Building a database
Data is the king of small business marketing. For every piece of good data you collect, you incrementally start to reduce your marketing costs. The aim should be to build a database of around 5,000 good leads and this will form the basis of all of your marketing initiatives for the year. This need not be as expensive as some people might think as off-the-shelf software already exists and is really affordable.
What is required
Any golf club needs to consider 3 factors when making their choice of how to run their database:
1. The scale required: this does not just apply to the number of records now but how it is likely to grow in the future. If you are committed to regularly maintaining in your contact database then it is unlikely to grow beyond 5,000 records.
2. Your budget: whilst this should not be your 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
3. How it integrates with your other business system: this can save a lot of anguish in the future if the database works alongside your other marketing and communication tools, especially your website. Your website should be at the core of all your marketing activity and it needs to talk directly to your 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 for you to create information fields which reflect the information you are obtaining on your customers. It also allows you to readily import and export data from other sources
There may well be someone at your golf club who is familiar with the software package you are choosing and it would be worth using them to help you in the initial set up as it can save a great deal of time and effort in the future.
How to collect data
Once your database is in place, now starts the hard work in acquiring and sorting data as you gradually build your own database. There is no doubt that the more data you acquire, the more powerful and effective your own marketing efforts will become.
Here are some simple guidelines to ensure that gathering data on your customers is at the heart of your marketing programme and customer contact:
•Draw up a set of procedures and standards to be used whenever a customer has direct contact with your golf club. Communicate these to any customer facing staff and ensure they are adhered to.
•Give your staff the tools to collect the information. These can include simple contact cards to be filled in following a telephone call or completed when a visitor arrives at your golf club.
•Build all of your marketing around your website. Your website is working for your golf club 24/7 and is by far the most reliable employee when it comes to collecting and processing information on your customers. See e-marketing to find out how effective your website is in helping you collate data
•Refuse to do any marketing which is not measurable. In order to continue to build your database successfully you need to be sure which of your marketing promotions is producing the best results.
•Your offline marketing must support on online activity. Use all of your advertising and marketing brochures to drive people to your website. Don’t miss out on obvious opportunities such as including your website address on your scorecards.
•Have a marketing plan which co-ordinates all your direct marketing activity and ensures you know which or you customers you are marketing to, why (what offer), when and how (email, direct mail)
•Build systems that allow you to automate follow up. This would include automatic replies to any website or direct email enquiries, including alerting your staff they 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, you 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 hard to win back their interest.
The obvious data collection methods are detailed below:
1. Data collection through your 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 relevent sections on your website but include:
a. Sign up for special offers and advanced notification of open competitions
b. Sign up for notification of membership availability
c. Sign up for offers in the PRO shop
d. Sign up for coaching and tuition days
e. 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 you vary the offers and reasons to sign up.
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.
2. Email collection at your golf club Make sure 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 you can but don’t put them off. Name, email address, postcode and how they heard about your club should be the bare minimum.
3. Online tee times If your club runs an online tee time system then you have a ready made opportunity for people to sign up to receive your weekly newsletter. Tee time systems provide a great deal 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.
4. A society 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 them. 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.
5. Watch the birdie If you club has a meet and greeter, get him to take a happy snap of visting 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!
6. Work with local businesses Build you opt-in email list by working with other businesses such as hotels or the local tourist board. Make sure you have links to your 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 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 require a specialist system.
1. Off the shelf database
It's very easy to construct a database with all the data fields you require in a package such as Microsoft Access. This comes as part of the Windows Microsoft Office software which most clubs have installed. You will have a member at your club who will be familiar with the package or know someone who is, so ask them to help you set it up.
2. Let your website do the work
A well constructed 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. It also means that it is easier to run your 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 your marketing database to interact with your POS systems initially as it could be very expensive to set up. Use your visitor database to run your marketing initiatives independently. Once you have built up healthy business then you may want to consider more sophisticated ways of tracking spend.
3. What data do we need to collect?
When collecting data is it important to strike a balance between collecting enough useful information without alienating your 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.) You are also advised to collect mobile numbers as text marketing will grow in the future.
When possible, collect details of every transaction at the point of transaction including the date, time and amount paid. Your pro shop staff must be made are of how important this is. If you have a tee time booking system 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 mailings even easier.
Any business which stores 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 of thumb, 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.
If in doubt, check by going into www.ico.gov.uk