Data capture is the king of small business marketing and an ever important facet for retaining customers at golf facilities. For every piece of good data accumulated, marketing costs are starting to reduce.
The objective should be to create a database of around 5,000 worthy leads and this will form the basis of all of the marketing initiatives for the year. This need not be as expensive as some people might think as off-the-shelf software is readily available and is really affordable if not free of charge or already in place in the clubs software systems.
What is required?
Golf facilities need to consider 3 factors when making their choice of how to best implement and manage a successful database capture campaign:
- The scale required: This does not just apply to the number of records currently held, but more importantly how this resource will grow in the future. What commitment can be implemented to regularly maintain, update and develop the information accrued?
- Budget: Whilst this should not be the first criteria for such an important business tool, budget will reduce the likely options including the building of a bespoke database which can be expensive
- How it integrates with other business systems: This can save a lot of anguish in the future if the database works alongside other marketing and communication tools, especially the club website. The website should be at the core of all marketing activity and it needs to talk directly to the database to save on unnecessary administration.
Most golf clubs can operate quite happily using ‘Microsoft Access’, part of the Office package to set up a database and manage their data. It is easy to set up and access information and is also flexible enough to create information fields which reflect the information gathered from customers. It also allows the flow of data (import and export) from other sources.
Data Capture…How to collect data
Once the database is in place, begins the hard work in acquiring and categorizing data as the information and contacts begin to grow. There is no doubt that the more data which is acquired, the more powerful and effective the clubs marketing strategies will become.
Here are some simple guidelines to ensure that gathering data on customers is central to the marketing programme and continued customer contact:
- Draw up a set of procedures and standards to be used whenever a customer has direct contact with the golf club. Communicate these to any customer facing staff and ensure they are adhered to.
- Give staff both the tools and training to assist in collecting the information. These can include simple contact cards to be filled in following a telephone call or completed when customers arrive.
- Build all marketing around the website, as this resource is working 24/7 and is therefore by far the most reliable employee when it comes to collecting and processing information on your customers.
- Refuse to do any marketing which is not measurable. In order to continue to build a database successfully, be aware of which marketing promotions are producing the best results.
- Offline marketing must support online activity. Use all advertising and marketing brochures to drive people to the website. Don’t miss out on obvious opportunities such as including the website address on scorecards.
- Have a marketing plan which co-ordinates all direct marketing activity and ensures customer identification:
- Why? (What offer?), When and How? (email, direct mail, text)
- Build systems that allow automated follow up. This would include automatic replies to any website or direct email enquiries, including alerting staff when customers have arrived. Processes to customise letters, bulk email tools which allow emails to be tracked are also useful in reducing time and administration.
• Act now; with more and more people reverting to finding information online, clubs can’t afford to delay in establishing the processes.
“Once a person has failed to find or receive information on your golf club it will be more difficult to win back their interest”.
The most common data collection methods are listed below:
Data collection through via the clubs website.. Make your website do the work for you. After all it’s open for business 24/7. There should be a least five email data collection points on various pages throughout the visitor’s section of your site.
These should be in the relevant sections on your website, but include:
- Sign up for special offers and advanced notification of open competitions
- Sign up for notification of membership availability and offers
- Sign up for offers in the Professionals’ shop and F&B promotions
- Sign up for coaching and tuition days
- Sign up to enter our monthly draw to win a free fourball
Ensure you make the calls to action very obvious on each page.
The first part of the season is key to building data so make sure both reasons to sign up and offers are varied.
To cut down on the administration make sure your website has a database set behind it so it is collating and storing the information for you.
Email collection at your golf club:
Ensure that every member of staff knows the importance of collecting data. The professional or whoever greets green fee visitors should be given a supply of sign up cards and all visitors should be encouraged to sign up. Explain they received advanced notification of competitions, tee times, special offers and also get entered into a monthly draw.
Collect as much data as possible but don’t over-do it.
Name, email address, postcode and how they heard about your club should be the bare minimum.
Online tee times:
If your club runs online tee time system then you have an existing opportunity for people to sign up to receive your weekly newsletter. Tee time systems provide a huge amount of information about a player before they even set foot on your golf course. This makes targeting emails even easier. If your club’s members are reluctant to see a tee time introduced at their club then why not trial a tee time ‘looking’ system for visitors.
Golf groups can equal 50 visitors:
Don’t treat societies as just one booking. There can be as many as 50 visitors so make sure you collect data from each player. Offer a free prize draw on the day if they complete a visitor satisfaction survey (which also captures their name and email address).
Offer everyone a repeat visit voucher which they have to go on your website and download using a promotional code.
Watch the birdie:
If you club has a meet and greeter, get him to take a happy snap of visiting groups on the first tee. Collect their email addresses and then have the photograph sitting in their in-box for when they return from their round. Great customer service and a good way of collecting data!
Work with local businesses:
Build an opt-in email list by working with other businesses such as hotels or the local tourist board. Make sure links are established to the club website on their websites and vice versa. Ensure the link sends them to page to register for future information and offers. Offer to run special offers such as golf giveaways or concessionary offers which the hotel can send to its customer base.
How to store data
Customer databases are not something which only large companies can aspire to. For the average database of most golf clubs which is anywhere between 2,000 and 10,000 names, they do not always require a specialist system.
Off-the shelf database tools
It’s very easy to construct a database with all the data fields required in a package such as Microsoft Access. This comes as part of the Windows Microsoft Office software which most clubs have installed.
Let your website do the work
A well-developed website will have a database sitting behind it. This will automate the collection of all data through the website itself and allow for easy administration of the data collected by the pro shop or other business avenues. Such systems also simplify on-going, regular communication such as e-newsletters or promotional offers.
Does it need to talk to your other systems?
Most clubs have automated many of their systems such as member databases with swipe cards behind the bar. It is not necessary for marketing database to interact with POS systems initially as it could be very expensive to set up. Use the visitor database to run marketing initiatives independently. Once a healthy business has been achieved, facilities can then look at more sophisticated ways of tracking spend.
What data should be collected?
When collecting data, is it important to strike a balance between collecting enough useful information without alienating customers.
The bare minimum should be name and email address if you are only intending to communicate by email. If you plan to send communications by mail, then collect their postal address – but only do this if you have every intention of using this data. (The more data you request, the less likely they are to complete it).
It is also advisable to collect mobile numbers as text marketing continues to grow grow in the future.
When possible, collect details of every transaction at the point of transaction including the date, time and amount paid. Pro shop staff must be made aware of how important this is. If a tee time booking system is in place, then this will do the job for you. This information can be useful in building up a profile of your customers’ playing habits which will make targeted communications even easier.
Please find below a series of videos to assist in building a database in Microsoft Access:
Businesses which store personal information and sends communications to customers (members or visitors) must comply with the Data Protection Act 1998 and increasingly the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003.
Currently not-for-profit organisations are not required to register but may be wise to check as you seek to use data in a more commercial fashion.
As a rule, if you are communicating to members, you have an opt-out option. However, it might be part of your membership terms and conditions that members receive information from the club relating to their membership and offers.
Before communicating to visitors, you must always have an opt-in option at the point of collecting their data.