During the 17 or so years prior to getting involved with MePlease, I was buying and selling leisure & hospitality businesses in the UK: hotels, restaurants, pubs & bars as well as sports clubs, night clubs and also off licenses from time to time.
To perform that role well required an understanding of the ‘leisure retail’ businesses being sold; in a sense, to do my job successfully I had to be part operator (to understand the daily business challenges faced by my clients), part accountant (such businesses are essentially sold on a multiple of profit – bottom line profit usually being the main reason someone buys a business) as well as part property agent, given that the business and property are inextricably linked (I qualified as a chartered surveyor in 1994). Being a shareholder & director on the board of Fleurets for 9 years also gave me first hand experience in running a business.
In contrast, the last two and a half years of my life have been spent immersed in an entirely different space: the world of mobile and social media.
Understanding this, might help you appreciate why I was both pleased and excited to be invited to speak at the Autumn Seminar of the ALMR (Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers) during September, as part of the ‘demystifying social media’ section of the day. The event was attended by almost a hundred head honchos from the UK’s bar and restaurant chains – the great and the good within the leisure retail industry.
What I learned that day is that the clear message is ‘out’ and widespread throughout industry: “You NEED to do social” and in principle, it does appear that this much has been accepted by the sector. It’s also acknowledged and understood that mobiles are THE device consumers carry with them when they’re out and about – mobile and social convergence has arrived ! – and all evidence points to the fact that more and more people in massive numbers will continue to use their mobiles for all things social. For example, of the 700m Facebook users, almost 250m of them access it via their mobiles.
However, the “how to” for businesses and brands is the tricky bit. For many, it’s still shrouded in fog as they tinker with pilots and trials, usually working with little or no budget, in an attempt to get to grips with what does and doesn’t work for them. Ultimately, they need to make it pay and want to see a return on their investment.
The leisure retail industry might take solace from the fact that they’re not alone. Their challenges are almost identical to the challenges being faced elsewhere. The vast majority of large and small retailers and brands in the ‘real world’ that we are talking to are also currently trying to figure out the “how” for themselves. Relatively few have big budgets, so most are being understandably cautious, yet deliberate in their approach.
So whilst my career shifted from the ‘real world to the digital world’, ever since I moved the lines separating the two have blurred and they have converged. The ultimate business objectives, to drive turnover and profits, for our clients remain the same, but the way in which they interact with and engage their customers and their audience of friends has altered forever.
So it’s an exciting & frenetic time for MePlease – after all, the challenges businesses are currently facing are precisely the reason why we set up MePlease in the first place: to provide simple mobile social tools to help businesses engage their customers in an ongoing conversation, over time and on any device.
At MePlease we’re helping our clients to solve these challenges and make a difference. As with everything it’s always easier, if you know where to look.
Chief Commercial Officer, MePlease