Yield management, customer profiles and other keys to increasing revenue

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An often-quoted idea is that golf clubs should understand their customers and create customer profiles. In recent years, more golf clubs have begun to recognize that it is not enough to know what their customers are, but also who they are (e.g. preferred playing time, probable duration of the round, reservations or prefer to walk-in etc.).

If we know the profile of the most profitable customers for a certain tee-time period, our sales and marketing activities will be more effective. When you identify customer types by playing time zones, it increases your ability to gain insight into the most relevant offerings. This way of thinking also contributes to a better customer experience.

Most golf course managers understand that golfers’ demand for tee times is variable (e.g. the demand on weekends in summer is usually higher in certain hours of the day). Golfers tend to focus their interest on peak times of the weekdays and weekends. Without segmenting the time zones and adjusting prices accordingly, this leads to frustrated customers, as the time needed to play the round does not meet their expectation.

At the same time, we should not forget that unsold tee times are also part of the golf course inventory. The development of markets for these unused time zones is an undertaking that requires new strategies. 

The aim is to find the most profitable customers with the right tee time offers.

Golf customers are looking for meaningful experiences. To keep existing customers and to expand the game, course operators need to be flexible. To be relevant for the potential customers, the service must be designed to improve their lifestyles. The focus should be on the individual preferences of customers.

Yield management is a widely used method in the airline, hotel and rental car industries. Recently it gained attention in the golf industry as well. The essence of yield management is to reconcile the time of performance with the customer’s willingness to pay for the service rendered at that time. 

Yield management is not a discounting strategy. Price differentiation should lead to an increase of prices in peak times and discounting at edge times. 

It should bring occupancy rates closer together in different periods and open the market to price-sensitive players. If properly set up, the new pricing should increase the participation rate and attract new players to the game.  

We can say that yield management is a combination of price/stock information systems, it sets pricing strategies to allocate the right service (in our case, a tee time), to the right customer at the right time. 

The right tee time means that it brings the greatest benefit to the customer. Of course, “right” also brings advantages for the club (e.g. extra revenue in non-peak times, customer satisfaction etc.).

In practice, this means that prices are set according to the forecast demand, so that even price-sensitive customers can find tee times that fit their pockets. 

To be able to shift the demand, the club manager must be able to predict the peaks and valleys based on sun and season. Seasonal demand and high and low seasons can be determined based on past experience or by observing reservation patterns. 

The aim should be to gain control of customer demand using time- and price-related strategic levers. 

Golf clubs have two strategic levers: round duration control and demand-based pricing. Before, you start a revenue management program, you should know the capacity of your club. This is not an easy task. It is strongly influenced by the tee time interval, game speed, hours of operation, course design and management practices.

To be successful, it is necessary to reduce the uncertainty of arrival (e.g. by confirming the reservation by phone, enforcing a no-show fee, advanced payment etc.), the duration of the game (e.g. golf carts, use of suitable technology (e.g. Tagmarshal) etc.), and the tee time interval (8-11 minutes).

The hotel industry tracks its performance from the revenue of the available time-based inventory, that is, revenue per available room-night (RevPAR). 

Following this logic, clubs should measure their revenue per available tee-time. There are several factors that influence the available tee-time. However, not all of them can be controlled (e.g. bad weather with a deviation from previous years has the greatest influence).

It is strongly recommended to break down historical demand information by season and day of the week.

Solution

The demographic profile and the lifecycle model of the player is the beginning and end of the story of their buyer personality. Marketers gain far more value from buyer personalities when they include the story of their buyers about the decision they want to influence. We need to understand who our customers are, not just what they are. 

Club managers must identify their customers by identifying things they love or hate emotionally and how they want to experience it. Based on what they like (discounted prices in non-peak time) and hate, we can identify and create customer types. The effectiveness of a yield-management program depends on the ability to segment the market by customer type.

The focus should be on the individual preferences of customers regarding time zones. 

The buyer profile conveys a feeling of human contact with people we have never met in person. This allows us to build relationships with a unified group, as we do every day with friends through social media. 

When you know what triggers your buyer’s decision, then you have discovered the first of five buying insights [3] that will help you align your marketing strategies with the expectations, needs, and goals of your customers.

When you combine the buyer profile with buying insights, you will have clear guidelines for the decisions you need to make to win their business. In this way, you can match the most profitable customers with the right tee time offers.

If the course operator extends from 4 times to 12 zones, more price and inventory information leads to more customer searches on the Internet. By offering an online tee time sheet, customers can find inventory and price combinations that are not visible when they call the reception desk.

To define the right product combination, one should consider how to examine and calculate the value/price equation for the different periods offered by interviewing tee time players and club members. Relevant messaging strategies can generate last-minute sales; customer interviews can lead to new approaches offering product bundles and new pricing strategies.

By focusing on an excellent price-performance ratio for each of the periods offered, operators can increase customer satisfaction and turn customers into marketing ambassadors (e.g. word of mouth, positive reviews and sentiments and mention in social media).

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and club management software should review members and green fee players based on time periods played and analyse and identify the characteristics of the most profitable customers per time zone by spending additional money in affiliated service departments. 

Clubs should combine customer intelligence, club management software and CRM to create engaging messages with incentives that motivate the most profitable customers to play more often.

Micro-segmenting customers profiles based on the playing time zone is data-driven; clubs (both private and public) and golf resorts will need to improve these business capabilities to remain competitive and relevant to their customers. 

The optimization of revenues per time zone creates a pearl chain of periods that not only helps increase tee time and membership sales, but also improves other sales (e.g. pro-shop, F&B, spa, gym) and profitability.

 Miklos Breitner is the Founder & CEO of Golf Business Monitor, a B2B golf business blog. He also provides golf club marketing consultancy to golf clubs and resorts.

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