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12 Things I Learned in 2013 and/or Still Trying to Figure Out in 2014

Mary Pink's picture

As we turn the page to a new year, I wanted to look back at 2013. Here is a sampling of what I learned this past year and continue to learn more about in 2014.

1. The importance of game day atmosphere. With greater TV exposure, fans now have a choice to stay home on their couch or attend the game. We have to continue to find ways to keep fans attending our games. Wi-Fi technology isn’t the only answer. Fans will continue to want more from us in terms of entertainment value before, during and after the game. Teams and schools are learning that winning isn’t the only answer.

2. Social media is about content and how to engage your fans. While the number of followers you have for each channel has some merit, the most important thing to look at is how you are engaging your followers. As Facebook has admitted earlier this month, it will be harder for your fans to see your content unless you pay to advertise. Therefore, getting them to share and like your posts will be critical to getting them seen organically.

3. Amazing customer service trumps almost anything. Fans will come back even during a losing season because of great customer service. Even if a product is great, if you have a negative customer experience, you may not come back and you will tell people about your experience. As an employee of your organization, customer service should be important to you, because you represent the brand.

4. Build your brand by telling your story. If you don’t tell your story as an organization, no one else may do it. Social media, in-house video production, or a team web page is the best place to do this.

5. Infographics are here to stay. People love infographics. They read, save and most importantly share them with other people. It is one of the easiest ways to get your fans to share your story with other people. One story I read, stated that 90% of information enters your brain visually. Infographics can help heighten brand awareness as long as they are easy to read and visually appealing.

6. Discounting tickets can still build your fan base. By discounting your tickets, it doesn’t mean your fans won’t ever buy full price, but it gets that fan to purchase a ticket which may be the first step to getting them in the arena. You just need to understand your customers and have a pricing strategy. What may work well for one team, might not work well for another but you have to experiment to see what works. Make sure your pricing is easy to understand for the consumer.

7. Don’t give away tickets. If you do have to give away complimentary tickets to drive attendance, do it privately (i.e. giving tickets to veterans through a service organization like Veteran Tickets Foundation) so you don’t devalue your tickets to the public. You may be exposing them to your game day experience but without some real skin in the game (i.e. paying something for them) why are they going to come back and pay full price?

8. Personal engagement (through your coaches, players and administration) with your fans is still one of the best ways to build and strengthen your brand. Fans want to be able to have a personal connection with your team. From speaking engagements in the community, fan caravans, personally thanking fans at the games and on media channels, personally connecting with your fans can build a deeper brand engagement that can last through seasons when you aren’t winning.

9. Marketers need to embrace data. Data can help create targeted campaigns to drive increased ticket sales and assist in creating your pricing strategy. Teams can now send out targeted communications that are much more effective than in the past to drive increased sales. Data can provide information spending habits for tickets and entertainment. Using data, teams can now identify new and targeted customers that have a stronger affinity to buy your tickets.

10. Social media hubs still don’t beat direct engagement for building your following. Teams have devised other ways to try to drive engagement and while it may help, the most important strategy for increasing your following should be to engage the fans directly on your social media sites.

11. Social media is ever changing landscape. What will be the next big social media channel and where should you place your next branding efforts. Is Snapchat going to be the next best channel or will it become the next Myspace? Both Vine and Instagram video have their place but will they both succeed? 2014 will reveal more.

12. Marketing to the next generation is going to be a challenge. How do we market to teens and Generation Z who have so much technology to replace being at an event. This generation has grown up around technology. It is going to be easier for them to stay home and watch a game versus being there in person. How do we reach this target market in the coming years as teams look to market to this generation in the future?

What do you think you have learned in 2013 or are still trying to figure out for 2014? Share your comments below, tweet me at @maryzpink or email me at mpink@iastate.edu.

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