Jane Carter, Director of Golf Unlimited, looks at how golf clubs should be embracing the role of the Professional at the heart of their sales and marketing efforts.
Never a truer word has been spoken than by one industry expert at a conference I attended some years back who said: “Golf is a great game, we just don’t sell it well.” The adage is still true today as golf clubs struggle with membership recruitment, visitor loyalty, discounting and the myriad of other factors which influence their ability to sell. The biggest factor without doubt is resource or lack of it and yet the biggest potential resource for driving revenue lies under their noses: the PGA Professional.
Too many golf clubs are just ‘making do’. They get by year after year by breaking even or by creating a small surplus and yet give no real thought to their vision or where they want to be. They cut costs relentlessly; revenue generation seems almost an afterthought and a spell of bad weather or a poor membership renewal cycle and panic sets in.
There is no magic wand and yet time after time when asked what really makes the difference, I point to golf clubs which have truly embraced the reality that just being ‘open for business’ is not enough. Guess what? You have to tell people and keep telling them! For many, whatever sales and marketing they do now, multiply it by three and it still probably won’t be enough.
More and more golf clubs understand this and yet the biggest hurdle by far is a reluctance to ‘invest’ in the business by providing the resource to deliver the revenue, in many cases relying on a team of volunteers – the marketing committee – to do the job. It’s madness. Their membership file alone can be worth more than £500k but they don’t have a Membership Director. Do they work on retaining that business, week in week out? If they lose 50 members equating to thousands in revenue, they shrug their shoulders, put it down to ageing membership and off they go again. Ask them what their green fee yield is and they often don’t have a clue.
When golf clubs ask me what makes the difference between getting by and starting to thrive, I point to the role of the PGA Professional. Think about the three key revenue sources: membership recruitment, membership retention, and visitor and society income. Now think about the customer and who more than anyone is at the heart of that relationship. Calling to book a game of golf – who do they call? A society arriving for the day where do they check in and who looks after them? A member with a gripe about the club? Who does he moan to?
One of the most damaging cost cutting exercises in recent years has been the wielding of the knife around the retainer of the PGA Professional, either doing away with it completely as a job no longer required or cutting it to the bare bones so that both parties struggle to make the relationship work.
No sales and marketing resource? Standing in front of them and at the club every day is a customer services operator, green fee sales agent, membership leads generator and business retention manager. Someone who understands the business completely and has a vested interest in making it thrive. Or does he?
Too often the relationship between the club and their Professional has either broken down, is starting to do so under the pressure of saving money, or never really existed. Self-employed, he is on the fringe of the business. What does he do? No idea they shrug. Nothing to do with us. Have you asked him to help? Yes but he’s not interested. I agree that he is not interested in doing something for nothing – remember he is not a volunteer – but construct a well thought out sales and marketing plan, put him and his team at the forefront of its delivery, equip him with the support to do the job, incentivise him on results and watch it start to fly!
Any club serious about its future needs to start addressing the fundamental principle of revenue generation. Any Professional serious about keeping their job and creating a thriving and sustainable career needs to come out from behind the counter and demonstrate that they can really make a difference to the business. As the slogan says, “it’s good to talk” and from simple conversations great businesses thrive.
Looking to start a conversation? If your club is just making do and with your help it can do more, Golf Unlimited can work with you and your golf club to construct a plan, provide the support to make it happen and build a relationship that works. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for a no obligation chat.