Following Andy Murray’s historic triumph at Wimbledon, the Lions thrashing Australia, the Ashes underway and the new Premiership football season almost upon us, it seems apt to give my latest blog a sporting theme.

Despite a summer of sporting success, the hospitality and leisure (SHL) sector still faces a number of significant challenges as consumers’ needs and expectations change and become more complex, particularly as pressures on personal finances cause them to be more selective in how they spend their money.

The key to maximising profits is to target customers more effectively, whilst ensuring that services and the way they are priced are relevant and appealing. As obvious as this might seem, there is a reason that sports, hospitality and leisure providers have struggled with these disciplines in the past.

Sports clubs especially must track multiple cost centres and revenue sources that are dynamically interlinked and fast-moving. Without the right tools to support them, clubs have found it difficult to get an overall picture of how their business is performing. Rather, they have had to grabble with inefficient reporting processes and inaccurate or delayed operational insight into their true performance.

Analysts may be generating reports using a range of different methods, producing inconsistent and unreliable information or struggling to consolidate different pictures from each department within the organisation. Any decisions based on these results are therefore risky ones. Clubs need to be able to accurately and quickly monitor their business performance based on events, matches, hospitality, tickets, retail sales and so on.

The good news is that, not only do comprehensive and integrated financial management, CRM and business intelligence solutions exist which can be deployed quickly and using a choice of deployment models (eg licensed or hosted in the cloud), there are also versions of the software that have been specifically tailored to meet the needs of the sports, hospitality and leisure sector. These address the needs of market sub-sectors ranging from rugby union, rugby league and football, to racecourses, visitor attractions and event arenas.

To introduce customer-specific elements, for more granular analysis, organisations should be looking to integrate CRM capabilities with their financial management systems. This allows the behaviour patterns and profitability of different customer groups to be analysed at a more discrete level, allowing communications and promotional offers to be highly targeted and made relevant to each individual. Integrated finance and CRM systems also ensure that crucial data is not falling between the cracks.

By taking an integrated approach to data capture and management, sports, hospitality and leisure facilities can take advantage of a number of transformative benefits:

  • Consolidated data allows them to gain a view of their financial position, their relationship with each individual customer, local business, sponsors, advertisers and so on. Through the use of powerful marketing automation tools, the monitoring and tracking of interactions can guide organisations’ segmentation and targeting of differing ‘audiences’ based on previous buying habits
  • CRM systems have long been seen as essential in helping to recruit and retain existing customers and attracting new ones. By understanding the customer more intimately and establishing a regular channel of communication, organisations take a far more proactive role in marketing their facilities, services and events and ensuring their members don’t lapse
  • With a sector-specific CRM system, service providers could also benefit from ‘membership management’ features – for example offering subscribing fans exclusive news content, offers, competitions to visit the stadium, the basis of a loyalty reward programme. Other sport-oriented CRM features might include capabilities for flagging up opportunities to cross- and up-sell products and services and track and manage customer issues.

Integrated technology is the key to successfully streamlining business processes, and this is true in almost any industry sector. In the sports, hospitality and leisure industry, where the goalposts are perpetually changing and customers’ evolving needs are becoming harder to predict, close, continuous business analysis is critical to successful planning, service viability and long-term prosperity.

As organisations operating in a sill challenging economic climate know full well, It isn’t the taking part that counts, but beating the competition to deliver a resounding win for the home team to maximise growth and profitability.