This week’s top 3 growth articles

11 08 2013

This week’s growth articles help you to:

  • Build an army of loyal customers without paying a fortune to acquire them
  • Improve customer retention by rethinking your acquisition strategy
  • Find ways to get your new ideas to spread (without spoiling the surprise its all about people!)

Building an army of loyal customers

Huge customer loyalty doesn’t need big budgets, just a genuine commitment to create something customers want to be part of. Community site Gentlemint demonstrates that you can swiftly build an insanely loyal community simply by putting your customers first.

How Gentlemint Built a Loyal Customer Base on a $0 Marketing Budget – Glen Stansberry, OpenForum.com

Improving customer retention

Customer acquisition and customer retention are intrinsically linked, and hence customer loyalty is developed or destroyed from the very first interaction. So to improve customer retention, organisations need to ensure their marketing sets expectations that match the typical customer experience, and that the marketing only targets those consumers who will value these experiences.

Customer loyalty should never be your only goal – Don Peppers, LinkedIn blog

Finding ways to spread ideas

Changing people’s behaviour requires more than logic or a good idea. New solutions need to solve visible problems, and need to provide a direct benefit to the people who’s behaviours you’re seeking to change. This is a long but fascinating article about how medical breakthroughs have spread at very different speeds.

Slow ideas – Atul Gawande, newyorker.com

Price v Value

And the quote for the week reflects the role of pricing in the customer value proposition…

“If you tell me that price is the only thing that matters to customers, I’ll respond that nothing about this product matters to them” Seth Godin, Purple Cows & Commodities

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Parallels between the roles of a team captain and an NGB

25 02 2013

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The role of an international rugby captain came under public and media debate in Wales last week. Regular captain Sam Warburton was fit again but left on the bench, with Ryan Jones retaining his place and the captaincy. With many accepting the logic of not changing a winning team, focus turned to the role of the captain(s) and who could/should/would do what.

The captain’s role can take many forms, including leader, organiser, encourager and of course player. And the specifics of what’s required often vary by sport, team and the individual in question. But what is consistent is that the role is as much as about bringing the best out of others as it is about playing well themselves.

The debate in Wales got me thinking about the role of NGBs. Like team captains, NGBs can be required to play many roles within and on behalf of their sport. But while the requirements vary by sport and situation, it is vital that the NGB has clearly defined its role before it finalises its business model.

What roles could an NGB play?

The many potential roles of an NGB can be clustered under three headings – leader, enabler and deliverer.

Leader – This could include the traditional role of governor, setting and enforcing rules of play and standards of experience. Or it could be a thought leader, sharing lessons, successes or new innovations with other partners. Or it could be a connector, co-ordinating the different organisations across the sport to achieve common measures of success. Or it could be leading the performance of a group of partners the NGB has formally or informally outsourced work to.

Enabler – This could include recruiting, training and upskilling the workforce across the sport, through a range of formal and informal qualifications. Or it could be supporting the delivery chain of clubs or facilities to improve their facilities, marketing skills or other capabilities. Or it could be about aggregating, adding value to and sharing consumer and market intelligence to enable partners across the sport to provide innovative and relevant offers to a growing number of participants.

Deliverer – This could include directly filling a delivery gap, either with national programmes or through a club network. Or it could be running competitions and events that other providers train people/teams to take part in. Or it could be through stimulating innovation by developing and testing new products to create a proof of concept for the market to scale up. Or it could be through orchestrating and delivering an overarching campaign to drive demand across the sport.

My intention is not to prescribe the ideal role of an NGB. That depends on the market their whole sport operates in, future customer needs and the strategic outcomes of the NGB. However the strategic choices and the information required to make them are similar across sports. And the key word here is choice. In the same way that Sam Warburton or Ryan Jones couldn’t play all 15 positions and direct the game from the stands, no organisation can successfully be everything to everybody.

Strategic choices require a clear understanding of the whole market

To develop a clear understanding of the market (sport) and its potential customers (participants), requires answering 4 broad questions:

What does current demand look like?
This includes understanding who is doing what, where, when, how, why & with who; and hence identifying the current trends, customer behaviours, needs, influences and barriers.

What does current supply look like?
This includes understanding who is providing what, where, when, why & how successfully; and hence identifying the needs, priorities and drivers of current providers.

What does future demand look like?
Given the trends within the sport, across other sports and throughout the target customers wider lifestyle, how is demand likely to change if nothing different is done? Are the potential market forces and new trends likely to increase or decrease demand over the next 3-5 years?

What does future supply look like?
Given the most likely political, economic, social and technological trends, what is likely to happen to supply over the next 3-5 years? For example will facilities be opened/closed/repurposed and what could be done to respond to the positive and negative impact of this potential future?

In summary, these aren’t simple questions to answer as they require a deep and on-going flow of market intelligence and consumer insights. However some NGBs are already building this understanding of where their whole sport is now and where its going. This understanding is being used to evolve their business model by making strategic choices about the market opportunity they are going to pursue and the role and priorities they will need to achieve it.

This focus on defining a key role is crucial to future growth as the expertise and processes required to be very good at governing a sport, running events, orchestrating national marketing campaigns, developing innovative products are all different – and these are just a few of the potential roles NGBs may choose to play. Doing a bit of everything isn’t the answer, as anyone who’s seen a prop dive pass or attempt a drop goal will testify…





Re-evaluating the 4 Ps of marketing for sport

10 02 2013

This month’s HBR magazine has an interesting article about rethinking the classic 4 Ps for B2B marketing. Instead of Product, Place, Price and Promotion, the authors propose Solution, Access, Value and Education. As NGBs are largely in the B2B space, rather than B2C, the article has some interesting ideas for sport’s governing bodies.

Instead of PRODUCT focus on SOLUTION
HBR – Define offerings by the needs they meet, not by their features, functions, or technological superiority.

Relevance to NGBs – as NGBs become more customer-focused in their planning and delivery, they are moving from just developing new products to providing the supporting services and experiences that collectively deliver benefits that meet customer needs. Central to this evolution is a deep understanding of their customer’s needs, influences and behaviours, as this enables them to clearly identify solutions that meet the specific needs of their target customers.

Instead of PLACE focus on ACCESS
HBR – Develop an integrated cross-channel presence that considers customers’ entire purchase journey instead of emphasising individual purchase locations and channels.

Relevance to NGBs – it’s often tempting to think about participants in just one place, whether its as a member of one club or on the end of one email address. In reality participants increasingly want choice and flexibility in how they engage with a sport, just as they do with many other brands. Therefore the modern NGB business model needs to consider who its target customers are, what kind of relationship the NGB wants to have with those customers, and who their key partners need to be to provide the range of access those customers want. These partners will include those offering local delivery options and/or online connections.

Instead of PRICE, focus on VALUE
HBR – Articulate the benefits relative to price, rather than stressing how price relates to production costs, profit margins, or competitors’ prices.

Relevance to NGBs – pricing is a common topic within sport, usually in the context of demands for programmes/sessions to be cheaper or free. To be able to achieve scalable growth, the conversation needs to turn to the value sport provides, as many of the competitors for people’s time have a higher price but still offer better/more relevant value. For example, how does the value of the hour of sporting experience you provide compare with the price of a coffee or a trip to the cinema?

Instead of PROMOTION focus on EDUCATION
HBR – Provide information relevant to customers’ specific needs at each point in the purchase cycle, rather than relying on advertising, PR, and personal selling that covers the waterfront.

Relevance to NGBs – in thinking about “grow” & “sustain” plans it can be easy to forget that most participants don’t quickly commit to a sport for the long-term. Therefore promoting the value and accessibility of the solutions a sport offers, needs to be an on-going process for retaining and growing customer engagement. This education can extend beyond where to play and why it’s adding value, to include information about the participation itself. Nike have already demonstrated that the cross-industry consumer trend for accessing and using personal consumption data can be harnessed as a powerful motivator of participation.








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