Love it or loath it, there will be no escaping the return of Premiership Football this weekend.
Thousands of people, young and old, will spend hundreds of pounds on tickets, travel, shirts and match day programmes as they support their team with a passion – something the majority of brands and companies can only dream of creating.
So, what can marketers learn from football (and other sports for that matter)? Quite a bit, I think, and here’s four points that immediately spring to mind.
Easy to understand
Football is a simple game. Yes, the offside rule might confuse some, but essentially everyone, even if they don’t watch football, follow a team or dislike the game, knows what the teams are trying to do: put the ball in the net more times than the opposition. All of the teams approach this goal in slightly different ways but the objective is straightforward.
Can you say the same about your product or service? Many businesses fall into the trap of over-complicating the benefits of their product or service. Yes, sometimes, products do really complicate things, which is all the more reason to make sure you can explain what you do and what you do differently and better in easy to understand terms.
A shared experience
Football brings people together. Whether it be 80,000 at Old Trafford or 800 at Gainsborough, people watch the game together. It’s a shared experience and for some, what happens off the pitch is as important as the game: meeting friends, sharing opinions, catching up and having a laugh, it’s not all about the product.
Is it possible for brands to copy this? Yes. Think of your shop as a football ground. Is it easy to get to? Does it look good? Does the décor match your wide branding and design work? Are your products easy to see? Do people like visiting you?
The shared experience extends beyond physical things like stadiums. There’s a collective passion for the team. Some brands apparently come close to replicating this emotion – ‘Apple Fan Boys’: people who are so passionate about the company, they have to have the latest device.
A lot of people, much more intelligent than me, have written about how following football touches humans’ natural desire to be part of a ‘tribe’, a group of like-minded people, with the same values and a common interest.
Wouldn’t it be fantastic if your customers had the same feelings about your product or service? What could you do to connect with your customers? How could you engage with them and build a community they feel part of? A bit of social media activity perhaps?
An evolving story
Football is an ever-evolving story. When one season ends, it’s only a couple of months until the next one starts. Even in the close season, things are happening. Yes, football is the national game, and the back pages are dominated by it but this is because the clubs are very good at creating and issuing stories. Keeping people interested and committed requires regular communication with them. This is true for all brands – not just football clubs: turbine manufacturers, potato growers, cafes and restaurants: all of them need to keep their ‘fans’ engaged.
A life-long commitment
Football clubs work incredibly hard to gain the attention of young people. If they start supporting a club at an early age, there’s a strong chance they will stay loyal for life. From sales promotions – kids go free, £1 seats or free season tickets for Under 12s – the football clubs know that once a parent and their children have experienced a game together there’s a strong chance they’ll be back. It doesn’t matter if the team lost, there’s always next week and another special offer or incentive just round the corner.
How many businesses would like to have life-long customers? What can you do to attract new people? How can you make their experience so good that they keep coming back again and again (and even if, sometimes, results don’t quite go their way)?
There are lots of other things we, as marketers, can learn from football – the importance of pricing, managing bad news and disappointing results, adding other products and services to complement the main offering and bring in additional revenue and maybe we’ll look at those in a future column.
So regardless of whether you’re a season ticket holder, an arm chair fan or dislike the beautiful game with a passion, if you’re involved in promoting a business or service, thinking about how football clubs, like Manchester United and Real Madrid, have grown into some of the world’s most profitable brands could be well worth 90 minutes of your time!
As we approach September, we tend to enjoy an increase in enquiries from organisations either looking to appoint a marketing agency for the first time or change their retained agency. If you’re in this situation then making sure you choose the right agency is crucial. Get it wrong, and it could be more than money at stake, you’re reputation is at risk too!
There are several reasons why organisations decide to look outside for design, PR, social media or online marketing support. Perhaps they haven’t got the required skills in-house. They might not have a long-term need. The project might be too large for the organisation’s full-time team to deliver successfully, so appointing an agency with a team large enough to cope with the project makes sense. The organisation might be seeking a fresh approach or require specialist skills only found in agencies.
Whatever the reasons, selecting the right agency is crucial. Choose the wrong partner and it could be a turbulent affair. Get it right and it could be the start of mutually-beneficial long-term relationship. So, how should you choose which agency or consultancy to appoint?
Make your long-list
Google it. Find the agencies that deliver the service you’re looking for. Visit their websites. Look at their case studies and client list; have they delivered similar projects? Don’t be put off if they’ve worked for your competitors, they might not be currently engaged by them and that experience could be invaluable.
Shorten the list
From your long list, of say 15 agencies, cut it in half. This should be an easy process. You will already have some preconceptions about each company after visiting their website and seeing how they talk about themselves. You’ll be starting to get a feel about whether they’re the right fit for you.
Contact the remaining eight agencies and ask them to send you their credentials. On the strength of these, you can reduce the list to four or five. Then it’s time to get serious.
Ask each of the agencies to meet with you. You’re going to be working closely with one of them so you need to be convinced they’re as good as they say they are. How do you do this? By asking strategic questions. But for this to happen you need to have thought through exactly what the brief is, what the budget is and be prepared to talk openly and honestly about what you want to achieve, what you’ve done before and what has and hasn’t worked.
Ask them how you will fit into their client list. Will you be a big client or small? You want to receive the time and attention you deserve.
Ask the agency to provide references. Which other clients can you talk to? Has the agency won any awards for its work? This is another strong indicator that the agency is reputable and successful.
Do you like them? If you don’t, then you’re not going to have a good long-term relationship.
With a shortlist of three or four agencies, now is the time to give them all the same written brief and budget. Budget is important. It will help the agency constrain its creativity and come up with a campaign that you can actually afford. It will also allow you to compare the different responses more easily. Give the agencies around three weeks to come back to you with their ideas. It’s very rare that rushed responses are good responses. Make yourself available to answer questions and don’t feel obliged to share the answers with everyone.
Finally, invite the agencies to present their ideas to you and your colleagues or boss. The more people who can agree on the best agency to work with, the better.
Hopefully, these Top Five Tips will help you find the perfect partner for you and if you are looking to appoint an agency, then we’d obviously be pleased to pop over for a chat!
Love is certainly in the air amongst Lincolnshire businesses says one of the county’s leading marketing agencies.
In the run up to Valentine’s Day, Lincoln based Lava asked marketing managers and directors what they look for in their ideal marketing agency.
The results of the 50 interviews show that Lincolnshire businesses look for creativity, value for money, honesty, relevant previous experience and ‘chemistry’ between the agency team and their in-house team.
“We’re not surprised with the top five answers to what people seeking to find their ideal agency are looking for,” says David Wright, Lava’s Business Development Manager, who undertook the research. “When we compared the findings to the working relationships we have with our clients, we found all five characteristics shone through. The survey was a bit of a tongue in cheek exercise if you like but I think the results speak volumes and explain why so many client –agency relationships break down.”
As well as asking what marketing budget holders love to see in their future partners, David also investigated what the biggest turn offs are. Unexpected costs, poor results, lack of proactivity, not working with the pitch team after awarding the work and repeatedly missing deadlines were the top five sure fire ways for an agency to be dumped.
“As with the turn ons, the ways in which a client can fall out of love with their agency are not a complete shock,” adds David. “We know that, just like romantic relationships between people, the client relationships thrive on keeping things fresh, regular communication, open and honest dialogue and if things do start to niggle, then getting things out in the open as quickly as possible, resolving the situation and moving on, are vital.”
Integrated marketing agency, Lava was established in 2006 and offers design, digital, public relations and social media marketing support to clients across the private, public and third sector. Find out more about them at www.wearelava.co.uk or @WeAreLava.
Like the makings of any good relationship, the one you form with your PR consultancy relies on trust, regular contact and sincerity. In this post, Steph turns agony aunt and addresses the top five PR-related relationship problems.