Co-founder and official “talk abouter” of Golf Life Navigators (GLN), Jason Becker has witnessed a graduate school research paper turn into a model revolutionizing the retirement industry. Becker is a gifted strategist, service-provider, networker and entrepreneur. GLN’s co-founder and team of industry leading experts have worked with many of the finest golf clubs and real estate communities in Florida and has been recognized as a “40 under 40” mover and shaker by Business Observer Magazine.
THE BECKER STORY —
I was studying how Baby Boomers were making one of life’s biggest choices – where to reside during the winter months in the South for a graduate school project back in 2014. This is a million-dollar decision with all the expenses included – club initiation, multiple years of dues, real estate purchase, etc. Yet no trusted platform existed to filter over 1,100 club communities from Scottsdale to Hilton Head. Moreover, the only two common information points consumers had were peers and the internet. Hard to believe, just two limited resources for a million-dollar decision.
Upon launch of a consultative model that would leverage the brand appeal of the PGA of America Golf Professional, I realized that I had a unique way to enter the private club communities of the North to educate soon-to-be retiring members about all things golf and real estate in the Sun Belt. This organic lead generation model led to massive word-of-mouth advertising campaign and fueled a SaaS revenue model for clubs to join our program that has transformed into the virtual platform we have today.
You wake up in the morning — what’s the driving passion?
Awareness. Anytime you are a pioneer in a model that disrupts the status quo it going to be an uphill battle. Although GLN has been active for three years, we have only scratched the surface of consumer awareness. Each day, hundreds of consumers are making a “million-dollar decision” with no trusted advisor at their side. My job is to continually get content out to consumers so they can become educated ahead of the decision process.
What was the genesis for Golf Life Navigators?
To help consumers make one of the biggest buying decisions of their lives. People work their entire lives for this moment, it should be a fun and exciting process – not one that involves anxiety.
How does Golf Life Navigators differentiate itself in the marketplace?
For the consumer, there is nothing like us. We are the only organization on the planet with an algorithm that can filter 1,180 private clubs and communities in the Sun Belt. For the club industry, there has never been a virtual marketplace for consumers to connect to clubs based on criteria and preference.
Is private club membership as relevant to Millennials as it is with Baby Boomers?
We actually have data on this and the trends are eye-opening. Millennials and Baby Boomers have different definitions of what a private club membership is and what is important to them. For Boomers’ it is about a great club with golf, amenities, social opportunities, a place for relaxation, etc. For Millennials it is about status, health and wellness, a place for business opportunities, etc. The private club market place is not going anywhere, it just needs to begin evolving.
Your efforts are involved with just with several States — notably California, Arizona, Florida and North Carolina, among a few others. Is it fair to say these States suffered significantly during The Great Recession and are still feeling the impact from course closures tied to a lack of membership interest?
Those clubs took a shot in 2010 however, they were the last into the recession and first out compared to clubs in the north. One positive impact the recession had was it forced clubs to reevaluate their membership structures and create “non-equity / non-refundable” membership programs. This gives the consumer the option to exit if they would like without a dues commitment and it helps the club from growing their resignation list of equity members who are awaiting refunds but still paying dues.
How many members have you placed with clubs since you started doing business?
Consumers who purchased a membership directly from the influence of GLN is actually unknown. We have created over 40,000 matches in the past 18 months of consumers-to-clubs. What we have learned about our model is that the marketplace we created is just an extension of a clubs marketing. Once the consumer uses GLN’s algorithm – in most cases – it validates their decision to join that particular club. We are not able to effectively sell a club’s membership program — nor do we want to. All we can do is make an introduction and let the club take it from there.
How many members have continued with their memberships since?
I firmly believe GLN matched consumers will ultimately lower a club’s attrition rate, which should make the hearts of every General Manager flutter. Attrition is a clubs Achilles heel as they need to have happy and loyal members to keep the club financially stable. Because our algorithm digs into the granularity of match-making of consumer-to-club, I am confident any club associated with GLN will end-up lowering their attrition rate over time which will saVE the club hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Are there any plans to include States from the Midwest and Northeast?
We are working on the remaining northern states as we speak with an intended roll-out at the end of 2019. From Minnesota to Maine there are 86 markets with 25-plus private clubs in a 20-mile radius. A consumer searching in one of these markets would need to have an algorithm help them filter those 20-plus clubs so you can save time and aggravation searching on your own. On the other side of the spectrum, those 20-plus clubs have the opportunity to meet and potentially gain new members for their club.
How long do you think it will take for the supply and demand side of golf courses to balance out in America?
I think there will always be a need for golf and golf courses. Still, I am sure there will be clubs in ancillary markets that do not have the local demand to sustain themselves. Real estate has gained more importance when it comes to the decision to join a club. Moreover, as archaic as it sounds, females are having more of a role in the private club process and focusing on the home and lifestyle — not so much the golf course. Clubs will need to continue to become much more health/wellness centric, marketed for lifestyle and focused on the real estate that surrounds the club.
Short and long-term challenge facing Golf Life Navigators is what?
In the short-term it is the ability for GLN to effectively connect with each consumer that uses our algorithm. This is the biggest buying decision of their life and I want each person to spend 20-30 minutes on the phone with one of our local Navigators to ask questions, get local knowledge and become educated before making a decision. We can only achieve this by growing our team.
Long-term our biggest challenge will be staying true to who we are as a company. Companies realize we have a unique way to connect with golf enthusiasts around the world. Investments and large advertisement opportunities are being offered to us, but we continue to turn them away and focus on the task at hand. Having banner ads and advertorials on our website is an opportunity to increase revenue, but it diminishes the experience for consumers. It has been easy to say, “no thank you” but those decisions will be harder in the future.
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