I love football. I love analogies. I love preaching about business strategy. Somehow I’ve linked the three and the result is this blog post about how the 15/16 season in Barclay’s Premier League can tell you what to do and what not to do when you’re developing a business strategy. Let’s kick things off…
Don’t rest on your laurels
Chelsea dominated the 2014/15 Premier League season, spending a record 274 days at the top of the table on their way to claiming the title. To put that into context, the previous season’s winners Manchester City, spent only 15 days in top spot. This season Chelsea spent zero days in 1st place and eventually finished 10th, officially the worst title defence in the history of the Premier League.
Where did it all go wrong?
Prior to receiving his P45, manager Jose Mourinho lamented the lack of new players at his disposal, and claimed this was the reason behind his team’s poor performances.
In today’s ever-changing digital age, if you are not optimising your online experience, you are inevitably going backwards. Regardless of your competitors’ actions, or your target audience, all web users are beginning to expect fluid, intuitive and attractive UX. Amazon, Facebook and Uber are becoming the benchmark to which all other platforms are being compared.
Like 2014/15 footballer of the year Eden Hazard, your mobile site might have been ahead of the game six months ago. Unless you are conducting an optimisation process, you are inevitably regressing.
Develop the team you have rather than splashing the cash
Whilst top UK teams have invested heavily on the star names (ahem, here’s looking at you MUFC), Spurs have learnt from their previous overspending and have instead focused on nurturing talent. Inexperienced pair Ali and Dier cost pittance and have become the focus of the team alongside academy graduate Harry Kane. All three have had phenomenal seasons and have their seats firmly reserved for the plane to France for the European Championships this summer.
Like the transfer fees for most international footballers, the price of top software tools have inflated, and budgets are starting to look bleak before team development is even considered. The success of your optimisation programme depends on the team you assemble and not the latest feature laden technology.
These tools do not understand psychological principles. They cannot develop a strong hypothesis based on detailed insights. No tool is able to determine whether a user research participant’s answers match up to their actual experience with your website or are just for show.
Investing your budget in training for your team will offer a higher return on investment than a specialist tool that covers one area of your optimisation process; and who knows, you might uncover the next optimisation wonderkid.
A HIPPO led environment can be disastrous
In nine years as the owner of Newcastle United, Mike Ashley has overseen nine full time managers, two relegations, ever-present fan protests and constant criticism from football experts for the calamitous decision-making by him and his non-footballing board of directors.
Decisions made based on the Highest Paid Person’s Opinion (HIPPO) are rarely better than guesswork. More often than not, they are far removed from the day-to-day running of a business (or football club), not to mention the nuances of the product.
When making decisions that can impact your bottom-line, make them using reason, rationale and evidence. If the decision makers possess none of these, get an expert opinion (preferably several) from the people closest to the matter in hand as to what next steps you should take. If you don’t, well, let’s just say it doesn’t end well for you.
Top level metrics are highly deceiving
On paper, Manchester City’s 1-0 defeat to Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League Semi-Final looks like it was an even contest, even more so if you consider they were defeated courtesy of an unfortunate own goal. The truth however, is my beloved City were insipid and registered only nine shots in 180 minutes of football versus Madrid’s 28.
Metrics like conversion rate can appear to be strong reflections of your online performance, but in reality they don’t paint the whole picture. Conversion rate offers no insight into overall revenue, or quality of leads, depending on your website goal. No one wants to read a 10 page performance report, what is equally as damning however, is a one metric overview. If you’re asked for either, ask questions about what information is actually required.
Another pitfall of reporting is using averages. In the two games mentioned previously, Aguero had 81 touches. Fairly busy you might say, but only two of those were within the Real Madrid box, the danger area you want your striker operating. Unless you are looking at segmented data, or looking for relationships between your metrics and onsite experience, you will struggle to answer meaningful questions and gather actionable data.
Quantity does not mean quality
Despite having the second highest amount of ball possession this season, Manchester United have struggled to entertain their fans, and have registered their lowest goal return in 12 years. In contrast, eventual Champions Leicester City had the third lowest possession in the league but scored the third highest number of goals.
Without an optimised user journey, a high quantity of traffic rarely means a high quantity of conversions.
Rather than redistributing your hard fought budget on different acquisition channels trying to find a gap your competitors have overlooked, look to investing in your website and ensure what traffic you have knows what action they should take, why they should do it and how they can do it. Like Manchester United’s midfield with the ball, you’ll just end up having nothing to show from all your traffic.
Listen to your fans
Picture courtesy of Yahoo Sports
After Liverpool owners announced ticket prices would increase by up to 30%, thousands of fans protested by leaving their game at home to Sunderland early. At the time Liverpool were 2-0 up, but after the mass walkout they crumbled and ended up drawing the game 2-2. Liverpool owners quickly back-tracked and announced ticket price freezes for the next two seasons.
If your customers are as loyal to your brand as football fans are to their team then you are doing a fantastic job! More likely, your potential customers shop around and are just as likely to shop with your competitors.
What’s the best way to gain loyal customers? How do you stop people abandoning your site and going elsewhere? The truth is…you don’t know and neither do I.
The people that know the answer to those questions are the people that visit your website, so ask them. User research, polls and surveys can all help you avoid mass bounces by learning about what you audience actually wants. Liverpool’s hierarchy thought they could increase ticket prices in a bid to improve profits that could be reinvested in the team, but the fans’ voice was loud enough to be heard, and they adjusted their business strategy appropriately.
So…what does a Champion strategy look like?
Leicester City stole the world’s hearts, captured their imagination and took the footballing world by storm. In hindsight, this was no miracle success as all the signs were there:
- After staving off relegation last season, they added specialists to an already tight-knit team.
- Previously overlooked players from lower-league teams were given a platform to perform.
- Whether it was the manager, senior squad members, or backroom staff, Leicester City is more than one man, with all involved having freedom and ownership of their role.
- Whilst competitors were looking in the top leagues for star talent, Leicester’s recruiting staff looked at the stats that matter, and found countless hidden gems.
- Only two teams saw less of the ball than Leicester this year, yet the eventual Champions made their touches count, converting shots into goals at the highest rate in the league.
- Leicester City have frozen ticket prices for the second consecutive year and whilst next season will be their most lucrative by far, they will still have some of the cheapest tickets in the league. A clear sign of giving back to their fans.
Do you have any other examples? If so, please put them in the comments below!