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LinkedIn: Why Golf Courses Should Blog

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Editor’s note: I originally posted this to LinkedIn. It will be part of an occasional series talking about content marketing for golf courses, including blogging and social media. You can find the Maderas Golf Club blog here.

When I tell people what I do for a living – golf and travel writing – they tell me I have a dream gig. And they’re right.

But it gets better.

For two years now, I’ve done golf and travel writing in the traditional sense – for magazines, web sites, etc. – but the unique part of my business is that I actually write FOR golf courses, meaning doing content marketing, social media and blogging. And that order is actually inverted because blogging drives the bus – or golf cart, if you will.

This part of my business came about shortly after I relaunched my career and immediately realized a par 5 of opportunity pertaining to how courses marketed themselves. They were still largely doing it through fliers and static web sites – and, by and large, still are.

Here’s why what we’re doing at Maderas Golf Club, a Golf Digest top-100 course in San Diego, is changing the game and why your course should consider blogging.

I started working with Maderas on its blog a year ago now after previous experience with a course group in San Diego that gave me my first chance to realize the potential of aligning content with the overall marketing and business objectives of a golf course.

My first paid blog work came from courses I’d written about in print who were thrilled with the coverage. Usually you’d had that experience and move on, but I told them the relationship could continue if they invested in a blog. And they did.

I’ll now fast-forward to Maderas because they’re my model and, at present, the ultimate manifestation of the concept. Blogging at Maderas began with us doing one post a week with content that fed into each of its overall business entities: the course, instruction, tournaments, food and beverage and weddings (much more on weddings in a second, btw.).

I also encouraged Maderas, since it has a partial tourist clientele by being located 20 minutes from downtown San Diego, to be a little bit regional in its mentality and basically be the golf magazine San Diego doesn’t have.

That thinking led to the first blog post – the then-recent opening of the PGA Tour Grill in the San Diego airport, something that had been covered rather quietly locally. The GM at the time and I had lunch there. He was impressed with the venue and service and we wrote a post endorsing the experience to our golfer “friends” at Maderas. Their previous posts had gotten around 50 views; this one got 500.

And that’s how a beautiful partnership began that led to posts about Maderas’ caddie services, its course, its staff and a host of other content opportunities. In the first six months, the blog generated around 10,000 impressions. That’s not 100,000, but it’s not 1,000 either. Mostly, it was a start.

We now post twice weekly. We post a video lesson from the Maderas’ Director of Instruction, Chris Mayson, on Monday and come back with something from Maderas’ content rotation later in the week.

One change we’ve made to the content rotation came after a survey of those first six months. I ran the numbers and realized our one weddings post (“The Top Five Reasons To Host A San Diego Wedding At Maderas”) outperformed every golf post in the same time frame. In a record year for weddings at Maderas, the general manager, Michael Flickinger, said, “Let’s make it a monthly.” And we did. And those posts now prove to be popular month after month.
That shows you how blogging allows you to truly take control of your marketing dollars if you embrace the mentality and realize the opportunities – which are everywhere on a daily basis, by the way.

There are many great outcomes and success stories I could share, but I want to cut the point of this post, which is to spin it forward for you and tell why blogging/content marketing/media is smart marketing for golf courses at a time when the industry needs to be embracing change more than ever.

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Customer service/relationship building

The mentality of the Maderas blog planning process is this: “How are we being a friend to our golfers this week?” In short, a few answers: We’re helping you improve your game; we’re talking to you about the PGA Tour (we preview all the majors, btw.); we’re helping you host a great wedding with us; we’re recommending new entree from our kitchen or introducing you to the new fall menu; we’re telling you about the slick hat we just got in the pro shop; and we’re even telling you about that cool new restaurant that’s about to open in town.

In essence, what this is doing: We’re virtually recreating conversations you’d naturally be having on the tee box or in the clubhouse. We’re being their golf buddy. And who do golfers always want to golf with … their buddy.

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Smart marketing

You may have heard about the ongoing drought in SoCal. Those water cutbacks began to impact Maderas this spring – and it was starting to show. The driving range was being allowed to go brown; water was by request only, although the club hadn’t made table tents that told you that and why yet. But Maderas was also taking responsible conservation actions golfers couldn’t see – replacing sprinkler heads with more efficient ones; capturing ice bucket melt water and using it to irrigate flowers.

Rather than let the topic became an elephant in the room, I suggested to the Maderas GM a post giving people an answer about the drought before they asked the question. We wrote “Four Ways Maderas Is Conserving Water” and that got posted on the blog and in their newsletter. It also got picked up as part of an infographic a marketing agency did about California golf and the drought.

Maderas couldn’t make it rain, but it could at least make sure that an information drought didn’t make it worse.

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Reduced print budget/increased exposure

Maderas has largely provided for blogging services by reducing its print advertising, but it hasn’t lost anything in terms of exposure. The blog does steady traffic and tells stories traditional media would never write about them … but stories print outlets find useful, and print-worthy, nonetheless.

In my 18 months of course blogging, I’ve now had 12 posts picked straight up as magazine pieces, including two for Maderas. So if you’re still someone who prefers traditional print exposure, there’s an outcome for you. You’re making it easy for the media by giving them something ready to go … and something you control 100 percent.

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Sales

Sales can be a hard one-to-one to track in a day in age when we’re told we can track everything (FYI, we can’t), but the maturing of the blog relationship is indeed now begetting sales. I put a golf offer out on Twitter last month that at first was greeted with kind replies and retweets before, 45 minutes in, was snapped up for a foursome by an avid competitive golfer, new to San Diego, who follows the blog.

I only expect more of this type of thing to continue has Maderas’ network and its relationships grow and we become better at seizing the day in the new marketing world and leveraging great content with strong social media reach – and it takes both. Otherwise, it’s like playing top-of-the-line clubs without buying golf balls …. Or vice versa.

In sales parlance, content is a warm handshake and everything is a soft sell. So I ask golf course professionals and general managers, “How many hands are you shaking online? How are you being a friend to your golfers today?”

Are you ready to give blogging a try? Who knows? It might just become the best new club in your golf marketing bag.