New location…

2 09 2014

Hi, thanks for visiting, my blog has now moved.

So for all the latest updates on high performing NGBs, customer-led growth and sports business in general please click here or visit www.roberts-sports.com

See you there

Paul

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3 tips for being a successful customer centric organisation

29 06 2013

The three rules at the heart of customer centric growth for O2 in Slovakia, are equally relevant to developing high performing NGBs.

At this week’s Marketing Week Live, Jonathan Earle from Telefonica O2 shared three rules upon which O2 have built their success in Slovakia. These are:

1) Stand for something
2) Be consistent
3) Trust your people

Given they’ve taken nearly a quarter of the market share on a shoestring budget, and boast very high staff & customer engagement scores, its worth considering how their success could be applied to growing sports participation.

1) Stand for something – be distinctive
What this means: use market and consumer insight to define a clear and distinctive position within the market. Brands that target everybody end up being relevant to nobody, as one size rarely fits all. So instead focus on creating offers and experiences that are aligned to your brand and are relevant to your target market.

What O2 did: O2 choose to shake up the market by being the “fair operator”, and hence don’t make offers that their target customers would think are unfair. They don’t make anyone sign a contract, when they say unlimited there’s no “but…” in the small print, and if they create a more competitive offer for new customers they automatically extend it to existing customers (not when they ask for it, or threaten to leave, but automatically – otherwise its not fair!).

What NGBs could do: standing for something requires understanding the current market for delivering sport and also the wider needs and expectations of target customers. Understanding the customer’s decision making process when they choose sport, and then specific sports within that, is key to defining a position that will be more compelling than the alternatives (which are usually not sports-related). Of course being distinctive and standing for something takes courage. It means choosing not to stand for some other things, and hence not trying to be relevant to everybody. But that’s how growth and customer loyalty is created – by focusing on being the most relevant and compelling choice for your target market.

2) Be consistent – disciplined execution
What this means: Having chosen to stand for something distinctive, maintain this clear water through being very disciplined about communications and delivery. Consistent communications keep reinforcing the key message to stakeholders and customers. Consistent decisions and delivery reinforce the authenticity of the message through the experience of customers. It’s this consistency that creates brand advocates.

What O2 did: A ruthless focus on consistent messages, offers, and in-store experiences has made the brand experience authentic and compelling rather than just a strap line. This includes considering how staff need to be managed and rewarded so that they too feel that O2 is the “fair operator”. Interestingly, in this respect Earle sees their small budget as an advantage, as they can’t afford to be tactical or distracted by unplanned opportunities.

What NGBs could do: the mixed economy of delivery in most sports involves many organisations with different priorities. NGBs need to clearly communicate how their offers add value to their target customers. They also need to be very clear about what aspects of their products and communications are customisable to local needs and what aspects are non-negotiable.

3) Trust your people – give them room to breath

What this means: being customer focused requires agility and responsiveness to customers. This agility comes from empowering staff to take responsibility and make decisions when talking with customers. This agility can be achieved by shifting budget and/or decision-making responsibility locally, and combining it with a consistent approach to communications and measurement. The motto is clearly define expectations and boundaries, then get out of their way.

What O2 did: O2 believe that their people are the experts, and don’t want them bogged down by bureaucracy. So they “treat their people like adults”, giving them clear and consistent direction and then passing down the responsibility for achieving that.

What NGBs could do: many NGBs are good at empowering local staff to make decisions and even to manage budgets. However, in many cases this empowerment is not supported by clear communication of the chosen positioning and/or success measures aren’t consistent and aligned to the overall outcomes.

In summary, one size doesn’t fit all, and therefore every brand needs to stand for something that is relevant and compelling to its chosen target audience. To achieve scale organisations must then be very disciplined in how they execute across all of their touch points. This consistency of experience comes from treating staff the same way that customers are treated, which means they must be trusted to make the right decisions.





Two retail trends that sport can learn from

22 06 2013

Recent articles in FastCompany and AdAge have highlighted some interesting innovations and trends in the retail sector that could also impact sports delivery.

Starbucks has had a go at re imagining the rules for building coffee outlets. It’s designed its new concept store to be a work of art, and deliverable on a truck. The big idea is to find ways to build scale while still being locally relevant. This is the same challenge that the sports sector faces, to drive national scale while reflecting local needs. However I suspect the sports sector has yet to see this as a designer’s problem to solve like Starbucks do?!

Meanwhile some American retailers are working towards a concept of the “omni-channel“. This sounds impressive, but its really just looking at channel strategy from the customer’s perspective. Customers don’t categorise their relationship into bricks and mortar, franchise outlets, call centres and online. They just want to browse, buy and collect a brand’s products in whichever way is most convenient to them at that time. So the big idea with the “omni-channel is that the business re-engineers itself around delivering a consistent customer experience across all its channels. This breaks down silos internally and helps reinforce brand values externally.

Of course behind the scenes neither of these trends are easy to deliver on, in retail or in sport. Achieving scale while being locally relevant requires constantly searching for local needs that are common across the market. Local customisation can then be kept to a minimum and focused on areas of high impact to customers & partners. Likewise delivering a consistent and seamlessly connected customer experience across all touch points will require a whole new way of working and information sharing, both across the business and out through the network of partners.

So will the pain be worth it? Well organic growth comes from engaging more customers more often, and improving the customer experience is a critical part of achieving that. So whether its thorough visible delivery innovations or business model innovations the customer never sees, organisations will need to adopt these principles or risk losing out on the growth they will generate.





What’s your sport? A look at what a sport’s brand means to you

6 10 2011

What’s your sport? What is running, swimming or football? As a current, lapsed, potential participant, or as someone that never wants to do it, what do these sports mean to you? What does each sport’s brand stand for, in your eyes?

Strong brands are ones that create an emotional response in people. When you ask them what the brand is, they don’t reply with a list of functions and features. Instead they tell you about it’s benefits or how it’s relevant (or not) to them.

Growth comes from understanding the needs and expectations of the target customers you want to buy/use your brand – a strong connection with them often means a disconnection with others. Those who don’t engage deeply with a brand will usually dismiss it as “marketing hype”. And that’s the point about great brands, they divide opinion precisely because they are distinctive enough for people to have an opinion, as the varying eulogies to Steve Jobs have demonstrated.

Brands drive growth
Growth of the iPad, Starbucks, Manchester United, Ikea – each has invented or re-invented their category and achieved growth and success way beyond the wider market or what was considered normal. Each brand has their passionate followers with whom they deeply connect, and they have passionate detractors with whom they often disconnnect equally strongly. But that doesn’t matter – if you create something genuinely relevant and meaningful, it can’t be relevant and meaningful to everyone.

If you ask someone “what is Manchester United”, you wont get a list of features about ground capacity, employees or their upcoming fixture. Instead you’ll get a story about the role the team has played through someones life, the glory of a great victory, the thrill of watching great craftsmen at work. Or you will get the complete opposite – I’ll stop there before my inner Fulham fan takes over. But regardless of where you stand, its clear they’ve succeeded in growing the revenue and success of the club, by becoming a brand that people want to be part of and engaged with, both on and off the pitch.

The same dichotomy occurs if you ask people “what is Ikea” or “what is an iPad”. But all these brands have achieved stellar growth because their brand has deeply connected with enough people to drive it.

Branding and participation
So in terms of sports participation, my question is this, “what is sport?”. Or to make it more specific: “what is swimming, running or football?”

I chose these sports to get a mix of what gemba sports research call “franchise” sports (those where the number of fans vastly outweighs the number of participants) and “grass roots” sports (where the opposite is true).

The sport of football has a strong brand for spectators and sponsors, whether people and companies choose to engage with it or not. Likewise with the Olympics around the corner, the spectator brand for elite swimming and running will get more and more coverage – which will delight some and annoy others. But that’s why the Olympics works, if everyone cared then no-one would care. It creates a deep level of inspiration and excitement, because it connects with most people but not everyone. If every elite sport became relevant to everyone, they would be passionately relevant to no-one.

But what do any or all of those sports mean to you, as a current lapsed or aspiring participant? What does running, going for a swim or playing football mean to you? Does the idea thrill you or fill you with dread? Are you constantly trying to get friends to join in, or are you always planning to start playing it “tomorrow”? Are you looking forward to your next session, or is it something you keep saying you will do but probably never will (like I do about parachuting)?

Please add your thoughts in the comments below…








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