009?

4) If you owned the course, what are the top 3 things you’d do to increase tournament sales?

Have the answers written on a flipchart and have the attendees discuss them—you’ll get some amazing answers from the least likely people, so be prepared.  There have been meetings when the most insightful comments have come from the greenskeepers and snack shop staffers, so be sure to write everything down.

To move things along, you’ll want to lead the discussion into Sales and Marketing topics, and try to get everyone to contribute their ideas on how to increase sales.  The best way is to discuss how your course works on the Big Five Marketing Tactics:

Direct Sales:
    What are you doing now for direct sales?  Are you calling the following groups on a consistent basis:

-- Call every group you have had this year and last year and have them re-book their tournament;

-- Can you start a BYOG program:  With a “Bring Your Own Group” program, you give every staffer a cash reward for clubs, associations, non-profit and service groups that they refer to the golf course;

-- Call the HOA for any senior neighborhoods nearby—many seniors are active golfers and can play on weekdays;

-- Call the area high schools and colleges—your course should host any intramural or intercollegiate tournaments—each student has at least two parents, so you can get immediate business from there;

-- Call any universities in the area:  call the Dean’s office of any school in the university and you will find an alumni chapter and a fundraising tournament waiting to be booked;

Direct Mail:
      Have the attendees of the charrette write an article for the members’ newsletter.  Your members and golfers will know your staffers much better than they will know the Tournament Director or Golf Pro, and they will enjoy seeing their name and photo in the newsletter.

E-Marketing:    In one meeting, a beverage cart staffer brought up how she had never seen any members pictures on the website.   Every golf course has dramatic fairways and manicured greens but if you want to fill them, you need photos of your members. Check your website and at least half of your photos should be people shots.  Make sure everyone at the meeting knows how to access the website, you might review it with them at the meeting to make sure everyone knows what is featured.

Public Relations:         Does every member of the charrette belong to an organization? Are they active in their community and in industry affiliations?  Does every staffer have a business card, not only with their name, but with the name, e-mail and telephone number of the Tournament Director on the back?  PR on a personal level is much more effective than sending out press releases and can drive new business. 

Advertising:     This area is particularly interesting to golf staffers —it seems everyone wants to be the next J. Walter Thompson.  Show samples of the current advertising and ask your staffers what they think.  Is it effective?   Should there be additional advertising?  What are some good outlets that can drive sales?  Good suggestions here might include church bulletins, HOA newsletters, the classified advertising sections of the paper and employee newsletters from area employers.  The idea is to get your staffers thinking about ways to get involved in increasing sales.         

With marketing ideas flying around the room, it’s very important to have someone taking notes that can be reviewed later on.  You’ll also want to refer to the notes as a tool to get the better ideas on a schedule and a budget for the following year.  A key to a successful charrette is to make sure every participant is recognized and their input is used.  Be sure to send out a summary note on the charrette, and give credit in the marketing plan for any actions that are came up during the meeting.

Finally, the real value of the charrette is when you deliver an exceptional level of business as a result of planning and executing the meeting and specifically using the ideas that come out of the process. 

Some excellent ideas from your caddies, teaching pro’s and counter staffers can help make 2009 the best year ever.  It allows the entire team to take a second look at the business situation and helps them contribute solutions to the problems facing your golf course.

…And it sure beats being that first mouse

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

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