Many sports organisations and venues focus on acquisition, and that’s because people mainly associate marketing with gaining new ‘customers’, rather than keeping existing, bought in fans happy.
Surely keeping your customers should be equally as important as attracting them?! Actually, when looking at revenues figures, it shows it’s actually more important.
According to a number of reports, it costs seven times more to attract new fans than to keep them. Additionally, from a sports perspective, if you retain just 5% of your season ticket holders, you can generate 125% more overall profit annually.
Season ticket retention strategies will always create value for your fans, which in turn builds the foundation of numbers, along with the vital affinity drive, which we all know is the holy grail.
If you have a dramatic drop in season ticket numbers, you will naturally see a relative drop in overall revenues – and while we all have to drive new business, when was the last time you actually thought of season ticket holders outside of a sales period?
So here are our top tips:
1. CRM and Data: Collecting fan data is key to retention and acquisition, allowing you to track, monitor and communicate with your fans with the help of segmentation and automation. Customised messages, offers and special messages to specific supporter groups are key to building long-term relationships outside of a transaction.
Ensure you look at the patterns of fans who are not attending via your access control system and reach out and speak to them to ask why? You may be surprised with a few answers.
2. Retention over acquisition: Clubs should shift their main focus from mass advertising and discounting campaigns, to communications with season ticket holders and existing fans. By driving from within you will create demand which has a drag through effect in revenue numbers.
3. Budget for retention marketing: When you are planning your marketing budget, be sure you set aside a figure – as much as you have used for acquisitions in the past. Don’t undercook this area.
4. Measure fan value: How much your fans feel valued, for me is the true benchmark in terms of the overall relationship. Instead of measuring individual sales alone, use your data to measure sales by customer.
Look at what they are doing and how frequently they are interacting with you, from which you can create a simple scoring mechanism for purchasing tickets, merchandising etc. In essence set up and create an organisation specific loyalty program, allowing you to move fans along the value chain. Everyone wins.
5. Focus on service: Outside of a record winning streak, the best way to retain fans from a back office perspective is to offer them excellent customer service. Provide fans with a service that makes them the priority and empower your staff to handle problems promptly, following up with fans so they can resolve issues quickly so that there are no loose ends.
It’s a guarantee that the provision of a stellar service will drive long-term loyalty. Make fans feel special and let them know that you value their support. They love you, so make sure you love them back.
6. Communicate frequently: Emails and calls are an inexpensive way to maintain communication channels with fans. Remind them of games or events, or just drop them the odd email to say ‘Thank you’.
For example, if they have attended their 50th consecutive game, send them something in the post, or if they write in to ask for a birthday message, get a player to call them, as possible. The possibilities to surprise and delight fans are enormous and should be used as frequently as possible.
7. Social media dialogue: Social media isn’t just about broadcasting and pushing messages of the latest games or store offers, it’s about communication and engagement. Share, comment and thank fans when they engage with your content.
Focus on the platforms that you are strong on rather than trying to be everywhere at once, and try to understand which fans are on which platforms so you can start relevant conversations.
You may find that your Twitter followers are very different to or have varying content preferences to your Facebook or Instagram followers. Make sure all your communications channels are dialogue based, rather than monologue.
8. Service recovery: Remember that quality service is paramount, but in the knowledge that we all make mistakes and sometimes things just get in the way. Complaints or mistakes are actually a great way to engage with your customers and show that you care.
Turning the problem into a positive is a way to drive retention and advocacy, so don’t let a problem fester and ensure you turn it into a surprise and delight positive.
9. Talk and listen: Far too often we all ask questions of our fans, but do we truly listen or do we have the ability to act on the response? There’s nothing worse than being asked a question then having the feeling your answer has been ignored, and fans are no different.
In fact, because of the emotional connection, it can be far worse, as this isn’t a commodity, this is their passion. With this in mind ask your fans questions and be open and honest about the answers, then plan and deliver the potential changes that have come from the dialogue. It’s imperative that you listen, in particular when drying to drive fan improvements.
10. Smart events: Fans expect clubs to host match-days and that is where they see the value, but what about creating a series of events that fans are invited to that can really provide great additional value?
Season ticket holder nights, for example, can really work and over a period you can invite certain sections of the ground or data driven milestone supporters to come along. Special events create special moments and these moments truly add value and the feeling of a sense of belonging and advocacy.
Don’t underestimate the opportunity for fans to have a one to one moment with their heroes.
There’s a lot to take in, but we still see far too many sports clubs only focus on their season ticket holders at renewal stage, which simply doesn’t work. Growing your season ticket base takes time, but when done right, can really underpin attendances and ultimately revenues. Retention is the key to this success.