How to deal with too much success (Part 2)

In Part 1 of this article, I discussed the issues facing Lincoln City FC, a small non-league football (soccer) club based in the English midlands. The club has spent the last five years in decline, both on the field of play (the Club lost its Football League status in 2011) and also behind the scenes, where financial problems has resulted in the Club’s bank demanding repayment of debts and refusal to continue offering banking facilities.
However, over the last nine months there has been an amazing turnaround in fortunes. A new management team was appointed that has taken the team to the top of its division, with the very real prospect of promotion back into the Football League.
The Club also made English footballing history by becoming the first non-league team to reach the Quarter Finals of the  FA Cup in over 100 years. When gate receipts and television fees are taken into account, the Club has made a profit of £2.5 million from the Cup competition alone - enough to clear the debts and leave a stockpile of financial reserves for the next few seasons.
But this new-found success has raised problems. There has been a vast increase in demand for tickets (especially for FA Cup games) and the Club has been unable to satisfy this demand.
This has upset some long-standing loyal supporters who have complained bitterly on social media that they have been unable to obtain tickets for Cup games, at the expense of newer supporters of the Club.
In Part 1 of this article I posed the question of how the Club can solve this problem in the future, so that it is able to keep its existing loyal customer base happy, while at the same time satisfying the increased demand coming from new customers, and indeed to convert these new customers into long-term loyal supporters.
If you would like to read the full text of Part 1 please click here.

The Club has faced criticism from a group of loyal existing customers who feel they have missed out on seeing their team play in historic FA Cup matches. But hindsight is a wonderful thing, and in fairness to the football club, there is no way they could have predicted such an amazing turnaround in fortunes over such a short space of time.
The question now is how to manage the longer-term increase in demand.
I personally believe the way forward is for the Club to implement a membership scheme for supporters. The scheme would encompass four levels of Club membership, and all supporters of the Club would be encouraged to join up, regardless of their level of ’loyalty’. I have outlined below how this would work.

£25 adults
£10 children

£10 OAPs

One free ticket for any home game
£1 discount off all home game tickets
5% discount in Club shop
Monthly email newsletter
Membership card
Priority B for 'all-ticket' games

Free with purchase of season ticket
Attendance at all home games
One free ‘bring a friend’ ticket
10% discount in Club shop
10% discount on away coach travel
Monthly email newsletter
Membership card
Priority A for 'all-ticket' games

Price of season ticket plus £25
All the benefits of Silver membership
Members Xmas Party with players
Invitations to other special events during the season

Price of season ticket plus £100
All the benefits of Gold membership
VIP attendance at one game in the Director’s Box
Free coach trip to one away game
Name listed in the Club programme
Entry into lottery for season ticket the following year

This system would encourage virtually every supporter to join the membership scheme, because even at the basic ‘Bronze’ level, the cost of membership pays for itself just by attending one free game. So no supporter would have any excuse for not joining the membership scheme, even if they only join at the Bronze level.
This would enable the Club to get the vast majority of its supporters onto the database, providing a very valuable marketing resource. For example, the database could be used to email special offers on merchandise, or special ticket discounts to members for winter midweek games where the attendance is expected to be low.

The database could also be used (assuming relevant opt-in customer consent is obtained within the Data Protection Act 1998) for the Club to send out relevant third-party offers. Local businesses might want to give special discounts to supporters on a whole range of goods and services. For example local restaurants and takeaways may offer a match-day discount to Club members.
This would generate more revenue for the Club because the third-party suppliers would pay a fee to be able to make this offer to Club members.
But more importantly, instituting a membership scheme as outlined above would have the advantage of creating a sense of ‘belonging’ to the Club for all its supporters. It would enhance the community spirit of the football club, and make all supporters feel like stakeholders with a sense of ownership in the Club.
It would also make it very clear (in advance) of who will get priority for future big matches where tickets are in short supply. There could be no complaints from aggrieved supporters about not being able to obtain tickets, because everyone would know in advance what system is going to be used to prioritise ticket allocation.
I believe this membership system would greatly increase customer loyalty for Lincoln City FC, plus add numerous additional marketing and income-generation benefits. 

This is just a brief outline of my plan. I would be very happy to speak to any Director of the Club if they wish to discuss my ideas in more detail.
Darren Bugg is a marketing and customer service expert with 30 years’ experience working in this field. He holds a Masters Degree in Marketing and Innovation, in which he specialised in the subject of customer loyalty. His new book ‘The Loyalty Gap - the 7 Secrets of Customer Loyalty’ will be published later this year.

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