golf marketing

Golf Operator Spotlight - Matt Staffen - St. Marys Golf & Country Club

I had the pleasure of speaking with Matt Staffen, President and General Manager of St. Marys Golf & Country Club in Ontario, Canada. In the three years St. Marys has been us, Matt has been a leader in implementing our messaging tools and technology solutions. With the help of BOOST and Matt’s marketing vision, St. Marys Golf & Country Club App has grown their app users from 800 to over 2,500 - in the last season alone! Plus, their Clubhouse Kitchen sales have increased by 28%!

Whether your golf club is big, small, private or public, we could all take a page out of Matt’s book on how he has grown his business, and more importantly, built a golf community where his customers feel at home.

  • Molly Jasco, Gallus Golf Marketing Manager

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Molly: Can you tell me what career and life decisions led to you the golf industry and becoming the President and General Manager of one of the top golf clubs in Ontario?

Matt: Our family purchased St. Marys Golf & Club Club in the early 90’s when I was about six years old. I started working at the golf course when I was 15 or 16 years old and then went off to university and started working for some really high-end in golf courses up in Muskoka, a well-known tourist region here in Ontario just two hours north of Toronto. I also worked for a big corporate retailer for five years and what drove me back to St. Marys was not just my love for golf, but more of my passion for the marketing side of the industry.  So that’s really what led me to my decision to come back to operate the family business and operate St. Marys and grow it to its full potential.

Molly: How have you utilized your marketing background to grow your club?

Matt: What I really love about this industry and why I love showing up to work every day is the marketing side of it, and what influences a golfer to choose your golf course over the hundreds of other golf courses they have the option to play nowadays. There are 60 golf courses within 45 minutes of us, so that's obviously a big challenge. But we’ve been able to grow our business by taking advantage of the e-marketing side. It started with a lot of emails to our member base, then our Facebook Page, Instagram, and really took off in the last year with the app.  

We're a mature industry and in order to survive today, you have to grow and be the best. That’s the mentality we take every day and we’ve grown the business that way - whether it’s for our weddings, memberships, or our junior program which all have taken off in the last couple years - revenues have grown 100%. It’s been a whole lot of fun to see our golfing community transpire into what it has become today.

Molly: St. Marys is in a competitive golf market, what is your club doing that sets you apart?

Matt: First of all, we are continually staying in touch with them. We’ve found that adding the app to our efforts made perfect sense, especially for the younger generation, under forty, who have their phones in front of them all the time, and are not always checking their emails anymore.

We also have created a culture and an atmosphere from the moment they walk in the club and play 18 holes and then come back in for food and drinks, to the moment they walk out the door. We want them to they feel like they're at home and a part of a community. That was the second part of it.

The third part was reinvestment back into the golf course, back into the property, into our equipment, into our people. For example, the last two years we've undergone a bunker renovation program so we're redoing all of our bunkers and it will be completed next year. We're also buying new golf carts to keep our equipment up to date, our people head of the game, trying to be as progressive as possible, while also growing the revenue side. We know if we only focus on the cost side eventually our competitors will catch up, so the reinvestment was a big initiative for us.

It's really about being innovative, reinvesting back in that property, and creating that culture where people want to spend time.

Molly: You ran an aggressive campaign for “Free 18 Holes For Downloading The St. Marys App”. Some may wonder why you would potentially give a round away to an existing customer. What was your reasoning behind that and how has it impacted your season?

Matt: I felt the need to be aggressive with that offer in order to build our number of users from the 800 range we had been stuck at for the last couple of years.  

With the help of the BOOST Team, I wanted to go after that market, and attack it quickly to grow our app audience. And we successfully grew our number of users from 800 to 2,500 in a matter of a few months.

With the Free 18 Holes offer, we thought it would be easy to give away something for free, but how do you turn that into future sales? We knew the younger generation redeeming this offer would want an experience and beer would be bought on the course and food purchased after their round. That incremental revenue in just doing that offer was good enough for us to justify doing something so aggressive. And now we can reach out to them and try to bring them back with different offers and value plays that will get them interested in spending time here.

We’ve used Push Notifications a lot to target that same demographic of forty and under, who are more likely to receive and look at a push notification than an email. Using that Free 18 holes offer and growing our app users was really about the long-term ability to communicate with our customers in a more modern way.

We’ve also utilized and pushed onTAP to our customer through push notifications. We want to remind people when they are on the course that they can order food through the app. That was a big thing, as well, because our kitchen sales are up 28% this season. If someone has the app on their phone they will make that decision quicker than looking for a local restaurant.

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Molly: Third Party Sites and Golf Network Apps, like 18 Birdies, have a large audience of users and courses available. What would be your advice to someone who is on the fence between using a Golf Network App or a branded golf club app?

Matt: Third Party Sites has helped grow our revenue, but it's a challenge because if you’re not the cheapest you’re less likely to get the sale and to me, that is not a good long-term play. I want to control as many of the green fee bookings as possible. So if we can do that through our app and website (with dynamic pricing), that will keep the customer coming directly to us. Also, it's a lot easier to communicate our message to them as opposed to competing with every other golf course that’s on those 3rd Party Sites. With the Gallus Golf services, we can bring them here by owning that communication.

Molly: It can be very difficult for any business to grow their social media following, but St. Marys app and social media engagement is very strong. How have you grown your online audience?

Matt: I think if courses focus on growing your brand and not trying to sell, that is key. We typically don’t go on Facebook and promote an offer. It’s more about having your audience see what the brand brings, what the experience and the culture we are trying to create at St. Marys. We believe they will be attracted to that.



Molly: Given the success St. Marys has experienced due to your strong marketing strategy, what suggestions would you have to clubs who are struggling to find time to market their Club App?

Matt: The Golf Tournament Module has been big for us and it’s so easy to use. Our Pro Shop Manager, who initially didn’t want to have anything to do with computers, now uses it for everything - even our Glow Golf Night, for scorecards and cart signs. He has really embraced it this year and we’ve even added sponsors to each hole. This allowed us to increase our annual hole sponsor fee by $50, so it’s helped our club on many different levels.

Obviously with the BOOST program that was big for me. It made me take the app more seriously and realize its benefits. Why we moved forward with BOOST was because we were content with our 800 followers but it also meant I had to spend a lot of time during the busy season coming up with marketing ideas. When I have our monthly meetings with the BOOST Team it makes it much easier to just talk about those good ideas and put them into action. It work on both sides, but it keeps us organized and forces us to stick to a plan. BOOST is always timely that way. To try to manage the app, in addition to Facebook, and email, it can be a lot for operators, especially in an age when we are trying to manage our labor. To have a full-on marketing team, who are good at what they do and also understand the game of golf can be a challenge to find.

Having BOOST on our side gives us a team we can work with, who are quick and ready to take on the things we need to do. To sum it up, the back end module is easy to use, but BOOST will take the app to the next level.

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Molly: Golf can have the reputation for being a little behind the times when it comes to implementing new technology. Sometimes we hear, “Our club doesn’t need an app because our golfers are older” or “We don’t need Instagram because of X, Y, Z”. If a club was unsure of utilizing new technology to communicate to their golfers, what would you say to them?

Matt: There are different ways to target different audiences. The younger generation, who are under forty spend an insane amount of time on their phone, so the way to communicate with them is through the app.

We still have great success with our emails, but I’ve noticed in the last couple of years that our email open rates are declining slightly. The older crowd is still responding, but the younger generation is more engaged with a quick one-line message in a push notification. As marketing evolves and that younger generation becomes your customer base, it will be tougher to target them if you don’t have your app available on their phone.


Molly: Are there any technologies you’ve seen in other industries, that you would like to see the golf industry to adopt?

Matt: Yeah, I think one of the fears with the industry right now, especially with these 3rd parties taking on more and more, is that if you’re not the cheapest, you’re not going to get the customer. Trying to be innovative through marketing, and persuading a customer to come to you, despite what the price is - I think that is a big challenge we are all facing. The hotel and airline industry had experienced this same challenge and figured out the dynamic pricing model, because finding those super cheap deals are not as common today. I believe dynamic pricing is a huge way of the future in our sport and what we do in our industry because it’s figuring out what the price should be in the high and low demand. I think integrating that into the app is a big thing - we’ve done that with our tee sheet.

We shouldn’t be trying to be the cheapest, because then it becomes a race to the bottom. It’s more about trying to provide customer value and an experience. If you have your own app, you can connect with the customer that way and offer different things for them to connect to your business. For example, onTAP is a new way to get orders that can be available to someone on the course or a local nearby that wants to pick up food.

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There are a lot of opportunities out there, you have to figure out who you are targeting and what it is you’re offering - and keeping that customer close to you - instead of the 3rd party sites. Yes, they will always have a place, but if we can control that customer experience, we will all be better off.






Get The Most Out Of Your Tournament Software

For most golf courses, outings and tournaments make up a significant portion of annual club revenue. In the United States alone, over 800,000 golf tournaments are held each year, with the average 72 player event bringing in about $5,000.

Being that tournaments are a large revenue stream to clubs, it’s important to ensure proper planning is in place for the event, as well as providing an unforgettable golf experience to your players. There are many golf tournament registration softwares available to help your tournament organizer cross off the long list of “to-do” items in preparing for an event, but you also want to maximize revenue-generating activities for the day of and post-tournament. The Gallus Golf Tournament Software offers a user-friendly system to get your tournament set up, players registered, and a wide range of marketing opportunities to boost club revenue during the tournament day as well as gain repeat business.

Tournament Set-Up

Input all tournament info in one central location. Tournament images, rules, format. Import player/team spreadsheets to generate groups in a single click.
 

Online Registration

Quickly create a custom marketing and registration site for each outing that can include tournament info, images, video, contact info, and more. Participants can register (and even prepay) which all flows into your tournament software, ready to go.

 

Print Materials

Print out all your tournament materials. Cart signs, scorecards, check-in sheets, tournament info handouts, tournament results, and more.
 

Hole Sponsorships

Feature hole sponsors for your golf tournament in your mobile app. Sponsorship information can be detailed in the app with a direct link to their website. This type of advertisement creates a conversion path that is mobile friendly to your players and trackable for your sponsors.

 

Live Scoring

The in-app leaderboards and live scoring make for an interactive experience for your players to see how they rank against the competition.


 

Live Leaderboards

Display the teams and players of your tournament on your custom leaderboard in the clubhouse. Participants to view prior, during, and after the event.
 

In-App Deals

Increase player revenue by offering a Tournament-Player specific deals that can be redeemed that day or applied for a future visit. Your players will appreciate having exclusive deals to spend at your golf shop or an additional incentive to play at your course again.

 

Golf GPS & Course Information

Having beautifully customized golf GPS of your course enhances the on-course golf experience and will drive downloads for your golf club app. Our golf GPS provides full tee-to-trouble golf GPS mapping (not just to the center of the green) in a user-friendly interface. Golfers can even measure their shot through the app. Also, including pin placements or drone flyover videography or is an excellent way to make course information accessible in a mobile-friendly way.

 

Stay connected to your tournament players through push notifications.

Now that tournament players have your app, it’s time to keep them engaged through in-app messaging. Sending out golf specials or general messages, it will keep your club top of mind to your new customers and more likely to play with you again!

Learn more about how to set up a tournament using our Gallus Golf Tournament Software.


If you have any tournament or app-related questions, feel free to reach out to us at support@gallusgolf.com.

Why Mobile Loyalty Works

After nearly two years of incorporating some form of loyalty programs into apps we offer, we are seeing some astounding results.  I wanted to share some statistics of not just our app, but the mobile loyalty world, in general, to help you draw some of your own conclusions about these types of programs, and as always, my team and I are at the ready to help you set your own program up, or refine the one you have.

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Before I dig into how our apps are doing, let me share some about mobile loyalty programs in general.  

Customers have choices.  Whether it is where they get their coffee each morning, what they are doing for dinner, which hotel or airline they will travel with, or which golf course they will play regularly - loyalty can be a make or break proposition for a business of any size, but in particular a small to medium size business like a golf course.  When a company with a brand as strong as a Starbucks, Jersey Mike’s, or Marriott International that can live on its brand alone is recognizing the importance of rewarding loyalty, if you are not doing the same in your golf course, you are likely missing out daily.

Further, when a low margin business like a Starbucks (maybe making $1 per purchase per customer at times) is willing to provide a discount or freebie for loyalty - you have to stop and take notice of that when you are reeling in sometimes dozens of dollars in profit per customer per purchase.  

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But it’s not just the fact that brands are winning with rewards programs now - it is the fact that consumers are becoming accustomed to them and traffic to the businesses offering them is following.  In 2017, 64% of businesses that offered a loyalty program reported an increase in memberships over 2016. The majority of those cited the fact that mobile components of their loyalty programs were the largest contributors to that growth.  

Getting the program onto the device that is attached to their hand constantly works!

In a study recently, customers reported they would be further engaged in loyalty programs if they were simple to join and easy to access.  Having the program on their phone is the easiest path to satisfying that requirement.

Our statistics reinforce this:

  • In one year of offering points programs for loyalty within our apps we have had 74 clubs employ them.  These 74 clubs have accounted for over $5.3 million in spending within the programs, an average of over $71 thousand per club.

  • Further, the number of users in those programs averaged $483 each in their spending within the loyalty program

  • In addition to this, within our punch programs, 159 clubs have added one of these programs or more and they have accounted for an average of 98 participants each with nearly 33,000 punches recorded.

  • In the punch programs, 22% of the programs have been completed, meaning 1 in 5 people have been engaged enough to earn a reward, and that is early in the season that I am writing this - you can imagine what that number will be by the end of this golf season!

I could continue to ramble on about this and share more and more stats, but the bottom line is this - add a program if you don’t have one.  Promote the ones you do have if you do. Consumers are looking for them, and they are producing significant results - plus you already have the best tool to deliver it to them with your app!

Let us know how we can help!  support@gallusgolf.com

Entering the Off Season with Relevance!

A little bit of a re-tread here, but just as valuable this year as it was last!


For so many of our courses, entering Autumn means entering the stretch-run for the year, knowing winter and closed golf courses are right around the corner.  For those of you out there who experience the opposite season and are just coming into the prime time of the year, pay attention anyway because May is not that far away for you!
 

Believe it or not, your off-season is when your app can really shine.  While GPS, live scoring, playing tips and all of the other great things the app provides are truly wonderful---the best thing your Gallus app may provide is a link to your clients when they are not coming to see you on a weekly basis.  With that in mind, here are EIGHT KEYS TO DIMINISHING YOUR SEASONALITY:


Grow Your Database While the Season's Still Hot
You've got some time left before you prep to shut down for the winter.  The weather is still great and golfers are still flocking to the course.  NOW is the time to begin a season ending full-court press to get your app downloaded to their phones.  Make sure every golfer checking in to play knows about the app, have promotional materials posted everywhere, run events like a skins game or any tournament that will drive downloads in bulk by featuring live scoring within the app, run some kind of season end giveaway where the entry form resides only in the app forcing a download to register, and of course feel free to reach out to us for more ideas.

The more users you enter the off-season with, the stronger your off-season will be.


Gather Customer Reviews
Positioning your course to be prepped to hit the ground running when the next season begins should be a huge priority all of the time, but more often than not during busy times we get caught up in being so busy we forget to be doing everything we should be, all of the time.  Don't let the season escape you without gathering a bunch of Golfer reviews of your course to be able to use as you begin marketing for the next season.  In fact, if you know the golfer would be writing a great review, ask him/her to post it on Yelp, Google+, greenskeeper.org, etc.  Any time is the right time to be working on your reputation, so don't let the season get by without making significant effort.


Continue Creating Remarkable Content ... With an Off-Season Twist
You work hard all season long to compel golfers to come to your course.  Your content runs the gambit from praising your course conditions, to talking about the great events you are hosting, to sharing about holes in one, and so much more.  Don't stop in the off-season because golf has stopped.  Share a golf joke via push notification.  Read about our last tip here of offering sales and discounts during the off-season and create content to share surrounding those. Share golf vacation info from your members---"Congrats to John Doe on his 76 at Florida Golf Course during his golf vacay, bring that game back here in May JD!"


Basically, use the app to keep your audience engaged this off-season. After all, their love of the game hasn't waned, the weather just stinks!


Stay Social All Year
Your golfers don’t vaporize during the off-season. It’s important to stay in contact with leads and customers throughout the entire year. Consider social media and push notifications your virtual, year-round storefront -- because even if your audience isn't hangin' in the clubhouse, they are certainly phone-in-hand perusing their social media feeds! That means leveraging Push Notifications, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, the whole shebang to stay top of mind year-round. You should be using this real estate to offer special discounts for next year, gather (and publish) reviews and testimonials, run contests and polls, and generate hype for the next season.



Stay In Touch Via Email, Too
So, you think I am only going to talk about Push Notifications and a little social media to push out your message during the off-season, huh?  Not so!  You have a big email database.  Use it.  You should look to ensure your spot as the #1 golf course that comes to mind when the next season rolls around, and to be in that #1 spot the frequency and reach with which you communicate with your golfers can be increased by branching out to email too.  

If you don't have one, this would also be a good off-season to begin your E-Newsletter to share with golfers as well.

Generate Off-Season Hype
The off-season will be a good time to reflect on all of the fun this season has been, and start to build the hype about next year!  Share photos and results from the club championship---start some trash talking about who will put a game together to win next year.  Talk about improvements planned for the course for next year.  Get freaking excited, would you already?!?!


Differentiate Yourself Within a Super-Niche Market
Make this off-season your time to target that one demographic you've been longing to add to your list of clients, or more than one group.  Host off-season parties for them at the club getting them excited about the place they have at your club and how you will cater to them next season.  

Imagine how much better business will be next year if you tackle this group, get the app on their phones this off-season, and begin communicating with them regularly.  In fact, if you land one new group like this, build a league or some kind of event for them, they have 100 golfers, and each one plays 10 times at your course next year at $40 each, your efforts just landed you $40,000 in revenue next year that you didn't have this year.


Offer Sales and Discounts to Locals During Slow Times
So...you thought those shirts and hats would sell out before the end of the season.  It's okay, the holidays and birthdays and all kinds of reasons to still buy gifts for golfers are still upon you, even with your greens and fairways covered in snow.  Two push notifications a month about sales you are running to close out merchandise at the club will land you more business.  Be social about these sales too and put them all over your social media feeds.  Start next season with fresh merchandise, after ending this one by making some money!  Undoubtedly Rickie Fowler will be wearing something newer and cooler next year, so this winter is the time to get rid of what he's still sporting!

Plus, if your website is set up right, you can push these sales to your site and not even have to open your pro shop to sell things, and even make a little money on the shipping to compensate for the discounts if you do it just right.

 

Anyway---hopefully you see what we are driving toward here.  Use the app, which is on their phones, in their pockets, all year round, to keep your golfers engaged and excited about your club 365 days a year.  Reach out any time for more help with these and other ideas, 858.437.9262, rob@gallusgolf.com

Better Managing Your Time

Did any of you really get into the golf business to have to spend your days navigating social media marketing, click through rates, and blog posting?!?!  

I didn't think so.

I would like to introduce BOOST, a complete online marketing solution from our team of highly skilled marketing professionals. You can click on the flyer below to get a larger view.

Recent BOOST customer Key Performance Indicator metrics:

  • Social Media Followers, up 800%
  • Social Media reach, up 8,846%
  • Social Media Engagement, up 296%
  • Players Card Sales, up 45%
  • iOS Downloads of their app, up 400%
  • Android Downloads of their app, up 2,000%
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