@36aday is pleased to introduce interviews with leaders in the game of golf in Canada. Nine questions are presented to probe important issues of the game, personal experiences, stories and insight. Just like 9 holes of golf, I hope you find this enjoyable and that it leaves you wanting more.
This is the second of a three-part conversation with Dean Snell, owner and inventor of Snell Golf balls. In this segment Dean discusses Snell Golf’s value proposition, their focus on value through direct-to-consumer shipping and insight on his approach to product development.
4. My understanding is the golf ball market is highly competitive. What would you say distinguishes Snell from other golf ball companies; what is your value proposition?
DS – There’s a lot of direct-to-consumer on-line companies that are out there that offer good products. For 25 years I have been fortunate to be in golf ball design, to pretty much understand the patent portfolio that’s out there – I hold many patents myself – and bring what is important to consumers with respect to performance. Working with a tour player that has a problem keeping a 4 iron in the air and not knuckling and falling out of the sky is a lot different than working with an 18 handicap who doesn’t really hit a 4 iron anyway. Having that knowledge and understanding of performance is important. The credibility and authenticity of being able to work with tour players and design golf balls which they use and put their livelihood on the line and win major tournaments is a validation to the product side of it. We can bring the performance and processes and best materials and keep the price affordable. Our uniqueness is we have the best performance in golf that we can give and we don’t the high overhead costs like marketing and tour contracts. We pass that savings along to the consumer. So there’s a credibility side, a performance side and an affordability side.
5. The business model for Snell Golf is unique with a focus on online access. What was the rationale for this and what has the feedback been on this distribution model?
DS – There’s a lot of people who like to go on computers today! The rationale is the traditional approach is to go into a pro shop or a retailer and look at a wall of balls, not really understanding what they are. A lot of times people are not there to explain them to you nor could they do it if they were there. So, when you’re online you have greater access to information; we want to use education as part of our message. We have a forum where people can ask questions and we can provide technical answers. We have videos that explain how players can do testing and how to go about it. The website offers an experience that helps give an understanding about what you’re looking at doing; how you should test, which ball you should use. Those kinds of things you don’t get when you go into a lot of stores.
Also, online shopping is big. We did our Christmas shopping on a Friday night from home with a nice glass of wine. It was quick, easy and we were finished. There’s an ease to online shopping now. There’s delivery which we can offer and I acknowledge it can take a little time to get it but having these strong technical people who love the social media world get into golf and support it that is a unique niche we’re trying to target.
But things are starting to expand. We have had a number of pro shops reach out to us and say, ‘Hey, our members want us to carry the ball, do you have a sales rep?’ We say no, if you’d like them we can sell you six dozen golf balls and we’ll ship them free to your shop. We’ll sell them to you at a wholesale price and you can sell them for the same price we sell them online for. Your customers still get the savings and you enjoy a nice margin. We don’t do credit terms, payment terms, and have markups for sales reps so the process is very clean and easy. It’s a minimum six dozen and if you don’t sell them we’ll take them back. So that business is growing for us without the high costs that get passed back to consumers.
In the US, many shops make you take a minimum 48 dozen or 36 dozen and you pay the shipping. You have them there and have to deal with them at the end of the season. For us, minimum 6 dozen, we pay shipping and it’s much easier. We process credit card orders and ship next day. We have pro shops that started with 6 dozen – there’s some in California now who are ordering 24 dozen a week. It’s working.
6. You recently made a change, introducing an optic yellow Get Sum ball (my favourite and personal ball of choice, I might add). Are there any new products in the pipeline?
DS – Yes there are. One of the best things I love about social media sites – and I get up early and I read them all – is that there are blogs and sites where people give us feedback. My method is I review it all. There are some who say, I love it, don’t change a thing. And there are others who write, I’d like it softer or firmer; spin more, spin less; fly higher/lower; all the different attributes people can say. And I fill in boxes around specific comments. When boxes get full, there’s a voice there saying maybe there’s an opportunity here. Everybody has feedback and ideas so we’re not at a place where people say, I love it and don’t change a thing. I take all that feedback from consumers and it informs my product development. So based on feedback so far we’re on our fourth iteration (of the ball) based on feedback from players who play them. We’re looking to create a level of performance based on requests from people playing the ball. So around something new, I don’t have a launch date yet, or the plans or how it will roll out. But the specs are almost complete and we have some cool things coming this year.
MJ – So, I’ll allow myself a self-indulgent follow up. Are there plans for a yellow My Tour Ball?
DS – That question is probably one of the big boxes that get filled in on my chart. And it’s an interesting question. The cast urethane yellow is the hardest process to do in golf. When you make a cast urethane ball you have to pigment the cover to match the colour of the paint that goes on the balls as well. (Currently) The urethane is pigmented and put a UV stabilizer so it doesn’t turn yellow when it hits the sun. Then you have to put two white coats of paint to protect it and then you have to put a clear coat of paint over it. So now, if you want to make a yellow urethane you have develop a yellow cast urethane system for the cover, develop two yellow paint coats to go over it, a clear coat over it and clean it out well so white balls made afterward are white and not yellow when you start to make them because it is a tough process to clean the system out. So it’s not easy. The paint system development is a lot of work because getting a white paint when you get the right viscosity when you add fillers and you add colours and you add the parameters of the paint; the dimples get flooded and the ball flies high. It is very, very hard to do.
The market for yellow tour balls is extremely small. So we hear the voice today of people asking for it but those are the people asking and don’t represent a large segment of the golfing population. And I’m not saying we’re not working on it because we are, and having something in the future could happen, but it’s not easy to do. The yellow golf ball market is only 10%. That’s with everything, even 2 piece golf balls. 3 piece tour quality balls is only 1% and that is voice we hear a lot from people who want them.
MJ – We’re a vocal minority, thank you very much.
DS – Yellow golf ball sales, in the US market, increase in the fall. Leaves come down, the grass isn’t as green, and it’s harder to see. But in the summer time the sales drop quite a bit. Our studies in our sales show we sell more yellow balls in August, September and October than we do during the rest of the year. Having something to offer though is good for us, 10% is a decent market size.
Tomorrow – the third and final part of this conversation, including Dean Snell’s dream golf foursome.
Click Here to access Part 1 of my conversation with Dean Snell
Click Here to access Part 3 of my conversation with Dean Snell