Kim Ring explains how one small business marketed for more success than it was ready for.
When Hago Harrington’s Miniature Golf Course asked me to handle their marketing for the 2012 season, I couldn’t resist. Just down the road from where I grew up, Hago’s was a significant part of my childhood, just as it was for so many other people on the North Shore of Massachusetts.
The historic course was one of the oldest in New England, and over the last decade or so, it began to show. Leading up to last spring, the once thriving course (founded by a former Boston Bruin) looked tired and empty – no laughing kids, no colorful windmills, no holes in one. That is, of course, until the new owners contacted me to help them bring the course and the Hago Harrington’s brand back to life.
Over a four month period, we carried out the “Hago’s Makes Memories” campaign focused on building awareness of the new Hago Harrington’s brand, and increasing the overall attendance of the park. We targeted individuals within a ten mile radius from Hago’s with an integrated marketing plan that fused traditional marketing techniques with a new media approach. We relied heavily on imagery and messaging that would appeal to individuals with memories of Hago Harrington’s, or miniature golf in general, and encourage them to come make new memories with us.
In the course ’s hay day, promotion consisted of ads in the local papers and flyers posted around town. Now, digital marketing tools, and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, helped me publicize the renovated course with increased frequency, and to a much more targeted audience. We built a content rich website and started an email newsletter that went out each month to opted-in patrons, informing them of promotions, and highlighting some of the individuals that golf with us. We pitched stories about the new ownership and course’s renovations to the local media, knowing that the stories they covered would get traction in both print and social media. We took out Facebook ads and manipulated the social media giant’s “word of mouth” virality to reach individuals with Hago memories, hoping they’d share them with their networks and become advocates of our brand. We used Hootsuite, a free social media dashboard, to find, monitor, and engage in Twitter conversations that were happening in the surrounding area of the course that included the keywords “golf” “mini golf” “miniature golf” “golf tournament” and “fun”. We left no stone unturned. And while mini golfers should up at Hago Harrington’s religiously, week after week, we wouldn’t know what kind of impression our efforts truly made until the end-of-season fundraising event – The Hago Cup for Cancer.
The new owners of Hago Harrington’s had a great first season. The revenue generated by the course was more than they had projected and the feedback from their patrons was highly favorable toward return visits. As the mini golf season came to a close, the owners approached me about holding an event that would both thank the surrounding communities for a great first season, and give back to a cause that affects everyone, cancer research and treatment. With that, we created the Hago Cup for Cancer miniature golf tournament to benefit Dana Farber Cancer Institute and The Jimmy Fund.
We promoted it for a month, using the same tools we’d used for everything else. We even invited a few local celebrities to play (and help us promote, of course). So, when the day of The Hago Cup arrived, we were completely prepared for the 80 people who registered to mini golf with us. We had just the right amount of refreshments, more than enough putters, and an event team of myself, the owners, and three volunteers. What we were not prepared for, however, were the extra 120 people who had heard of the event through social media, friends, newspaper articles and email blasts from Dana Farber. When over 200 people showed up at the gate of our little miniature golf course, we excitedly panicked.
We ran out of alcohol four times, sending the owners, and members of their family, running across a major two lane road to get more. Our emcee for the evening cancelled at the last minute when his wife went into labor, we didn’t have a sound system that would enable us to be heard over that loud of a crowd, and we only had 100 putters to go around. But we pulled it together with the help of a loud voice, (mine), and enough libations and good conversation to keep people entertained while they waited to tee off. When all was said and done, we raised almost $4,000 for Dana Farber and The Jimmy Fund, held a fun and successful event, and left a good impression on new customers for next year.
The moral of the story is this: use as many tools as you can to promote your business and be prepared, and grateful, for surprisingly successful results.
Oh, and one more thing, always pack a pair of flats in your bag. It’s hard to run around a golf course in heels.
Photo credit to iStock