Nationwide, only 25 percent of golfers are 18 to 34 years old, but not at Topgolf, a chain of golf entertainment centers. There, 64 percent of customers are in that age range. "We're bringing a demographic to golf that traditionally hasn't come," says CEO Ken May. Topgolf players use a microchip-embedded ball to track their drives' accuracy and distance. The company plans to hire 5,000 more employees and double its 13 locations next year. Below, May shares his tips for wooing Millennials.
1. Pump up the volume
Topgolf first targeted families and serious players, but two years ago, the company decided to court a younger crowd by inviting DJs and bands to perform in the evenings. Soon, the joints were jumping with young people after dark. Topgolf locations charge by the hour ($20 to $45 per) or by the game for a golfing bay where up to six people can eat, drink, watch TV, and drive golf balls. "The Millennials are there to have fun, not necessarily to get good at golf," May says. Food and drink sales bring in a third of Topgolf's revenue.
2. Prepare to be tweeted
When younger customers visit Topgolf, they spend as much time on social media as hitting the ball. "It's almost like they are building our brand for us," says May. But what they build, they can also destroy. So Topgolf has purposely designed its facilities to maximize social photo and video sharing. For instance, lights installed on the golf targets change colors and pulse in time to the music. Many locations optimize landscapes and views. Online customer complaints aren't deleted; they're addressed online by local managers.
3. Adopt a cause
Millennials have a low tolerance for cheesy promotions and insincere gestures. So May encourages Topgolf's marketing managers to find meaningful causes and events to sponsor in their communities. Topgolf has teamed with Golf Digest to host the first Green Tie Gala for Golfers Who Give Back, a charity fundraiser. At Christmas, each facility will host an Ugly Sweater holiday theme party, with guests bringing unwrapped toys for Toys for Tots. "We don't want to be insincere," says May. "We try to focus on what's real."
4. Throw a hiring party
When you create a fun-filled event space and entertainment center that attracts young customers, you need exuberant employees to serve them. Topgolf sites host recruitment events, complete with music, dancing, and refreshments, where managers observe candidates for their team spirit and enthusiasm. Every prospective hire makes a two-minute pitch to a panel of judges on why he or she should be chosen. "We find that it allows us to acquire a different type of person than what other companies get," says May.