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A Serendipitous Expletive

Anyone ever seen the cable guy? You know, the cable guy sleeping on a couch?

On vacation I polished off a new business book, Meatball Sundae. In it the author speaks of the power of the customer in the Internet world, and the power of marketing in the new economy.

Well it appears two customers have decided to do something.

Jessica Chapel (of Railbird) and Dana Byerly (Green But Game) have seemingly joined forces to create the Self Appointed Fan Committee. This website offers customers a voice, and a place to have that voice heard. They are collecting rants, praise and anything else about the issues of the day in racing. I have read these two women and some of their writings. I would not put it past them to make a difference. Racing and horseman execs might want to get themselves ready to read some solutions and I think they’d be wise to pay attention. Paying attention to customers in the new economy is paramount to a company’s success. It is a 2008 Internet truism.

Another world wide web truism is that if you are mentioned in an often quoted story, you can get some serious web traffic. People try very hard to get mentioned, and some succeed, but to catch fire you do need more than a mention. You need to be very lucky.

I think Jessica and Dana got lucky today.

Paul Moran – an influential racing journalist – not only mentioned their new website:

The evolution of a nontraditional, essentially digital racing media has spawned the Self-appointed Fan Committee (a link to which is in the blogroll on the left rail), which was launched on Tuesday by two prominent bloggers -- Jessica Chapel, publisher of Railbird Media, and Dana Byerly, publisher of Green But Game.

….. he spoke of the disenfranchised player and blogosphere:

The blog movement in racing was spawned among fans and horseplayers, not products of the mainstream or trade media, whose entry into this particular arena is a relatively new, differently focused development and, in the main, remains so. Grassroots movements tend to either wither in frustration or gain momentum and the development of the Self-appointed Fan Committee is evidence of the latter.

A savvy executive would make this forum a daily read. (Unfortunately, that sentence is grossly optimistic.)

Eventually, the disenfranchised organize.

Make no mistake, the rank-and-file racing fan and horseplayer -- the person who walks through the general admission or clubhouse gate and brings the money that pays every purse and every salary -- is disenfranchised.

.... and then delivered a knockout:

Horseplayers, in fact, rank low on the list of priorities at NYRA. Horseplayers, in fact, are regarded openly by at least one executive with contempt

On the night before the Belmont Stakes, while he was extolling the brilliance that resulted in the construction of a large wooden desk in the Belmont Park clubhouse lobby, it was suggested to a high-ranking NYRA executive that the organization has lost sight of the core audience.

What, he asked, was the core audience?

The horseplayers.

“ ------ the horseplayers,” he said, employing a widely used euphemism for copulation.

That’s where you stand in New York.

I have seen this ‘unnamed’ racing exec quote in several forms today – on blogs, at chat sites, and no doubt it will be filtered out more tomorrow. It'll be a gift that keeps on giving to Jessica and Dana.

It’s interesting to me and I have to laugh. Companies out there kill to have something viral in nature. They hire PR firms to come up with things like this. They pay good money to find interesting ways to get mentioned. Often times, I would argue most times, it is simply serendipitous.

Good luck ladies. I hope your luck continues.

Haven’t heard of the cable guy? Well here he is on Youtube. Check the number of views. Yep, over a million. In the new economy, this stuff is out there, and it is powerful. In the words of Seth Godin, author of Meatball Sundae:"Your customers now control your brand."

Smart companies pay attention, the ones that don't go broke. I sincerely hope racing is the former.

Comments

dana said…
Thanks for the great post and vote of confidence! And, of course, I hope you'll make some submissions over at SAFC!
Harnesslink said…
Comcast is getting their act together and now monitor what being said about them online religiously

I've read a few of Seth's books but haven't got to Meatball Sundae yet, I think it was too expensive in my last Amazon marketing book binge. Radically Transparent by Andy Beal is pretty good though - it has a lot of examples of how bloggers and YouTube videos like the one above get companies in a lot of trouble.

Not surprisingly, the companies that don't listen/respond have it the hardest in the end.
Pull the Pocket said…
Dana,

From what I see from your idea, giving the execs some measurable information is a very good focus. Horse racing fans are an odd lot. I think I wrote somewhere in this mess of a blog that WalMart customers could care less how many cents per share the company makes, or if the company grows. Racing fans want the game to grow, and kick the butt of poker and all the rest of the games out there.

Harnesslink,

Awesome link. I had not seen the Comcast response. I know Dell went from 60% or so unfavorable mentions to 20% within a year by creating a similar response team. Turning critics into fans is huge. Just look at that article. After reading it, what is your impression of Comcast? Mine is quite good. I see a good company.

Let's hope Dana and Jessica perhaps become the next case study. If their documented gripes are addressed it would be a good thing for everyone, and good for the business.

I think the business does filter out who is fair and not fair in the blog world, or publishing world. Some people will gripe just to gripe. By the looks of the SAFC's writings, there is praise as well as criticisms. They seem to be fair fans. That goes a long way to gaining some credibility. After all, tracks and others in the business are doing a lot of good things, while being shackled with a 1930 business model and archaic regulations. A lot of them try hard in the nasty framework they live in.

Thanks for the comments guys.
dana said…
harnesslink - great link!

pull the pocket - I meant to mention this in my original comment. You really touch on something big when you frame it in terms of players of being customers.

I've been meaning to post about this or incorporate it into the copy at SAFC, but it seems like very view in the industry consider players as customers! And, oddly, it seems that there are players who don't consider themselves as customers!

I think this is the shift that needs to happen, that players have to be viewed as customers, but also as partners and I think the shift has to happen on both sides of the fence. It should be interesting!
Pull the Pocket said…
Hi Dana,

Customers, clients, players. All the same I think.

Years ago, before the Internet, stock trades would have been $200 or more per trade. If you had a stock broker and you made 50 trades with him in a year, he would have bought you a case of booze for Christmas, or offered you baseball tickets. Whatever. That was for you giving him $10,000 of business. You would have been a "top client", and treated very well.

In racing, if you bet $48,000 a year you would also be contributing $10,000. 48k is not much. A $5WPS bettor who plays daily would easily achieve that. I have never heard racing refer to that person as a "top client". But maybe it is high time they should?

Hopefully you help bring those lost voices out. Maybe we can grow the game.

Best,

PTP
Harnesslink said…
Down here at the bottom of the world we don't have much contact with Comcast, so I can't say I have much of an opinion. It's good that their trying to address customers concerns through an appropriate medium though.

From what I've seen, a lot of corporate complaints are from people who really want the company to do well, and those complaining feel let down by a company they once liked.

By addressing these customers concerns openly and honestly companies can turn these people back into their biggest fans.

Reading what's said on sites like Dana's this concept seems to fit for the racing industry as well. A lot of complaints are from racings biggest fans who just want to be treated well and for the company's involved to succeed.

Comments like the one from a racing exec that Paul Moran reported don't help though.