Follow The Leader


     Remember playing Follow the Leader? It’s a game I played on occasion as a kid at parties or sometimes after school. The format as I recall began with choosing a â??leaderâ? or “head of the line” and then everyone lined up behind the leader. The leader then moved around and everyone had to mimic the leader’s actions. Any players who did not do what the leader did were out of the game.

     In speaking with Clubs week after week and hearing what they’ve been doing, it seems like this silly kid’s fun game for recreation has actually migrated to the business side of the golf industry. Let me explain!

Some Specific Recent Examples

     I was speaking with a private country club last week that was struggling with membership. I asked about the Initiation Fee and was told that they didn’t have one because none of the other clubs in their market have one. I was told that once one of the â??nicerâ? clubs did away with their Initiation Fee, all the other clubs soon followed.

     I was speaking with another private club challenged with membership. It became quickly apparent that no matter how good their marketing effort to generate leads and prospects might be, they were not going to be successful because they did not have a person directly responsible for selling memberships. I told the owner that the first thing I would do is hire a membership director and get the person trained to sell the club. The owner replied that none of the other clubs in the area have a membership director and as such he believed that his club didn’t need one either.  

     I spoke with a public golf course recently. I was told that in order to get business the only thing to do was discount. All of the other courses in the area discount I was told! And further was told that once discounting began, it became a price war. Everyone followed the discount leader. And the market price for golf plummeted.

     I visited a high end public fee golf course in Florida. I asked about their marketing efforts. I was told that they were doing very little but were advertising in a local golf publication. When I asked why, I was told that everyone advertises in this publication. Now, placing an ad in a publication that is going to be seen by golfers is actually a great way to get your message out. But, in reviewing the ad for this course, it was remarkably similar to the ad for every other golf course. The ad contained the same type of picture as all other ads, the same uninspired copy, lack of an offer, no call to action, and no means to track its effectiveness.

     I could continue with more examples but by now I hope you see my point. All of these scenarios play out in thousands of clubs, courses, and resorts across the country every day. So many courses are taking the path of least resistance and following the ill-fated lead of the most desperate club or course in the market.

     A club eliminates its Initiation Fee and others soon follow. A Club has poor results in membership and decides to cut its marketing budget and membership salesperson and other clubs begin eliminating salespeople too. A public course desperate for play drops its prices and soon everyone else does so as well. Someone advertises in a golf publication with the promise that your club’s ad can be made to look exactly like every other club’s ad and believes that will help their situation. It’s a golf industry version of Follow the Leader.

The only problem is that the leader who winds up
being followed is the one who has no clue!


     So why does everyone follow along blindly? Well, they are usually under pressure to do something from a marketing perspective to drive revenue and they really don’t know what to do. They think that if someone else is doing it, it may be the right thing for their club too.
     They know intellectually that they should be doing some kind of marketing but lack the training, experience, and expertise in determining what it is and how it should be done. So, doing something makes everyone feel better, gives them something to tell their owner, but is totally ineffective as the rest of the flat, amateuristic effort everyone else is doing.

Dare to be Different!

     We are working with many clubs, resorts, and courses that are constantly testing new and different means of marketing. With our Marketing Commander technology everything they undertake is measured so we know what is working and should be continued and what is not and should be discarded.

     They are scheduling new and different events. They are open to trying new approaches and ideas, but MOST importantly they are TRYING every day. And understand this, there is no magic bullet. There is no â??one thingâ? that is going to magically turn your club or course into a cash machine. To be successful you have to grind it out. You have to plan, test, and measure. And then do it again, again, and again!

Ask yourself these questions!

Do you have a specific written quarterly plan that specifies all of your marketing efforts for bringing in new business and retaining your existing members, golfers, or guests? Is there a specific goal for each revenue source every quarter with a timeline and responsible party assigned? Is all of your marketing trackable? Are you focused on collecting data every day in every department? Do you have a trained salesperson to follow up on all of your leads?


So, what’s it going to be?

     Are you going to be one of the pack, following along, mired in mediocrity or worse, deferring to whoever decides to go first and spending money with no idea whether what you did is working or not?

     Or are you ready to forge your own path? Are you ready to be different? Are you ready to distance yourself from the pack? Are you ready to become the SAVVY NEW LEADER? Take a chance! Dare to Become Legendary!

Bob Devitz is the President and CEO of Legendary Golf Management and is an expert in the operations and marketing of Private Clubs. Bob has over 25 years of experience in the industry, primarily in senior management roles with ClubCorp, an industry leading “for profit” company. Bob has an MBA from The Florida State University, a BSBA with a specialization in marketing from The University of Florida, and is a member of the PGA of America. Having worked with hundreds of Private Clubs during his career, Bob brings a results driven, bottom line approach to the Club Industry.

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