Innovation Series: GolfNow
Innovation Series: GolfNow
This is the sixth episode of the Innovation Series -- where we highlight marketing experts to learn how they are innovating in Salesforce Marketing Cloud. In this episode, hosts Bobby and Cole talk to Nicole Roach who leads customer growth and engagement strategy for GolfNow (a part of NBC Sports). She talks about innovative solutions GolfNow has been creating for golfers including a personalized email that presents dynamic, live tee times and weather to golfers based on their locations and preferences, and what they are doing to focus on golfers' long-term lifecycle.
Speaker 1: Welcome to the In the Clouds podcast. In the Clouds is a Marketing Cloud podcast powered by Lev, the most influential marketing- focused Salesforce consultancy in the world. Lev is customer experience- obsessed, and podcast hosts, Bobby Tichy and Cole Fisher, have partnered with some of the world's most well- known brands to help them master meaningful one- on- one connections with their customers. In this podcast, they'll combine strategy and deep technical expertise to share best practices, how- tos, and real- life use cases and solutions for the world's top brands using Salesforce products today.
Bobby Tichy: Welcome to the In the Clouds podcast. I'm Bobby Tichy, along with Cole Fisher, and we're excited to continue our innovation series today with one of our Lev customers, and also one of my favorite brands out there, NBC Golf. So Nicole Roach, who leads some of the marketing efforts at NBC Golf, is going to join us here in just a minute. Cole, I think this is going to be a birdie of a podcast, or, no, an eagle of a podcast.
Cole Fisher: Mm-hmm(affirmative). Mm- hmm(affirmative). Bobby, I knew the puns were coming out. You teed it up perfectly and inaudible. You had to go there.
Bobby Tichy: That's what we call a grilled cheese intro, very cheesy. But anyway, Nicole, thanks for jumping on the podcast with us today. We're really excited to chat through some of the things you guys are doing at NBC Golf. If you wouldn't mind just doing a brief introduction of yourself, and then we'll go from there.
Nicole Roach: Sure. Thanks, Bobby and Cole, for having me. I'm excited to be here and I'm excited to dive into some of the cool things that we're doing, but first, I'll get to know you a little bit more. So as Bobby mentioned, my name is Nicole Roach. I'm the senior director of marketing for the NBC Sports digital and consumer businesses. And specifically, I lead our customer growth and engagement strategy for the full GolfNow portfolio of businesses, including both our B2B and B2C products. So you're probably wondering, what does that really mean and who is GolfNow? So GolfNow consists of a few different brands, first being GolfNow, which is our consumer marketplace for Tee Times. We also have another brand, TeeOff, another consumer marketplace for Tee Times, and then we have our GolfPass business, and that is essentially the best golf membership that is out there. It is the subscription business and streaming business that we offer for all things golf, instruction, Tee Time benefits and bonuses, as well as golf travel and fitness, so anything that you can possibly think of for golf, as a golfer, that you would need.
Cole Fisher: Do you guys have a business unit that would fix my slice, perhaps?
Nicole Roach: Well, GolfPass has something for that. We have probably well over 10,000 hours of instructional content, so go and check it out, sign up, maybe, and I'm sure we can help you out with that, for sure.
Cole Fisher: I have actually seen some of those and tried to fix my slice. It just simply won't go away for me. But no, so Bobby and I have actually gotten to work fairly close... I mean, NBC Golf has been partnering with Lev for a few years now, and Bobby and I actually got to work earlier on and kind of dig into the weeds of some of the really cool and innovative things that you and your team were doing. And one of those was around, I mean, everything from plugins and integrations to weather and geo and availability, of course, times and things like that. So can you detail a little more about what the solution was that you guys came up with?
Nicole Roach: Sure, yeah. We have been working with Lev for quite some time now, and it's fun to see how our relationship has evolved into a partnership, and just the idea generation that we have is really cool. And I would say one of the coolest solutions that we have really come up with, and we've just continued to iterate on over the past few years, is the idea around presenting our golfers with dynamic, live tee times. Our tee time inventory, there's only so much of it, right? Once that 12 o'clock tee time is gone, it's gone, so we definitely had to solve for that aspect. And then you take the needs of a golfer. They may play one to three courses on average, and typically, they want to stay under, around a 30- minute drive time to that course. So it was really important that we were able to combine what our golfers wanted to hear, and what they wanted to see, the courses they wanted to play, with available inventory to make it a really great experience. And then you layer that weather on top of it because golf is a very weather- based and seasonal business. If there's snow on the course, you're not going to play, although I have seen some fun images of people playing golf in the snow. But yeah, so what that end product really looked like is a unique email distribution for every golfer within our database, in which no golfer would see the same thing. They see courses that they either favorite or that they play most often, as well as then, other recommended courses based off of what they have played or have shown interest in. All of the tee times and the starting price points are based off of that golfer score, in which we can then, dynamically and live, put tee times in there. So once that inventory is sold, that tee time is alive and removed from that email campaign and replaced with another tee time that would be the next best fit for them. So what we really saw with that then, was improved click- through rate, right? They weren't seeing inventory that wasn't a value to them. And then, as well, we saw improved conversion because what would happen before is someone would then click through their email, they're like," Yes, that's the perfect tee time, it's at the course that I like," and then it's a mulligan when you get to the website, right, because that inventory was already sold. So we definitely saw big improvements there, just in the personalization, the conversion, and the overall experience for the golfer.
Cole Fisher: Very cool. So this golfer score is, it's not the golf score where Bobby uses an eraser on his pencil and cheats, it's the actual affinities and weights of what their preferences are and what they're actually looking for. And then you marry that with current availability and that ability to access and populate content upon email open for them, in real time. I mean, that's a really daunting task. If you don't mind me asking, how did you initially approach that, because I feel like that's an area where that's such a big ask at once, and it's so high in demand that a lot of people get to this point, and it's just a lot of work, it's a lot of resources too, or it feels like it's a pretty tall order. So how did you guys initially approach that, because I know it's been iterative over time, but what was that first iteration where you guys really tried to nail it down?
Nicole Roach: Yeah. I mean, it definitely is a tall order, for sure. And it took many teams' involvement and collaboration and ideation to really get us to the point that we are at now, to be able to implement something like that in a sophisticated and accurate manner. In terms of populating the email with live tee times, that was probably the first step, right? Tying back someone's most booked course to a user and being able to populate that, having multiple uses of AMPscript to be able to pull in certain features or attributes that meant something, I would say that was really part of what I would consider phase one. And then, once we started to move to live tee time inventory, so we got the courses in there, we got it unique by the golfer, but there was that missing element of the inventory and that inventory would run out, and so that really was then the next phase. And the final phase was layering on top, this golfer scoring model. And that was really a collective effort between the marketing team, the CRM team, the decision science and revenue and inventory team, and then also working with Lev, right, because we had to think of, how do we pull all of these pieces together? One, build the logic and the algorithm behind it, but then how do we make it functionally accessible that we can use it in Salesforce Marketing Cloud, right? And how do we make sure that we're able to pull in accurate information and tap into it to determine what should be shown or not shown to any individual golfer? So it was absolutely a joint effort, and I would say we're kind of at the third phase. I'm sure there will be a fourth phase at some point, right? We're constantly learning, we're constantly refining how we're approaching our content personalization and golfer experience by... I would say, in its simplest form, that was probably the step- by- step process of how we got to where we are now.
Cole Fisher: I think that's such a cool story too, especially not only the way you guys hurdle over what would be a daunting task, but how you start with the, if anything were possible, how could we paint this? What would be really cool to do? And it's just really neat to see something like that, especially over time, that we've been able to witness this with you guys, the iterations of how this is happening. And so, you started with, live, updated content, you start marrying in weather and things like that with really cool integrations and capabilities, and pulling that in real time. And then we start marrying in the individual golfer affinities and that golf score. And so, it actually parlays into another thing you guys are really doing well right now, which is that, not just focusing on the courses and the partners and things like that, but you're actually focusing on the golfers themselves and their long- term life cycle with you guys, and what's important to them, and how they're actually improving their own games. So maybe you can talk to us about the solution you guys are currently doing.
Nicole Roach: Absolutely. And so, this solution really ties back to one of our brands in particular, being GolfPass. Now, I say that though, because it absolutely has the ability to scale across our other golf brands, but this is really the root right? And if we go back to that phased approach, we love to take things in phases and we love to continue to iterate. In particular, though, this solution is called my golf goals, and this was a larger technology implementation on the GolfPass site and mobile app for our members, right? If anybody that's listening plays golf, or even has just casually started playing over the past year or so, golf is hard. It is the hard sport to get better at, and it takes constant dedication and practice and watching instructional videos to really get you there. And no matter how good of a golfer you are, you've never heard a golfer say that," I don't wish I was better," or," I'm the best that I could be," right? So we recognize that. And so, the solution was that, okay, well, let's make sure that we are figuring out, what is every one of our members' golfer goals, right? And for some, it's to drive it further. For some, they want to work on their chipping. For others, their goal is, I want to play more courses. I want to play a course in every state, or I want to play more rounds per month, I wish I had more time to play. And so, they really vary over these different pillars of, how do I learn to play better golf, and how do I get to play more golf? And so, we built this golfer goals form, or area of the website, and that was the first step, right, is getting that set up. And once you become a member, you take this quiz, or this survey, to really build out what your goal profile is. And to them, working once again, right, with our data services team and technology and the marketing team, we bring that into Salesforce Marketing Cloud, which then gave us the ability to put that in front of our golfers every time that they're seeing an element of communication from us where it relevantly made sense. So a great example is in the member's weekly newsletter. We're able to show them then, the progress to any individual goal based off of how much of a priority that is to them, right? So if their goal is to play 10 to 15 rounds this month, we'll show them what their goal is and how they're pacing towards that goal. And then we're able to also dynamically show other content that helps them get to that goal. So once again, if we go back to somebody that's wanting to drive further, get more distance when they're driving, we can then include content elements and video tips that support getting them to that next level, right, getting them to reach their goals. So it's just a really cool way to keep track of your progress, make sure it's constantly in front of you, because if you're not reminded of things, it's very easy to let it go to the wayside, and do it in a really fun and engaging way.
Cole Fisher: Yeah, I think that's really neat. And especially too, if golfers are actually accessing this from the course or after a round, things like that, because for me, it's when it's freshest. And I probably shouldn't be talking too much because there's a ton on my game to improve. I actually get twice as much golf in for my money as when Bobby plays, so Bobby is actually a good golfer. I'm atrocious, but I've seen the encyclopedia of content that you guys have for... like those actual video tutorials and things like that, and they're super helpful. So I've actually signed up for, or previously had signed up for those dynamic live tee time emails. I've not gotten into my golf goals, so that's really actually cool to learn about because golf season is just kind of starting up for me, and my goal is to donate less balls to the course. You started out by saying that you use this phased approach and iterate over time, and honestly, that's all that, really, any marketing program is, or should be, because we're always learning more, we're always getting new capability, and we're always layering on something fun on top of it. And I don't know currently with my golf goals, if there's community aspects or shareable nature within that, and how people, when they share their goals, they're more likely to be held accountable, and reach those goals, and things like that, and... So either with my golf goals or with the next step of new programs, what would be some of the exciting roadmap items you guys are looking forward to doing?
Nicole Roach: Yeah, for sure. So I think you definitely kicked it off right in the iteration process. We are actually starting to dive in for that phase four of our tee time emails to really look, how can we step this up to the next level, what more is it that our golfers are asking for, or how have their behaviors changed, especially over this past year, throughout the pandemic and everything? And then, we're also looking at, okay, what else are we going to do, exactly to your point, in taking what we have existing and moving it into, okay, can we make it more personalized outside of only the email channel, right, and how do we bring that into the mobile app, and how do we bring it into, whether it be their push notifications, or their in- app messaging, or inbox experience, and make sure that it's cohesive and connected across all of those elements? So that's another big one. Another really big thing that's on the roadmap for us, and it's from a product perspective, but there is going to be a ton of really cool things that we're going to be able to do, from a CRM and an email and a mobile app perspective, is a new product that we're launching, called GolfNow Compete. So once again, anybody that plays golf knows that there's some competitive edge, typically, when you're playing out there, whether that be with yourself or if you go out there with a foursome. And so, there's going to be some pretty cool journeys and automated triggers that we're going to be running to help support that app by GolfNow. There are challenges and different games that you can play within the app, live leaderboards, so tons of really cool opportunity to personalize that experience within their email communications or within the app, right? We're starting to think about, okay, how do we reward a great round around play date, right? If somebody wins the challenge, how can we then set them up for their next challenge and remind them, let's set up your competition and invite your friends? So it's a very interactive app and it's going to help to take the experience outside of booking the tee time, but right on the course as well. So I'm really excited about that one. That is definitely in development, and it's going to continue to roll out over the course of this year with a lot of really fun attributes and use cases for it.
Cole Fisher: That sounds-
Bobby Tichy: As someone who grew up... Oh, go ahead, Cole. Sorry.
Cole Fisher: Oh, that sounds like so much fun. I've just, in the last couple of years, been exposed to the amount of games and side bets, little things like that. And I'll roll up to the opening tee and somebody's like," Hey, you want to play Bingo Bango Bongo, or Wolf, or Heads," and it's like, what are all these games? What are you even talking about? But it's so cool if you can orchestrate that ahead of time, have everything centralized in one app. And honestly, it sounds like that is something that would be just feasted upon by the golfers and degenerate side bet gamblers that I know, so that sounds really cool.
Bobby Tichy: Well, especially because there were so many times, just growing up, or even over the last couple of years, where there's usually a local game at just about every golf course, right? It goes off at two o'clock in the afternoon and there's three dozen people that are part of it. But the only way you really find out about it is if you just happen to be there at that particular time, or if someone invites you. So I love that notion, or that idea, Nicole, of GolfNow Compete, because not only could you have it set up at your local course and you could invite people to it, but you could also do it with friends. Right now, we just moved to Florida, so I don't have any friends here, but I could still compete against my friends who are back home, or in other places, and that sort of thing, so that sounds awesome. I'm really excited about that.
Nicole Roach: Yeah, it's very, very cool, so I would definitely encourage downloading the app. Over the coming month, it's going to be getting a lot of improved and enhanced features. I would say it's in a soft launch right now, so more to come-
Bobby Tichy: Even with a soft-
Nicole Roach: ...on it, but-
Bobby Tichy: ...launch, there's still 2, 500 ratings and a 4. 7 out of five stars on the App Store, so congrats to you guys. That's awesome.
Nicole Roach: Awesome, thank you. Yes.
Bobby Tichy: And the other piece that Cole mentioned as well, but I think it's something that we really try to promote a lot and something that we recently talked to quite a bit about during our Ultraviolet conferences, just, you guys have done such a great job of really just iterating and continuously innovating on your product, but also on your digital marketing with Salesforce Marketing Cloud. And I think a lot of times, marketing teams that we talk to, or technology teams we talk to, get so caught up in, how do I get to the end state, right, how do I do all the things that GolfNow is doing today? And I think it's just such an important lesson and something for us to harp on, is that nothing... And my dad always said," Nothing happens magically or for free," and I kind of feel like that in marketing too, where nothing just happens overnight. It takes time, it takes planning, it takes effort, but it's always continuous. So that phased approach that you talked through around the dynamic tee times and all the other innovations you guys are doing, I think is a really good lesson for marketers. So thank you so much for walking us through that and for being a part of the podcast, we really appreciate it. And lastly is our completely unrelated... although this is not completely unrelated, it's somewhat related since we're talking about golf. Like Cole mentioned, I love to play golf, I love to watch golf, but there are certain things I don't like about golf. So Nicole, starting with you, what is the thing you like least about golf?
Nicole Roach: I almost have two answers to this. One, that it is so darn hard, right, and that it's so frustrating when, for whatever reason, I just can't hit the darn ball. But outside of that, that can take practice and I can get better. But I asked my husband, I think it was a few weeks ago because we were getting ready to go play nine holes, and I just wanted to wear the running pants that I have, and I'm like," Why can I not just wear these yoga pants? They're active, athletic sports pants and I'm going on the course, I'm doing a sport. Why can I not just wear these?" And I don't think that he really had a great answer for me either, but I think there are some notions on dress code and proper golf attire. I say," Hey, just get out and go play. I don't care what you do it in, just get out and go play the game," because it is a really great game and it is a lot of fun. So that's probably-
Bobby Tichy: I could not-
Nicole Roach: ...the thing that I least... I can't wear exactly what I want.
Bobby Tichy: I could not agree with you more. I can't remember the last time I saw on a tennis court, someone walking around in khakis and loafers, trying to play tennis, so I have no idea as to why, on a golf course, you have to look like you're going to a dinner or something along those lines. I'll never understand it. Cole, how about you?
Cole Fisher: I like to golf in a tux, so I just keep it crosstalk. Let's keep it classy. So I don't know that I would say it's something that I hate, but I think it's something that I'm just baffled by. And the thing is, the more you golf and the more you understand golf, the more pervasive this is throughout the entire game, is just the magnitude of such a subtle nuance and how that can completely throw a game off. So for instance, I was in Florida several weeks ago, golfing with my cousin, and he was like," Oh, no," and he's a really good golfer, and he knows the game very well. And it was a super challenging course and I actually golfed really well on it, just because I just listened to everything he was saying. He was like," Now, this fairway looks super flat and straight, but if you land on the left 50% of it, you will bounce in the water, no matter what." I would never guess that, looking at this, or he's like," Now, this is Bermuda spring grass, and so the green is going to go left to right," and it's like, well, all these little things would completely throw me off. So just last week, I was golfing, and if there's one mediocre, acceptable thing about my game, it's my drive. It's always straight, it's always right down the middle, and it's a pretty good distance, but just for no apparent reason, I just got the shanks, and I've not done anything. Whatever it is, it's just some small... where my thumb is, or just the direction of my knuckles, or something like that. And now, I'm like 50 yards sliced every time, just something so small, because a good driver, a good swing, requires you to put like 20 different things together at once, at the same time. And if you don't do it, you're in the next fairway and you're adding 10 strokes onto your game. So it's just one of those things that's just so wild to me, all the little things that can completely throw you off.
Bobby Tichy: I can almost guarantee that Nicole has a course or a training tutorial on GolfPass for the shanks.
Nicole Roach: That we do.
Bobby Tichy: I couldn't agree more, Cole. I had the shanks once when I was in high school, and it's so frustrating because you almost just have to swing your way out of it. It's not an easy thing to get rid of. I think my biggest thing with golf is, it's so expensive, and I don't know if it's because we're all dressed up, and so we feel like we need to spend a lot of money to do it. There are, obviously, some courses that are great, that don't cost an arm and a leg, but the equipment is expensive. I remember, because I played golf in high school, and so luckily, we didn't have to pay for golf balls, we got them from the school, I remember after I graduated and I started playing golf on my own and I paid for Titleist Pro V1s, that are$ 50 for a dozen balls, I was like," I can't spend this much on golf balls, and Burger King can't pay for this." So I think, just overall, the cost, but I think that a lot of courses, there's also a lot of other suppliers and manufacturers out there that have done a nice job of getting their prices down, not only for golf balls, but golf clubs as well. I think that-
Cole Fisher: I feel like it's all circular reasoning because the golf courses were like," Well, look at all these folks. They all got nice collared shirts on and stuff. They can afford this. Let's jack the prices up." And all the golfers just keep wearing nice stuff, so it's a vicious cycle.
Nicole Roach: Yeah, I think the-
Bobby Tichy: That's why we all need to start wearing basketball shorts and leggings to play golf.
Cole Fisher: This poor guy can't inaudible. Just cut him a break, cut him some slack, cheapen the course, will you?
Nicole Roach: The cost, I think, in previous years, has definitely been challenging, or a barrier. But one thing that I love so much, that I'm seeing, is alternative options, right? So once again, I personally, I can't last a full 18 rounds, but you give me nine holes and I'm in, right? 18 holes is a bit too much for me, but I can absolutely get in with a nine hole, be good to go. So right, I think there's really cool evening and glow golf options that are out there, just to get out there, maybe not for the length of time, but to start experiencing the game and get comfortable with it, get engaged with it. So I'm loving that there are more twilight and alternative options that are becoming more of the norm and more available, in terms of inventory, and similar on the equipment. Equipment can definitely be costly, but there are some smaller brands that are out there, which are absolutely great starter options, right? So I think we're seeing good movement forward in that direction, and I don't want it to be a full intimidator, but it is. It can be a barrier, for sure.
Cole Fisher: That's a really good point because it's like, there aren't a lot of hobbies or pastimes where you're like," Hey, I need to clear four and a half hours of my day in order to do this full thing." It'd be nice crosstalk more approachable options where like," Hey, I got a little bit of free time I didn't expect," or where it used to just be like, you can do the driving range, but that's about it, unless you're going to get a half score on front nine.
Bobby Tichy: I've always thought there should be a 12- hole golf course. Nicole, like you, my wife and I would go out and play, and we'd get to the nine holes, but I just want to play a couple more holes. I don't want to play another full nine, which I think, to your point, has been great, or things like top golf, even, where people who don't even play golf can get introduced to the game and make it fun and interactive. So I definitely agree, there's a lot of alternatives out there, other options that they've come out with to try to grow the game. Well, thank you again, Nicole, so much for the time, really appreciate hearing about what you guys are doing over at NBC Golf and GolfNow, and the cool things you're doing with Marketing Cloud. I really appreciate it, and we hope to talk to you soon.
Nicole Roach: Awesome. Thank you again for having me. It was great.