Reflecting on 2017 there was an obvious and continuing shift to more golfers booking online which includes both members and visitors.
In 2018, improving a golf courses' digital experience, combined with lowering online distribution & technology costs will be key to increasing the bottom line. The good news is that with the right focus, and appropriate investments in digital technology and marketing initiatives, significantly more profitable bookings and a decreased dependency on the third parties can be realised.
It's important to note that no one is suggesting golf courses throw the baby out with the bathwater. Third parties do provide essential exposure (especially for independent golf courses), and they help fill low demand periods, but they must make up part of a wider digital strategy.
We've picked our top 8 digital resolutions to share with you before the start of 2018:
Virtually every golf course has access to more data than they realise, and they can use this data to promote direct bookings from societies to pay and play green fees.
Resolution 1: Gather all of your data and get it into some form of CRM system with relevant tags. i.e. member, visitor, society etc.
Resolution 2: make sure you are capturing visitor data at the point of sale and on your website through a data capture form. This can be supported by asking people for their data in return entry into some form of competition. i.e. win a 4 ball.
Supply and Demand:
The utilisation of a golf course varies greatly from hour to hour, day to day, week to week and month to month. The golf course operator therefore has to ensure that their pricing is appropriate to the availability and demand of the golf course, they also have to take into account other factors such as weather and competitors.
Resolution 3: Dynamically price the tee sheet.
Resolution 4: Make sure you have an understanding of your third party booking costs, and are working to increase total bookings while decreasing their associated costs. A key way to do this is increasing the share of total bookings made direct.
Golf course operators in general are notorious for under-investing in digital technology and marketing and being over-dependent on the third parties.
Resolution 5: Prioritise generating direct website bookings. Take your overall marketing budget and then allocate the relevant proportion of it to digital spend, and keep the digital marketing budget fluid and dynamic to accommodate changes in business-needs and new opportunities that become available. Digital advertising versus traditional print advertising is much easier to understand the ROI.
Resolution 6: Mobile traffic continued to grow in 2017, make sure your digital marketing is mobile friendly.
Resolution 7: Use the data you are collecting from resolution's 1 & 2 and get marketing to them, whether it be email, social media or SMS.
With the need to prioritise the direct booking channel coupled with an increasingly complicated path-to-purchase behaviour of the multi-channel and multi-device golfer, today's golf course website cannot afford to be read as a static brochure. The real long-term cost of operating a poor website is a loss of enquiries for memberships, societies and functions combined with a loss of direct revenue from online green fees, increased distribution costs and increased dependency on the third parties.
Resolution 8: make a booking as a member and a visitor on your website along with a general enquiry. Make sure you do this on various devices and from various platforms i.e. from Facebook on mobile through to Google Chrome on desktop. If you have any problems, note them down and then work through fixing them systematically. This may mean changing technology provider or website provider.