It’s getting harder for courses to stand out on 3rd party marketplaces. With 7,000 courses on GolfNow, the only way to compete is to lower your prices. That’s why many businesses are focusing on a direct-to-consumer (D2C) strategy.
Brands like Southwest Airlines have proven the power of marketing and selling directly to customers. With such a big and loyal customer base, Southwest doesn’t rely on 3rd party sites like Expedia.
Golf courses have a similar opportunity. When you build a D2C strategy, your course becomes less reliant on 3rd party booking sites to market and sell your tee times. This enables you to:
- Increase profitability of tee times
- Reduce commission fees
- Build brand loyalty with your customers
You don’t need to be like Southwest to get the benefits of a D2C strategy. Here are some quick tips to get more customers to book direct.
1. Create email & text message lists for special offers
GolfNow is a marketplace. Your course can create its own marketplace too with a dedicated list and of customers who’re interested in hearing about your tee time specials. Promoting your specials is as easy as sending out an email or an automated text message.
The key is to create a separate list that’s only for tee time specials. That makes it easier for readers to digest and take action. Put your news, events, equipment and food deals in a different format.
Your list is more than a communication channel — it’s a business asset. The bigger your list gets, the more sales you’re likely to make with each email or text message send. So give people an incentive to sign up. For example, you could:
- Offer a promo code
- Offer a free lesson
- Enter them into a drawing for a free driver or putter
- Offer a food and beverage coupon
2. Attract new customers on social media
Social media platforms are the new marketplace. You can reach tens of thousands of customers on Instagram and Facebook alone. It’s a proven and powerful way to get more eyeballs on your golf course and tee time specials.
You’ll need to ask customers to follow your course on Facebook and Instagram. Otherwise, they won’t see your updates in their news feed. Give them a good reason to follow you.
It’s a simple as: “Follow us on social media to hear about tee time specials.”
As you build a following of customers, start regularly posting about your tee time specials. This will drive people back to your website and also raises overall awareness of your course.
3. Convert customers from 3rd party websites
Did you know that 3rd party booking sites can boost your direct-to-customer strategy? They bring your course new customers…and a perfect opportunity to get them to book direct next time.
All it takes is a little incentive that they can’t get from a 3rd party site. To encourage customers to book direct, you could offer:
- A rewards program
- A free lesson
- Free bucket of balls
- Food and beverage coupon
These are things a 3rd party simply can’t offer. So make your offer and put it on a business card. Hand them out to all your guests — not just the 3rd party customers — to reinforce the benefit of booking directly with your course.
Take back control of your marketing
When you choose to build your D2C business, you choose to take back control of your tee sheet.
3rd party booking sites aren’t going anywhere – they’re still an effective way to market tee times. But when you have your own marketing strategy, you’re less reliant on 3rd party sites. It gives you freedom and the foundation for a more profitable, sustainable business.