If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.
True in many areas of life and especially in (sports) business. If you always take out the same ads, do the same promotions or hand out the same fliers, nothing will change and you’ll likely see the same or similar revenue numbers year in and year out. If you don’t change anything up, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what to expect.
So how do you get more without jeopardizing the integrity of your organization? Three little words – customer relationship management.
The purpose of any business is to provide value in the marketplace to its consumers by offering products or services. In order to dig in to this a little more, I’ll assume you are affiliated with a team or organization already in existence and already doing business. In order to grow from wherever it is that you are now, you’ve got to learn as much about your customers as you can. You have to make it a priority to know everything you can about them. If all you know is their email and mailing addresses, then great. You know how to get a hold of them.
Quite honestly, in this day and age, that’s not enough. The digital age we live in has shaped our fans into beings that have come to expect personalized service, pricing and attention. The more you know about your fans, the better you’ll be able to serve them exactly what it is they desire from your organization. Outside of the performance of the team, you have the ability to customize absolutely every aspect of the fan experience and it all starts with CRM – customer relationship management.
Just as your team operations staff and coaches are dissecting every move of their athletes, so should you be gathering data and dissecting every move of your fans and customers. This might sound shady, but it’s not. People share all kinds of information online every single day with numerous entities that track their every move, search query, transaction and click, often without knowing. Even when they do find out that they are being tracked online, most people don’t care or perhaps do exercise some caution, but still continue to browse and click. The people who don’t use the internet at all are probably becoming fewer and fewer as we progress as a society.
If you can afford it, just go buy the data on your fans. Yes, it’s possible. There are several companies that specialize in collecting consumer information from 3rd parties and then turn around and sell that information to companies looking to build CRM systems and learn more about their customers. They collect demographic information including everything from household income, job titles, property and real estate valuations, cars driven and even some pyschographic information such as which social networks are used, what they type into search engines, what their political views are and so on.
If you can’t afford to buy your customers’ data, just ask them straight up. (Be careful though…even when people give up a lot online, most people are still a little sensitive when answering direct questions) There are plenty of free and low-cost survey tools out on the internet, so find a marketing or statistics professor or graduate student to help you pull together a list of valid and reliable questions and ask your fans through email. Start with your season ticket holders, then move on to your mini-plan buyers, your single game ticket buyers and eventually everyone that buys merchandise from you online. You can collect their information during checkout, include a link to the survey on their online invoice/receipt, track their responses by group and come up with some idea of who these people are that attend your games.
That’s the first part of customer relationship management – getting their information.
The second part of customer relationship management is the analysis of that information and interpretation of your findings into something meaningful for the organization and for your fans. This is also called data mining. Do your fans like a certain type of music? Play that during time outs. Do they purchase tickets at certain times of day – say lunch time or late at night after the kids go to bed? Hire extra staff at lunch and make sure your website works. Do they buy more colored shirts than white? Print t-shirts in every color possible. Do they watch certain TV channels that you might want to advertise on? Place your ads on those networks and perhaps their websites too – every hear of “on demand?” This is just the tip of the iceberg, so really dive in and take your time with this process.
Furthermore, don’t forget about good old fashioned phone and face-to-face conversations. You can learn a great deal about someone just by asking them questions. The more personal you get with your fans, the more personal they’ll likely get with you. Your CRM system will also track those conversations for you so you can always make sure everyone on your staff has the most up-to-date information about every one of your customers.
Your job as someone who works in sports, at least on the business side, is to make it as easy as possible for your fans to get what they want – tickets, food, swag, you name it. You want a low barrier of entry to what it is that you offer. No matter what sport and no matter what level, you are there to provide something of value that other people want. Collect customer information. Analyze your data. Provide better value and service.