At the 2016 NACMA Conference, Old Hat lead a presentation on marketing automation. We highlighted the success of RaiseUpCarolina.com, a ticket sales website built for UNC that has helped increase ticket sales revenue by more than $500,000 and aided in selling out their premium seating areas for the first time ever. Marketing automation is one of the tools we used as a part of that project. We took a uniquely positioned website with a great user experience that built excitement for a specific program and turned it into a ridiculously effective sales tool.
A lot of people think of marketing automation as a ticket sales tool, in and of itself. I disagree. I don't think of marketing automation as a tool any more than I think of the handle of a hammer as a tool. The handle of a hammer is only effective if it has the head and/or claw of the hammer. Without one or both of those, it's completely ineffective in achieving its goal. Marketing automation is no different. Without combining marketing automation with other elements to drive results, you're stuck with something as ineffective as the handle of a hammer would be in driving nails.
Some ticketing companies are starting to offer marketing automation as a part of their platform. First, fans visit a school's primary athletic website, navigate to the ticket portal and then their activity is logged and put into the automation system. That information is segmented into audiences and communicated based on their interest on the site. However, there's one major problem with this approach: It's predicated on the idea that people are already interested in coming to those events. If they already want to come, attendance wouldn't be an issue in the first place.
Think about it this way: using marketing automation on a ticket portal through a primary athletic website (goheels.com, for instance) is like putting a ticket sales phone number on a blank, white piece of paper and posting it on a telephone pole on a street corner. It's boring, uninviting, really hard to find and once you do find it, it does nothing to actually make you want to attend the event.
Marketing automation is an amazing way to help increase ticket sales and attendance, but tracking fans' activity on a ticket portal that no one is coming to doesn't take advantage of the power of marketing automation. If no one is coming to your ticket purchasing pages, you're not going to have anyone to track.
Marketing automation is simply a piece of a ticket sales tool. And here are the three things that render it completely ineffective.
1. Dedicated Ticket Sales Site
Again, the problem isn't that people don't know when/where the games are. The problem is that they don't want to come. Simply providing information is not enough. You have to create an interface that builds excitement. Look at your primary website real quick, select any sport, click to purchase tickets and determine if there's anything about that page that actually makes you excited about that sport. If the answer is yes, you're a step ahead, but you're still faced with the issue of forcing people to have to navigate through information about 25 other sports before they find the one they want to buy tickets for. There's a reason the producers of The Avengers built a website just to build excitement about that movie rather than just making it one of many options to look at on the production company's website. And there's a reason that every other major movie does the same thing. Using your primary athletic site to drive ticket sales is a mistake.
2. Off-Season Marketing Campaign
Most of the time, the marketing that takes place for a specific sport happens in the weeks leading up to the start of the season. It will typically continue through the season, but once the season ends, the marketing ends. Sure we send out ticket renewal letters and other information, but most of the time we cease to continue to make them excited about that sport. What we should be doing is actually ramping up our marketing efforts as the season comes to a close and keeping those marketing efforts going the entire off-season. One of the reasons RaiseUpCarolina.com was so successful is because it launched right at the end of the football season. Then, throughout the winter and spring, we were consistently pushing people to that site through a comprehensive marketing campaign. Because we were continually driving traffic to the site, marketing automation was able to do what marketing automation does. If you're not continually driving traffic to your site, you're not getting the most bang for your buck in what you're spending on marketing automation.
3. Digital Marketing Strategy
As discussed, marketing automation is only one part of a much larger puzzle. It is a force multiplier, much like the handle of a hammer. A hammer's head will drive a nail if you hit it hard enough. Add a handle to that head and it amplifies the force exponentially and makes driving that nail a lot easier. Marketing automation is the piece of the tool that makes your efforts exponentially more effective in driving ticket sales. What can make marketing automation even more effective? Other digital strategies that augment marketing automation. One example is geofencing. We can identify an area where you have a potential base of ticket purchasers and target them by geofencing that area and serving them digital advertising through whatever site or app they spend most of their time on. For instance, let's say you have a loyal and passionate fanbase at your basketball games, but those fans aren't coming to your football games. We geofence your basketball arena and all your fans have to do is use their phone to access the web in any way during that event. Once they do, we can then serve them ads on Facebook, Google, etc. to drive them to purchase. These ads will push them to your website where they then enter your marketing automation platform and now you're hitting them from all angles.
There's no question that marketing automation is powerful. A $500,000 increase in ticket sales at UNC is enough to prove that point, but it took a lot more than marketing automation to make that happen: A good program, a great marketing staff, a ticket sales team, a dedicated ticket sales website, an off-season marketing campaign and marketing automation. This season we'll be implementing a comprehensive digital marketing strategy including geofencing and hope to add yet another force multiplier to the ticket sales effort.
Want to know what (and how) your peers at other schools are doing when it comes to attendance, game experience, ticket sales, and marketing? Here’s your chance to find out!
You’re invited to participate in our State of Sports Marketing survey. It only takes a few minutes to complete, and individual responses will be kept confidential.
What’s in it for you?
The inside scoop. Participants will have the option to receive a special insiders’ report with full survey results that won’t be shared with the general public.
Gift cards! We’ll be giving away Amazon gift cards with values up to $100 to 15 lucky survey participants. All you have to do is opt in for a chance to win at the end of the survey.
So share your thoughts, score some free stuff, and find out what’s really going on in the industry. And share it with your friends who also work in college athletics.
Why share the survey? The more people who take it, the better you'll be able to see what's going on in the industry in terms of attendance, marketing techniques, game day experience, and more! Anyone who takes the survey is eligible to win one of the gift cards we're giving away (get up to $100 on Amazon!) and receive a copy of the exclusive Insiders' Report.
Take and share the survey now! It’s only open through Oct 21st.
A few of us went to a digital marketing conference recently, and one of the speakers talked about storytelling. It kind of took us by surprise. A digital conference should be about high-tech stuff, right? And storytelling has been around since before any kind of tech existed.
But here’s the thing. Engaging your fans online is like telling a story. You get people interested in who you are and what you offer with the story you tell through digital and social media. You get them to come back to your website time after time through storytelling. If you do not tell the right story, in the right way, consumers lose interest.
So how do you tell a good story in the digital world? These tips 7 tips for digital storytelling will help you capture attention and build trust.
1. Be genuine.
Marketing can be tough. All marketers are liars, right? That’s what some people think, so it’s your job to convince them otherwise. You have convey your brand’s message in a way that is honest and appeals to people. Spend a minute thinking about the recent stories that have been proven to be false and how that worked out for people (cough, cough…Lochte).
2. Utilize your resources.
Not sure you have a story? There are so many around you that you can tell. Use them! You have access to the locker room, to the players, and to the coaches in one way or another. Tell those stories. Most of your fans or players probably won’t take the initiative to share their stories on Facebook or other social media outlets. Seek their stories out and share them.
3. Seek out stories and write them down.
This one seems simple enough, but most of us forget to do jot things down…which means we forget about them. Keep a running log of things you can use in the future. If you overheard an employee talking to a fan and felt the message was great, write it down, record it, do whatever it takes to get a record of that story so you can retell it down the road. It’s not every day that you get to share how your athletic department helped make someone’s dream come true. But if you look for these stories, you might be surprised at how often they actually do happen. Write them down so you can remember to share your story with the community. That also helps you avoid those social media upkeep panic moments, because you’ll always have a good story to use.
4. Ask others to share their stories.
This one goes with the one above. Sometimes you are not going to be able to tell a story as well as the person who originally experienced it. If that story helps further the community you are growing or helps engage your fan base, ask the individual to come out and tell their story. You can’t get more genuine that that. Plus, everyone else sees a fan who cares enough or had a good enough experience to share their story with the world. That’s powerful!
5. Pick the right moment.
This is probably just a general marketing rule, but even the best stories will fall on deaf ears if they are not told at the right moment. Think about it and plan. You want the right message, in front of the right people, at the right time. There’s nothing wrong with using tools to schedule part of your digital engagement, but if you forget to monitor what’s happening in the world you could accidentally make your brand appear insensitive, self-absorbed, or just tuned out of what’s trending.
6. Be creative.
Again, this is marketing 101. In addition to being creative with how you tell your story, the whole process needs to be creative. You need to look in different places to find the stories. Of course take the obvious ones that come your way, but don’t forget to turn over a few rocks or dig a little deeper so you can deliver something unexpected every once in a while. Then challenge yourself to find new and interesting ways to share those stories instead of doing the same thing every time.
7. Pick the right medium
Some stories can only be told in person, face to face. Others can work well in a video or as a speech. Some have the greatest impact when paired with an image, making them good choices for channels like Instagram or Facebook. Some are easy to tell in a few words, while others take a little more explaining. The point is, you need to find a way to deliver your story that fits the story and your community. Choosing the right medium will help you maximize the impact of each story and get it in front of the most relevant audience.
When it comes down to it, a lot of the work we do is storytelling. One way or another we are trying to help our clients tell their story to the world. Your brand has a story. As a marketer, part of your challenge (and opportunity!) is to find all the different chapters, scenes, and memorable lines that make up that story and share them with the world. If this is done correctly, it will help you grow your community and engage your fan base in a way that improves the relationship.
EUGENE, OR - University of Oregon Athletic Department officials announced Wednesday that they have ended their long-standing relationship with Nike and have signed with Walmart's Avia brand to provide all athletic apparel and shoes.
"We appreciate everything Nike and Phil Knight have done for the University of Oregon and respect the organization immensely. However, we feel that it is time for a new era in Oregon Athletics and we are confident that Walmart is the right organization to represent the Oregon brand," one official stated.
Okay, did anyone believe that for one second? Did anyone truly believe that Oregon, a major collegiate athletic program, would drop Nike in favor of Walmart? Of course not.
A lot of reasons, most likely. For one, Nike and Phil Knight have given so much support to the University of Oregon, they'd never dream of going with any other apparel company, much less Walmart's Avia brand. But let's swap out Oregon, and let's say Michigan instead. Or Bowling Green. Or UConn. Or East Popcorn State University. Would you have believed the headline then?
East Popcorn State drops Adidas; Walmart's Avia to provide Colonels Team Apparel
Would that headline be any more believable? Probably not.
Avia makes fine apparel. I have a pair of running shorts from Walmart, and I don't run any slower when I wear them than when I wear my Nike shorts. In fact, I can't tell the difference. My favorite pair of running shorts are BCG brand, not Nike. Avia could provide athletic team apparel to the Ducks that feels pretty similar to what Nike provides. The Ducks could take the field in apparel provided by Walmart and they wouldn't run any slower, throw the ball any less accurately, shoot with any lower percentage or hit with any lower of an average.
So if Walmart were to come to the table and commit to providing everything Nike provides and a financial incentive far greater than Nike, would any major university be willing to announce that they've dropped Nike or Adidas or Under Armour in favor of a Walmart brand?
Not a chance. But why?
The answer, of course: Perception. Pride. Respect. Quality.
There's no coach or athletic director in the country that is going to send their team on the field wearing Avia or BCG or C9. And even if they were, how tough would it be to recruit kids to come play for a school if they know they'll be trading in the swoosh for the... uh, "I" with a little arrow thingy on top? The coaches, the department personnel and the kids would be embarrassed to compete in anything but a top name brand. And why? Because they'd look ridiculous. It's the same reason NBA players don't shoot free throws granny-style, despite the scientific data that shows they'd make way more shots that way. They'd get laughed at. And no one wants to be laughed at.
I'm not arguing that this is a bad thing. I jog in cheap jogging shorts. But rest assured that if I were going to be on national television, I'd go buy some brand new Nike shorts. I'd also probably try to drop a few pounds. Because on the national stage, we all want to look good. And no disrespect to Walmart, but running out of the tunnel wearing the Avia logo on your chest is not an idea that gets anyone excited. It all makes complete and total sense. I get it.
But there's something I don't get.
There's something I don't understand at all.
This philosophy of looking good and only being willing to wear what looks the best or shoot the way that looksthe best... the philosophy that we all think makes complete and total sense... why does that not apply to everything that represents our collegiate sports teams?
Why are we willing to let our team run out of the tunnel after an intro/hype video that doesn't actually build any hype? Why do we show videoboard prompts that are cheap, canned reproductions that don't match our brand? Why do we promote the sport that has the highest potential and greatest need for ticket sales revenue with marketing collateral that is just "good enough," has no research behind it and isn't positioned to actually drive attendance? Why do we not even consider for one second letting our teams wear something that isn't absolutely first-class, but when it comes to promoting those sports, driving attendance and building a game experience, we often settle for what is least expensive? This isn't the case everywhere, of course, but there are so many times at so many major universities that an athletic department will choose the Walmart version of a creative service over the Nike equivalent.
A glaring example of this is most universities' online ticket buying portals. Every school in the country wants to sell more tickets. Every school in the country wants to drive attendance. Yet if you look at the online ticket purchasing experience at those schools, the user interface is terrible, it's impossible to find the information you need, it takes way too many clicks to purchase and the pages are bland and boring and do nothing to actually make a fan want to come to the event. Everything about these portals depend on a fan already wanting to come to the event so badly that they're willing to jump through hoops to buy a ticket. And not even cool, exciting, flaming-hoops-of-fire. Boring, bland, unexciting hoops.
Promoting our teams with poor quality marketing isn't just as bad as sending them onto the court in Walmart brand shoes. It's like sending them onto the court with no shoes at all. We wouldn't be giving them the tools to succeed and by relying on the least expensive option for marketing, we're not giving ourselves the tools to succeed in driving attendance.
So all that said, I'm not ignorant to the idea that sometimes the least expensive option is the only option. Budgets are tight in collegiate athletics and sometimes you can control the amount you're given to promote your sports. So here are some practical tips that you can employ to help drive attendance at your events.
Ticket Sales Portal
Count the Clicks - How many clicks does it take to buy a ticket on your website? On the high end, we sometimes see that it can take up to 7-8 clicks to make a purchase. Some have streamlined it down to as few as 3. Obviously, the lower the number, the more likely people are to purchase. And most of the time, you can make changes to your site to bring that number down. Count the number of clicks it takes to make a purchase and see if you can cut that number in half.
Spruce Up the Joint - Unfortunately, most ticketing companies provide a portal that is boring and unengaging. They don't do much to actually make a fan want to purchase. But there are typically at least a couple of things you can to do customize that page. Take advantage of those opportunities by bringing your marketing campaign for that sport into the headers and other graphics on that page. In a perfect world, add some video content to those pages, even if it's just your stadium intro/hype video. Fans love to watch those things and if the only place to watch it is by going to your ticket sales page, that could go a long way toward driving ticket sales. Best way to sell a ticket to someone is to give them the opportunity to buy when they're most excited about it.
Forget Your Die-Hard Fans - I wrote an article a few weeks ago about how we need to start looking at schedule posters as advertisements rather than promotional tools. Because most of the time, they don't do much to drive attendance. But every advertising campaign starts with research to determine who your audience is. Maybe you don't have a budget for research. That's fine. You know your area and you know who has the most potential to become new ticket purchasers. Spend some time thinking about who those people are and develop a campaign that targets those people. The die-hard fans are going to come regardless of what the poster looks like or the tagline that's on it. So think about a way to appeal (both through messaging and through the visuals) to a different group. You'll probably find that putting all the seniors on the poster with a generic tagline isn't the best way to appeal to those people. Be bold and put something unique out there. Because like I said, the die-hards are coming anyway. And by trying something unique you just might appeal to a totally new group.
Take Advantage of Your Friends & Family - The best thing I can advise for improving your game experience is to identify where things are lacking. And the best way to do that is to engage a firm to do a comprehensive gameday audit. But if your budget doesn't allow for that, make your friends and family work for those tickets they begged you for! Give them a checklist and have them rate every experience on a scale of 1 to 5. Ticket takers, concessionaires, ushers, intro video, band, cheer, etc. You may not get a comprehensive report from industry experts, but you'll have more information than you started with. And sometimes it's good to have input from people who aren't immersed in collegiate athletics 24/7. At the very least, you'll have a unique perspective outside your own.
We might have mentioned it once or twice before, but last spring, we conducted a Sports180 with SMU Athletics. We met with SMU's staff, did the research, and decided how to strategically and visually approach this year and drive attendance at SMU events on campus.
Last weekend, SMU hosted Liberty University for the first Mustang home football game of the year. I #GotThere and watched the game in person! I love being able to see the work our designers created in real life. Usually I only get to see it on my computer screen. Thanks again to the SMU staff for having me!
As a part of the Sports180, we've created many many pieces for SMU sports all following a consistent brand. For football specifically, those include:
The article I posted earlier in the week has caused some negative, yet understandable feedback. It comes as no surprise to me that some feathers were ruffled by the solution I proposed to the new Federal Labor Standards Act. Below is an expanded version of a response I posted to a comment on the original blog post.
I would like to reiterate what I stated in the article which is that, "If you love your current creative staff or freelancer, don’t fire them just because you can’t afford to pay them enough to meet all your needs." The idea that we are advocating widespread layoffs leaves me wondering if people actually read the article or just the headline. I clearly stated that I do not feel changes should be made if an athletic department has a good creative staff in place.
What some people may not realize is that I was once on an internal creative staff myself. And if I felt that someone were advocating that I get fired, I'd be quite upset. However, the FLSA rules are estimated to have a $1.5 million impact to the average mid-major athletic department. While some can absorb that, others will have to make cuts. That's just the reality of the situation. I would love to think that rather than cutting anyone, departments would increase everyone's wage to the new threshold. I just don't believe that's realistic. Departments will have a greater need than ever to get fans in seats to increase revenue and honestly, I've never seen a situation in which using Old Hat wouldn't save an athletic department vast sums of money over having in-house creative. I've run the numbers many times and the fact of the matter is, a department could save themselves thousands of dollars annually by using Old Hat for their high level creative rather than an in-house crew.
We can't forget that the mission of an athletic department is anything other than educating the student-athlete and giving the opportunity to as many young people as possible to compete and get an education. The FLSA rules are going to have a major impact whether we like it or not. We are simply recommending an option that will help contribute to a department's ability to continue that mission.
Big changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) will take effect on December 1, 2016. That means you have the first half of the school year to: (a) get as much overtime out of your current employees as possible while you still can, and (b) figure out how the heck you’re going to make things work when the new rules go into effect.
Here’s the issue in a nutshell: you won’t be able to afford to keep doing things the way you do them today.
We all know that there’s no such thing as a 40 hour workweek for employees in collegiate athletics. Especially not for employees at the lower end of the pay scale. Right now, you don’t have to pay overtime rates to professional, administrative or executive employees whose salaries are $23,660 per year or more. But come December, that threshold jumps to $47,476 per year. So here’s the question: can you survive without all the overtime hours your lower-paid employees currently work, or can you afford to pay them a lot more in the future?
It’s not like you have a bunch of extra money laying around. And if you’re a Division I school, you may already in a budget crunch thanks to recent changes related to food service and scholarship rules.
Unfortunately, your practices, games, and related activities are not going to magically start fitting into a tidy little 40 hour workweek…no matter how many of you write letters to Santa.
Something’s gotta give.
Here’s our advice: cut your creative staff.
Yep. You heard that right.
Drastic times call for drastic measures.
So yeah. Your graphic designer. Your video production specialist. Send’em packing.
We’re not saying you don’t need marketing support. Of course you do! It’s just that you don’t need to keep those individuals on your staff as yet another piece of your salary and overtime puzzle. And even if your marketing team isn’t working overtime, we all know they’re still a likely target when budget cuts come around.
The way we see it, you’ve got 3 alternatives to consider.
#1 – Hire Freelancers
If you’ve never tried it before, this might sound like a good idea. But most of you who have been around the block once or twice are cringing right now. Most athletic departments haven’t had a lot of luck with freelancers providing consistently high-quality work that’s on time and on target. Unless you have a freelancer who has worked with you before or who came from the collegiate athletics marketing industry, you’ll probably find they lack the expertise and insight you’re looking for. On the other hand, if you’re lucky enough to have found a really great freelancer, that person is probably working a lot more than 40 hours for you at an annual salary that’s lower than the new FLSA threshold…which means in December, you’ll have the same problem with your freelance rock star as you would with your own in-house staff.
#2 – Two Words: Student Internship
Hey, look around. In your neighborhood, there’s no shortage of young soon-to-be-professionals eager to build their resumes and score some real-world experience. And most of them don’t want to work anywhere close to 40 hours a week anyway. Assembling a low-cost creative staff will be like shooting fish in a barrel! What could possibly go wrong? Well, other than lack of experience, inconsistency, the need for a lot of oversight, not having any of the aforementioned industry expertise, some pesky rules or limitations… Reality check: you get what you pay for. There’s a reason you haven’t relied on this type of manpower to serve as your creative staff before. Sure, you may have some top-notch students who help you out from time to time, and that’s great. But as a year-over-year strategy, trying to rely on them to fill the gap FLSA is about to create won’t earn you a barrel of Gatorade over the head.
#3 – Outsource It
If only you knew somebody with a wealth of industry experience, mad design skills, a deep bench of talent, and serious strategic chops that you could hire and rely on without having to even think about overtime or paying a higher salary. Oh, wait. You do. All joking aside, Old Hat can provide everything you need from a creative standpoint. From design to video production, project management, strategic planning and copywriting, we offer a full range of creative services. We’re good enough, we’re smart enough, and doggone it, people like us. If you don’t have your dream team in place right now, take them off your payroll and let us be your creative staff instead. Want to have a designer right there on campus with you? No problem – we can be the one to hire them, pay them, and worry about their hours, plus we’ve got the capacity to absorb any excess work.
Or don’t cut your creative staff. Augment them the smart way.
If you love your current creative staff or freelancer, don’t fire them just because you can’t afford to pay them enough to meet all your needs. I mean, really. Do we come across as that callous or short-sighted? (For the record, we’re neither.) Instead, let us augment your team and handle all those extra hours you can’t afford to pay them for. Old Hat can provide you subscription-style creative support that will cost you a lot less in the long run than paying overtime rates or higher salaries, while delivering the highest quality results. We’ll work with you to come up with a plan that gives you all services you need, when you need them. We’ll even dedicate somebody to becoming your brand expert. Everybody wins! Want to talk it over? Give us a call.
College football season is only days away and the thought of adding another project to your list probably makes you want to bury your head in the turf. But with all of the success we've had with ticket sales websites and marketing automation, I frequently get asked when the best time to launch a site is. And unfortunately for those of you who might not see the light of day, much less your families, until the end of November, my answer is: Football season.
Honestly, no matter what time of year it is, I think it's a good time to launch a ticket sales site. However, if I were to get to choose any time of the year to launch with the goal of having the most potential success, I'd launch midway through the football season every time. There are just too many opportunities to take advantage of during the season that don't exist any other time of the year and if your goal is to sell more tickets, which I think it might be, the time to launch is in the Fall... which means the time to start the project is now.
Here are the top 5 reasons to launch a ticket sales site during the football season:
1. Excitement is high. There's no better time to take advantage of the excitement than during the season. Even if they aren't necessarily making a purchase, a fan is much more likely to go to the website during the football season because football is top-of-mind. The whole goal of marketing automation is to get them to the site at least once so we can start targeting them with communication tailored to their interests. It's easier to drive traffic to a football ticket sales website during football season than any other time.
2. Renewals. The best way to drive traffic to your newly launched website is by making it the preferred avenue to renew season tickets. If that's where fans have to go to renew their tickets, that's a great way to drive them to the site initially. You also want them to see all of the options to upgrade their seating rather than just renewing what they already have. You want to start promoting renewals toward the end of the season so you need to have the site up and running in advance of that.
3. Videoboard and a Captive Audience. So you have a message you want to send to your most passionate fan base. And it just so happens that you have all of those people in one place on a Saturday afternoon. Add to that the fact that you have a monstrocity of a videoboard they'll all be staring at during breaks in action and you have a perfect opportunity to tell them about the new site. Launch it a week after the season ends, and you just missed the chance to put that URL in front of 50,000 of your most die-hard fans.
4. Converting Single to Season. There's a good chance that a good number of those fans in the stands aren't currently season ticket holders. Maybe they bought a single game ticket. Or maybe they came with a friend that has season tickets. Point is, here's a perfect opportunity to turn them into season ticket holders by 1) collecting info on them (we can help with that too) 2) promoting the site to them and 3) following up with communication after the game to drive them to purchase. There could be thousands of potential season ticket holders at those games that are having a blast and thinking about how they'd like to come more often. Strike while the iron is hot and get them to the site before their excitement dwindles.
5. There's So Much You Can't Control. Let's say you're one of the fortunate ones and you're trying to sell tickets for a program that's having a lot of success. You have to take advantage of that immediately while your fans are excited and there's a buzz about town. You never know what could happen a week after the season ends. If that successful coach takes another job, you lose people. And what if your program isn't successful? Well, you need all the time you can get to drive ticket sales. And there's no better way to learn about your fans, their buying habits and what is going to convert them into purchasers than using the data you can get through marketing automation.
Launching a uniquely positioned, dedicated ticket sales website with marketing automation is a great idea no matter what time of year it is. But if you truly want to put yourself in a position to have the greatest opportunity for success, start gathering information now and launch mid-season. You'll be glad you did.
Check out our recently launched gameday and ticket sales website, complete with marketing automation: gethereforgameday.com
When someone asks me to look at a website, there is almost always a disclaimer. Usually, a “don’t be too harsh” or “don’t spend too much time, just give me some quick thoughts.” For the most part, I assume this means they do not want detailed review of their site - just some top line things I notice, without an explanation. While this seems simple, it is something I have spent years trying to get better at doing.
Here’s the challenge. I have spent a lot of time studying websites, how they function, and how users interact with them. Every website I look over, I approach from the perspective of someone who has been there and built something similar; someone who has had to deal with users not having a clear path or call to actions. That’s because when Old Hat is working through a web project, I pick apart every detail during the initial phases of the project.
Once we get to final quality assurance, however, I have to switch roles. I have to step into the mindset of someone who has not viewed the website every day for the last six months. Why? Because the person asking the question needs me to simulate someone who is interacting with the brand for the first time, not someone who has gone to over 5,000 websites in the last five years. This stage of the web development process calls for a fresh set of eyes.
Why am I telling you this? Because as a marketer who has been closely involved in a web project (or any project for that matter), you need to be able to do the same thing in order to see what you’re working on the same way an everyday fan would see it.
Here is my guide on how not to be an expert.
1. Forget everything you know. Seriously, you have to take yourself out of the daily grind that is a long-term project and pretend you are viewing it for the first time.
2. Forget everything you know, round two. It takes a lot to put your experience and knowledge to the side, but when reviewing a website, you have to take this unbiased approach.
3. Change your habits. You may not realize it, but you have developed habits in your day to day interaction with the project. This might be things like how you first view the page or which navigation you check first. Make a conscious effort to recognize these habits and then do something completely different.
4. Make yourself uncomfortable Along the lines of those habits, you have a certain level of comfort. You have found the way you find easiest to get from point A to point B, but other users are going to find ten more ways to maneuver through the site. You need to find those ways and make sure they are a pleasant experience. It will be uncomfortable at first, but that means you are approaching it the right way and reviewing your new site properly.
5. Think like your parents or grandparents. You have to be able to approach the site like it’s the first time you have ever seen it. For me, this involves sitting back and thinking about how I have seen my 92 year old grandfather use his iPad. He seems to be trying to put his finger straight through the screen or like he is trying to punish the buttons he is clicking. He only notices the things that have movement and will follow instructions on the screen to a T.
6. Think like your little brother or child. I have watched my younger cousin fly through an entire site in with one flick of his wrist, missing everything but the footer and the header. He missed calls to action and the meat of the site, but that was how he wanted to consume the content. The best thing you can do here is watch how others consume that content, then imitate it the best you can when you go through the site.
7. Click the first thing you see. As you go through a project, you will start to notice more detail on the pages. You will see things that were not there on first glance. New users will often click the first thing they see that is remotely relevant. You, on the other hand, have a bit of site blindness because you have been to it so often. Try going through the site by clicking the first thing you see.
Have you ever had that moment where you look at another program’s website, schedule poster, or other promotional materials and say to yourself: “Man! That’s so cool. I want exactly the same thing – except in my school’s colors.”
Of course you have. We’ve all been there. That moment of marketing envy happens all the time. And that’s ok, because last time I checked there wasn’t a commandment that said “Thou shalt not covet they neighbor’s marketing.”
And besides, you know what they say: imitation is the highest form of flattery. I don’t know who “they” are, but that’s what my mother always told me when I whined about my big brother mimicking me. (Side note: I’m 99.99% sure he wasn’t doing it to flatter me, and hearing mom’s explanation always made me want to kick “they” in the shins. My brother usually got it in the shins instead.)
Most of the time, if you try to copy what somebody else is doing, they’ll take it as a sign they’re doing something right.
But here’s the rub: sometimes other people’s stuff just doesn’t fit you.
It’s like that time in middle school where you went out and bought something the most popular kid had, only to find that it looked kind of ridiculous on you.
Or that time when you really admired somebody else’s style (maybe their leadership style, their lifestyle, their hairstyle, their style of speaking… you get the idea), but when you tried to do things exactly the way they did, something wasn’t quite right.
Here’s another way to think of it. Wind back the clock to when you were in school. You had to write a paper about something. You found some really good information, copied it exactly, and turned it in. That’s called plagiarism. You got an F. You wrote another paper, but this time you kind of reworded things instead of copying them directly. You got a C, because it was pretty solid work but not very original. Then you wrote a paper where you used great information as a springboard for your own ideas instead. You crushed it and brought home the A. Yay, you! (Even if your actual experience didn’t quite happen that way, you get the point.)
When you copy somebody else, you’re not being your most genuine self. Even if others don’t see through it (which – trust me – they will sooner or later), whatever you’re doing won’t be nearly as effective as if you had done things your own way.
The same goes for marketing.
Sure, you can copy what somebody else is doing and just make it look like your own. And it might work out pretty well for you, at least for a little while. But it will never work as well as taking the time to create something that’s based on a deep understanding of who you are, what you offer, who you’re trying to engage, and the compelling reasons for your target audience to do what you’re asking them to do.
So the next time you see somebody else doing something cool, admire it. Get inspired by it. Then ask yourself why it works so well for that other brand. Think about the unique attributes, challenges, and opportunities of your own program and how you can use that understanding to come up with something that’s even better – for you.
Because once you start thinking that way, you’re moving from a marketing plan based on “I think” to a strategic approach based on “I know.” That’s when results happen.
Besides, wouldn’t you rather be the one who’s getting copied instead of the copycat?