In some respects, the time has flown by, while other elements of the journey have moved at a snail’s pace. That’s the view of Aly Lalani, Head of Marketing at BetRegal.com, as he reflects on an eventful, yet ultimately rewarding, first year for the new sports betting brand.
As I sit here at the beginning of September typing this, I realize that it has been just over a year since the launch of BetRegal. That’s right, we have been live and functional to accept players and process wagers for over 12 months now.
Much like we all like to do on birthdays, I thought it would be a novel idea to reflect on the lessons learned over the past year.
Some have been good, some have been more difficult, but all have proven valuable in terms of developing learning as we navigate this new and evolving terrain.
Easy and simple are not the same thing
English was never my strongest subject in school. I was always more of a math and science guy. Even so, I always had the impression that the terms ‘easy’ and ‘simple were’ synonymous. Turns out I couldn’t be more wrong… those are two very different terms.
Conceptually, what we are trying to accomplish here is reasonably simple. We are not trying to reinvent the way customers wager on sports (or casino), we are not trying to revolutionize our product by offering options that no other gaming company offers (yet), and we are not trying to be way ahead of the curve in terms of payment options by focusing on cryptocurrency or blockchain betting.
None of those things. What we are trying to do is acquire (and keep) customers by offering a quality gaming product to a targeted audience in a safe and secure online environment. Ultimately, the number of available markets to wager on is relatively homogenous so all we need to do is take the product being offered by our software provider and differentiate it enough to be attractive to our target customer.
Sounds simple enough right? Sure, it sounds simple, but it is the furthest thing from easy. There are so many intricacies and issues that just seem to pop up out of nowhere that regardless of the level of planning or forward thinking, it seems like we are in a constantly reactive state.
Just to be clear, nobody at BetRegal went into this thinking it would be easy – it just amazes me that a goal that can be articulated in a few simple sentences can contain so many trials and challenges. It really is remarkable how different the concepts of ‘easy’ and ‘simple’ are.
Adaptability and flexibility in terms of business focus
It’s mid-August 2017. The other stakeholders and I are sitting in a boardroom finalizing plans for our impending launch. We have had the appropriate conversations around setting goals, which includes a reasonable understanding of who our target customer is, as well as a good sense of which markets we are to focus our efforts on.
Sounds good right? Sounds like we have a relatively well-defined path? That’s what I thought too. The result of the path hasn’t changed (goals, target customer/market), but the journey has definitely taken some hard rights and lefts. I suppose that’s one of the benefits of being a small and nimble company, and almost acts as a differentiator.
Outsourcing can be extremely valuable, but also a real pain in the a$$
Way back in the first of these diaries (coincidentally about a year ago), I discussed our strategic decision to utilize the outsourcing model for most of our needs, which puts me in a good position to judge the pros and cons of this approach. My conclusion is that this can be really awesome, or really awful.
Earth-shattering right? Let me elaborate. My experience has been that there is a huge amount of variability in effectiveness of outsourcing. The upside is great. Imagine being able to bring on an entire team of subject matter experts in a field you have a specific and urgent need for. No hiring, no onboarding process, no product or market specific learning curve, none of that stuff that everyone hates.
In most cases nowadays, it’s reasonably easy to find agencies/consultants that are vertical specific, so they are already familiar with the concepts and terminology. It’s a great process when it works well. It’s definitely costlier, but allows for unmatched efficiency when compared to hiring an internal team.
As high as the ups can be, the downside can be just as extreme. The real down side, in my opinion, is priority. Especially when dealing with a vendor who services multiple clients. It’s obviously impossible to assign the same level of priority as when dealing with an internal team.
It’s easy to walk into a team of developers or marketers and say ‘project X is now priority number one, and nothing else gets worked on until it’s complete’. We’ve had situations where the outsourcing strategy has resulted in not meeting the defined timelines, or not to the quality we would expect. That results in angry emails and skype chats, escalations, etc. None of that is a productive use of time.
The ‘R’ in the SMART goal methodology is remarkably important
Anyone who has sat in any type of management training, has gone through the process of defining SMART goals. We’ve all groaned at PowerPoint’s explaining why SMART goals are important. As cliché as they are, I am actually a firm believer in all of the components. However, over the course of the past year one has really jumped out as especially important.
Although there are variations, in my world the ‘R’ is for realistic. If there was one component of the SMART goal methodology we missed on, I would say it was R. After all, who knows what is realistic to achieve in the first year of operation? Some of our initial goals were achieved fairly quickly, while others we have barely begun to penetrate.
With 12 months of operation under our belt, and a reasonable sense of our pace of accomplishment, we are well positioned to make sure our upcoming strategic goal setting exercise is properly aligned with our resources and realistic output.
Can we can do this? Yes, we can
Perhaps the most important takeaway from this entire first year, through all the peaks and valleys that we have experienced over 12 months, is an encouraging sense that ‘we can do this’. This is not an impossible task. It might not an easy path, but there is a path here to the end goal that we defined.
There will inevitably be challenges, as our industry evolves in terms of technology, product and compliance. However, it’s important for us to see them not as obstacles, but opportunities to develop.
Ahead of the World Cup, we talked about swimming with the big fish. Now is not the time to retreat to the safety of the shore. After 12 months hard work, it’s time for BetRegal to kick on.