In the Golf Business, Why is Big Data So Scary?

So, we all know that as data becomes increasingly ubiquitous, it’ll be used for profits…how could it not? It’s just too effective.

My biggest concern is in the execution itself at the granular/local level…specifically the mix of messaging that is purveyed through these channels. 

At the end of the day, the game is all about attention. I feel that the reason we’re beholden to companies like GolfNow is because they own the attention of the end user. The end.

Everyone knows GolfNow, that’s where they look for tee times, that’s where the  attention is. Super Bowl ads cost a lot because of the attention they get. Check out this 2-minute video of Gary Vaynerchuk on attention becoming the “currency of business”

We can compete locally

If we have access to such incredibly detailed data about our audiences…likes, dislikes, preferences, challenges, habits, hair color, favorite Disney character, shoe size, etc…we have the ability to greatly improve relevance in our communications at scale.

We can compete with the big boys for lasting loyal attention (otherwise known as building brand)…at least within our respective local ecosystems (perhaps not so much at national level).  

Quick Wins at the Expense of Long Term

My thought is in terms of how the data is used – specifically the messaging that is deployed to our audiences. 

It seems the default setting it to leverage customer data to attempt to extract value from customers continuously – sales pitches, offers, come buy our crap sort of messaging. Everyone seems to associate data with grabbing quick wins, profits, sales pitches, “come buy our shit” sort of stuff.

It’s interruptive behavior…rather than using data to build a community that people actually WANT to be a part of.

We’re all reluctant to share our data if we know it’ll turn into a bunch of sales pitches, and we cancel our subscription first chance we get when it inevitably happens. It’s also why clubs are reluctant to communicate “too often” for fear of spoiling trust or trashing their database.  

Nobody likes self-serving humans either…the best relationships we have are where both sides feel like they’re getting more in return that what they’re giving…it’s like a “value scale” in my mind. 

List Building 101: Deliver More Value than you Extract

What if all this wonderful data was used to deliver value rather than persistent attempts to extract value. If we know so much about our customers, why can’t we deliver instructional materials, travel guides, how-to’s, surveys to hear their voices, equipment reviews, nutrition advice, sports opinions, whatever…doesn’t have to be 100% golf…just helpful stuff that brings them value and indoctrinates them into the ecosystem.

Quality material like this can serve to stay top of mind “in between” touches and win loyalty. I think the mindset needs to be “lifetime value” of customers rather than the revenue we’re bringing in this month.  

Here’s another golf-related article on The Value Brand and Building Your Reputation.

I feel like we need to audit our messaging mix – the ratio of “gives” vs. “asks”. Ask too much and you trash trust. Give exclusively and you don’t win any business.

The cool thing I’ve seen is that when you give a certain number of times…you almost earn the right to ask. Nobody gets upset at a sales message after they’ve gotten 4-5 messages that we’re truly helpful, entertaining, interesting. 

Our Leaders Need to Change the Narrative

When immediate “Making Money” is the North Star for an organization, it leads to money-making behavior.

The problem is that creating or curating this kind of content isn’t easy. Nor does it deliver immediate returns on the next “End of Month” revenue report.

It’s a long-term play that many course operators don’t have the time, expertise, or man-power to execute on. So, the fallback position is to shoot out a sales pitch, go on with their “real work” for some days, then fire out another sales pitch…and so on. It’s the path of least resistance. 

I’d like to see the narrative move toward how data can be used to deliver value rather than how it can solely to boost profits. Rather, let’s try to convey to operators that the long game (brand building/customer lifetime value) beats transactional thinking every time (quick wins/perpetual selling).

I believe especially when the market inevitably takes a dump, and there’s no net new business to win, the “brand builders” with loyal followings are going to steamroll more and more “sellers” out of business. 

The narrative needs to change around our messaging and delivery of content for us to get to a place where data has a chance of being leveraged for overall good. 

Casey Bourque
VP Marketing – Web Design Phoenix
Casey Bourque - Web Design Phoenix