Don't Be Afraid of Letting Customers Do What They Want to Do

Back in the 1990's I would have friends overnight quite often. After all, living in downtown Toronto and being in my twenties going out was the thing to do.

I would often get these (what I thought) were weird comments from a post-guest shower the next morning.

"You have the best shower ever".

"That shower kicks ass"

I had no idea what they were talking about.

One day my shower head broke, and I went to Home Depot to buy a new one. I paid up for the super flow model with all kinds of jets. I tacked it up and away I went.

The next day I had a 30 minute shower instead of about a ten minute one because the force of gravity could pour more water on me than this shower head was. Where did my shower go? I brought it back and exchanged it, but the new one was about the same. What was happening to my shower? I was lost.

I scoured the web and found out that after 1992, shower head makers were told they had to put a block in the heads to try and get people to use less water. Usually cost regulates things like this just fine, but I figure somedude in some department didn't like that way of doing things, so he mandated a new rule.

What happened was not surprising. People took 25% more time in the shower to save the supposed 25% water (my water usage went up not down), and even better (or worse depending on your perspective) there were tons - thousands of links - on how to take off the governor with some know-how. 

I don't want to say I followed their advice (or link those sites), because I might end up like these people, but let's just say my shower is powerful (and quick) again.

The point is, if you want someone to do something and it is easy for them not to do it, they won't. Unless they derive more pain from cost or convenience, or less pain from cost or convenience, you're in trouble. It's the ultimate regulator.

For years, horse racing had zenith-like shower head disease. Remember not long ago when almost every track had video behind some sort of wall? That was because they were afraid of pirates taking bets on their races. That's a concern, but what stops a person for signing up for your account and then not betting in it? Nothing.

All that policy did was annoy people who might want to watch the races.

Remember when Partymanners youtube page - which uploaded scores of races for people to watch and re-watch on youtube - was shut down? Why? I really don't know. I remember a few years ago searching for one of my favorite races of all time - the 2005 Fountain of Youth between Read the Footnotes and Second of June. It was there, then it wasn't there. One day I saw "taken down due to copyright infringement". Say what?

Remember when Magna did not allow embedding of their races on websites and blogs? If someone on ESPN wrote an article on the Florida Derby, that writer could not embed the video into his or her story. Oh sorry, that's still going on. This is in an age where a communist country just announced their nuclear intentions via their youtube channel.

Remember when tracks were afraid to have Wifi at the track? It went on for years. They were afraid someone might make a bet somewhere other than at a window. Once again, apologies, some tracks still do that.

This one is perhaps most disconcerting in the age of social media. Like this Australia track noted, which has gone to full, free Wifi:
  •  Australia's Moonee Valley Racing Club recently announced it has deployed a Wi-Fi network that scales up during peak times and covers its entire race course to allow patrons to share photos and videos during the races through social media and access information on its website.
Racing's revenues come from betting, but blocking Wifi won't stop people from betting via that medium. Many will likely just stay home and bet, doing the opposite of what you want. In addition, in the age of social media you want people easily sharing their photos and the time they're having at the track via that medium too. It's something that long ago should've been encouraged, not blocked.

All of the above were created by an industry trying their best to hold on to what they had, not thinking about what they could have. The synergy gained by being open - letting a blogger post a video of a race, letting people easily share their on-track experiences, letting people watch the fifth from Aqueduct without having to give a left arm to join an ADW - can create the marketing that will help not hurt. It supports the sales cycle.

Recently this was noted in an article about poker. Vegas loved when online poker was shut down because they thought it would help their poker rooms with an increase in live play. The opposite has happened: Online poker was feeding the "funnel" to their rooms and the World Series of Poker and other tournaments, and when that funnel was plugged, there were fewer end users making it through.

"No longer could fresh crops of poker players develop their games online." said a big wig.

To grow, horse racing needs to feed a funnel with new people too. Making their experience easy, enjoyable with lots of avenues for them to enjoy the sport is paramount. We can block, obstruct and try and pigeon hole customers to do what we want them to do, but just like plugging a shower head, they'll find a way around it. Finding a way around it for the people who are obstructed from betting or enjoying racing is simple: They find another sport or gambling game to patronize.


Anonymous said...

From a woman with lots of hair- I relate. I have two shower heads now.

From a woman who likes sending pictures while at the track.... I appreciate any instance of free Wifi.

Anonymous (I don't want my second shower head taken away!!!!!!)

Heidi E. Carpenter said...

My unproven, untested (but possibly correct?) theory is that the general public finds social media-savvy/friendly companies, sports and businesses to be more approachable, user-friendly and easier to stay on top of. Racing is missing out by shutting these people out.

Eric Poteck said...

Remember when tracks used to charge for forms, programs and stats??


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