The Pellucid Perspective - April 2016 - (Page 8)

GOLF COURSE MARKETING On the scene in Myrtle Beach: Owners lighting candles vs. cursing the darkness By Jim Koppenhaver I don't do nearly as many speaking engagements now as I did in the beginning of my Pellucid journey. Part of that is I found the vast majority of audiences and associations asking for my thoughts and facts valued them, sight unseen, like a bartered round; of no monetary value. So now on those occasions when I do agree to speak to a group of stakeholders or owner/operators I require some "skin in the game" on their part and I look for organizations and audiences that are asking the right questions and actively engaged in trying to figure out how to play in golf 's "new normal" as well as a way to a "better normal." Such was the case when I was contacted by Bill Golden of Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday back in February asking if I'd come speak on market analysis, marketing and pricing. We also shared an interest in advancing the practice (art?) of benchmarking and the unique challenges of the Myrtle Beach market with its myriad consumer types and "need states." As he outlined the journey of the Myrtle Beach Area Golf Course Owners Association (MBAGCOA, that's a mouthful) and how they had adapted over the years to conditions similar to a vast array of US golf markets, it piqued my interest and curiosity. My initial take was that they were trying new things and asking the right questions, so I figured it would be an interesting conversation and I'd run by my alma mater, The Citadel, while flying in and out of Charleston. As actually happens more often than not though, when the "academic" (me) met the "practitioners" (the owners and a smaller group of executives separately), I learned as much as they did. What I encountered were inquisitive, thoughtful people trying to develop strategy in addition to daily tactics and deferring decisions on the "quick buck" in favor of trying to figure out longerterm paths to increased demand and profitability. They fully grasped some of the basics and were trying to solve for them: * How do we drive more of the golf travel dollars to our region in the first place? (i.e. win the battle for share-of-roadtrips vs. their peers in Alabama, North Carolina (Pinehurst), Golf Coast FL etc.) * How do we make the experience once here in-market the easiest and most fun for our guests so they come back and bring others consistently? * How do we play and win on hospitality, customer experience, fun and value vs. the "4 rounds for the price of 3" onedimensional price game? * Are there opportunity gaps in our pricing that would allow us to marginally increase revenue-per-played round? * How do we control the relationship with the destination golfer vs. being intermediated by the 3rd party tee time providers? * How do we do outreach marketing to our former guests and be more relevant to them than other destinations? 8 The Pellucid PersPecTive Given their unique situation, they have some advantages that other GCOAs don't necessarily have, but there are also other things they're doing/trying which could be emulated but aren't currently. They have their own marketing cooperative via Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday, replete with big events like Monday After the Masters (MAM), origination market radio spots, contests, etc. which are being refined and tweaked annually for performance and proficiency. They have their own Internet tee time booking engine system, Tee Time Network or T-Links, (bought by IBS back in '13, will be interesting to see how this evolves with the acquisition of IBS by (EZLinks & PGA TOUR) as covered in a related article in this issue). The data being tracked through both of those capabilities are providing interesting information regarding the effectiveness of marketing and the booking/customer dynamics through the tee sheet. (They can't yet tie customers to transactions, much like the vast majority of tee sheet software out there, still....). What they're seeing is a gradual erosion of advance booking with the hypothesis that a combination of the creeping success and relevance of Internet Tee Time sites in this geography and changing travel golfer behavior is resulting in some subsets of the golfer group waiting and taking their chances on booking after they're already in-market. Keeping this somewhat in check is the fact that one can't purchase the most desirable times at the last-minute but, to be sure, if one is willing to play anytime/anywhere, there are "hot deals" to be had. So far, cooler (and more strategic) heads have prevailed and the area hasn't collectively prostituted its bulk in exchange for "preferred terms" by either GolfNow or (One attendee assured me in an off-the-record side conversation that with 90%+ assurance they could get their desired terms from either of the parties). They also have done some initial level analysis of price elasticity with Cathy Enz of Cornell University to try and determine if there are opportunities to translate known demand peaks and valleys into higher revenue. While I'm not at liberty to share the results of the first round of that work, I was assured that they had found six figures across the co-op group of pricing gaps that they had tested and realized in Q1 of this year. We had a lively debate at the meeting regarding a) How dynamic can/should my pricing be (i.e. should every tee time have a different price, how would I manage that? and b) Should I turn that execution and process over to my 3rd party marketing provider and let them manage it? While I won't go into all the details, my short answers were "No" (don't want to have every time uniquely priced) and "No" (you need to stay involved in and make the "calls" on pricing, don't turn it over to the machine just yet). I also pointed out, as my trusted associate Stuart Lindsay has schooled me previously, some of the price elasticity modeling principles and practices are April 2016

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Pellucid Perspective - April 2016

The Pellucid Perspective - April 2016
In search of meaningful operations performance measurement
We have a data problem in golf. Let’s fix it
EZLinks Golf expands customer base, technology resources with IBS acquisition
Devote article
On the scene in Myrtle Beach: Owners lighting candles vs. cursing the darkness
March weather impact: Strong first quarter finish, mixed by geography
Sadly for operators, MLB team not the only “reds” in Cincinnati golf market
Golf ’s use of the President - a whiff or a stiff?

The Pellucid Perspective - April 2016