Holmes Enters An Aladdin’s Cave

WHEN Jess Holmes was unveiled as Woking FC’s new commercial manager earlier this month (Sept. ’17), she was under no illusion that she was stepping foot into, predominately, a man’s cave.

AMBITIOUS: Woking’s new commercial manager, Jess Holmes. Picture by Andy Fitzsimons

For years, football has long been associated with breweries and cigarette manufacturers, but Holmes is clearly intent on bringing more lateral thinking to the table to help promote positive change and one that will influence the way people perceive Woking.

With a degree in business management, Holmes is keen to utilise her business acumen and commercial flair to not only entice more fans through the turnstiles, but to engage a wider audience, both on and off the field.

Acknowledging that football is a brand in its own right, Woking’s new commercial prodigy is determined to capitalise on the club’s good fortunes on the pitch in a bid to get people talking about it off it.

And while there’s no quick fix to Woking’s financial disadvantage when compared to many of its other National League counterparts, the club does now have a sound base for a sustainable future.

“As soon as I came to Woking, I was excited by the opportunity and potential to make a difference,” explained Holmes.

“From my perspective, I see it as a bit of blank canvass, and that’s not to undermine the great work and efforts of any of my predecessors, but merely looking at the potential here in terms of the experience and commercial proposition that Woking Football Club has to offer.

“We’ve got some great names already associated with the club, but there’s scope to really ramp things up. There’s also the match day experience, which is a revenue generator in itself, and to define what that experience actually comprises.”

The former head of business development at talkSPORT believes that there are a number of things that can benefit the club too, which don’t require huge investment or large-scale change. In many respects, they’re minor tweaks that can make the overall experience even more professional.

Woking already has a commercial advantage over its nearest and dearest, insofar that it can accurately promote itself as the largest or most senior football club in Surrey.

And while some would argue that Sutton United could challenge the status quo, The U’s fall under the municipality of a London borough.

Prior to taking on the commercial reigns at Woking, Holmes had spent much of her professional career working in advertising, so when The Cards’ vacancy came up, her decision was almost instantaneous.

“The Board have been great about me coming in; giving me the autonomy to look around, and to go back to them with ideas on how to improve things. There will inevitably be some financial constraints, but you would expect that in the National League.

“Woking, as a town, is a relatively affluent place, but it doesn’t mitigate the need to communicate our value proposition on a regular basis.

“When we played Sutton a couple of weeks ago (16 Sept. ’17), I thought: what a brilliant afternoon of entertainment. And to think that it only cost an adult (early bird) season ticket holder less than £5 admission.

“This is a great example of what can be achieved, but change of course won’t happen overnight.

“Without giving too much away at this stage, there are a number of things that we are doing, and will be doing, to become more effective and efficient in the way that we engage with key stakeholders.

“Everything from the provisions for home and away spectators, to looking at the commercial arrangements when fans are segregated,” she added.

It is understood that Holmes is currently in the throes of developing a CRM (customer relationship management) database, so the club can gather more granular information on its partners, but also its season ticket holders too.

Improved signage is also believed to be a key area, as is having a more formal concierge service to greet the opposition – to name just a few.

And while neither is hugely commercially driven, they all go a long way to help improve the match day experience and provide the platform for bigger and better things.

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