Fancourt Golf Course in the southern Cape. Picture: TERTIUS PICKARD/GALLO IMAGES
Fancourt Golf Course in the southern Cape. Picture: TERTIUS PICKARD/GALLO IMAGES

We keep beating the drum about marketing being an iterative activity and, in this context, it is interesting to note that the global average percentage of gross turnover for spend on marketing by a small or medium enterprise,  which category fits the average golf club and golf estate, is around 7.5 %.

Therefore, it concerns me hearing phrases such as “we are cutting back on our marketing spend for the moment” or “we need to conserve cash so marketing spend is being cut back”.

The latter is particularly disingenuous, as in reality this often means the budget is being cut back to zero.

One club GM told me his board had cut the marketing spend by 50% when the projected drop in revenue was estimated to be only 23%. The same club had set its original percentage against its perception of gross turnover at only 2% against revenue for green fees. I use “perception” because no attempt had been made to set this budget against ALL golf-related income, almost as if membership subs and cart income were not revenues.

I am joined by Peter Dros from Fancourt to discuss the challenges and importance of keeping the flag flying in tourism marketing terms.

JC: First my congratulations to team Fancourt on winning the best golf hotel award for both Africa and SA and this must be especially satisfying in what has been a pretty bleak year for business and especially the tourism industry.

PD: Thank you and for using the term “team” because this is exactly what it is – a team effort. I may be in the vanguard in brand terms by being at the tourism conferences, events and travel shows and as a spokesperson, but both our marketing and the delivery of what Fancourt stands for in terms of its services is very much a team effort.

In this context, I would also echo the remarks made, in an earlier discussion by Robert Jasper, when he referred to everyone on his staff being a marketing person in terms of a venue.

JC: Fancourt has won these particular awards in consecutive years, but this is no accident as despite both the economic downturn and the effect the pandemic has had on tourism, you have kept Fancourt’s brand in the public eye.

PD: This goes to the heart of the marketing effort, where as you will know a brand can quickly become forgotten if it does not keep itself in front of its key audiences.

JC: I feel that not marketing to survive, is rather like treading water in an attempt to stay alive, when all you achieve is to delay the inevitable fact that by staying in the same place you will eventually drown, when you should be striking out for the nearest land, no matter how distant it may look.

What are your thoughts on conserving revenues and saving jobs by cutting back on marketing?

PD: This approach is short-sighted in that it is probably one of the surest ways to lose revenues and thereby endanger jobs. Yes, we have to make sacrifices and take tough decisions such as which bit of land to head for, to extend your swimming analogy. However, these decisions define a well-planned and executed marketing strategy and the days of shotgun marketing are over.

Every initiative needs to be measured in terms of ROI [return on investment] whatever the goals are, ie audience reach, revenue or brand building. Ultimately this makes it easier to make decisions and justify what yields the best results from the use of limited funds.

JC: Discussing brand marketing with a friend, who is in the advertising business, I likened getting some clients to see the importance of marketing continuously, to feeling like knocking on a thick wooden door — he quickly added, “Yes, and a door where there is no-one on the other side”.

PD: I think that in a golf and golf tourism sense much of this attitude comes from not having the need to market in the past. You said that the days of people queuing around the block to play and or become a new member at a golf course are over, but old habits do seem reluctant to die.

In parallel with travel, the consumer has become a lot more informed about choices and competition has increased, all of which makes it more important for us as a venue to keep Fancourt’s brand out in the market place on multiple platforms.

JC: Destination Golf Travel’s CEO Dermot Synott told me that at a travel conference in 2019, a presentation paper showed that 66% of golfers still make their final travel destination choices from what they read in printed magazines.

PD: Magazines are a key part of our marketing, but as a long-haul destination most of our business comes via tour operators who are key influencers.

Given the need to spend even more wisely than normal, this only serves to underline the importance of a well-structured plan and the need to track results and adapt as new channels and opportunities develop.

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