For those of you who don’t know Goodwood it is an iconic English estate, home to six sports – horse racing (including the Glorious Goodwood meeting), motorsport (with the Festival of Speed, Members’ Meeting and Revival Festival topping the bill), golf, aviation, cricket and shooting.
That’s not all, however. The 12,000-acre estate also includes a hotel, health club, restaurants, a private members’ club, an organic farm and an awful lot more. In fact, there are 27 different businesses with their own P&L operating within the Goodwood Group.
The latest podcast I recorded was with Tracey Greaves, Goodwood’s chief commercial officer and the chief executive of Kinrara at the Goodwood Group. All those strands create quite the management challenge for Greaves, so I wanted to understand how she balances her time between these divergent priorities. Additionally, I wanted to hear how she has managed to develop Goodwood’s reputation for innovation while staying true to its heritage and values.
Take a listen to the podcast if you can. In the meantime, I’ve fleshed out the three key themes that stood out to me.
You need both customer obsession and financial smarts to drive successful innovation
Goodwood has long maintained a privileged position of influence in terms of the sports it hosts. Events like the Festival of Speed are well known for pushing the boundaries on innovation. In 2017, for example, the team launched FOS Future Lab, which looked into the future far beyond the realms of motorsport.
This is typical of Goodwood’s approach to innovation. As Greaves says: “As long as you stay true to your brand values, I don’t think you can go far wrong. Push to innovate as far as you can…you can always rein it in a bit.”
That is not to say that innovation is in any way reckless. Greaves described to me how it needs to be deep-rooted in an understanding of the current and potential audience (they “agonise about the customer journey”). The trick is to balance this with intensive financial interrogation and modelling. This is no time for innovation for innovation’s sake – as Greaves says: “post Covid there is even more rigour there”.
Goodwood is rolling out this customer and finance-led approach to innovation by launching a new business, Kinrara, to industrialise its innovation efforts outside of Goodwood. Encouraged by inbound enquiries from existing clients, Greaves is leading the new organisation to co-create innovative new businesses that sit off-site. Her team blend right and left brain, brand and balance sheet, to co-create experiences just as innovative as the Future Lab at Festival of Speed. They’re not passion projects, they’re profit centres.
In a nutshell: Successful innovation in a post-Covid era comes down to satisfying not only current and future customers, but also the bank manager. This is a learned skill, not something to leave to chance.
Get the best out of interdependent businesses by focusing on the commonalities
Of course, many sports businesses consist of several different businesses models in one, but I’ve never heard of 27 P&Ls in one rights holder. As Greaves said, she’s “never worked in a more complicated business”.
While the businesses are managed via separate P&Ls, in practice Goodwood’s magic depends on the give and take between them as they “work as one all year round”. For example, the farm has to manage its crop schedules around the dates motor racing events will need to use fields for customer parking.
This significant prioritisation process starts with the customer. Greaves wants guests to “feel a certain way when they come to Goodwood” – whatever experience they are joining for. This means that as many areas as possible of the detail behind the experience are utterly consistent. For example, the coffee beans, machinery and barista training that goes into delivering a consistently excellent cup of coffee is hugely important, whether a guest is at breakfast in the hotel or watching the motor racing.
The risk, of course, is that a focus on consistency of quality – no matter how high –– can take away the personal touch. This is where Goodwood enable their team to be themselves and show their respective passions – be it for motorsport, food, farming, golf – to deliver quality with a personal touch. Customer-focused flexibility on consistent foundations, if you like. Without over-stretching the point, I’d argue that’s what Amazon and Netflix do so well in the digital realm.
It is clear from talking to Greaves that each business is very clear on its identity and purpose, but also understands the role it plays in a unified brand proposition.
In a nutshell: When your business is made up of several interdependent revenue lines, focus on the consistencies which must underpin the quality of the customer experience. When your hygiene factors are exceptional, the super serving comes from providing the personal touch.
Go the extra mile to sustain growth in premium experience
Premium experience products like all those Goodwood has to offer were changing fast even before the pandemic. Greaves sees those trends amplified by the last 12 months and feels that “Covid has proved there is a lot of life to live, and that people want to dive in and experience things”. Goodwood certainly notices that in the level of their current inbound activity.
Greaves feels that premium experiences are becoming “more relaxed but also more content driven”. However, “a more relaxed experience does not mean that the attention to detail is any lower”. Brands still need to “tell great stories”. Goodwood’s view is that, “if it is not perfect, we are simply not doing it.”
Greaves believes digital has a key role to play in amplifying and perhaps lengthening the enjoyment of a premium experience, but it will not replace the chance to experience something in person. Digital can also offer a great Petri dish for testing new premium experiences before committing to the expense and exposure of a physical event. Using digital to demonstrate ongoing innovation around an event and an ongoing commitment to content can also play a particularly pivotal role in selling premium experience where the challenge to drive repeat purchase year-on-year is particularly stark.
I certainly recognise the changes that Greaves identifies in the conversations I have with rights holders. Post pandemic, I think we can expect to see a polarisation of the event market into economic value-based packages and very premium offers, which will remain robust. Many sectors find that when times get tough the market polarises in this way – holidays, clothing, food and so on.
In order to push your premium products into the safe zone, Greaves’s advice is to “try to add in something different that the customer does not expect – it might seem small to you but will be really big to the customer – they will notice it.”
Even if a slightly overused phrase in marketing, “surprise and delight” has longevity because it works.
In a nutshell: Premium experience is changing. To make the cut, you have to constantly reinvest in a buyer who will have the means to pay, but will require a unique experience each and every year.
Core message in ten words or fewer
I asked Greaves for her key lessons for listeners to the pod. I think she summed it up in nine: “Continually innovate and put yourself in the customer’s shoes.”
Goodwood’s remorseless focus on customer experience, quality and innovation has kept it ahead of its competition for the last 300 years – take it from me that two minutes in the Future Lab enables you to feel very comfortable about the next 300.
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