Rob Fielding reflects on how Vale have fared over the summer months and it’s fair to say that things are pretty positive at Vale Park right now.
Rob Fielding writes…
If I was to mark Vale out of ten this summer, then I’d give them an eight. Maybe even an eight and a half.
Around the start of the year, I was told by not one, but two prominent Vale fans that there was ‘no chance’ that both Norman Smurthwaite and Micky Adams would be at the club by the start of next season. Well, it certainly seems that those remarks were wide of the mark.
In terms of the key business, Norman has ticked all the boxes:
- Manager maintained ✓
- Key players maintained ✓
- Squad strengthened ✓
- No kit (limited edition or not) crisis ✓
I think that the likes of O’Connor, Moore, Marshall and Brown give us a strong and competitive squad…
I’m sure that THE key element of the summer for most fans will be the playing staff and I think that the likes of O’Connor, Moore, Marshall and Brown give us a strong and competitive squad. The Vale have done well to add proven League One performers and (in the main) they’ve even conducted their signings without any rumours leaving the ground beforehand. It’s been a steady and professional job and I am sure that Micky Adams deserves much praise for his role in this.
Norman Smurthwaite also deserves praise for keeping the manager and backing him financially. I think the way the club launched their new kit was a good example of how they should be doing things. The home kit was previewed in advance at a home match (it’s always good to build expectation and excitement in that way) and is of a good design and quality. Similarly, the away kit echoes the club’s heritage and was also promoted well.
The club uses social media to similar good effect when “teasing” about new signings. We were told of “good news to come” and that created a buzz of expectation about who was about to sign. There’s also a nice, ongoing interaction between the club and fans – with the club retweeting images of fans in Vale kit, suggestions and comments. It’s good to see.
It’s a simple method but it works and I think the club’s media department deserve praise…
The club would certainly do well to employ that method in the future – hint at an exciting development/news – tell fans when to expect the announcement and then deliver on it. It’s a simple method but it works and I think the club’s media department deserve praise for some innovative work (their Instagram updates of training/squad photoshoots were also well received) with social media this summer.
However, there are still areas to improve on. The reason why the club wouldn’t get perfect marks for their summer business is due to the occasional gaffes and glitches which have cropped up.
There are three I want to highlight (warning, this goes on a bit):
I hope that the club learn from this and start talking to Tom Pope in the new year about a new contract rather than leaving it to the last minute…
- The casual nature of the Micky Adams negotiations will not have helped season ticket sales. Fans want to be certain that the manager is going to be there, not relying on assurances he will. I think this uncertainty did affect sales during the crucial “early bird” period. Hopefully, this is all behind us now, but it’s a lesson to be learned – don’t leave it to the last minute and don’t conduct your contract business slowly and in public! I hope that the club learn from this and (for example) start talking to Tom Pope in the new year about a new contract rather than leaving it to the last minute.
- Treatment of loyal fans. I can understand that the club is within its rights to remove season tickets from the “lifers” and the “season ticket agents” but while it may save a small amount in the short-term, in the long-term it could harm the club. Whatever way you look at it, it is bad PR and it’s never good to upset a proportion of your most loyal fans. For the sake of less than 50 season tickets, surely the club should have simply left well alone?
I think there’s still plenty of room to improve in season ticket promotion…
- The promotion of season tickets and commercial activity. I think there’s still plenty of room to improve in season ticket promotion. Not all promotion has to cost – here’s just a few simple (and free) things that I would have employed to boost the sales and the feelgood factor:
- Prizes. For example, incremental prizes to mark milestones. For example. the 500th, 1,000th and 1,500th (and so on) season ticket purchaser gets a prize (that could be as simple as a seat in the director’s box for a game). You could do the same with junior ticket sales (but perhaps make it to meet Boomer and spend the match with him). None of these prizes actually cost the club any money but are something every Vale fan would love to win.
- Increase the incentives for season ticket holders. How about a monthly raffle just for season ticket holders to win things like a photo of them with their favourite player? How about featuring and thanking random season ticket holders for their support on the scoreboard each game? There’s no cost to either but they make the season ticket holder feel valued.
- Finally, and perhaps most importantly the club should be employing all standard marketing techniques of capturing the fans’ details so that they can be used in the future. They should be asking fans for all their contact details and using them to (ideally) email them (which of course is free) with offers. There should be emails sent out about the new home kit, the new away kit, home friendlies, the Flex10 offer – need I go on?
- And that’s just free things. There’s plenty of paid promotion that would pay dividends but for the sake of space I won’t go into detail (you’re probably thinking ‘phew!’ at this point)
The club is improving year-on-year under Norman Smurthwaite’s ownership and that is surely a good thing…
But I realise that I’m deviating away from the main point.
I think the KEY point of this summer is that it has been better than the last summer. That clearly shows the club is improving year-on-year under Norman Smurthwaite’s ownership and that is surely a good thing. Yes, there are still rough edges to be smoothed out, but if the club continues with this improvement year-on-year we’ll all have reason to be hopeful.
Bring on Walsall and up the Vale!