Golf clubs that get personal information from members and visitors, such as email addresses, can build up a database which can play a key role in boosting profits, writes England Golf club marketing expert, Jane Carter of Golf Unlimited.
Data is the king of small business marketing. For every piece of good data you collect, you incrementally start to reduce your marketing costs. The aim should be to build a database of around 5,000 good leads which can form the basis of all of your marketing initiatives for the year. This need not be expensive – affordable off-the-shelf software already exists. Golf clubs need to consider three factors when making their choice of how to run their database:
- The scale required: this does not just apply to the number of records you have now, but how it is likely to grow in the future. If you are committed to regularly maintaining your contact database then it is unlikely to grow beyond 5,000 records.
- Your budget: whilst this should not be your first criteria for such an important business tool, budget will reduce the likely options.
- How it integrates with your other business system: it can save a lot of anguish in the future if the database works alongside other marketing and communication tools, especially your website. Your website should be at the core of all your marketing activity and it needs to talk directly to your database to save on unnecessary administration.
Most golf clubs can operate quite happily using Microsoft access, part of the Office package, to set up a database and manage their data. It is easy to set up and access information and flexible enough to create information fields which reflect the information you are obtaining on your customers. Importing and exporting data from other sources is also straightforward.
How to collect data
Once a database is in place the hard work in acquiring and sorting data begins. The more data you acquire, the more powerful and effective your own marketing will become. Here are some simple guidelines to ensure that gathering data on your customers is at the heart of your marketing programme and customer contact:
- Draw up a set of procedures and standards to be used whenever a customer has direct contact with your golf club and ensure they are communicated to all customer facing staff.
- Give your staff the tools to collect the information. These can include simple contact cards to be filled in following a telephone call or completed when a visitor arrives at your golf club.
- Build all of your marketing around your website. Your website is working for your golf club 24/7 and is by far the most reliable employee when it comes to collecting and processing information on your customers.
- Refuse to do any marketing which is not measurable. In order to continue to build your database successfully you need to be sure which of your marketing promotions is producing the best results.
- Your offline marketing must support online activity. Use all of your advertising and marketing brochures to drive people to your website. Don’t miss out on obvious opportunities such as including your website address on your scorecards.
- Have a marketing plan which co-ordinates all your direct marketing activity and ensures you know which or you customers you are marketing to, why (what offer), when and how (email, direct mail).
- Build systems that allow you to automate follow up. This would include automatic replies to any website or direct email enquiries, including alerting your staff they have arrived.
When it comes to data collection, make your website do the work for you. There should be a least five email data collection points on various pages throughout the visitor’s section of your site. These should be in the relevant sections on your website including: sign up for special offers and advanced notification of open competitions, sign up for notification of membership availability, sign up for offers in the pro shop, sign up for coaching and tuition days and sign up to enter our monthly draw to win a free fourball.
Ensure you make the calls to action very obvious on each page. The first part of the season is key to building data, so make sure you vary the offers and reasons to sign up. To cut down on administration make sure your website has a database set behind it, so it is collating and storing the information.
It is vital to ensure that every member of staff knows the importance of collecting data. The professional or whoever greets green fee visitors should be given a supply of sign up cards and all visitors should be encouraged to sign up. Explain they receive advanced notification of competitions, tee times, special offers and also get entered into a monthly draw. Collect as much data as you can but don’t put them off by asking for too much.
If your club runs an online tee time system then you have a ready- made opportunity for people to sign up to receive your weekly newsletter. Tee time systems provide a great deal of information about a player before they even set foot on your golf course. This makes targeting emails even easier.
Don’t treat societies as just one booking. There can be as many as 50 visitors, so make sure you collect data from them. Offer a free prize draw on the day if they complete a visitor satisfaction survey (which also captures their name and email address). Offer everyone a repeat visit voucher which they have to go on your website and download using a promotional code.
Finally, work with local businesses. Build your opt-in email list by working with other businesses such as hotels or the local tourist board. Make sure you have links to your website on their websites and vice versa. Ensure the link sends them to a page to register for future information and offers and suggest running special offers such as golf giveaways which the hotel can send to its customers.
How to store data
Customer databases are not something which only large companies can aspire to. For the average database of most golf clubs, which is anywhere between 2,000 and 10,000 names, they do not require a specialist system.
Remember to let your website do the work: a well-constructed website will have a database sitting behind it. This will automate the collection of all data through the website itself and allow for easy administration of the data collected by the pro shop. It also means that it is easier to run your regular communication such as e-newsletters or promotional offers.
When collecting data is it important to strike a balance between collecting enough useful information without alienating your customers. The bare minimum should be name and email address if you are only intending to communicate by email. If you plan to send communications by mail, then collect their postal address but only do this if you have every intention of using this data as the more data you request, the less likely they are to complete it.
Any business which stores personal information and sends communications to customers (members or visitors) must comply with the Data Protection Act 1998 and increasingly the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003. Currently not-for-profit organisations are not required to register but may be wise to check as you seek to use data in a more commercial fashion. As a rule of thumb, if you are communicating to members, you have to provide an opt-out option. However, it might be part of your membership terms and conditions that members receive information from the club relating to their membership and offers.
Before communicating to visitors, you must always have an opt-in option at the point of collecting their data. If in doubt, check by going into www.ico.gov.uk
England Golf is the governing body for amateur golf in England. To find out more about its Training and Education opportunities for golf clubs, including workshops on such topics as recruitment and retention of members, visit www.englandgolf.org/trainingandeducation