Golf Club Maker Sub70 Talks Direct-To-Consumer Marketing: Crain’s Private Intelligence
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He grew up in the exurb of Hinkley, not far from Sycamore, the son of a genius father of technology who worked for Lucent Technologies. Hiland received a commerce degree from the Oshkosh campus of the University of Wisconsin and briefly considered a career as a professional golf teacher. But friends at school were beginning to see the emergence of the World Wide Web.
“I thought I could use the internet to reach people directly. I saw where technology could take a small golf club business, ”says Hiland. “At the beginning, I was 21 years old and I was not afraid of anything. He was also helped by a loan of $ 50,000 from his parents to start his business.
In an industry dominated by global giants like TaylorMade and Callaway, Sub70 is easy to miss. But sales are on the rise, likely topping $ 10 million this year at a 25,000 square foot plant in Sycamore where 20 people are employed. Like at Combatant Gentlemen, customers are looking to save money: A set of Sub70 irons costs less than $ 700, compared to $ 1,200 for in-store brands. They love personal attention too, with Hiland himself answering inquiries over the phone and offering unconditional don’t like / return him guarantees.
The web is dotted with family golf club review sites, most of which give Sub70 high marks. “The value proposition for the Sub70 and others is premium equipment at a significantly lower price,” says John Barba, columnist for MyGolfSpy online who vouches for the performance of the Sub70 on the course. “With no middleman, no field sales team, no TV and print advertising campaigns, and minimal to no Tour presence, you pocket the difference.”
So far, Sub70 has few rivals in this direct-to-consumer space. Hogan Golf in Fort Worth, Texas, and Haywood Golf in Vancouver, Canada, sell direct to customers while bypassing stores. Hiland says he wouldn’t retail his clubs even if a national name like Dick’s Sporting Goods made him an offer. What he does is seek allies to help him sell abroad. He has already established a beachhead in Canada.
In recent months, Hiland has expanded his catalog to include shirts and shorts, and he could possibly consider shoes. He remains anchored in Sycamore, relying on black students from the University of Northern Illinois to manage his warehouse. “I like Sycamore. It’s quiet, with no traffic, ”Hiland says of the town, which has a population of 17,500.
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