The Swing of Things
Golf is hard. For a game with such a simple goal—hit ball into cup—there are a million things to know before you can even attempt a respectable round. What's the difference between a handicap and a hazard, a shank and a slice? Why do I need 47 kinds of golf clubs? Is it mandatory to own golf pants with crazy patterns on them, or just encouraged? It's all so overwhelming.
Fortunately, selling golf is nothing like playing it. You don't need to master any fancy tricks or learn any confusing lingo. All you need is some basic knowledge on popular gear and proven sales strategies. Here are eight tips to get you started.
1. SUGGEST THE STAPLES
Golfers need a lot of gear, and they need it often. A carton of balls might last seasoned golfers a round or two, depending on how picky they are about wear, and novice golfers even less, depending on their skill at avoiding water hazards. Tees may last one drive apiece, and ball markers are prone to vanishing in pants pockets and on the green. In other words, these items are in constant demand, making them a safe bet for sales. "Our most popular golf giveaway item tends to be golf balls," noted Katie Wyskochil, customer service manager for Pro Golf Premiums Inc., Burlington, Wis.
2. GO FOR STAYING POWER
If you're looking for items with long-lasting marketing impact, there are plenty of other options. Umbrellas make good gifts for players and spectators alike. Shoe bags, divot tools and bag tags work for players of all skill levels. And high-end gear—Wyskochil mentioned golf bags, clubs and more—can be used for contest giveaways, corporate gifts or incentives. These items might cost a bit more than balls, tees and the like, but recipients will likely hold onto them longer.
3. TRY SOMETHING NEW
You can't go wrong selling golf balls, umbrellas, divot tools and ball markers, but keep in mind that most other distributors will be selling that stuff, too. Why not shake it up once in awhile by pitching less traditional items (drinkware, putting mats, hand sanitizers, etc.) or new twists on the usual best sellers. Ask your supplier about their new or unusual golf offerings before you settle on a product.
"The industry is constantly introducing new items," said Wyskochil. "We offer a multitude of different custom packaging options that are always popular. Recently, one of our top sellers has been poker chip-style ball markers."
4. LOOK FOR LOW MINIMUMS
Not all golf promotions are for major tournaments or giant corporate events with thousands of participants. Many promotions—say, a car-dealership gift-with-purchase or a small charity tournament—require significantly fewer promotional items, making it unrealistic or unnecessary for buyers to purchase huge quantities of product. Find a supplier with low (or no) minimums, and you're more likely to gain business with companies on smaller budgets.
New Bedford, Massachusetts-based supplier AHEAD, for example, allows buyers to purchase logoed ball markers in low quantities and keep unused stock "on file" for use later on. These ball markers can then be placed onto divot tools, hat clips and other golf items, allowing buyers to create custom items on demand. "They can have a lot of items up on their company store but very little inventory, because all they have is the ball marker at AHEAD," said Jeff Waller, the company's senior director of global business development. "So when they want to order the product, they can order six wallets, six wine stoppers, six keychains. From that regard, the program is fantastic, because you have this menu of products you can draw from, and you don't have to buy them all [at once]."
5. MAKE IT A SET
Is your client looking to use golf products as more of a gift than a giveaway? Waller suggested combining divot tools, ball markers, hat clips and the like into bundles, complete with custom packaging. "We also have packaging, which has been really big for us, where buyers can have a divot tool with three extra ball markers, or a hat clip set with three ball markers, or even a money clip-type set," Waller said. "When they're giving a gift at an event, they like these sets because you're giving them more."
6. BELIEVE IN BRAND NAMES
Name brands carry a lot of cachet in the golf market, especially among seasoned golfers who want the best possible gear. Give yourself an edge over competitors selling generic items by partnering with a supplier that carries products from the top brands in golf. "I think that brand names are recognized in all aspects of life—especially in apparel, footwear, etc.—and golf is no different," Wyskochil explained. "Most people would choose a $12.00 Nike golf ball over a $12.00 generic golf ball. If there is a promotion in a name-brand product and they can get the name-brand product for the same price as a generic or lesser-known product, most likely they will go with the more recognizable product."
7. GIVE THE GIFT OF GIFT CARDS
Golf-related gift cards work for employee rewards or as general gifts, but you could also try using them for clients looking to drive purchases with customer incentives. "Many years ago Callaway created a promotion that with every dozen golf balls purchased you would receive a free Callaway golf gift card," Wyskochil said. "This was one of the most talked-about promotions I can ever recall."
8. DON'T FRET ABOUT THE ECONOMY
If you're hesitant about selling golf products due to concerns about the economy, don't be. Yes, golf items are more luxury than necessity, and yes, consumer spending on golf equipment has yet to climb back to pre-recession levels, but sales have been trending steadily upward after bottoming out in 2009. According to statista.com, consumers spent almost $3.4 billion on golf items in 2012; even if that's not quite pre-recession, it's still a massive amount. Retail demand is generally a strong indicator of demand in the promo industry, so these figures are a good sign for promotional golf product sales. "I believe that golf sales did suffer during the recession, but our sales are increasing as the years go on," noted Wyskochil.