Given that 86% of customers trust word-of-mouth reviews, and people are 4 times more likely to buy a product or service when referred by friends, it makes sense to have a plan to maximize the impact of positive word-of-mouth referrals to your business. Here are 8 steps you should look at if you want to increase the number of people looking to connect with you.
8 Steps to maximize word-of-mouth
1. Make sure you’re delivering value
You don’t need the most glamorous clubhouse, or a championship golf course. You don’t need to stock every equipment brand. You don’t need all the coaching technology and software available. You do need to deliver a good product or service, that allows your golfer to enjoy the experience and get the value they want from their engagement with you.
“Remember, it’s the whole experience that counts. How easy is it to contact you, and make a booking? What happens before the engagement if it was scheduled? Did the golfer think the engagement was about them; did they feel cared for; were their requirements understood and met? What happens after the engagement? If you’ve given a lesson to a golfer; contacting them after their next round to find out how their game went, shows that this wasn’t a transaction”.
2. Expand your reach
What’s the size of your email database of golfers who want to stay connected to you? How many golfers follow your social media feeds? Those numbers are important to you. You should have a process that captures the email of every golfer that visits your club. You should have a “welcome to our community” email you send that invites them to stay connected with you. It should be easy for a golfer to immediately follow you on social media when they meet you or hear of you.
“We would argue that the more you use other companies' platforms, the more you allow them to monetize your golfers by promoting an alternative product or service suppliers to your golfers. Your golfer is your golfer; not to be shared with anyone else willing to pay to advertise to them”.
3. Create content that connects with people and emotions
We talk with our customers all the time about creating ‘hero’ posts. These are stories published in email and/or social feeds that ‘hero’ a golfer. Yes, sometimes the golfer is a hero because they’ve won a club event. Certainly, coaching someone who goes on to be club champion is worth talking about.
However, it can be as simple as a member participating in a special activity you had at the club.
Just showcasing children enjoying themselves in your junior program provides endorsement to parents. The post below highlights a child showing improvement. It's testimony to your ability to create a golf swing in a young golfer. By the way, it's also a testimony of improvement that could be delivered to many golfers of all ages.
“For coaches (or club fitters), hero posts like these are the most effective way to succeed with a word-of-mouth marketing strategy. Just showing golfers prepared to engage on an improvement journey with you, validates your role and shows that they trust you.”
4. Encourage reviews and publish them
If you’re in the public space, formal reviews are hugely important.
1. 85% of consumers trust online reviews just as much as they trust an organic word-of-mouth recommendation.
2. 49% of consumers only choose a golf club or golf coach with a 4- (out of 5-) star rating.
You need to create a mechanism to ask for, and then share reviews. Asking for a review can be part of the overall experience for the golfer. Sending an email with a little contextual thought shows concern for the golfer’s experience. And if you’re a coach, make sure you ask the student to let you know how their next round went.
“If you’re trying to convince your members to try a particular event you’ve introduced on Thursday evening, or to sign up for a different coaching program you’ve introduced, then you shouldn’t underestimate the power of more unstructured ‘review’ feedback. A picture of a member enjoying themselves with a quote describing their experience is a powerful tool.
The more of these you can publish internally at your club, the more informed the board, committee, or management become about the impact of your initiatives and programs at the club. Members recommending you or your events or programs to other members is a useful tool to support your tenure and future contract negotiations."
5. Identify influencers in your community
Most Professionals are very good, in a golf club with members, at knowing the members of influence they should search out and provide special support to. Helping the Ladies Captain make a success of her events and activities will influence her to become involved in building your business with women. It’s the same with the Chairperson or Committee members and the ‘organizers’ within the club. But look beyond your club into the local community. Influencers aren’t just Instagram models.
The local school principals or sports masters can be influencers. The local women’s or mums' group will have influencers. If you’re in an area that includes tourists, do the local hotels or tour companies know enough about your offer? Are they comfortable that their customers will have a great experience if they book them in for a round or a coaching session with you?
6. Get your community to provide their own stories
If customers (golfers) are more influenced by other customers (other golfers), it makes a lot of sense to persuade your students and golfers to also create content that can be published in your email, website, or social feeds. If you’re a coach, can you incentivize a few members or golfers who match the profile of student you want to attract, to record and tell the story of their improvement journey?
“Younger people especially are looking for content or imagery that will make a good post. You can make that easier for them by taking a picture or video of their swing and sending it to them. Even an image of their TrackMan data. Ask them to post it on their feed and, if they feel inclined, to recommend their friends look you up”.
7. Is a referral policy worthwhile for you?
I’ve come across a resistance to incentivizing referrals in the golf industry. We seem to think it might cheapen our brand. But, if you’re a golf club hosting a corporate day, what’s to stop you from adding a voucher for every participant that offers them a free round of golf at a later date, if they bring along 3 paying friends?
If you’re a coach and want a student to bring along four friends and make up a social coaching group, why wouldn’t you offer that student a referral bonus?
8. Do something different
Sometimes the smallest little extra wins a lot of word-of-mouth promotion.
If one of your golfers purchases a set of irons from you, 3 months later send them a personal email asking the golfer to come in for a free swing check to ensure they’re getting the most from their new purchase. After 12 months, send an anniversary celebration of their purchase with a discount on new grips “to keep them brand new”. These are little service touches and initiatives that will get people talking about you.
What can you design to inspire golfers to recommend you?
“You don’t have to implement all of these to have an effective word-of-mouth strategy. For coaches and club fitters, the minimum ought to be to keep expanding your reach, and publishing a steady stream of hero posts. If you’re in the public domain, take reviews and ratings very seriously. As more and more people try to commoditize coaching, it’s the key to differentiation.”
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