Marketing basics can get golf back on the fairway

There are certain principles of marketing that, if golf clubs apply, will lead to more customers spending more money, writes Graeme Smeaton from Royal & Awesome.

You will all be very aware of the challenges facing golf at the moment; participation is down, the average golfer is getting older and the sport is often perceived as stuffy by modern day consumers. I believe in the power of marketing to effect change, which is why I have looked to marketing for the answer. Some of the most basic marketing principles are:

  1. Understand your consumer
  2. Create propositions that these consumers value
  3. Consistently reinforce the key message that they value

If the golf community can get these three things right and use all of the resources at their disposal then I’m sure we’d see more participation (Penetration), more regular play (Frequency) and more spend in the golf industry (Average Weight of Purchase), which are the key metrics of marketing success.

Understand your consumerScreen Shot 2016-08-04 at 14.32.35

A detailed market segmentation needs to be completed to better understand, and then group, the key golf consumers. I’d imagine the segments would be something like:

  • Active Member: member of a club and plays regularly.
  • At Risk Member: member of a club but doesn’t play as much as they’d like.
  • Lapsed Member: no longer a member of a club as can’t find the time or justify the cost. Would like to play more.
  • Nomad Golfer: never been a member, plays infrequently and would like to play more.
  • Social Golfer: plays infrequently but does so with friends.
  • Adult New Starter: learning as an adult.
  • Kid New Starter: learning as a child.
  • Gimmicky Golfer: tries the new formats, innovation and variations such as Footgolf and speed golf.

For each group a clear picture needs to be built of who they are (age, gender, life stage, attitudes), what they value about golf, what turns them off golf, what is the best way to reach them with messages and, crucially, how important they are to golf’s prosperity.

Create propositions that they value

Put simply this is where we need to get really clear on what product e.g. format, event or service each consumer segment wants, what the benefit to them is and how much they are willing to pay. If a new initiative to help golf’s future doesn’t deliver a clear benefit to some of the key target segments then it is a waste of time and money.

Consistently deliver the key message

Once the opportunities that deliver the most benefit to the most important segments are identified, the next step is getting crystal clear the key message or ‘value proposition’. This should be a statement that clearly articulates the benefit of the product. As an example, golf’s value proposition might be something like ‘play golf because it is fun, social, competitive and good for your health.’

Once the message is clear the challenge becomes keeping everyone on script and spreading the message as quickly as possible. There are lots of organisations, with massive collective reach, which all benefit from golf and so the power of them needs to be harnessed.

Let’s go through a quick example to bring this all to life

  • The consumer segments of Lapsed Members and At Risk Members want to play more, but can’t find the time to fit it in.
  • A 6 hole season ticket, which allows people to play only 6 holes in special tee times at the start and the end of the day, would address the challenge that golf takes too long. Clubs could offer additional tee times first thing in the morning that start on the 7th and 13th holes
  • The value proposition of this program would be something like, ‘The game you love in just one hour.’
  • Then this message needs to reach a relevant target audience. Lapsed members and people that occasionally play at pay and play courses would be a sensible place to start. The e-mail address of these golfers would be readily available to most clubs.

There are examples out there of golf businesses doing this well. I think one of the best is driving range and entertainment business Top Golf: they understand their consumer – predominantly non-golfers. They know exactly what they value – a fun game, for all abilities, who can also enjoy food and drink while they play. They consistently deliver this message – on their website, through their social media, in their PR, at their venues and through their team. It’s no surprise that they are currently planning a large expansion in both the UK and America. By using the marketing basics highlighted governing bodies and golf businesses can get more people playing golf more often and spending more money.