An innovative professional who is visible to members, visitors and guests and who understands the needs and challenges facing a modern golf club,’ was the final attribute in a job advert for a Director of Golf at a private members club. Jane Carter looks at the growing trend to put PGA Professionals at the heart of what is often a golf club’s biggest challenge: growing the business.
Too often conversations with golf club committees start with the words, “We have stopped the PGA Professional’s retainer. We just didn’t think we were getting value for money.” When you quiz them further it’s clear that, in their eyes, value for money is all about driving more revenue. Quiz them again on how they are expected to do this and ‘marketing’ is the buzz word.
A quick scan of the Situations Vacant pages reveals much the same: ‘Be responsible for a marketing strategy which covers all areas of golf operations,’ ‘boost membership,’ ‘increase green fee income’ and ‘improve the visitor experience’ are just some of the things clubs now want their PGA Pros to be responsible for.
Like it or not, the trend of putting a PGA Professional at the heart of revenue generation is a growing one, and what a fantastic position for you to be in. As I have written in this column before no one should know the business better than you. Are the members happy (retention?) Is the golf course busy? (visitor/society business) If not why not? Is there a steady pipeline of potential new members? All of it revolves around the PGA Professional.
Many Professionals worry they don’t have the right skills but I guarantee that if you understand your golf club business, selling it is not that tough. You are already doing more than you think. The trick is to leverage that even further – and make sure the business knows you are at the heart of it.
However, the biggest issue facing the Professional when asked to market a golf club is simply whether the club really means it: I have seen enthusiastic marketing committees, newly recruited marketing managers and PGA Professionals buzzing with ideas to drive more revenue, suddenly hit a brick wall when it starts to actually happen. What started out as a happy collaboration can quickly turn to recriminations.
So if a golf club is turning to you to take the lead in revenue generation, here is my top ten checklist of the steps that you need to have in place:
Check that the golf club is really signed up to increasing the business. They may say they want more visitors but when they start appearing do the moans start coming? Setting revenue targets is the best way to test that commitment.
Know the business. Understand the green fee yield; course utilisation; membership attrition (especially in the newer member category); membership recruitment and how successful it has been in the past. Deal in facts not fiction.
Sit down with the golf club committee and set revenue targets around visitors and societies. Be realistic and careful to manage the expectations and fear of committees about too many visitors. Interestingly, they never feel they can have too many members!
Write a marketing plan. Perform one activity every week in the summer and less frequently but still regularly in the winter. It sounds a lot but consistency and repetition are the key.
Pricing is crucial. Sit down with your committee and agree a green fee pricing matrix for all times of the day, week and year. You would be surprised how innovative you can be. Discounting is part of any price matrix but also look for revenue generation through better green fee yield, upselling and repeat business.
Collect data. It will be at the heart of everything you do. Remember the old adage that 80 per cent of business is driven by 20 per cent of customers. It’s vital that you know and communicate with that 20 per cent on a regular basis…and your golf club will love you for it!
Surround yourself with the right tools: a marketing plan, a pricing matrix; a easy to manage and segmented customer database, an email campaign system, a mix of offers and promotions and a spreadsheet to monitor results.
Get ahead. Successful marketing happens because of successful implementation. Write your green fee marketing schedule for 2017 now. You know what is happening next year and the key events you can target. Don’t wait until they are upon you and probably at a time when you are at your busiest.
Agree a commission structure. If the business grows (and it will) you want to be rewarded for your efforts. Make it performance related and set realistic and achievable targets. If the green fee revenue is currently £30k and you believe you can grow it to £40k ask for a higher rate of commission on that £10K worth of ‘new’ business.
Tell them what you are doing and show that it is working. This is even more crucial in a volunteer structure where members don’t really see the day to day operation of their golf club. Set up a simple report covering the key revenue streams and send it round every month. Ask for a regular slot at the main general committee to give your report.
Building their trust in you to do a good job will take time and it’s important not to drive things too quickly. Green fee business is the simplest way to start but ultimately membership recruitment and retention are all significant revenue generators and as the trust builds so can your input in those key areas.
Jane Carter is the Director of Golf Unlimited offering marketing strategy and implementation advice to golf clubs. She regularly delivers ‘Visitor and society marketing’ and Membership retention and recruitment’ workshops on behalf of England Golf. For a full list of workshops now and in 2017 go to www.golfeducation.co.uk or contact her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org