Golf, despite its overwhelming popularity, is one of life’s rarities. It’s one of the few pastimes that doesn’t have to be done particularly well to be enjoyed.
While the best players in the world compete on television every week and earn vast sums of money, the rest of the golfers in the world pay to play the game, and they do so out of the spotlight and on the fringes of the rulebook. A bad day golfing, the old saying goes, beats a good day working.
With so many people calling themselves golfers – and with many of them owing the game of golf an apology – it is little wonder so much business is conducted on the lush fairways and greens of courses everywhere. But business golf doesn’t have to be limited to the high-powered executives of huge corporations. Senior advisors can use golf as a prospecting and marketing tool, no matter how big their organization and no matter where they live. They just have to know some of the formats used by their peers, what to look for in a course, and what kinds of courses give them the best opportunity to find their ideal prospects.
In anticipation of many of the queries sure to arise, we’ve compiled a list of Frequently Asked Questions, complete with answers and tips to help advisors hit the course swinging.
Q. Why golf?
A. The short answer here is “Jeopardy!”-like – another question: Why not golf? According to the National Golf Foundation, there are nearly 30 million golfers in the United States, and in 2002 those golfers spent more than $24 billion on green fees and equipment. And golf isn’t the kind of game people have to give up as they get older. Many people actually swing a club for the first time later in life. How many times have advisors heard people say they want to retire and hit the golf course? It’s a dream for many Americans.
Golf is a highly social game, and it creates an atmosphere of camaraderie that is difficult to create in other settings. Prospects can get to know the planner in a no-pressure environment while doing something they enjoy.
“Basically,” says Gene Herscher, the owner of Strategic Planning Assistance in Del Ray Beach, Fla., “it’s a longer introduction with something we’re all familiar with. It’s all about golf instead of finances. We don’t talk about anything serious; we get to know them personally.”
Q. What are my options?
A. When it comes to implementing golf as a prospecting tool, advisors have a few different routes they can choose. They can make it a smaller, more intimate event; they can go with a medium-sized group outing; or they can go with a larger, more corporate-style occasion. Ideas for small and medium-sized events are offered below.
Small but powerful
One golf strategy employed by financial advisors involves a small group of clients, but it can yield big results. At the extreme, advisors invite one client to invite two friends; the advisor then joins them to round out the foursome. The group plays 18 holes in a relaxed atmosphere, getting to know each other better. Usually, the established client talks up the advisor to his friends so the advisor doesn’t have to talk about himself. For four hours, the group chats and plays golf.
Herscher and other planners in his office employ this small-group strategy regularly, with two or three advisors taking groups out at the same time. Keeping it so small allows each advisor to really get to know the prospects in his group, and, conversely, it allows the prospects to get to know the advisor in a much more friendly manner than at a seminar or in a one-hour face-to-face meeting at the office. For advisors who want more than just a transaction, time spent on the golf course with potential clients is an investment.
“This industry is all relationship-based,” Herscher says. “Everyone has product to offer.” So the stronger the foundation of that relationship, the more likely the relationship will last for the long haul.
And, Herscher adds, the expense of golf is less than conducting a seminar with a meal.
Setting out on an 18-hole round with a client and a couple of his buddies is the most personal way to get to know people, but advisors who want to get their name and face in front of a few more people can be just as effective on the course. A larger, but manageable, group can be brought to the course and treated a couple of different ways.
Wilma Anderson sponsors a golf event for her best clients each fall, and it is always a big hit. Clients talk about it all year. She invites her 10 best clients to each bring a friend to one of the Denver area’s nicest courses (she rotates her venues) and enjoy a free round of golf. And Anderson, president of Littleton, Colo.-based Senior Care Associates (www.ltccoach.com), doesn’t even swing a club at her event. So what does she do all day if she doesn’t golf?
“I drive the beer wagon,” she says. “That lets me meet and enjoy the day with everyone.”
She moves from group to group, offering beverages and getting to know the 10 guests her clients have brought.
“For new prospects, it’s important to spend time with them in a relaxed atmosphere,” Anderson says. “By the 19th hole, they have all met me.”