From the August 14, 1995 issue of Smart

Access Makes the Green with Golf Shops

By David English

Can a software product that sells well in the mass merchant stores also sell well in a highly-specialized store where there's likely to be no other software? If the product is the top-selling golf-playing program, Links, the answer is a definite yes. In addition to the traditional software channels, Access has targeted golf and pro shops.

Links appeals to two kinds of customers: computer enthusiasts who enjoy computer gamesbut probably don't play golf—and golfers who passionately love golf—but often don't play any other computer games.

"In the golfing market, there are a lot of executives running around with laptops," says Steve Witzel, vice president of marketing at Access. "There are a lot of salespeople that are automated because the company forced them into it. They're not aware that they can do anything else with their computers."

These golfers walk into a golf shop, see Links running, and learn for the first time that you can run a golf program on a computer. They're potential customers that can't be reached through the traditional software channels. "For the most part, the sales that we're getting out of the golf shops and pro shops is all incremental business," says Witzel. "The most affluent golfers probably aren't in Wal-Mart and Kmart very often."

Access uses a stand-up display especially designed for this market, and recently created a new brochure that's aimed specifically at golfers. In the past, the company had simply made some changes to its regular materials—including cutting a few computer terms—and figured that would do. Now that the company understands more about this group of customers, it's creating all its golf shop marketing materials from scratch. About a year and a half ago, the company even hired a golf pro. "He's our contact with that market," says Witzel. "He talks their language."

Witzel has learned that golf shops have a different relationship with their vendors than traditional software stores have with theirs. Usually, software vendors use sales reps or independent reps who call on their distributors, but not on their dealers—except, perhaps, for a few key accounts. In the golf market, vendors call on every golf shop. The vendors actually put the merchandise on the shelf and check the stock. "The golf shops are used to being pampered," says Witzel. "And they're used to better margins than the software dealers get."

So far, Access is the only company selling a golf game in golf shops. Golf Digest has signed agreements with Parsons and Creative Multimedia, and is working to push their golf-related titles into the shops. Parsons has a score card program, while Creative Multimedia has a historical program based on the Masters Tournament. Wizel thinks it's a smart move for the two companies to enter this new market and wishes them well. "It will help us by bringing more awareness to the category," says Witzel.

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