6 Creative Tips to Build Fan Loyalty

6 Creative Tips to Build Fan Loyalty
by Jeff Tanner – July 2015

Loyalty programs have been around now for thirty years. The first were travel programs, created initially by Hal Brierly for companies like American Airlines and Hilton. After three decades, we’ve learned a few things about what works and what doesn’t. One of the things we’ve learned: You don’t need a loyalty program to build loyalty – or rather, you don’t need a frequency program.

Most programs are built on some measure of frequency. Our local Starbucks had a punch card long before Starbucks official reward program: If you bought 10, you got the next one free. The loyalty program simply took that concept to the next level – and often to the Silver, Gold, and Platinum levels. But this type of program requires tracking systems that can be expensive.  Even if you can’t afford a fancy tracking system, there are things you can do to reap the benefits of loyalty.

What you do need?

Some questions to ask yourself first.

What type of loyalty do I want? Do I want people to like us more or engage in some specific behavior? While these may seem obvious, the answers are important. Too many organizations want better sales but then create programs that reward the wrong behavior. For example, JC Penney created a very loyal base of customers who loved the company but were trained to wait for the sales. Exclusive access to merchandise for your most loyal fans, for example, doesn’t mean you put it on sale. If you always give your most loyal fans bigger merchandise discounts, then they’ll love you right out of business.

What is the current state of fan loyalty? In some instances, fans may love a team but love to watch it on TV. Or they only come to premium games – great for the broadcast sponsors but not so great for the team. Loyalty programs are not free. By setting specific goals, the question becomes not does it work, but what works?

What do you do?

Now that you know what you want and where you are – what do you do?

Randomize (Some) Rewards. One benefit of a tiered system is the observed increased frequency of purchases as customers get near the next level. But, we’ve also seen increases in purchases following a random reward.  Panera and Sonic both use randomized rewards, such as a free desert. These aren’t truly random; to the customer, it appears that way. But both Panera and Sonic use loyalty systems to trigger rewards to specific customers. You can use attendance records and other mechanisms to identify who gets rewarded even if you don’t have an official loyalty program.

Say “Thank You.” Organizations give things away for various reasons. Sports teams may give away items as a way to promote sponsors, but it’s not really a gift. Make it clear that you are giving this to the fan who is loyal. Thank the fan for attending. Vary the gift by tier; for example, give premium parking to an upcoming game to a season ticket holder who wouldn’t otherwise qualify. But don’t vary the communication – make it clear that this gift is special because the fan is special as an individual.

Listen. One of the most consistent findings in loyalty research is that loyal customers expect to be heard. They are willing to offer input, even anxious, to offer input. But not as many want to do surveys, especially long surveys. Nor is there anything special about an exit survey given to every fan who leaves the stadium. Your challenge is to find a way to listen as you gather the information.

At a Mavs game with a loyal fan last season, my buddy greeted his aisle vendors by name and had real conversations with them. Just last week, I attended a Norfolk Tides game and the guy next to me knew his beer man’s name, the name of the usher, and the cotton candy girl. Your loyal fans know your employees, and your employees hear things. Empower them to be your fans’ spokesperson.

Think creatively. Complaint systems aside, use decisions as an opportunity to gather fan input. For example, when I visit a new-to-me ballpark, I always ask fans for the signature food. All too often, they can’t say there is one – and that’s too bad. A fan voting contest could determine that (along with follow-up promotion to sell more), but you could ask only season ticket holders. Similarly, you could ask them to nominate the vendor of the season. Oh, and while you’re at it, ask a few questions to help you improve service. Yes, it’s doing a survey, but it’s fun (and be sure to report back on who wins).

Respond. When you introduce new things because of fan input, make it clear that’s why you’re doing it. Citibank may be the best at communicating customer input because no change is introduced without acknowledging customers. One result is a higher take-up of new offers, compared to other banks. The thing is, fans want to know that you not only listen but that you act. The action doesn’t have to be specific to what I said or what she said, but the fan does have to believe that you are acting in response to what fans are saying. The research is clear: When customers believe the organization responds to input, whether their own or other customers, their loyalty goes way up.

Oh, and remember those employees. Make them part of the communication process by letting them know why you are doing something new. If a fan asks, they can answer.

Engage Employees. The research is also clear – happy employees make for happy customers. If you follow these tips, you’ve already adopted a couple of actions that will strengthen your employees’ engagement. You’ve empowered them to provide input and you’ve included them in the decision process by giving them the information to be more knowledgeable when talking with fans.

You can wait for a championship season to build loyalty, but even that fades. The type of loyalty that brings them in game after game takes a little work and a lot of creativity, but the benefits are steady and profitable.

Utilizing LinkedIn for Business Prospecting

Utilizing LinkedIn for Business Prospecting
by Mike Dimitroff – July 2015

My sales philosophy: Better to go after the big fish than waste time fishing for minnows! Anyone can go to the local watering hole, cast a line, and catch small fish. But if LinkedIn is your fishing pole, businesses will be the big fish you are trying to catch.

[dropshadowbox align=”center” effect=”lifted-both” width=”550px” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]“It’s no secret that today’s business decision makers have greater control over the buying process. Three-fourths of B2B buyers use social media to educate themselves before making purchasing decisions and twice as many use LinkedIn to research purchasing decisions than any other social network.” ~ LinkedIn.com[/dropshadowbox]

If 75% of B2B buyers do social media research prior to buying, you can bet that business professionals preparing to make a large monetary commitment will run a background check on the seller–and that’s you!

First Impressions

People buy from people they like and often decide if they like you within the first few moments of contact. What will buyers think if they look on your LinkedIn profile with no picture? A photo helps prospects put a face to the person they’re talking to and helps develop familiarity.

Your story

Provide a short background story about yourself and list your job responsibilities. I recommend listing sales accomplishments since people are more likely to buy from people who are successful at what they do. They perceive that if other people are buying from you then you must be trustworthy. These may seem like nuances, but they will help build trust with your prospective buyer and trust ultimately leads to sales.

[dropshadowbox align=”right” effect=”lifted-both” width=”350px” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]”jesse salazarNew and different methods to contact decision makers are invaluable. LinkedIn is an effective, smart tool for prospecting new companies, identifying decision makers and increasing your network. Professional salespeople will definitely increase productivity, generate qualified leads, and have a higher closing ratio when using LinkedIn.” Jesse Salazar, Manager of Season Sales, Houston Rockets[/dropshadowbox]

No Off-Season

At the Houston Rockets, our motto is, “There is no off-season!” Although some sales reps choose this time to relax and take a break, this is the perfect time to build your sales pipeline. I spend most of the off-season business prospecting.

Prospecting

Prospects can come from oil & gas magazines, billboards on your drive into work, or simply searching under the “people you may know” tab on LinkedIn. With over 500+ connections, many are within my target industries of oil & gas, construction, & law firms. When you search for a new company on LinkedIn simply type in the company name and it should pop up under the drop down menu. Once you have your company selected you can begin to filter by city.

[dropshadowbox align=”right” effect=”lifted-both” width=”350px” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]rob“LinkedIn is an essential tool for staying connected to business professionals and a creative method to target companies. C-level executives are almost impossible to get on the phone. LinkedIn is just another way to get in front of decision makers in a competitive business environment where their time is limited to unique salespeople who they see as a resource to get them immediate results.” Rob Zuer, VP of Ticket Sales & Services, Denver Nuggets[/dropshadowbox]

Once you identify a company, contact one of the following from your search of their LinkedIn profiles: Business Development Manager, Marketing Manager or Executive Assistants to CEO. These are typically the people that either make decisions on purchasing season tickets or handle the distribution of tickets.

You make the call

Call the mainline of a company and ask directly for the person by name. I’ve seen sales reps call the mainline and use basic intro lines like this:

“Hi, this is Michael Dimitroff with the Houston Rockets. I was wondering if you could put me in contact with the person who handles season tickets purchases at your company.”

Gatekeepers are taught to screen such calls and you’ve just given them a layup! Instead, act confidently, as if you’ve already had a conversation with the person.  Ask using their first names (e.g., Rob, or Rob Zuer; not Mr. Zuer) to give the sense you are familiar with them. Once the gate keeper transfers you to the direct line…now it’s time to work your magic and catch the big fish!

Execution: 7 Essential Behaviors of Leadership in Sales Management

Execution: 7 Essential Behaviors of Leadership in Sales Management
by Kelly Roddy – July 2015

What is leadership?

“Genuine leadership comes from the quality of your vision and your ability to spark others to extraordinary performance.” – Jack Welch, Former Chairman and CEO of General Electric

Leadership is “organizing a group of people to achieve a common goal.” As a leader, you may or may not have any formal authority. You may be the president of your organization or you may be in an entry level sales position. There are many things that determine your ability to lead, including your ability to positively interact with others, your behavior, your vision, your values, your charisma and your intelligence, among others. One of the key traits of a great leader is the ability to execute at a high level.

As a leader in charge of execution, what do you do? How do you keep from being a micromanager, caught up in the details of running the business? The answer is to exhibit the seven essential behaviors of successful execution management discussed in Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan’s book, “Execution.”

Seven Essential Behaviors

Know your people and your business.

Are you familiar with the details of your business? Are you spending time with your people? Are you asking questions and understanding how they spend their time? Are you only getting your information from your direct reports and peers or are you talking to others in the organization like teammates that work in other departments and customers to understand the details of your business? Leaders know what is going on in their business.

Insist on realism.

Most of us in business and sales are optimists. We always expect the best outcome. That is great, but as eternal optimists we can’t avoid reality. Make sure you are being honest with yourself. Look at the facts. Don’t hide mistakes. We can only make great decisions and execute at a high level if we understand the details and facts of the business. We must be realistic and set priorities against reality.

Set clear goals and priorities.

“We don’t think ourselves into a new way of acting, we act ourselves into a new way of thinking.” ― Bossidy & Charan, Execution

I like to set priorities in groups of five. A few clear priorities done well will produce much stronger and more sustainable results than many priorities done mediocre or not well. Focus on the few key priorities that will have real impact.

Follow through.

This is the area in which I see leaders fail too often. At the end of the day, your clear goals are meaningless if resources are not dedicated to those goals and actions are not happening. There must be follow through mechanisms put in place. You need key performance metrics and scheduled follow-up meetings. Everyone must know what their roles are in the process and what actions are needed.

Reward the doers.

“The foundation of changing behavior is linking rewards to performance and making the linkages transparent.” ― Bossidy & Charan, Execution

Do you want results? Then you must reward people who drive those results. We all need to recognize those who execute at a high level and move things forward for the organization. Sometimes the most meaningful reward is as simple as verbal recognition or a personal note, telling them “Great Job!” The doers are the people who should receive recognition and rewards.

Expand people’s capabilities.

One of your most important roles as a leader is to pass along your wisdom and experience to the next generation of leaders. This is imperative for your aggressive growth plan at your company or team. Teach others.

Know yourself.

We all know the importance of character. To lead execution, strong character is critical. You must have the strength of character to deal with the realities of your organization and the strength to give forthright assessments to others in the organization. You also must have the courage to make decisions that sometimes are not easy.

We need great leaders in business and sales. We need leaders with clear vision to execute at a high level to produce positive results. Your ability to lead execution has never been more crucial. Be a great leader of vision and of execution!

 

You Got the Job in Sports; Now What?

You Got the Job in Sports; Now What?
by Justin Pipes – July 2015

You graduated from college. Networked with all the right people. Beat out thousands of other candidates. You landed a job in sports!

Now what?

With all of the articles out there about what to do to get a job in sports, I thought it would be helpful to share some of the things I have learned in my first year of working in sports full-time.

Out of college, but not out of class

[dropshadowbox align=”right” effect=”lifted-both” width=”250px” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]harry truman“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”~Harry Truman[/dropshadowbox]College is just the beginning of the true learning journey. You’re still in class, being evaluated compared to your peers. You just may not realize it. If you are content with just being in sports, no need to read any further. But, if you are interested in management and eventual executive leadership, learning will help separate yourself from your peers. Typical resources (SBJ or IEG’s Sponsorship.com) help you stay up-to-date on sportsbiz news. Pick up the local business journal. Read a leadership or sales philosophy book. Learning about the local community and improving your sales and leadership skills will separate you from the rest of the class.

Group projects aren’t over

Whether on an inside sales team, interning in corporate partnerships or working in another department at a sports property, collaboration and working together are critical. Remember those peer evaluations? They’re even more important here, because if you play well with others, you get to stay in the game. But, if not, you may be looking for another team soon. I interact with other departments to get partner activation plans executed. Our plans for new initiatives will affect multiple departments.  As a student-fan, I had no idea how much teamwork went into executing partnership plans, but suffice it to say you must be able to perform effectively in a team.

Dress for success

dwddRemember all of those times you dressed up for career fairs or special speakers in class? You wanted to make a great first impression. You wanted to communicate your professional approach to whatever opportunity might become available. If you came in t-shirt and shorts, trust me, they noticed. That’s a tough first take to overcome. Professional dress is still important. You want to impress upon new co-workers, supervisors, clients, and prospects that you mean business. Studies from the Harvard Business Review show that dressing well is associated with success. They advise you don’t have to buy the most expensive clothes, but that a switch from Dwight Schrute (The Office – my favorite TV show ever) to Don Draper (Mad Men) might be in order.

Be willing to ask for advice

We can’t make it in this business without some help from others who have been there and done that. With only a year under my belt, I found it fitting to ask some other industry professionals what newly minted sports business professionals should do to be successful.

Go the extra mile!

Eric Sudol, Vice President, Corporate Partnership Sales & Marketing with the Dallas Cowboys, offers this great advice:

“One of the most important keys to success for a recent college graduate in the sports industry (and arguably any industry) is to be willing to do anything.  This means not being above any job to garner a foot in the door, going the extra mile to assist wherever, and maintaining an exceptional and humble attitude.”

Don’t be afraid to ask questions!

wesWesley Streitenberger, Manager, Affinity Sales at FC Dallas, shares that to learn you have to ask questions:

“The two things I think that can really help a recent college grad in any industry would be (1) Not being afraid to ask questions and (2) Realizing that the best way to learn is from experience.  The more you do and the more you ask, then the more knowledge and experience you gain, and will continue to!”

What about you?

We haven’t covered everything you need to do after you get the job, for sure. We’d love to hear more from you. What advice would you give to someone that just got a job in the business of sports?

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