Date: February 28, 2017
Author: Golf Australia

Interview with Mike Orloff from Golf Industry Central on marketing

Mike, you have been helping Australian golf facilities (clubs and public golf venues) improve their marketing for a decade now.

Thanks Paul yes I can’t believe Golf Industry Central is heading to our 10th year of existence this year. It’s been interesting to see the progress made in marketing in general internationally and then how that eventually transitions into the Australian industry landscape.

Golf Industry Central was primarily created to become a marketing platform for our consulting services and to build credibility for me in the industry. Its now turned into a great news and information resource as well as a way to share ideas and good news stories that are happening in the region and internationally.

How has the golf marketing landscape change in that time?

Technology is so much more at the heart of managing the ongoing marketing efforts but devising a good marketing plan still needs to be done a bit more old style. It’s important to fully understand the specific goals that are trying to be achieved with your marketing. A marketing plan needs to devise ways to increase revenue, and improve retention of recurring clients such as members. Too many facilities are going through the motion not really knowing what KPI’s to track. They have a website which is not designed with a purpose outside of being a brochure. Same goes with social media, clubs are on Facebook but with no plan on what to do and what outcomes to track.

We must plan our marketing with the end goal in mind.

What do find when you see existing marketing at facilities?  Do many clubs have a marketing plan?  What questions do you ask golf facilities to get them thinking of marketing effectively?

I always ask the question- First “may I see your strategic plan and what is your vision.” From there “Why are you doing your marketing”. “What is the purpose?” I’m surprised that a high percentage of the time a club won’t really know why, just that they are supposed too! As well the Strategic plan is out of date or tucked in a cupboard!

They have a very static website and social media presence and they don’t track results of any campaigns they run. I appreciate that clubs may not have the internal resources to do themselves nor the funds to pay for it. So instead of trying to do to many things, focus on a couple marketing efforts that they can do very well.

Where do web-sites fit in a golf facilities’ marketing effort?  What mistakes do you see in web sites?

A website should be the central point that all your other marketing directs people to. So websites need to be updated on a regular basis with new information and a good information resource for members and visitors. Many though are built solely as a brochure site and not with any end game in mind. Clubs getting inexpensive off the shelf websites that don’t have a strategy for visitors in which that visitor is “guided” done a conversion pathway ultimately to achieve one of your goals.

What about the old ‘word of mouth’, is this still the most effective marketing?

Third party validation is increasingly growing in importance and with us being a technology society having good ‘word of mouth’, testimonials, and reviews on Trip Advisor, Facbook, and Yellow Pages are becoming more important.

It’s a consumer market at the moment, and with ease of technology the consumer is able to make decisions on where they play and where they become members much easier than ever before. 

It used to be a person told 9 people of a bad experience now they can tell thousands of people as the bad experience is actually happening.

How do you help clubs to identify the different thinking around marketing to members verses the general public?

Marketing is such a broad term and pretty much everything we do is marketing in some capacity, be it branding, service, advertising, brochures etc.

We must know first what product we are promoting and then to who the audience is and what mediums they use to digest information.

Some clubs think paper newsletters and letter box drops are no longer needed when in fact their members are an older generation, may not utilise Facebook or other digital platforms. So how do you get to them? Well “old skool” paper newsletter and notice boards are still needed.

How important is the humble newsletter in communicating?  What’s the key to a successful newsletter?

I’m a big believer in consistency so whatever communication medium you may use you should have sent in regular intervals. A quarterly newsletter approach to communication is not enough nowadays and you tend to end up with 3mths of info that no one really wants to read.

Having appropriate content that is relevant to the reader is key. Having that information disseminated via various channels to your diverse market base is also important. The same information may need to be packaged differently for each of the various mediums you use to communicate.

So clubs need to create a marketing budget ..

It’s a business, so of course they do. Marketing though isn’t just sending newsletters and emails it’s made up of everything you do at the facility. So anything from how the phone is answered, how to make bookings and then out to the external marketing I call it Inside Out Marketing approach.

I’d look at a split though on how this is devised. First would be how much to spend on general communication, branding, and service. This may be a set amount per annum and based on 3-4% of total revenue.

Now this would factor in a staff member that looks after it or if they outsource to a company.

The second component would be marketing dollars based on a business case. I.e. You want to hold an event, what is the event worth, how many people you need, how much to run and the amount for marketing expense for advertising and collateral. In this case it’s a ROI approach.

The old cliché you need to spend money to make money. I see many clubs putting on event and not giving enough marketing support to make it successful. In many cases they don’t even know how it went and members didn’t know it was on! If I have a good business case and it means spend $500 but we project a result of say $2000 return is it worth doing?

Many clubs restrict themselves to grow revenue by not spending funds to do great things.

Are more facilities buying Facebook advertising and how is this working in your view?  How can you measure that it works?

It used to be that 26%+ of your Facebook page LIKES would even see your post. Now it’s under 2%! If you want to be seen by more of your followers you need strong relevant content as well some paid post BOOSTS to get the message out for say an event or offer you may have on.

Facebook has many reports at your disposal to track effectiveness. As well you can look at your website analytics and see if certain pages you have that were visited turned into a conversion.

Set a budget ahead of time, track the specific results you need to gauge Return on investment. Some of what we do is branding for the facility and remember the Facebook feed is getting harder and harder to be seen.

What do you say to facilities that are risk averse and who are cautious to enter the social media space in a big way?

Get over it! 😉

With 15mil unique Australian visitors (UAV) each month to Facebook how can you not afford to be on it! There are other mediums that are on the rise such as Instagram and Snapchat with around 4-5mil unique Australian visitors. Snapchat had 30% growth in UAV since 2015.

Now this may sound like a strange thing to say, but in some cases (not many) social media, Facebook etc. may not be the channel to use.

The question to ask- Who am I trying to speak to and what is the best medium to do so?

If you are targeting corporate golf days it may be more effective to work through LinkedIN for example. If Social Golfers then Facebook. If older non tech consumer then old paper newsletter and letterbox drop.

How can facilities encourage their own members/fee payers to post on social media?

 Have more stories about your members, and request visitors to check in at course on social media, to post images of their day. In the future there will eb much more automation available to allow this to happen more easily.

Are more facilities running campaigns?

The ones we work with are but hard to say on others. Going by the lack of posts and engagement that I see on many Facebook pages I doubt they are spending funds in boosting content.

It’s a very cost effective way to advertise as you can see results as they are happening and tweak your campaign as you go- not something you can do with more traditional means.

Do you recommend facilities use Google Ads in addition to Facebook ads?

I do recommend but as mentioned before so much depends on the end game, the budget and resources you have available, and the target audience you are trying to speak with. Get the basics right first internally then work your way up to the more complex marketing. There is a lot of low lying fruit at club- people already walking through the door that the club and staff don’t engage with.

How can facilities with members get more members onto their social media platforms?

Ask members how they would like to receive their communication

Post relevant member content such as comp results member profiles, lessons etc.

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Mike Orloff, a marketing strategist for the golf industry, as well a US and Australian PGA Member with more than 25 years of industry-wide experience, including 18 years working in senior roles for two of the biggest international golf management companies in Australia and the USA – American Golf Corporation and Clubcorp.

Now based on the Gold Coast, Australia, Mike consults on growing the game of golf to clients directly as well as via workshops and conferences in New Zealand, Australia and South East Asia.

Golf Industry Central was created by Mike in 2008 as a major golf industry portal for the Australasian region – offering news, jobs and operational advice all in one place.