Information is power,but only if you use it

A golf club’s biggest asset is its membership, but green fee-paying guests play an important part in a club’s success and its bottom line. Miles Bossom, GOLF RETAILING publisher, asks club professionals just how much they know about their guests

Be honest: what do you actually know about your customers?

First, think about what information you gather when a visitor comes to your club. Do you have a visitors’ book where a quick squiggle against name and home club is all the guest has to complete? If so, you certainly have more than some clubs, which simply take the cash and ask for nothing, but even so it is not enough.

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Actually, it’s sacrilege, in so much as that a visitor could well become a return visitor, or even a future member, IF you were to communicate with them after their round.

For all businesses, a sales pipeline is essential, and with golf club memberships on the slide in the UK it is critical that clubs have a prospect list of potential new members. One thing is for sure; your club will lose members – that is inevitable. Whether they move out of the area, give up the game or even worse, move to another club, all businesses churn customers and golf clubs are no different.

This is the leaky bucket syndrome; you have to keep topping it up or soon it will be empty. By losing members you are losing retail customers, drinkers in the bar and potential golf lesson sales.

Capture your audience

Data capture is where it all starts. Whether booked online, by telephone or in your pro shop – get a name, address and telephone number, but most important is the email address. Email communication is quick, easy and cost effective, and you don’t need to be an IT whizz to set up an email to your customers. If you are a member of a retail buying group they can provide this facility.

By collecting email addresses, you are starting to build a database, which is golf trade gold dust. Imagine a visitor receives an email after his or her round thanking them for visiting and offering a return visit at a special rate or with a special incentive. It could be a sleeve of balls, a bacon sandwich, a free 20 minute lesson or whatever works for you. This is good customer service and it WILL drive increased traffic to your club.

Your database will quickly grow and will need to be managed. There are a number of data base options available to you but the easiest way to get started would be to keep all of the data in an Excel spreadsheet.

Stay in touch

It is critical to maintain regular communications with members, let alone with visitors, who will generally walk into the shop much less frequently.

Monthly emails can remind golfers how great your club and customer service is, present special offers, details of why non-members should join, and promote other seasonal stock. This type of engagement will gently encourage return visits, and potentially serve as a pipeline to new members.

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One thing to consider is not ‘spamming’ your database. In short, don’t send emails too frequently and offer an ‘opt out’ should recipients want to stop receiving them. This could be as simple as putting a statement at the bottom of the message saying; “If you no longer want to receive emails, please reply with the word ‘unsubscribe’”.

And another thing…

There is another reason clubs should capture data on all visitors, which is less about retailing but a lot to do with protecting your members and generating customer loyalty. What happens if a visiting golfer hooks a ball into the car park, smashing your club captain’s Ferrari window, and the culprit is dishonest enough to rapidly high tail it out of Dodge?

Without captured pre-round data, you probably have no way of getting in touch with him. Wouldn’t it be better to have some idea of who has been through your club?

Data capture in five easy steps

1. Gather contact information on all visitors to your club, particularly email address

2. Set up a simple database to enable regular communication

3. Send a ‘Thanks for visiting’ email

4. Be creative; provide reasons why visitors should return

5. If golfers reply to the emails, be responsive – no-one likes to wait.