Opinion Piece by John King Co-Founder of Golf Marketing University
Imagine you’re 18 years old, you’ve left home and you’re in Costa Rica, and you’re the co-owner of the most popular bar in town. Every night the place is packed out and every morning, the cash registers are full, the money just keeps on rolling in.
You’re living the dream, right?
Well, that was my life after leaving a comfortable but mundane Ireland 15 years ago.
And I lived that dream for 3 fun-filled but exhausting years until it turned into a nightmare…
You see, one day, after noting our success, other bars started opening up… and they were bigger and better than our place.
And our loyal customers turned out to be… well, not so loyal.
I didn’t take this new competition lying down, I did what anyone would have done…I discounted to attract people back to my bar.
But all in vain. I only succeeded in attracting the price-sensitive bottom-feeders and within six short months… we were out of business.
Devastating at the time, but in the long term, a great lesson.
Fast forward to today and I’ve been working in the golf industry for the last 8 years… specifically marketing the game we all love.
Or, at least, it was the game we all did love ONCE. The golf industry is really having a hard time at the moment, PGA Pros and especially golf clubs.
I’ve witnessed, first hand, the day to day struggles of clubs trying to keep their head above water and not only stay competitive but survive in a rapidly changing market.
And as I saw with my Bar, pressure to get money in the door means the irresistible temptation of discounting. Today’s discounted membership and half-price green fees are like my happy hour drinks and half-price entry promotions. It’s obvious and frustrating to see the same things happening in the golf market as I faced in Costa Rica…with the inevitable same conclusions.
So I became determined to put an end to this struggle and became fascinated with ‘why people buy’, immersing myself in all the psychological aspects of marketing and consumer behaviour.
Having studied everything that is modern marketing…. and trying and testing countless campaigns and strategies in real golf environments on the ground, it became obvious that there was ONE FUNDAMENTAL roadblock to marketing golf…
99% of marketing is done the wrong way around!
Let me explain…
When it comes to marketing, most clubs spend their time and resources coming up with and promoting products and services to sell to potential customers.
Basically, the “product” – be it a membership or a green fee – is the priority and given all the marketing FOCUS instead of the actual paying “customer”.
It’s what we call “Product Before Customer”.
When marketing is done the WRONG WAY ROUND, a number of symptoms start to appear….
#1 – You end up talking about yourself!
Imagine you’re having a conversation with someone and all they do is talk about themselves…what they like, what they do, their background etc. You wouldn’t stay interested for too long.
When marketing is so focused on “product”, the customer gets forgotten and it becomes like that one-sided conversation.
You must have seen countless examples, such as:
- “This is what WE offer”
- “These are OUR values”
- “OUR club is the best thing since sliced bread”
- “We’ve been the best for 290 years…”
Here’s a top tip…to keep customers interested, try dropping the “I”, “we” or “our” and sprinkle in more “you” and “your” into marketing copy.
Customers need to feel you understand them, so talk about what they want and what they need. They’ll feel much more involved and appreciated.
#2 You Start The Discounting Death Spiral
When businesses don’t truly understand their target market and they don’t build products to match their customers’ needs, they end up selling stuff that’s exactly the same as everyone else. They don’t stand out from the crowd.
And when this happens, the ONLY way a rational-thinking consumer can differentiate between two identical products is on the basis of price.
That’s a weak position to be in and technology has made price-comparison so quick and easy these days, everyone does it.
- It’s why third-party tee time resellers are having their day in the sun.
- It’s why golf is being devalued….everyone is selling the same thing and competing only on price.
- And it’s why so many golf businesses are selling their goods and services below a sustainable level – and a price war is terrible for everyone, even those few who manage to survive.
Marketing the “right way round” with “CUSTOMER BEFORE PRODUCT” means:
- you can create unique products, specifically designed for a target market
- you’ll be able to set prices which suit your business because…
- no one will be able to compare what you offer with anyone else…
- your services will be UNIQUE
#3 You attract the wrong type of customer
Only 10% of people buy purely on price. If you don’t believe me, have a look on the road…how many cars are bought simply because they’re cheap? A tiny percentage. People buy cars for reliability, for looks, for speed, for the badge but rarely on price.
When you market based mainly on price, you’ll attract ONLY the bottom feeders and deal hunters, just like my happy hour brigade back in Costa Rica.
As well as compromising profitability, bargain hunters drive away the RIGHT TYPE of customer. Going back to our car analogy, do you think a potential Mercedes, BMW or Audi owner wants to think of their pride and joy as cheap? Unlikely.
#4 You create a “Value Gap”
The final and worst symptom of marketing the wrong way round is you create, what we call a “Value Gap”.
That’s the Gap between what you know you’re worth and what your customer is prepared to pay.
How many times have you thought to yourself “What we’re selling is worth more than the price we’re getting”?
The bad news is your customer will only part with their hard-earned money when they understand the true VALUE you can offer them – and I don’t mean value as in “cheapness”. I mean other values which are much more important to people, like status, respect, a sense of satisfaction, achievement, peace of mind etc.
In fact, there is a whole heap of values which consumers are prepared to pay for and which are way more important than just price.
And the good news is you can bridge the value gap PROVIDED you do your marketing the right way round. Just remember CUSTOMER BEFORE PRODUCT.
Marketing isn’t simple but equally, it doesn’t need to be super-complicated either…you just need to stick to certain rules and avoid some obvious pitfalls – and marketing the wrong way round, is the first and biggest pitfall of them all.
If you’re looking to grow your sales or you’re tired of constantly chasing new business with discount-focused marketing, or if you’re looking for more marketing advice and training, take a sneak peek at the Golf Marketing Masterclass, a 10 week, self-paced, online marketing training course created by Golf Marketing University.
Places are limited, currently enrolling for February 2019. Click here for more information http://www.golfmarketingmasterclass.com/
John King is Co-Founder of Golf Marketing University, Enquirybot & a Keynote Speaker at leading industry conferences and events around the world.
“I’m on a mission to grow golf, one course at a time by educating and inspiring golf industry professionals to deliver exceptional marketing on the ground.”