LBS Marketing Spotlight: Golf Courses

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It wasn’t that long ago that a mobile phone on the golf course would be frowned upon, but it appears that the days of “phone free” greens might soon be over.

Golfers’ cries for gadgets are making headway — and they offer a built-in opportunity for course owner/operators to make mobile and location-based services an integral part of their marketing mix. An LBS approach can help to increase loyalty, engage more golfers and appeal to their love of the game by connecting with them and the tools their already using. If you are a golfer too we recommend you this golf practice net to improve your hitting.

We’re already seeing a loosening of restrictions around mobile phone usage that will pave the way for marketing opportunities. This past week, the British heads of The Open Championship lifted a ban on mobile phone usage, freeing up the use of cell phones at the tournament for the first time in six years. The ban was originally issued because players found the obnoxious ringtones of fans’ cell phones distracting, and ultimately damaging to their performance. This will lead to much wider use of phones at major tournaments and on the everyday courses as well — and golf marketers must be ready.

So what’s the game plan?

The club opportunity
There are many ways to leverage the power of mobile to engage golfers and fans alike. Here are just a few:

— Request a tee time
— Book a special event
— Click to call for directions
— Engage in push notifications (group text messages)
— Order food & beverage before you finish a round
— View course maps(s) & rates
— Find courses nearby
— Take advantage of special promotions/discounts
— Follow your club on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube
— View membership opportunities

At the very least, if you operate a club you should claim your business on Foursquare and/or Facebook places. Chances are that folks are already checking-in there and you can use this information to get a better understanding of your customers’ behavior and what motivates them.

Retailer’s Perspective
Specialty retailer Golfsmith that is using mobile cloud technology from Moovweb to run its experimental mobile website and iPhone app. Golfsmith’s desktop website features premier branded golf merchandise, as well as its proprietary products, promoted with marketing techniques, including HD video, faceted search, daily deals and media-rich landing pages.

According to Jamey Maki, director of e-commerce & online experience, “With over 20 percent of our Web traffic now coming from mobile, our mobile e-commerce strategy is rapidly evolving, and the need for high-end, interactive mobile retail experiences among our discriminating customers had outgrown our existing infrastructure.”

Don’t Forget the Sponsors
Last month, Travelers Insurance struck an advertising deal with The Weather Channel to home in on the 250,000-some people expected to be in attendance at the Travelers Championship. Consumers in the Cromwell, Conn., area were greeted by Travelers’ trademark red umbrella logo and were targeted based on either the zip code they’ve registered on their phone or, in the case of iPhone and Android users, by the GPS coordinates accessed through the app on their devices.

With geo-location information increasing available, the ability to find new customers and sponsors has never been easier. The time to tee off on mobile is now.

Asif R. Khan is a veteran tech start-up, business development and marketing entrepreneur currently serving the community as founder and president of the Location Based Marketing Association (The LBMA). Weekly podcaster at This Week In Location Based Marketing every Monday. Can be found at @AsifRKhan @TheLBMA on Twitter.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Fevi Yu.