Saturday, June 22, 2013

Think Outside the Box with No Fear

River Run Golf Club

Often in this space and always with the facilities I work with I champion the promotion over the discount. Simply put, the farther you move down in price the harder it is to get back; the more value you add to the proposition, the more attractive and hard to turn down. Discounting is easy, promoting requires more effort and the right idea.

One of my long-time clients and sagest friends in the industry is Hunt Crosby. Hunt is part owner of Pam’s Golf Getaway and the Director of Golf at River Run Golf Club in Ocean City, Maryland. Obviously the multiple hats  he wears cause him to be concerned when rounds are down. What I find most refreshing about our relationship and conversation is that Hunt is never without a new idea to throw at the problem, any problem.

Hunt, over the years we have had many discussions about increasing dollars per round as well as increasing rounds played and you always seem quick to the heart of the matter. What is your basic marketing philosophy that drives that insight?

My basic marketing philosophy is made up of two parts. First, know your box. Every market is its own unique box, with certain specific segments. In Ocean City, for example, and particularly at a semi-private facility like River Run, we to market to members, locals, outings, tourists and the package players that we book through Pam's. This is the box we live in and it's clich√© but we want to be everything to everybody. It is very difficult to accomplish that without conflict between segments. Basically each segment needs to be addressed individually but the effort needs to hang together coherently. The second part of my philosophy is - if it doesn't interfere with the box - Let's try it.

A few years back you enticed me to bring a group here to play River Run with a combo package of a round of golf and a steak dinner. It was an easy sale to my buddies and everyone was happy with the deal. This may not sound like a towering testimonial, but this was a tough group and this is an incredibly competitive market.

Lots of owners talk about the need to add value to their experience, but at most clubs when the staff brings up an idea they get a lecture about how much it will cost. Then one of two things happens, the idea is tweaked to reduce cost to the point that there is no perceived value to the golfer or they decide not to try it because it costs too much. Either way it is a failure. Worse, the boss blames the messenger for a bad idea, and the visionary thinks the boss is unwilling to take their ideas seriously. Bottom line you try fewer and fewer things and nothing changes.

When adding value (not reducing cost) I say go big or go home - it is usually better to try something outrageous than to worry about tweaking it. The ownership at River Run is always willing to try new ideas and the steak dinner promotion you refer to is one of our best.

The basics are pretty simple - book a round of golf after noon during our golf package season and we throw in a free steak dinner. This is the same steak dinner we have on the menu at $27. The free entre√© includes the steak, starch and vegetable, golfers are told they have to pay cash for the sales tax, gratuity and other incidental purchases. There is no doubt that the golfer perceives this as a $27 value. He/she can see the price on the menu. The course can now maintain its higher morning rate until 3PM and pays the restaurant $20. Our food cost for this is $9 - the neat thing is they typically spend another $16 per person on drinks and appetizers on which our cost is $6.

Bottom line is everyone wins. The course has had some days where we have had 100 afternoon rounds as a result of this promotion, the restaurant makes money, the staff makes money, and most important the golfer gets a "great deal".

I recently overheard you on the phone suggest to a long-time regular whose group plays every Thursday morning that you wanted to provide them with the format for a member guest tournament. I thought this was off the top of your head genius. Would you expound on this concept?

I always say in theory all any course would have to do to be successful is simply to get everyone who plays your course to play one more time per season. Great theory but can be tough to do.

Every public course has groups of regulars. What we try to do is get them to have a member guest type of event in addition to their regular play. We try and provide the same experience a member at a private club would receive. This builds terrific loyalty and because we schedule them when we need the business it generates added revenue.

Sometimes it is as easy as asking for the sale - every group we have approached has scheduled an event.

The weather in this area has caused the start of the season to seem like the light at the end of the tunnel. What are you doing at River Run to try to offset the loss of rounds both short-term and long-term?

Short-term the mind-set is bad spring needs a good summer. We have dramatically increased our email campaign to locals - the part of the "box" we know to be here. We also have a radio and newspaper campaign that offers "Pay full fare for the first round and play as a member the rest of the week which is a significant savings and yield management savvy. Long term we'll do more of the same and hope for better weather.

We have done service seminars together for your group at River Run and I know you to survey your customers both through Pam's data base and at the course. These are both customer-centric business principles that are getting a lot of talk lately. 

Service seminars are important particularly at the beginning of the season because of employee turnover. Aside from setting parameters when new employees are hired and on-the-job-training, the staff needs to continue to be inspired.

I do ask for feedback from members/regulars in a variety of ways because it's not what I think about our product or the marketing plan, it's what the customer thinks that matters. The truth be told you can garner everything you need to know by asking two questions:

How likely is it that you would refer us to a friend or colleague?

Is there anything about your experience (good or bad) that you would like to comment on?

Hunt, I really want to thank you for your time and sharing your thoughts. Are there any other words of wisdom?

You and I talk often about enhancing the experience and adding value but it starts with being good hosts. My favorite first-tee sign I saw at a public course in Florida -

"Ladies and Gentlemen Don't Require Rules"

Obviously, Hunt is willing to "think outside the box" when it comes to promotions and marketing, but his philosophy is that you have to thoroughly know and have analyzed that box. The same can be said for promoting in the shop - once the relevance to the customer is understood and believed in, you should be able to proceed with no fear.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Gift that Keeps on Giving headquarters in Raleigh, NC
I am always on the lookout for NEW - new products for the shop, new favors to fill the tournament schedules (both public and private) and new approaches to communicating these efforts and products to the appropriate people. Three questions I am often asked are:

            What can I offer my customers/members that would be totally incremental to their golf needs and extend our brand?

           How can I do more business without taking on more inventories?

        What can we give as a favor at this year’s Invitational that is appropriate and meaningful, but not repetitive?

My latest answer to these questions since meeting with Bill DeAngellis (Product Manager for is Photo Books. This truly is a commemorative worth considering for shop display and sales as well as corporate outings or member/guest nvitationals. Once you become familiar with the product it becomes readily apparent that anything someone thinks of as an event could/should have a photo book to celebrate it. It also became evident that the best way to tell this story was to interview Bill DeAngellis.

Customized photo books from extend the golfer's engagement,
 enable them to share their treasured memories with others,
 and bring the course additional revenue.

Bill, after touring the Lulu office and seeing the product presentation it is obvious to me that photo books can be a meaningful addition to any club or resort menu. Before we talk about how diverse this menu can be, describe the product for us in some detail and share with us the story of how you decided to introduce it into the golf channel of distribution.

I’ll take your points in reverse order, if I may, since we like to put the customers we serve before our products. The golf industry has been affected, like many other segments, by sluggish economic factors and less-than-robust participation. We also know that courses are actively looking for ways to differentiate themselves by offering additional amenities to their golfers. Couple those with the need to attract younger players to the sport, and several compelling opportunities emerge: Courses need to extend the value of the round of golf, monetize existing assets, and create a way for golfers who’ve experienced their course to share the experience with potential customers. The most efficient and elegant way to solve all of these opportunities is customized photo books. This brings us to delivers premium quality, customized photo books that extend the golfer’s engagement, enable them to share their treasured memories with others and, ultimately, bring the course additional revenue.

One of the things that immediately occurred to me envisioning this on display in a shop is that it is almost always going to be an incremental sale.  Once the facility’s master exists let’s talk about how the product can be used aside from the sale in the shop as a commemorative and also the benefits to business other than the obvious increase in sales. provides the ability for a golfer to combine their photos with the golf course’s professional images within the context of a premium quality memento. We know that golfers love to relive their most treasured rounds of golf through stories and pictures, and the photo books we produce are the ideal way to do that. Sharing these stories with others, people who are just as likely to book a tee time at the same course, is a very personal and highly valued experience. is essentially producing the best brochure imaginable for golf courses around the country.

The production of the template and its approval would be handled by someone tech savvy at the course and an account manager from Describe if you would the rest of the process that personalizes the book to fulfillment. 

It is really quite simple. Upon returning home from the course, the golfer receives an email letting them know that they have this unique opportunity to create their photo book. The email takes the person to page on a that also features the course’s branding, and they can click into their own customized book right there. The book can be personalized, ordered and shipped directly from

We should talk about the different product formats that exist and the retail options available once the initial process is complete.

The photo books a golf course can offer their golfers range in size and can be either hardcover or softcover. What we have found from our experience is that golf courses appreciate the quality and durability that come from a hardcover book, and the size most typically chosen is the 11 x 8.5 or the 13 x 11. These larger formats make for the kind of book people like to display on their coffee and end tables at home and at the office.

What will be the best process for discussing needs and ideas to get started with this no-brainer concept?  We have the banner and web-site to the right but do you want to talk to anyone interested to get things rolling?

We are delighted to discuss the unique needs of each individual golf course and what the director’s goals are. In our conversations with directors of retail, directors of golf and course owners, we have seen a lot of creative ways to accomplish a course’s goals with our offering. If your readers are interested in learning how we can help , I would invite them to visit and complete the form toward the bottom of the page.

The opportunities to use Photo Books at your facility are incredibly varied and worthy of some “outside the box” brainstorming. The obvious use as a retail gift or commemorative is a no inventory - no risk endeavor. The books can be given to new or prospective members, best customers and important guests. They can be part of member/member or member/guest favor packages. They can be designed to co-brand and commemorate corporate outings and company meetings. They can be used to market weddings, package play and retirement parties. They are an obvious retail item at tour events and could easily be merchandised in any shop or tent. Given the fact that it is a marketing enhancer once sold or given and that the price is in everyone’s wheelhouse it truly is a unique no-brainer opportunity.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

What's not in Stock

 Tan Parsons, the news editor for, recently wrote an article “What’s in Stock” where he posts this picture and makes the following point.

It seems like an obvious part of retailing – making sure you don’t run out of the things you sell so that your customers are happy and can get what they want when they visit your shop. But a news item on Marks and Spencer this week illustrated that even the big boys can get it wrong. Marc Bolland, the chief executive said some best-selling lines like blouses and tops, especially knitwear, sold out far quicker than expected, leaving the retailer “short of stock in best-selling lines”. What’s your approach to getting your availability right in your store? And have you ever been caught short by a freakish demand for a particular product?

I recently spent a day at a shop that I have been working with for a couple of years that increased its retail revenue about 50% last year and is on pace to repeat that feat this year. The shop has about 800 square foot of selling space and is not going to get any bigger. The two categories that are accounting for the majority of growth are men’s shirts and head-wear. It is easy to increase the exposure of head-wear, but not so easy to do the same with men's shirts.

 In the case of our hypothetical shop we needed to do both and we accomplished this with 2-ways which increased our capacity to hang shirts by approximately the 100 units we needed and the extra turn we needed will be summer fill-in of off-price which will drive the margin as well as the volume.

One of the things I find myself saying often to shop managers and head pros that I work with is that “we don’t need to increase the capacity; we need to increase the turn”.  Obviously the point here is the exposure is fine – it needs to be filled more often; you can’t sell from empty shelves and great display of the right capacity of goods is the formula for success.

Basics (solid shirts, rain-wear, peds, etc.) need to have par-levels that keep you in stock. The best way to establish these levels is to understand the fill-in time and add a week’s worth of sales to that. If for example you average sales on basic white logoed knits of 12 units per week and the vendor you buy them from says it will never take longer than two weeks to fulfill your re-order  - your par level should be 24 units. If the basics are filled-in religiously once a week and the turn of fashion is planned well for so that the shop always looks like you want to do business you will have gone a long way to answering Tan Parsons’s question  -  What’s your approach to getting your availability right in your store?