The key to winning the summer of sport – and beyond

By Mike Fantis, VP and Managing Partner at DAC

- Last updated on GMT

Winning in the summer of sport and beyond

Related tags Sport

This summer’s Euros-led sporting smorgasbord has given publicans some welcome respite in the face of a “challenging” market.

There’s an opportunity to build on 2024’s unprecedented summer of sport, especially given the Premiership kicks off again soon, but competition will be fierce. So, what will give you the competitive edge?

I appreciate that the words ‘online reputation management strategy’ aren’t going to set pulses racing. But bear in mind a staggering 98% of consumers​ say reviews and ratings are the most influential factors in their decision-making process, surpassing even price!

The twelfth man

Your team needs fans and it’s easier to retain than attract customers, the key to loyalty is reputation. Nurturing this takes time and a proactive strategy to account for digital as well as word-of-mouth. 

Online reputation doesn’t have to be rocket science. Google favours earned third-party recommendations, so let your patrons do the heavy lifting for you. Actively encourage patrons to leave reviews - and ideally post photos too - that will show up in search engines.

As we all know, in hospitality experience is key, your front-of-house teams are your brand ambassadors and set the stage for reviews. Simple gestures like friendly reminders from staff - when the mood is right - or signs placed on tables and high-traffic areas can prompt customers to share positive experiences. Offering incentives, such as a chance to win a free meal or a round of drinks can go a long way to sweetening the deal.

A team effort

Whether you are an independent landlord, operate within a chain or are a franchisee, a site-specific reviews strategy is vital and everyone has a role to play, not just your bar and waiting staff.

In the case of the large pubcos, head office can reasonably be expected to take on the tactical role. This means providing the tools, training and messaging frameworks needed for staff to manage a reviews strategy, while maintaining a consistent brand image.

The success of any reputation management strategy hinges on a transparent and efficient feedback loop though. The landlord has to take responsibility for acting on this, for instance in facilitating staff training or improving accessibility. 

Unless you are actively prepared to engage with your clientele - and that means acting, not just listening - then a reviews strategy rings hollow. If it’s perceived to be self-serving by customers, your reviews strategy can do more harm than good.

Avoid own goals

It goes without saying that in such a fast-paced sector, keeping online content up-to-date should be a given. Consider what questions potential customers will likely be asking in online searches, for instance what matches are you showing, is there a family area, parking, are you running any promotions?

In a digital-first world your web presence really does matter, and that doesn’t end at your website. Everything you and your customers post online ladders up to your position on the search results, so ensure your various social channels are regularly updated with the latest information about events, menus, and special offers.

Be prepared to engage, to respond promptly and politely to all posts, whether that’s a review or a comment. A response doesn’t always need to be hugely detailed, simply acknowledging you will take feedback onboard goes a long way.

This summer’s packed sporting line-up has been unusual so customer uplifts are unlikely to last longer term. However, it has likely given new customers a window into your business, now it’s up to you to keep them coming back.

This is a golden opportunity to put the foundations in place for a reputation management strategy that will serve well for tournaments to come.

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