Are you a self-employed full time coaching instructor and part small business owner? Ian Clark explains how to create a client base to help fill your lesson book and build your business…
As we are all only too aware the golfing landscape has changed significantly over the past few years, and probably none more so than that of the traditional club professional. We are now seeing golf pros specialise in certain areas rather than focussing on wearing a number of hats as many club pros do.
These specific areas of expertise include that of teaching and golf instruction. The golf instruction industry has now become much more mainstream – from the days of David Leadbetter making his name with his work with Nick Faldo, to Sean Foley and his well chronicled work with Tiger.
As a result, we now see a great many PGA members teaching full-time at driving ranges up and down the country, and for these golf pros teaching is their only source of income with no retainer being paid to them. In the majority of cases a rent or percentage of earnings is paid back to the range owner in return for that professional to be able to have a spot to teach at that particular driving range.
Instructor or business owner?
The self-employed full time instructor needs to be part instructor and part small business owner, and a question I often ask when presenting to golf instructors is ‘Which do you need to be first, golf instructor or business owner?’
You could be the best instructor in the world, but if you do not market yourself and let people know who you are then you will not be able to create the fans you need.
I am fortunate to be able to teach at a very busy driving range, and having been teaching there now for 14 years I have built up a client list and manage to fill my lesson book well in advance.
I often used to think that because my facility is so busy then this would always be the case, but over the past number of years something has changed. I have seen a number of good instructors come to work at my facility and then struggle to fill their lesson book, and leave to greener pastures after a period of time.
This got me thinking as to why some instructors would thrive and others would struggle. I plan to share with you insights I have gained that you can then apply to your own business and increase your revenue.
You need a list
First things first, if you want to be a busy instructor you need clients, not customers – it is important to know the difference. A customer is someone who has done business with you once; a client is someone who does business with you over and over again.
So you must have a list of your clients, and you need to be collecting data as much as you can – at bare minimum you need to have the email address and mobile phone number of every one of your students. If you are reading this and you do not have these, then make it a point to start collecting this today.
This list becomes your client base, or as Ken Blanchard calls them, Raving Fans. I have used the following methods of collecting email addresses from people.
Add a place on your website for people to enter their email to go on to your mailing list. In return for this it is a good idea to have a free download, this can be In the format of a pdf document, based on a golfing topics, for example, hit better bunker shots, improve your chipping, or ten extra yards from the tee, just use your imagination.
Walking the range. I know this is a contentious issue among golf instructors, but this is a great way for people to see you. I understand that some people are on the range to practice and do not want to be bothered by a golf pro, but with some practice this can be a very powerful strategy to increase your client base.
My way of doing this is to have my video camera with me, and ask a golfer practicing if he wouldn’t mind me videoing his swing as I have a new camera I wish to try out, I have never had a golfer say no.
Once videoed, ask the golfer if he would like to see his swing, show them, but do not offer any instruction at this point. Inevitably the golfer will ask a question, and if he asks for your advice, then give it.
Before leaving ask the golfer if he has an email address as you would like to send him the video clip of his golf swing. Easy.
Have a goldfish-type bowl near where you teach on the driving range. If a golfer puts his business card in the bowl he will be entered into a monthly draw to win a golf lesson with you.
Talk to people on the range. Show people that you are personable and approachable. If you are asked for your business card, hand it to them. You should always have business cards on you, and then ask the golfer for his card in return. If he does not have one with him, ask for an email address or mobile number.
You mustn’t wait for the golfer to get back to you. If you wait for the golfer to take the initiative it may never happen. Personally, I wait 24 hours and then email or text the golfer with a small note saying something along the lines of ‘How nice it was to meet the other day and when are you looking to come in for that lesson’. You must follow up.
What to do with your list
Once you start to compile a list, you now have to do something with it. For myself I send out a newsletter once a month. If you are going to do this, you need to be consistent with how often you send it out, and at what time of the month.
If you are not already sending out a newsletter, then I urge you to start doing so immediately, because if you aren’t, then another golf pro could be contacting your students and you are missing out.
You must keep yourself at the forefront of your students’ minds when they come to thinking about golf instruction, and by regularly making contact with them, you will become their ‘go to guy’ for golf instruction.
In terms of a newsletter, I put information in my newsletter about the golfing world in general, tournament results etc. I also put in items such as an instruction tip (in video format), a recommended reading list of instruction books, an article from a fitness or psychology expert and student success stories.
Again, design it to suit your own needs, but remember you must be consistent with when and how often you send it out.
Also be sure to add an ‘opt-out’ button in case people do not wish to receive emails from you. If you are unsure about any of the above, you should contact a web designer.
White space in the diary is the devil. Well, not quite but close. White space in your diary means lost revenue. This is where I find having students’ mobile numbers is very useful. If I get a late cancellation, I will send out a group text informing people of this, many of my students find this helpful and more often than not, the space will get filled.
This also places you in a different bracket to other instructors who are not offering their students this service. Input the students’ data into your phone; this is not a time consuming task for you to do.
I have a waiting list made up for students looking to get a lesson, especially at my peak times. People really appreciate you contacting them to tell them of a cancellation and making an effort to get them booked in.
So to recap, you firstly need a list. Start compiling email addresses and mobile phone numbers of your students today, if you do not already. Try and find clever ways of collecting them. Make it your daily goal to try and add five addresses to your list.
Send out a newsletter – You must communicate with your students. Be consistent on how often and when you send the newsletter out.
Text your students if you get any cancellations, or if you have space in your diary for a lesson.
Remember: They do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.
Ian Clark is an Advanced Fellow PGA Professional, a Trackman certified instructor, the Golfing Machine Authorised Instructor GSEM and one of GolfWorld’s Top 100 coaches in the UK. You can email Ian at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more details visit www.ianclarkgolf.co.uk.