As the impacts of COVID-19 have evolved, the National Golf Foundation has done a fantastic job of keeping tabs on the trends and impacts within the golf industry. Their July 15, 2020 update was no exception.
“While equipment sales and play have been staging a strong comeback, the same can’t be said for golf travel. NGF consumer research is signaling that overall trip volume could be down 35% to 40% this year. Most golfers with chronic wanderlust tell us they’ll be driving to their golf destinations this year — and not necessarily close to home. Three-out-of-four say they are willing to drive more than four hours each way for a golf getaway, and those with a trip still planned for this year tell us they’ll spend an average of six to seven hours in the car just getting to the first tee. That’s why U.S. golf resorts and destinations continue to aggressively target the drive-in market.”
We’ve been talking about targeting drive markets for a couple months now, but as we’ve watched more courses and resorts make this pivot, we’ve also seen some missed opportunities.
So, I rounded up four of our Strategic Account Managers to highlight fresh opportunities for local marketing.
You can shout from the rooftops that it is safe to come golfing, yet many golfers won’t listen. But if their buddy invites them along? And he or she tells them it’s safe? That’s powerful stuff. Lindsay Haller, our Director of Account Services, suggested that golf resorts spin up a bring-a-friend campaign. This could be open to your entire audience or a targeted pre-arrival upsell to golfers who have already booked or a bounce-back offer after their round.
Double Down on Local Loyalty
With a smaller pool of golfers, you’ll really need to maximize loyalty within that drive market to drive repeat visitation. Patrick Sande, our Director of Strategic Services, suggested running a Net Promoter Score® (NPS®) survey on every golfer who plays your course so you can segment golfers into promoters and detractors with offers and messaging to match each group. He seconded Lindsay’s idea of bring-a-friend from promoters, but also suggested a win-back campaign for detractors to minimize impact from bad word-of-mouth.
Offer Incentives to Non-Members and Travelers
Some of those golfers in your drive market are likely loyal guests or members of courses they’d have to fly to. Chris Eaton, who works with many golf clients on both the business development and strategic side, suggested a campaign where golfers can save on a tee time if they can show that they have a membership to another course. We’ve seen this play out in other verticals like ski and attractions with good results. This could also be expanded by offering deals to folks in your market whose golf vacations to another market had to be canceled due to COVID.
Web Tracking + State-Level Targeting
Sophie Sunderland, one of our Strategic Account Managers who works closely with many of our golf clients, proposed triggering automated emails based on three datapoints:
- Visited the resort or course’s website yesterday
- The state each visitor lives in
- A list of states with no travel restrictions when visiting your state
This group will vary in size by resort, but it will be comprised of golfers who are both in the market for a golf trip and able to visit your resort with zero restrictions. Combine these emails with an enticing offer like the ones above and you’ll have the foundation of a really strong campaign.
Offer Cancellation Alternatives
Despite golf doing better than other activities, cancellations continue at many courses and resorts across the country. A few members of our team suggested a campaign designed for folks who call to cancel. Specifically, offering them the ability to defer their trip in the form of a voucher or package available at some future date. You may have to sweeten the pot to get folks to bite, but you’ll be surprised how much revenue you can save if your call center is ready with a compelling alternative when guests call to cancel.
Keep Your Eyes Open
The good thing about local markets is that inspiration is everywhere. If you’re a golf resort, draw inspiration from golf courses and other drive-to activities who have long since mastered the art of drawing golfers from nearby communities.
While the destination golfer will surely return, there is a lot of value in learning how to convince more players to hop in a car instead of a plane to make the trip. As you might have guessed, those lessons will continue to pay off long after the era of COVID has passed.
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