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August 2021

Q&A about Marketing with Michelle Wittig of Juday Creek Golf Course

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By Doug McPherson

You could call her Michelle the marketer. It’s clear that marketing comes naturally to Michelle Wittig, general manager at Juday Creek Golf Course in Granger, Indiana. She’s taught marketing workshops for the National Golf Course Owners Association and she’s made Juday Creek a household name across northern Indiana using a host of highly effective yet low-cost marketing strategies.

Golf Business posed Wittig some questions to get the secret sauce behind her marketing prowess.    

Q: Many courses have enjoyed a windfall of new golfers in 2020 and 2021. How can the sport keep these customers?

A: The key is keeping them engaged. The pro shop staff is essential and should learn what made them play your course and how they would like to get information from you. Customers don’t want to get rote phrases … they want someone to look them in the eye and talk with them genuinely. The staff should be able to sell and connect in a way that benefits the customer. We use the Gallus Golf app that customers use for GPS, keeping score and to make future tee times. It’s a win-win as we are able to use it to do targeted push notifications.

I also believe strongly in the power of thought leaders...cultivating the golfer who’s the leader of the group. If you have the right golfers engaged, they’ll bring people to events and will help market for you. It’s important to match staff with the customers they’ll be working with. Schedule someone who’s great with seniors to work when seniors play. Hire for personality rather than skills; those can be taught.

I have one staff member who opens the pro shop and mostly works with seniors and they love her. She often sends them birthday cards. This is exactly the right approach for that customer type.

Q: What’s the most common mistake related to marketing? 

A: Not planning. You need a plan with a strategy and expectations. The two parts of the plan that often go missing are knowing what you’re trying to accomplish and measurable metrics to understand your results. 

Q: Have you found any new technology that’s particularly helpful in marketing?
A: My absolute favorite thing is Campaign Pilot and it’s 100% free. With one click it posts to Facebook, Twitter, our website, the Gallus app and email. It’s easy to use, it gives you the same professional look and feel across the board and it handles registrations, payments for events and it compiles analytics after campaigns.


Q: Talk about digital marketing – what do owners and operators need to think about in terms of how they communicate with golfers?

A: I think digital marketing is going to be where everything will end up sooner rather than later, and mass marketing is not a good use of funds. Artificial Intelligence has the potential to create customized messaging on steroids. That will be a positive thing for the new consumers who expect communications to be directed to them as individuals. Millennials and Generation Z are accustomed to personalization of everything. Think of how they get coffee at Starbucks or lunch at Chipotle, it’s created just for them.  What does this mean for golf?  Maybe change the way you set your green fees; can they pay per hole? Are your food and beverage offerings unique? Are you able to be flexible?
Q: Any tips on how best to spend marketing dollars from July - December?

A: I would consider my marketing efforts this time of year to fall into the remind category. I would be creative with different ways to bring golfers back to the course … with incentives for them to bring an entire foursome or to bring someone new to the course. It’s this time of year when different types of golf events and formats are the most successful. Players have probably started to get a little tired of the traditional scramble and so mixing it up with a par 3 tournament, night golf or course redesign are generally big hits.

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