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June 2022

Make Your Course More Memorable (and Profitable) with Word of Mouth

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By Doug McPherson

People talk. Two simple words that can serve as the rock-solid cornerstone of your marketing strategy. And some say word of mouth is the most important marketing channel for golf courses.

“Traditional word of mouth is hugely important in the world of golf and it remains the number-one marketing avenue,” says Chris Adams, head of research and insights for Miles Partnership, a travel and tourism marketing company. “What drives word of mouth?

“Positive experiences. You can do all the advertising you want, but you have to have the great wow factor at your course. You can be an absolute marketing wiz, but if you don’t get the positive experience down, you’ll still be struggling.”

Adams and many marketing experts say it pays to consider consistently all the touchpoints customers have with your course and your staff – from the minute they book a tee time until they leave your parking lot. Time spent ensuring your customers have world-class experiences – experiences that feature both delight and surprise at every turn – is always time well spent.

Once you’ve committed to continually improving your customers’ experiences, you want to understand all the ways people talk these days. Of course, technology has revolutionized word of mouth in the last several years with email, social media, texting, blogging, etc.

“These are important extensions of word of mouth,” Adams says. “You want to empower your customers to share their experiences with your course on social media and other mediums.”

Consider signage in your clubhouse, at tee boxes and in carts reminding golfers to ‘share the fun’ on their social media outlets. And you might even hold a social media contest to see who can get the most likes for a post that highlights your course.

Adams is a fan of the short video platform and social medium called TikTok. “It’s new on the block and we know that 17% of golf travelers are using it, so I recommend that courses experiment with TikTok. If you’re unfamiliar with it, talk to your staff or golfers. It’s fun, quirky and interesting.”

After you’ve begun to saturate the different mediums where people talk, then you can look for ways to stand out in new and unusual ways – in other words, give people something fun or different to talk about related to your course. 

Here are a few examples:

Think “Atypical” – What spurs conversation more, something that’s typical or atypical? The answer is easier than a one-inch putt. Just look at what goes viral on the internet – it’s always something strange and different. So, think about atypical events – perhaps a 1-Putt event, a new 9-hole game with 5 clubs that’s gaining traction in the United Kingdom (learn more at 1puttgolf.co.uk). And follow it up with a “snappy hour” where you recognize the golfer with the snappiest shirt or pants. Also, to get people talking about your website, add a drone video of your course. The videos are a dramatic and eye-catching way to show off your course’s beauty, layout and design. Google “drone videos of golf courses” for examples.

Be a Partner – Whom can you partner with in your community that makes great sense? Why not a local school? It’s clearly a way to grow the game (and your business) into the future, not to mention great public relations. But don’t stop there; consider other organizations such as associations, hospitals, churches, businesses – so many opportunities to extend a friendly handshake with your community. Then each organization begins generating its own buzz about – you guessed it – your course!

Up your food and beverage game – People not only love to eat and drink, they also love to talk about eating and drinking (scroll through any social media platform for proof!). Adams says nearly two thirds of travelers say food and beverage are “important” or “very important” to their decision on where to visit. So consider ways to boost both the quality and uniqueness of your menu.

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