For those of you who have emailed and said ‘I am surprised, as it is not your style’ regarding my post below on Maylan Studart, I will say that you are correct. That picture is long gone. However, the point I hope is not lost. After reading several blog posts and mainstream thoroughbred media stories regarding Ms. Studart over the past months, no one would touch the looks angle with a ten foot pole. Why? I think it is because we are race fans, the media is the racing media, and we are so used to racing operating as a stand-alone entity who thumbs its nose at traditional business practice, that we all have become a part of it. We’re insiders, and we have a simple ideal what we want racing to be - and I think most in the business think that we should be above promoting like this. Idealism and the way we think things “should” be is a characteristic of our sport.
We like racing, and so should others, we say. We enjoy the status quo and don’t have to change, because people should like us. If not, they don’t know what they are missing.
It does not work that way. We are inconsequential - we are die-hard fans. Racing does not have to sell itself to us; it had us at our first post parade. Racing has to sell itself to the people who are not us.
I think it goes a long way in explaining why we have not gotten anywhere - handles will be off more than 20% the last ten years, and TV ratings are in the toilet. Despite Betfair showing the racing world that our takeouts are too high by growing customers in their low takeout platform like some sort of Orwellian army, we hear: “We don’t need to lower takeouts; no one cares about high takeouts, they should like racing as it is.” An Internet strategy? “Most of our players are older, we have to get people to come to the track instead, because it is pretty there and I like it.”
Newsflash: The 20,000-strong crowds on a Saturday at Belmont are over. People falling all over themselves to go to the track as a 4 day a week gambler are over. The reason many were at the races in the past was because of the simple fact that there was no where else to gamble - it was not because they liked horses. Those things will never happen again.
It is not dissimilar to Ms. Studart. If she were a golfer, and if she so wished, the LPGA would have probably done the following: 1) Asked her if she wants to be a face of golf to attract viewership 2) Given an agent and publicist to help her 3) Given immediate media training and 4) Booked with anyone in the media who want to do a story on her.
Why? Because that’s the way it works when you have to compete in the cutthroat sports and entertainment market. It is not idealistic, it is profit driven. Idealism does not pay the bills, money does. We can think of that when we tune into Grey’s Anatomy tomorrow night. We do not have to ask ourselves what viewership and ratings would be if it starred Kathy Bates instead of Katherine Heigl. We might not like it, but it is what it is because the ratings say so.
We are sold on racing. We don’t need to worry about us. We have to sell to those who are not sold on racing, the great unwashed. We have to check what we want to see at the door, and focus on what others want to see, and bet.
“…. satisfied customers are not likely to increase your sales. Satisfied customers are not likely to push you and your colleagues to stay ahead of the competition. One day, in fact, the competition will pass you and the satisfied customers will quietly leave.
Your growth will come instead from the dissatisfied and unsatisfied. The dissatisfied know they want a solution, but are not happy with the solution they’ve got. The minute they find it, they’ll buy it. Yahoo’s best customers were not google’s first users. Nope. The happy Yahoo customers were not looking for a replacement. Google focused on dissatisfied web surfers- people who were online but were not blown away by what they had been using (and who wanted to be blown away).
The unsatisfied are the folks who do not even realize they have a problem that needs solving. That is why focus groups are often so useless. The people you really need to hear from are the great unwashed, the people who are not even looking at you. That is where you will find the customers you need when your current line becomes obsolete.
The problem is that management really likes those satisfied customers. The first question they’ll ask about any innovation is “Will our satisfied customers like it?” Of course, this is a silly question, because satisfied customers already like what you’ve got. The question you ought to ask first is, “Will people dissatisfied with what they are doing now embrace this, and, even better, will they tell the large number of unsatisfied people to go get it right away?”(1)
We need a sea-change of thinking in our sport. We need to take what we’ve done and thought for the last 50 years, and do the exact opposite. Forget idealism, forget the past - forget us. It is time to move on to the future and find new markets for our sport.
(1) Excerpt from Free Prize Inside - The Next Big Marketing Idea by Seth Godin
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