Friday, March 22, 2013

The Necessary Tool(s)

The entire golf industry is under enormous pressure to enhance its member/patron services while determining marketing strategies to grow the game. The future requires retaining existing customers and creating new ones and understanding the role that technology plays in this process. Without the efficiency that a well-integrated POS system brings to a facility these big picture marketing considerations become bogged down in the running of the ship. Technological shortcuts and logistic systems solutions will never replace the personal touch of exemplary service but can go a long way to providing the proper infrastructure and more importantly the time to grow the game and its revenues. I thought all this being the case it would be good to discuss some of these issues and the prevailing technology with a leader in the industry. Paul Gillard (Vice President of Sales and Marketing - Club Jonas Software) was good enough to take some time and discuss what is relevant from a systems point of view.

The problems in the industry seem to be focused of late on relevant marketing to promote the club/facility, its services and strategies specifically and the game in general. How does the POS management system help with this effort and what do you see in the relatively near future?

The four main goals of any club should be 1) increase member retention 2) increase the spending of members at the club 3) improve member loyalty and 4) attain new members.

Technology is just a tool which is needed to enhance or assist in strategies that the club can implement. Within our conversation today, when I talk about Point of Sale (POS) management, I am going to include not only the POS but inventory, Tee-Sheet Management and Membership as well. The first key to success is having one integrated system. The reason for this on the most basic level is that all applications talk to each other. When you enter information in one application, it flows out to the others (i.e. adding e-mail addresses). The more non-integrated systems you have in place, the less pertinent information you are getting and more manual entry the Golf Shop will have to do. The future in relation to POS and software within the club industry is the ability to glean the necessary information (data) out of the system, to become more effective.

I'm going to quote your web site and ask you to expand on a few of these concepts:

"From booking tee times to managing inventory, the integrated Pro Shop solutions provide all the tools your staff needs to efficiently serve your members and provide the level of salesmanship necessary to run any top-rated pro shop."

Our philosophy is to provide clubs with all of the applications needed to manage their business. The more integrated software touch-points a club has, the more the value it can provide to a club. Consider this - if information is captured every time a member interacts with club staff, just think how much more you would know about that member, and in turn, how much better their overall experience can be.

I mentioned in the opening that efficiency of systems is an important component of servicing today's customer and yet as I travel around I hear complaints quite often about functionality across departments.

I hear the same thing! Anecdotally, when I talk to clubs, the Jonas Club Management system can do 70-80% of what the client thinks the software can't do. The reality is that the individual whose job it is to use the software every day just doesn't know the functionality is in the system. One of the biggest failings I see in the industry is the lack of training or lack of knowledge of the systems that clubs have in place. One of the areas we have to continue to improve on as the innovators in the industry is doing a better job of communicating this information to our clients. You can't become a better golfer if you don't practice and the same is true of using software! In the end, software is just a tool the club can use to implement strategies and attain the goals we discussed earlier.

This is what i have come across also, most users of systems as diversified as the Jonas Club Management system only have a partial understanding of the use of the tool they have as you have just alluded to. How do you train your partners and this being the important issue that it is are there any new plans for education in the future?

In the past we have used what I will call a pull strategy in training our partners. What I mean by this is that we have a variety of ways to train or inform (annual user groups, monthly webinars, on site and remote training, knowledge base articles and documents on our website telling clients about the new enhancements) but in all cases it requires the user/club to go out and want to get trained or informed. We're working on changing this to a push strategy by "pushing" all of this information out to clients. Basically, in the past clients would have to look for this information and now we are creating strategies to keep them better informed as to what is available while making it more accessible.

Paul, give us an overview of Jonas Club Management's history and current place in the industry? I would like to think we could keep this conversation going periodically as technology and your ability to educate the user of these systems continues to grow.

Jonas Club Management has been in business for over 20 years providing software to the club industry! Currently we have over 70 applications that can be used by our clients. We have just over 2,300 clients using our software in more than 17 different countries with the vast majority of them being in the United States and Canada. The value proposition that we bring to the table is that we are the only fully integrated club management software in the industry.

Thank you Paul for your time and insight as well as your obvious empathy with your customers and the growth of the industry, perhaps we an use this venue to help with the educational push. My experience is that there are a lot of renovations going on at golf facilities in general that range from remodeling clubhouse and refixturing shops to redoing wesites and upgrading POS systems. It seems that any thoughts about the latter should involve at the very least a conversation with Paul and his staff. Click on the Jonas banner to the right to go to their website and/or to contact them.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Nordstrom "Secret"

Brett Blake is one of 50 Nordstrom employees who each surpassed the $1 million sales mark during the last fiscal year. He runs a million-dollar business selling men's clothing. His most valuable asset isn't the building or the merchandise. In fact, he owns neither. He isn't in management. His secret is his client list and his capacity to mine it.

A couple of years ago I visited Nordstrom in Towson, Maryland and was kicking tires in the men’s department when I was approached by Amanda. Amanda had let me start touching the sport coats in my size before she struck up a conversation. She did not ask if she could help me but began by telling me some things about the Joseph Aboud clothing line which happened to be the designer of the blazer I was admiring. She introduced herself and helped me try the coat on – all the while continuing a conversation about me – ‘What did I do for a living?’, ‘Did I wear sport coats on the job?’, ‘Had I been to Nordstrom before?’ Amanda assumed I loved the blazer and laid some gabardine slacks next to it, a couple of shirts and ties that were killer. My ‘maybe’ sport coat now looked like a photo shoot. Obviously I made the purchase. There is a lot that is worthy of discussion about this comfortably handled experience and we will come back to them in future entries. What I want to address in this entry is the professional follow-up.

Amanda made sure she was present when I returned to pick up the coat and slacks from the tailor. She asked me for my business card and asked if I would be interested in being informed of new Joseph Aboud arrivals or the occasional sales in the tailored clothing department. I said I would and we shook hands.

A few weeks later I received a ‘Thank You’ email that expressed in a very positive way an assurance that the outfits I purchased would work well for me as we had discussed but that if for any reason that was not the case to please let her know and she would do whatever she could to make it right.

A few months later I was informed [again via email] from Amanda that the new Aboud line had arrived, and there were also some pieces soon to be on sale. She offered to put some items on the side in my size if I was interested. She inquired as to when I thought I would be coming in so that she could be sure to be there to assist.

Now I ask you!

Who do you think I will call the next time I need clothes?

Amanda is a retail professional – they are not born – they are trained. The niche aspect of Pro Shop Retailing lends itself to an easy intimacy with very regular customers and yet there are almost no Amandas.

Instead of the proven ‘good customer’ just being informed that the new Taylor Made drivers or Peter Millar shirts have arrived, it could also be suggested that his/her son on the golf team at the University of Michigan might also be interested in one and by the way, we know his shaft strength and size and his birthday is a week from Friday.

Nordstrom's secret is not that they take returns on automobile parts that they do not sell (I'm sure everyone has to have heard that story), but that they have incentivized Amanda's on their staff. An Amanda or a Blake in your shop could possibly double your business; it would most certainly make your shop the one in your area that people are talking about. Even if I move out of state I will still buy sport coats from Amanda. There is no substitute for feeling special and it holds true in every case.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Shoe Time of Year

In an effort to increase sales in the shoe category provide your members/customers with better service and information about one of the most important pieces of equipment in their repertoire. The most effective way to accomplish this is to invite the sales associate from your major shoe vendor to make a full blown line presentation and product-knowledge seminar to your entire professional staff. They can provide detailed information regarding the construction and fitting of shoes, offer tried and true selling suggestion, but most importantly they explain that golf shoes are the foundation of the golf swing and drive home the significance of them being as properly fit as are clubs.

Create eye catching displays in the golf shop to attract attention and conversation about golf shoes. This is particuliarly true now that the spikeless phenomenon is still riding a crest. Install shoe displays in the locker room and enlist your locker room manager to assist in marketing golf shoe sales. Make sure that he is invited to the seminar and well versed on the benefit of having the correct fit and construction for comfortable and effective performance. Provide a catalog in the locker room as well as on the floor of the shop.

Put up a list of the entire staff in random order. Every dozen pair of shoes sold the next associate on the list gets a free pair of his choice and goes to the bottom of the list. Most vendors will participate in such an effort and are happy to give the baker’s dozen piece at no charge, let the sales rep announce the contest of sorts at his seminar and pick names out of the hat to create the random list.

Have a spring TRADE-IN offering a significant discount to anyone bringing in an old pair and don’t hesitate to invite your key customers to the presentation with your staff.

Having just attended a number of Christmas parties where the entire Foot Joy line was displayed on tables for the purpose of taking special orders makes this suggestion seem a bit late except that it’s a good idea any time of the year as long the proper audience can be created; member/member and member/guest tournaments for example.

The strategy I use to create the proper inventory of shoes to sell from is to determine last year's sales and think in terms of two turns. Within that number of units I try to provide one style of golf shoe in all available sizes in whatever the most appropriate style and price is for that facility, so that anyone walking in who has forgotten their shoes can be fit in a pair for today's round and then build the rest of the selection around that depending on the importance and relevance of spikeless, street casual, ladies, etc. If special orders are a big part of a club business I order a number of onesies to fill displays.

Everything starts with the staff understanding the product and the importance of the category and wanting to discuss their knowledge with the customer.