JIM WASZAK: So, Lisa, tell us a little bit about what you do at Ruffled Feather. I know you’re the marketing person there, but --
LISA HUGHES: Absolutely. I’ve been there almost eight years, and what my job is there is to confirm and book golf events. We host about 120 golf outings throughout the golf season. Sometimes there’s a few in the day. Sometimes we don’t have any, but the goal is to really book business and sales. And over the years I’ve just been the contact for the marketing. I think it’s just I believe in marketing. I think it’s a squeaky wheel, good solution. I think it’s important to be out. People know that you’re there because if they don’t hear you constantly, then they kind of forget about you, and they’ll go to your competitor. So I get involved lot of in the marketing and--
JIM WASZAK: It seems to me one like one of the challenges would be how do you know who’s having an outing, you know?
LISA HUGHES: Absolutely. I get that question a lot actually. Like how do you –
JIM WASZAK: Because most companies need book keeping. They need Internet; they need lawyers. How do you know who needs an outing? It could be anybody.
LISA HUGHES: You’re absolutely right. A lot of people ask because a lot of my job is going out and finding business. It’s not necessarily banging on a door. You all know there’s a lot of golf courses in the Chicago areas for such a short season. However, not all accommodate outings. You have the banquet space available. It’s something that you either the business you go after, or you don’t.
There’s different types of outings. Of course not-for-profits. Most not-for-profits have outings because they’re trying to raise funds. Finding them over the years, they ask for donations. This way to find out who’s having events, and who isn’t.
Corporate’s starting to make a comeback, which is great. We all love to see that. So when corporate has events, they’re inviting their customers out, or their vendors, or both. And that’s really to build the relationships. I mean, if you’re on a golf course with somebody for four and a half hours, you get to know them pretty well, their family, their business. You really build a relationship. Golf outings, especially for corporate, are all marketing. It’s the same thing when they do an employee event. You really get to know your coworkers and build that bond when you’re playing a game together.
JIM WASZAK: So I could use events to not only build relationship with my customers. I could do it to sort of like team building with my employees as well.
LISA HUGHES: Absolutely. And vendors.
JIM WASZAK: And vendors, yes.
LISA HUGHES: We work with a lot of construction companies that have it for their subcontractors. They’re working with them constantly. And if you have a relationship, business is all about relationship. People are more willing to work, and help, and give you more if they have a relationship with you. I mean, everybody wants to buy from people they know, who they’re comfortable with. So, it’s a great tool to do that.
JIM WASZAK: Right.
KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: Before we started recording, you mentioned that you hold some events on how to have a successful golf outing --
LISA HUGHES: We do, yes.
KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: -- to market your golf course.
LISA HUGHES: One of my biggest I would say vendors, subcontractors, his name is Mike Tate. He owns SMT Golf Events, and over the years Mike has just really become a friend. You build a lot of business together. You work with the same customers. He’s driven a lot of business to me, and I hope I’ve given him some. But what Mike does is he works corporate outings, not-for-profits, anybody on how to find sponsorship, how to make it entertaining, how to make it memorable, things like that. One of the big things that’s the most popular, and there’s so many things, but he has a golf gun that shoots a golf ball at a hole. People love it. I mean, they love it. To me, I’m like – But it’s all entertainment. And then you can raise funds at that hole to be able to shoot the golf ball launcher.
So what Mike does with his close golf courses that he has relationships with, he will have a seminar where we host it. We take care of the lunch. It’s a complimentary lunch. And it’s about an hour and a half, two hours and goes through all these things. Now, we have people in there that have never had an outing. We have people that have 120 people, and they want 220. I mean, it all depends on that. But it also gets everybody in a room together that they can shoot ideas off of each other. So people walk away, and what benefits the club is one, we look like we are the experts in golf events, which we want to be; and two; I might get somebody in there that’s never actually walked into the club and doesn’t know of Ruffled Feathers. So those both ways they benefit us. It makes sense.
JIM WASZAK: I was going to make a comment. You mentioned you’ve got this gun that shoots the golf ball.
LISA HUGHES: Yes.
JIM WASZAK: You may want to show that to Kevin. Because I’ve seen him with a golf club and believe me this has got to be easier.
LISA HUGHES: Have you two played golf together, or is that –
JIM WASZAK: We have a couple of times.
KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: Well, well. Jim wouldn’t call it playing golf.
JIM WASZAK: I golf. But he kind of went out there and --
KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: I’m retired from golf. I got tired of being terrible in front of people. But I like to go to golf events and just drive around in a golf cart and drink and hang out with my friends. So --
LISA HUGHES: Right. Exactly. It’s fun.
JIM WASZAK: That leads me to a question though. So let’s say I’m thinking I want to have a golf event for whatever, but I know there’s some people who maybe either aren’t golfers or are uncomfortable about it. I mean, what do we do to accommodate them?
LISA HUGHES: Absolutely. So, what you want to do to attract them is -- In an outing especially, there’s all levels of golfers. You have some golfers that literally they only play that one time in the year. So the golf course has to be able to -- How does it make it flow better? So they play a scrambled format, which is everybody hits off the tee box, and then you go from whoever hit the best shot. It really kind of moves pace of play along. So you’re not out there all day long. And for those that don’t golf a lot, it evens the playing field a little bit, and they feel more comfortable with that. Because if it were me, it would – A par 3 would take like 11 shots, and I’m not even sure at 11 shots. It would be miserable.
So there’s different ways. And one of the other things that we do is that use the front tees, and we do boogie maximum because if you can’t get it in the hole after -- Pick the ball up. Move on. We don’t want the pace of play to stop. We want you to enjoy the round.
There’s different things like that. But you could in golf outings like that, that golf ball launcher -- I mean, they do so many different games, but when I first met Mike, he was on our hole 10. He was playing blackjack. I love blackjack. Now, all the procedures go to the not-for-profit. It’s not like it’s – Or they wouldn’t like a raffle ticket or something like that. But when you’re standing at the hole and you’re waiting, it’s just a different form of entertainment to get them involved.
Now, there are outings for the very serious golfers. And those are fine. Those people that do attend they’re there for the golf.
JIM WASZAK: You know, I’m an avid golfer, and I actually created a program called Business Golf for the Non-golfer to help people be comfortable who aren’t really golfers.
LISA HUGHES: I love that.
JIM WASZAK: Yeah. And I make it really easy and a couple modifications to their --
LISA HUGHES: One of the other great ideas I’ve seen events do, especially like corporate, law firms largely -- What they do is they have a clinic before the outing. You get a golf pro out there. They show you how to hold the -- I mean, the basics, basics just so you feel comfortable holding the club and the rules of the sport.
When I first started, I didn’t know anything about golf. And you don’t want to interrupt anybody’s game. How to be respectful, how to take care of the course. I mean, that’s a big deal. Replace your divots, and the whole thing. So there’s different ways to do that. If you’re thinking about doing a golf event, ask a lot of questions. That’s the best--
JIM WASZAK: It’s really you make it a fun event that happens to take place on a golf source.
LISA HUGHES: Well, the great thing about golf as opposed to everything else, and I forget this until I get out there, but once you’re out on the course, the birds are chirping, it’s peaceful. All I can think about is why am I sitting at that desk making phone calls? I should be up here. It’s just stunning. It’s gorgeous to me. It’s beautiful to be out there. You forget that until you get out there. But that’s probably one of things you probably know.
JIM WASZAK: Right, love it. And when it’s not too crowded, and you’re there alone, and if it’s a course that’s not too near civilization. In fact, I was in one course once and it’s in literally the middle of farms.
LISA HUGHES: Uh-huh. What was the name?
JIM WASZAK: Minne Monesse.
LISA HUGHES: Are you kidding. I grew up in Beecher.
JIM WASZAK: Really? You were right down the street.
LISA HUGHES: My brother -- I have to tell you this.
JIM WASZAK: Yes. Yes.
LISA HUGHES: My brother-in-law, God rest his soul, he passed away in 2012, and he played there literally almost every day after work. Because my sister -- Because they live down -- It’s the country. You’re in the middle of nowhere. When he passed away, I swear, my nephew, his son, made a bench. I bought the placard. It has his name on there. My brother-and-law would always say, “Thanks for playing.” So it says, “Rich O’Bryan – ‘Thanks for playing.’” And the bench is on the 18th hole, and that’s where they spread his ashes too. He loved golf.
JIM WASZAK: Well, and that course in particular, sometimes you’re out there. It’s almost eerie how quiet.
LISA HUGHES: Yes, it is.
JIM WASZAK: You’re used to all this stimulation.
KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: So, you guys can continue your golf podcast at a different time. Getting back to events here. When you’re throwing an event on how to throw a good golf outing, how do you get people in the seats? How do you attract people?
LISA HUGHES: I always find a free lunch. I love free lunch, so it works out, but it does.
KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: Is it direct mailers that you use?
LISA HUGHES: Well we have such a long list of people. Just over the years your database just grows and grows.
KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: Email blast?
LISA HUGHES: Email blast, word of mouth, Mike’s list. Mike has been doing -- He has a list of thousands of names over the years because he works with over 200 golf events a year in the Chicago area. He has teams of people that go out and do this. He just has a very, very long list. That’s how we --
KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: I do a lot of event marketing myself, and one thing I found if you have a good email list, a good social media presence, and you get a reputation for throwing a decent event, you just blast it out, and people will come to it; and we always have good turnout. There’s a lot of reasons to do event marketing. One of them is just an excuse to just stay in touch with your list and stay in front of people.
LISA HUGHES: Absolutely. Right. Keep your relationship.
KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: I’ve talked about this before, but it’s much less invasive to send someone an email inviting them to an event than it is to send them your newsletter.
LISA HUGHES: Absolutely.
KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: Just being there at the event allows you to be the host, have extra cachet, and stay in front of the people you need to stay in front of. So if they think, “Hey. I need to do a golf outing.” They’ve gotten your emails.
LISA HUGHES: They’ll say, “Oh, I’ve been to Ruffled,” or, “I’ve seen Lisa’s name or seen Ruffled.” Absolutely.
KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: And they’ll have the relationship with you already.
LISA HUGHES: Right. Exactly. I have to tell you before I worked at Ruffled I worked for a company called Concierge Preferred. It’s a visitors’ magazine in the city and advertising. So it’s very difficult. I loved it though. It was a lot of fun. It was networking. You could go to an event every night, but one of the great things that they did for their advertisers. We’re talking advertisers from Gene and Georgetti’s, which has been around forever, to Water Tower Place, which is a big corporate, you know. But every month they hosted an event, and one of the advertisers for all the concierges and all of their advertisers -- And they’re great. It’s cocktails and hors d’ouervs, and you walk into the venue and your advertisers are meeting the concierges, the concierges are in your space. That is event marketing at its finest because you’re really every month building these relationships.
JIM WASZAK: There’s a question I want to ask you about because I think there’s probably a lot of groups out there who maybe thought about an outing for their members, their constituents, their vendors, whatever, but they think, “Aw, man. That’s so much work.” But you guys pretty much handle all the --
LISA HUGHES: Yes.
JIM WASZAK: You sort of make it kind of a turnkey solution, right?
LISA HUGHES: You need to because it is intimidating. And honestly, I tell people you have to find a club that will work with you and your numbers because any time someone is doing their first outing they’re like, “Well, we don’t know. We might have 72. We might have 144.” It’s my book. I handle the books, so I know. I would say to them, “Well, let’s contract for this. Let’s talk 30 days out. I won’t book other groups.” It’s just really working with them to help them be successful. And so, they find that after the first year. Any time you do it the first time, it gets easier because you’re like, “Okay. That worked. That didn’t work.”
JIM WASZAK: Sure.
LISA HUGHES: And that type of thing, but yes.
KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: What are some don’ts for throwing an event. I’ll asking you some dos too, but I want to hear some things that – Obviously, the worst thing that can happen is you throw this event and five people show up.
LISA HUGHES: That’s true.
KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: That’s something that’s always a fear that’s in the back of my mind when I’m throwing an event.
LISA HUGHES: Sure.
KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: But what have you seen people do wrong or what have you done wrong in the past that you’ve learned from?
LISA HUGHES: Well, I think myself -- Early in my career when I used to work in hotels, I remember throwing an event and not having enough space. And that’s not good because -- People not having enough food -- You have to be able to be prepared for it, and the first time you do the event you might lose money if you don’t know how many are coming. And you have to build it. And you probably built a whole following of people that are looking for it.
So being prepared. There’s always going to be something that goes wrong. That’s just life; that’s just how it is. But the more prepared that you are, and the more organized, obviously the better the event is going to go, and everybody’s going to have a good experience. I think I’m a hostess in my heart even at my home, so I love it. I love seeing people happy walking out. And at the end of the golf outing everybody’s -- They’re happy. Even if they didn’t have a good game, they’re happy.
It’s just trying to think and talk to people. Use your vendors. Ask them questions. What have you seen? What doesn’t work? We have some new outings that say, “We’re going to play golf, then we’re going to have a cocktail hour, then we’re going to have the dinner.” I want you to have a cocktail hour, but now we’re talking about a very, very long day. People by the end, they want to eat; they want their prizes; they want to network; and they got to go home. Everybody’s got families, and jobs, and just things to do. You don’t want to make it so long that it’s –
KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: That’s a mistake I’ve made in the past. I do an event every week basically, and I try out different things; I’ve done happy hours; I’ve done network coffees in the morning; I’ve done poker nights. But one of the bigger mistakes I’ve made is trying to catch -- For happy hour let’s say I want to catch the people who want to be there at 3:00 and the people that want to cut out after work at 6:00. So I got this three-hour event, but I might have 30 people come to the event, but there’s only 10 at any given time. So it kind of feels like a dud when there’s a small room of people because people are filtering in and out. So compacting the time of the event to get-- If you’ve got a smaller crowd, get them all there at the same time is something I’ve learned is a good way to do it.
LISA HUGHES: Keep it sort and sweet.
KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: And try a couple things.
LISA HUGHES: Try different things, different times to find out what’s working for you and the people you’re trying to attract.
JIM WASZAK: I know when I’ve gone to golf outings, they usually give you some kind of gift bag. To somebody that wants to get their name out there who doesn’t really want to do an outing, they can donate balls, or coffee cup holders, or stuff like that.
LISA HUGHES: Absolutely. One of Mike’s things that he promotes for not-for-profits. It’s very cool. It’s called a mega putt. And everybody stands around the hole at one time before you go out, and you count to three. I have it on video. “One, two, three.” And then everybody hits the ball, and whoever gets the ball first in that hole wins whatever. It could be a basket, doesn’t matter. But the golf ball --
JIM WASZAK: Well, people like to win things.
LISA HUGHES: But the golf ball would have a restaurant’s name on it, and they can bring the golf ball in for a free appetizer. It’s just a way for them to drive business to kind of see how effective it is.
JIM WASZAK: Sure, sure.
LISA HUGHES: So, there’s different things like that.
KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: So, what other tips did you have for making an event successful or a global strategy for having events as part of your marketing strategy.
LISA HUGHES: I think that should be a part of almost everybody’s marketing strategy because you literally get to touch and talk to get in front of people. Emails are great; phone calls are great; but when you have everybody in your group and you can connect them with other people, you can connect with them -- They want to meet who they’re working with; they want to know they can call you if they have a question. As soon as I met you I was like, “Do I need him? Do I have any law questions to ask?”
JIM WASZAK: I hope not.
LISA HUGHES: No, I don’t.
KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: I rarely walk out of a happy hour that I’ve thrown without getting some business out there or at least making an important connection. Another thing I’ve learned is not overthink it too much. It’s more important to be consistent and have and develop that following, have a regular event that you’re doing that people expect than to think, “Well, I’ve got to put so much effect into this event. I’m only going to do it once a year.”
Now, it’s cool to do stuff like a golf outing where it’s a special thing, and it’s a big blowout. We did that for the launch party for the podcast. We had a special party. You also have a supplement it. But when I do an event, I’ll buy the beer. I don’t usually buy food. I just get people together. As long as there’s alcohol involved, and you have people there, you don’t really have to over complicate it too much.
LISA HUGHES: You don’t absolutely.
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Kevin owns O’Flaherty Law, a general practice law firm with locations in Downers Grove, Elmhurst, and Naperville, Illinois. O'Flaherty Law's attorneys have expertise in many areas of law including but not limited to divorce and family law; civil litigation; estate planning; business and corporate representation; commercial and residential real estate law; elder services, probate and guardianship; immigration; bankruptcy law; and dui, traffic and criminal defense.
Jim owns Success Enhancement, Inc., which is geared toward helping you solve management problems in a way that is fun and engaging by using improv comedy techniques and role plays.
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