By Antonio Conde, an expert on golf course marketing, founder of the first golf tourism comparator, GOLFBOO, and CEO of Golfenred, a specialist marketing consultancy for golf courses
It was about time! After five years preaching about the importance of a direct channel, I am finally beginning to notice golf course managers and owners hoisting a banner that advocates reaching their clients in a more direct way through the use of new technologies.
Even though we aren’t experiencing the same boom that has been produced in the hotel sector this year, it is possible we are on the verge of a major change in strategy by Spanish golf courses, at least among those that are more advanced in the application of modern management models based on technology. Agents and tour operators were quick to react and adapt to this new trend, but those who decided to take this step in the first place will be running ahead in the direct sales race.
Attracting leads can be done physically at our establishments or by one of the internet channels, and it’s with the latter where growth potential is almost endless. Specifically, the web is our best ally; it’s the port of entry or first contact for many potential clients, so we need to be well prepared to take advantage. It is important to offer different reasons why visitors should leave their information or contact us, under whatever pretext or added value we can provide.
However, the direct sales process does not end there, not by any means. Generating leads is essential, but increasing our direct sales will not be possible if we treat all clients the same. Sometimes we think we don’t have enough information or means to be able to do that but, thanks to the information provided by web analysis, it is possible to establish patterns and create what marketing people call profiles or “people”, and be able to fine-tune the services and amenities we offer our respective clients.
It is possible that, in advance, we don’t know the identity or contact details of these potential buyers of our product, but we do now how they came to our website. Have they done so by a Google search? Did they come via an advertisement or press article talking about us? Or perhaps from an opinion site?
Statistics show that displaying a personalised message in accordance with the origin of the visit directs these visits more effectively to the booking process. Thanks to a study of digital analysis, we know that those who come to our website via a consumers’ opinion site (TripAdvisor, GOLFBOO, LeadingCourses) especially value messages related to service excellence, while those coming from Google searches respond much better when they are welcomed with the message, “best price guaranteed”.
In the second place, it is important to evolve concepts such as “two green fees plus buggy” to “an unforgettable day of golf”. It’s true that our clients play golf but most of them also eat, drink, buy in the shop or socialise with friends, so it’s not enough just to offer them the opportunity of playing 18 holes. Our marketing needs to be focused on offering a lifestyle, in line with their expectations during the whole purchase process.
The latter is important, because on many occasions we attract clients from a specific campaign or agreement with a business partner, and when they come to our website our content or booking engine is static and generic, and we don’t show the specific information that has encouraged the client to visit our website in the first place.
If a golfer visits from the website of a golf course we correspond with, we don’t leave them alone when they land on our site: we show information about this agreement immediately on their arrival and we make it easy to confirm the agreed conditions during the booking process.
From that moment it is only necessary to observe our traffic behaviours and study those that work so we can copy them with the same kinds of clients. We aren’t influenced by siren calls such as “branding” or “engagement”, whatever that means; we pay attention to what interests us – increasing our business figures. This observation and analytical study is certain to lead us to pleasant surprises about the content or sources of traffic that add the most euros to our final account balances.
There are now no technological or budgetary excuses for continuing with outdated or disjointed marketing strategies. The question is: will you do this before your competitors.