“You have to recognize the value in the app and what you’re really doing is incorporating another channel into your revenue stream.”
- Kevin Cassidy, Director of Tournaments, Events, and Marketing
I had the pleasure of speaking with Kevin Cassidy, Director of Tournaments, Events, and Marketing at Ancil Hoffman Golf Club in Carmichael, California. In the four years Ancil Hoffman has been with us, Kevin has been a leader in implementing messaging, marketing, and technology solutions at his club.
No matter what your club is, Kevin has some interesting insights, messages, and tips for implementing new marketing and technology tools at your club. Check out some of the successes he has had below.
Holly: How did you come across Gallus Golf as a tool for Ancil Hoffman?
Kevin: I came across Gallus because somehow I got a message from Kyle. I called him back and we did a demo. It made a great deal of sense to me given the fact that we are all trying to fight the 800 lb. gorilla in the business, known as GolfNow. The app seemed to be another channel to directly get in touch with golfers or people who want to hear from us. After talking with Kyle and recognizing the value inherent in the app, it became a no-brainer, in particular, when we partnered with EzLinks. Mostly, what I was intrigued by initially was Live Scoring and the opportunity for people to be on the golf course and see their score compared to others. Just prior to finding Gallus Golf, I completed working with a gentleman on drone flyovers for the course. The timing was just right.
Holly: What would you say is the most popular feature of the app at your facility?
Kevin: Initially, the most popular feature was the flyovers so golfers could actually see the golf course. This was great for two reasons: A) They didn’t have to pay anything for the app. B) They could use the app, not just to see a flyover video, but also to see yardages on the app. This has changed a little bit over time, the pandemic has a little to do with that. I think the favorite feature has changed because it has become clear to us, the app user is somebody who is loyal and actually interested in hearing from us. While initially, it was cool to see the flyovers, at this point some of the live scoring pieces, some of the informational pieces that we are able to provide them as part of the app via Push Notifications or Pop-ups, or even the Offer Locker feature are what drew people to our app. The Offer Locker has been, from start to finish, one of the best improvements Gallus has made. It allows me to be flexible and schedule effectively from a marketing standpoint. The Offer Locker became an opportunity for me to look at my marketing calendar and stage messaging based on that calendar.
Holly: Speaking of the Offer Locker, do you use Targeted Offers now that this is an added capability?
Kevin: It is something I am still working my way through. To be honest, the pandemic was all hands on deck for the first 8 months or so. To be candid, I dropped off on my day-to-day looking at the app because there was so much to do. In the last couple of months, and watching the Golf Guru Webinars, spurred me to get back into this on a regular basis. I anticipate we will use this feature pretty dramatically moving forward.
Holly: Do you track sign-ups and tee times booked through the app? If so, how?
Kevin: Right now, I am working to make sure the tracking is effective through the app. We have talked about using different QR codes and link management tools. At this point, we track everything through the app from a booking standpoint. Bookings have continued to increase through the app every day that we’ve had it. Not probably at the level it can be ultimately, but that is probably due to the fact that we need to spend more time there and focus on marketing it effectively. What I’m trying to get across to people is that this is the continual game, but it’s the winning game. The continual game is getting people to adopt and letting them know when they’re out on the course talking about where they want to play next Saturday, that they can book that round right now through the app while they’re talking about it.
Holly: Have you seen growth in the app outside of your typical golfer?
Kevin: Personally, I think what I am starting to see is that I need to look at the app beyond golf marketing. For instance, I run a Ladies Twilight League and part of the suggestion in the registration process is to download our app. The ladies in this league probably refer to it as the “Chardonnay League”. The reason I bring this up is that some are avid golfers, but most of them are social golfers. They are more interested in hanging out with their friends. They know we didn’t set this up to beat them over the head with golf rules; they are looking for me to give them an outlet so we accommodate and they get to hang out on the patio afterward. This helps me translate the app from golf to something else. We do music events, once we are allowed again, on Friday Nights. I am working on figuring out how to use notifications, pop-ups, whatever on the app to push that side of things. These women are going to be my advocates in that form and help me because while they’re playing, we can send them a message to talk about a new wine we have and to join us on the patio. I thought this was for the core golfer at first, and it’s really more beyond that.
Holly: How are you using the app to implement changes you have had to endure due to COVID?
Kevin: What became very clear to me during this time is people actually like us. On top of that, they actually want to hear from us. During the pandemic, we were crowded. We’re basically open 365 days a year in California, so when it’s crowded and golfers are not hitting shots as regularly as they might like, they’re on their phones. It hit me critically in April of last year, that’s when I started sending a lot of push notifications. It changed my mindset to “people are less annoyed than I thought they are”, and smartphones are basically now a POS for us that we don’t have to pay for. If you take advantage of those times, whether they’re on the course or the patio, and send them messages that they are actually engaged with, the response has been pretty good. The combination of recognizing that smartphones are basically your own POS and looking beyond golf marketing opportunities are the two pieces that will help us define how we will use the app moving forward.
Holly: Golf has always been behind the times as far as technology. If you were speaking to another club who is hesitant on implementing new technology, what would you say?
Kevin: You have to recognize the value in the app and what you’re really doing is incorporating another channel into your revenue stream. Whether you have the capability of doing it yourself or not, I don’t think anyone’s in the position of turning away business.
Holly: How do you market your app to golfers and people outside of golf?
Kevin: I have access to an email list for the Men’s Club members which is about 700 members which is super helpful. I have, and will again, use this to let them know when registration begins and let them know to download the app. I tell them it costs them nothing, they can keep their scores and bank them. Sure the NCGA does it, but you can do it yourself too. Not to mention, I let them know they can create their own teams and compete against each other. I’m lucky to have this channel. For the larger group of folks, I use Instagram and Facebook primarily. I think these are easily the most effective ways to get engagement. Email blasts are okay for some things, but not always - open rates are what they are. I think the big thing for us is being aggressive on the ground at the property. Finding those valuable marketing spaces like bathrooms or range ball machines to plug the app. Gallus has helped me by having these tools in place with flyers, banners, everything already created which is super helpful. Rob Hoffman said on the Golf Guru Webinar “Recognition is the new discounting” and I think that is the piece I view as the most optimal for the app, marketing, and engagement. For instance, for the Ladies Twilight League, we have contests every week and they have to look in the app to see who won.
Holly: Since you've had such a huge success with your app, what suggestions do you have for someone who says they don't have enough time?
Kevin: I’m fortunate that I have a private office at the club and the opportunity to do this, but of course, not everyone has this opportunity. I think if you recognize the fact that the app is yours and that’s something I value most about the relationship with Gallus Golf, is that the app is not branded Gallus first and Ancil Hoffman second - it’s OURS. This is an opportunity, not another thing that got thrown on your plate. I think sometimes, in the golf operation side of things, we forget to recognize that there may be talent on your staff that you’re not aware of. Right now, I have a new kid who has been with us for 4 months. He is a very aggressive 24 year old and loves the business and wants to be a part of it. I showed him the app and told him to just play around with it for a week. He came back with a list of ideas. A large percentage of customers on your course can now access your website, book tee times, everything. None of us are doing print advertising, or so I hope, at the end of the day. So everything I do is to personalize Ancil Hoffman for the consumer and let them engage because they like that. Utilize the customer information and tell them Happy Birthday with a push - they’ll never forget that.