Selling Green Fees & Membership via Facebook Messenger

By: Sam Poole, General Manager at Leigh Golf Club September 8, 2017

When used in the correct way, social media can be an incredibly effective marketing tool which has the capability to generate a direct return on investment. Having a professional and consistent presence on all social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram should form a significant part of any clubs marketing strategy.

But for me, Facebook is where the real key to success lies when looking to increase green fee and membership revenue. For a long time now 3rd party tee selling sites have dominated the green fee arena and I for one believe it is time for golf clubs to readdress this balance.

As a golf club manager, I fully appreciate the impact of third party websites. But I do not subscribe to the notion that they are destroying the industry, devaluing membership and taking money out of golf club pockets. I actually dread to think where the golf industry would be without these forward thinking businesses, one thing is for sure, golf clubs themselves would not have embraced it.

Those committees, managers, clubs that continuously blame the 3rd party sites for destroying the industry need to take a good look in the mirror and realize it is their own reluctance to move with the times that has allowed these companies to flourish. Let’s face it, if clubs had done what they should have and assembled a customer database, developed an online strategy and built relationships, these companies may not even exist.

Generating Green Fee Revenue

That said I do believe it is time for golf clubs and in particular private members clubs to develop better green fee strategies that reduce the influence of third party sellers. This is where Facebook comes in and in particular the use of chatbots, which allows a club to send automated messages through Facebook Messenger.

These automated messages all start with a highly targeted Facebook post which is aimed directly targeted thousands of golfers within a certain radius of the golf club. Golfers can be targeted on their own Facebook activity so those who have liked pages such as European or PGA Tour and key figures such as Rory McIlroy or Jordan Speith. Here is an example of my latest Facebook post which for just £10 was seen by over 14,000 people.

Facebook messenger chatbot green fee sales example 1

Now the key to this post and where the chatbot technology comes in is when someone comments on the post with the word “DEAL”.

The commenting on the word “DEAL” then triggers a series of automated messages which are sent directly to that persons’ Facebook Messenger. So the first automated message goes as follows:

1st message of Facebook messenger chatbot green fee sales

This is a very important stage, as it is vital to get the potential customer to interact with the message. Getting the person to interact at this stage either by replying to the message or clicking a link is the key to it all as this subscribes the person to your Facebook Messenger account and allows you to send further automated messages direct to their Facebook Messenger.

My preference is always to have them reply to the message as it allows you to keep the whole process within Facebook. Once they have replied with the word “deal” this triggers a second automated message as follows:

Facebook messenger chatbot green fee sales example 2nd

Again this is just my preference but I like to use vouchers that people can download and show in the pro shop as it gives them something tangible for their interaction. The best part about this process is we allow people to then enquire and book through Facebook Messenger which means the whole process can take a matter of minutes from initial contact to securing a booking. As previously stated this advert cost £10 and gained 202 Facebook subscribers and generated £1,175 of revenue in just 7 days.

Those 202 new subscribers mean we now have just short of 500 subscribers who we can regularly contact with regards to any offers or news about the club and so far the open rates for such messages have been an astonishing 97.1% compared to our email marketing which was averaging around 30%.

Generating Membership Revenue

Attracting new members requires a slightly different tactic with more of a soft sales approach as generally a decision on club membership requires a little more thought than simply purchasing a green fee.

With this in mind, we firstly like to offer an incentive to get potential members to interact with our Facebook page. Something simple like the post below shows how giving away a 4ball voucher can generate a significant amount of interaction from local golfers with almost 70,000 people reached.

Facebook messenger chatbot green fee sales example 3rd

Firstly getting the Facebook user to like and share the post creates more organic reach and keeps the advertising costs down. Getting them to tag 3 friends does two things, one it keeps the organic reach extending further but also triggers that automated message in Facebook Messenger. So the initial message for this competition is as follows:

Facebook messenger chatbot green fee sales example 4th

A very simple instruction, all the person has to do to complete their entry into the competition is typed the word “WIN”. Once again this keeps the conversation in Facebook which is a platform they are comfortable and feel at ease with and also triggers the all-important second automated message.

Facebook messenger chatbot green fee sales example 5th

At Leigh Golf Club this year we have been using a 3-month trial membership to attract new members to the club. Through the use of chatbots, we have secured 30 trial members each paying £175, the advert above cost just £30. The first golfers that took up the 3-month trial are now coming to an end and early signs are promising that we will convert a good percentage to full members.

The soft sales approach is a great way of attracting new members. Having tried putting advertising budget behind direct membership sales posts on Facebook the results were fairly disappointing and unless a person is actively seeking club membership it is very much hit and miss.

With the approach taken through the chatbots it allows us to plant the idea of membership in the mind of everyone who interacts with the post and I’m sure we got a number to take up membership who may never have even considered the idea before. You are not pushing membership in their face which makes the club seem desperate, rather suggesting that you have a great offer available and they may wish to take a look.

Done correctly the possibilities are endless but the key here is that it has to be professional from the outset. It is vital to set that first impression high as it will be difficult to come back from and people will not engage with your social media. I have used a fantastic company called Albatross Digital Golf and have worked alongside the owner James Wilkinson to develop social media advertising.

As James has a number of years’ experience working with a variety of different clubs throughout the UK he has a full understanding of what works to get the very best return on investment. I cannot recommend James and Albatross Digital Golf highly enough and all clubs should be using social media in this way and shoving this industry into a more modern approach.

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