Hi everyone, today we’re pleased to share with you an interview our SBX’er Duncan McGillivray had with Golf Business Magazine.  The magazine asked us to share our thoughts and experience on golf courses working with coupon websites like Groupon, Travel Zoo and Daily Deals.  There is a lot of buzz around these websites to date, but as you can see from our interview there are mixed feelings out there on if they can truly benefit golf courses.

The article was published in the their April 2012 issue this past spring, please see the full article online here: Golf Courses & Groupon.  Also, Golf Business was able to share some background on how we came to be working in the golf marketing business, see the article “being social” as well.

We wanted to share more of the interview we conducted with Golf Business Magazine, because as you can imagine, they had a lot of content and sources to fit into one article.  In our interview we went into some serious depth on the topic of Golf courses and Daily Deal sites, and we hope what we share below will help make your decision.

Let’s get to the interview…

Golf Business Mag: How long were you a CPGA pro before switching to the social media field?

Duncan McGillivray: I worked in the industry for a total of eight years; three years as a CPGA Professional.

Golf Business Mag: Why did you make the switch?

Duncan McGillivray: Well, I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart. After finishing my professional golf management studies in 2005, I started up my own website that offered golf tips and drills to players of all ages and skill levels.  This website was the basis for my interest in social media and web marketing.  In 2007, I took some time off to work and explore overseas.  Along the way as technology changed, I got more and more interested in online marketing.  One year later, after my return home, I decided to start-up an online marketing company with two friends,  and I’ve been doing it ever since.  When it comes to golf, I got my amateur status back in 2010, and still love the game as much as ever.

Golf Business Mag: What are the two best ways golf courses can use social media as part of their marketing plan? 

Duncan McGillivray: Golf is a social game and it lends itself well to social media.  The major challenges golf courses face with social media are the needs to keep content current, and the commitment to keep the audience engaged.  Golf courses must see social media as a chance to engage and connect with their customers. It should not be used like any other marketing medium for direct selling.  Sales will come indirectly through engagement and awareness. Sure, you can advertise your next event, but make sure you follow it up with pictures, trivia, puzzles, questions and follow-up surveys to keep your fans engaged and talking.

Another often-overlooked aspect of social media marketing for golf courses is around building loyalty.  If you are offering your fans exclusive access to specific tee-times, or advanced notice of upcoming specials, or discounts in the shop – you’ll be surprised how quickly your profile can grow.

Golf Business Mag: Do you recommend daily deal sites like Groupon for all your clients? Any instances where you would advise against it?

Duncan McGillivray: Well, we all know an empty tee-time earns nothing.  But with that said, daily deal websites are a sticky issue.  Some courses are all for them, while others feel they are not good for the image of the game. There’s a fine line between discounting golf and devaluing the game.  Due to the extreme discounting nature of these deals, and the costs involved (Groupon takes a significant cut) – many courses see little value to these types of programs.  Also, due to the scale of the advertising, on occasion the offer can spark too much interest, and capacity becomes an issue.

With that said, there are plenty of situations where Groupon’s have their place.  The most obvious one would be for courses that have dead-periods on their tee-sheets. Offering deals that help get you booked up during non-peak times is an easy win for many courses.  Perhaps a little less obvious, would be leveraging Groupon for branding purposes.  For example, if your club has just completed a recent renovation, or you’ve got a new greenskeeper that has got your course in the best shape it’s been in years, you can leverage these promotions to quickly spread the good news.

Golf Business Mag: What kinds of deals do you think work best for golf courses? 2-for-1? 4-for-3 etc.

Duncan McGillivray: Although 4-for-3’s are likely the best revenue generators, they likely won’t fly for daily deals sites because the discounts are not deep enough.  In our opinion, the best tee-time related offers involve a 2-for-1 deal that adds in a cart and/or a drink/food voucher.  If you’re grillroom cooks are exceptional, you may want to consider a Nine & Dine special that includes 9-holes for two, a cart and dinner.  Alternatively you can also couple in pro-shop discounts. Regardless of the offer, coupling in items with higher mark-ups like food, merchandise, range balls, and carts will increase the perceived value of the offer to the customer, while helping you remain profitable.

Golf Business Mag: What steps can courses take to ensure their experience with Groupon is a good one?

Duncan McGillivray: First of all, understand the costs involved and do a business case on both best and worse-case scenarios.  Use these numbers to determine your minimum and maximum coupon quantities. Groupon redemption rates vary, but some may be less than 50%, make sure you are keeping track to help plan future offers. Depending on what you’re offering, also keep in mind capacity.  For example, if you’re selling golf lessons, make sure you have enough professionals to accommodate your best-case scenario.  There’s no worse PR than a lot of unhappy first-time customers.  I would also take into consideration how this influx of new customers might negatively affect your current customer base. Finally, develop a plan to turn these customers into repeat sales.

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Duncan McGillivray

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Director of Advertising

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