Last week I attended the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, FL. Trade shows can be educational, enlightening and exhausting events and this one was all that. This year I approached The Show with a new attitude. Instead of visiting booths and picking up product brochures, listening to sales pitches and filling a bag with free convention gifts that I never get around to opening once I get home, I decided to use social media to post pictures, observations and ask for interviews from people who seemed interesting.
The first day of The Show always takes place at Orange County National driving range. Product lines extend 360 degrees around the range. Bubba Watson and Lexi Thompson did driver demos so you know the range itself is deep. This is a golfer’s paradise as we can test almost every manufacturer’s clubs, shafts, grips, listen to some of the best teaching professionals in the world as well as try out teaching aids, ride golf bikes and “surf” on golf boards if we like!
The first observation that I shared was from just outside the Cobra Golf booth. I haven’t hit a Cobra club in 10 years. For the most part, I’ve played PING irons for almost my entire professional career (about 25 years). I’ve been to the PING factory in Scottsdale twice, am a certified PING fitter and think their quality is second to none. In a nutshell, it is much easier to recommend and sell a product that you believe in and if you are playing it, generally speaking, you must believe in it.
So what was it that drew me to Cobra? Well, it could be that they had a DJ spinning records, Lexi Thompson doing a demo, colorful marketing all over the place and more energy exuding from their staff than you can possibly imagine. At first I thought it was just me, but I grabbed a few of my friends and the following day I got them to stop by the Cobra booth. They said they felt it, too. They really seemed to care about their product in a way that went beyond selling.
Customer service is often a top down thing. Every person I came across from Cobra was welcoming, helpful, and excited about sharing their product and knowledge with me. They nailed customer service 101 on the head! Everyone greeted me with a hello. Everyone tried to see if they could help me in some way. Not just a few of them, all of them. I was dressed in Under Armour head to toe. I was complimented on my outfit and was asked if I would like to see their Puma line. That’s how you sell product!
Here’s the thing–the PGA Show is geared towards men and buyers. I am an LPGA Teaching Professional and not responsible for buying for our course. That didn’t matter, the Cobra people just wanted to share their product with me. I did a brief interview with Tom Olsavsky and when I turned off the record button, he said,”Is that it?” We proceeded to talk about Cobra club innovation for another 10 minutes. Just me and one of the top club R&D guys in the world! I wish I would have kept the camera on.
And when I wanted to test a few irons and drivers, Design Engineer Steven Mitzel explained why various club designs might work better for me at this stage in my career. He was patient, thorough and full of knowledge and I would have bought a set of clubs from him on the spot if that was an option.
So, is this the year I change my brand loyalty? Probably. I still have a little more testing to do and saying good bye to my PINGs won’t be easy. Does it matter to Cobra whether the Director of Instruction at a Golf Academy in Baltimore plays their clubs? I can’t say for sure but they certainly made me feel like they cared. What I saw, felt and will remember was what set Cobra apart from other manufacturers I visited. It is not just the clubs we are buying or selling, it really is the experience.
Coach J Social Media Posts from the 2016 PGA Show
Julieta’s Social Media Links from the 2016 PGA Show
Cobra R&D VP, Tom Olsavsky
Larry Rinker demonstrates the Putting Stroke Teacher
Focusband Explained by Sam Goulden
Julieta’s YouTube Overview
Interview with Kim Braly of KBS
David Hutsell Shares his Thoughts
Annika Sorenstam on Bunkers
Click here to see photos from The Show