Last week, Old Hat made it's 12th consecutive trip to the NACDA/NACMA Conference in Dallas. We were fortunate enough this year to have been invited to present on the subject of marketing automation. The title of the presentation was, "Increasing Revenue while Decreasing Workload: Using Marketing Automation to Drive Ticket Sales and Fundraising Revenue." The whole idea behind marketing automation is that it increases revenue automatically. We set up a system at the outset of the campaign for segmenting audiences, lead scoring and communication and then let it do its magic. We partnered with the University of North Carolina on their Raise Up Carolina football ticket sales website and used marketing automation with great success. And it was this project that we presented on at NACMA.
At Old Hat, we believe that marketing automation can only be successful if it is utilized with two other components though. Automation is a very powerful tool but like any tool, it can't carry the load by itself. So our presentation focused heavily on the 3 ingredients necessary to make a ticket sales or fundraising effort successful. Before I get into that though, let me review the success we had with RaiseUpCarolina.com.
To date, here are the results:
3,000+ new season tickets sold
UNC had seen a 5-year decline in season ticket sales. With the help of RaiseUpCarolina.com, they have more than 3,000 new season ticket holders. If each of those purchasers only bought the lowest level available, this would equate to more than $300,000 in revenue on season tickets alone. This doesn't include mini-packs or single game tickets which only went on sale recently.
Premium Seating is SOLD OUT
In past years, UNC has always had a surplus of premium seating but for the first time ever, they are sold out for the season.
Increase in Group Ticket Sales Requests
Because of the excitement built by the ticket sales site and ease of finding information about group sales options, UNC has seen a drastic increase in group sales requests throughout the spring and summer.
32,000 Unique Visitors who spent a total of 95,000 minutes on the site
Selling tickets is one thing. But building excitement around a program is another. Not only is RaiseUpCarolina.com selling tickets. Because of the user experience, it's keeping people engaged on the site for far longer than the average website keeps a visitor. We are building excitement for UNC Football which will not just result in selling more tickets but it will increase attendance among current ticket holders as well. Just because a ticket is sold does not mean that person will attend the game.
So what are the three ingredients to ticket sales and fundraising success?
1. Dedicated Web Presence 2. Unique Positioning 3. Marketing Automation
Dedicated Web Presence
Many companies offer marketing automation for ticket sales. In fact, I think they all do. And I've talked to many people in collegiate athletics that are utilizing marketing automation through their ticketing system (Spectra, Paciolan, Ticketmaster, etc.). The problem is that the ticket portal that a fan accesses through the primary athletic website (Click Here for an Example) is boring and unengaging. It doesn't make a person excited to buy a ticket. Using marketing automation on a page like this is like putting a racecar engine in a Yugo. It might go really fast but no one will ever get inside to find out.
The best comparison I can use is the movie industry. When Avengers, or X-Men Apocalypse or even the Peanuts Movie came out, they built sites specifically to build excitement for those movies. They had movie trailers, games, custom emojis, etc. specific to that movie so people would actually get excited about going to THAT movie. Imagine if every big budget movie that came out just relied on MovieTickets.com to do their promotion for them. If you go to MovieTickets.com, you see information about every movie that's playing. Seems like a ridiculous notion, right? But that's exactly what most collegiate athletic departments are doing with their ticket sales. Fans are expected to go to the primary athletics website where 27 different sports are being represented, dig through to find the ticket page and then they arrive at a boring and unengaging page that is severely lacking information about the program they're interested in.
Do me a quick favor and click this link to see the Captain America website. Now compare that to the page on movietickets.com where you can actually purchase tickets by clicking here. I'd do screenshots but you can't get the full effect that way. One site is about building excitement and one is about a transaction.
Now click on RaiseUpCarolina.com and compare it to the ticket portal on GoHeels.com by clicking here. We're making the mistake in collegiate athletics of assuming that people are already excited so we just have to invite them to the transaction. But they aren't excited. And they aren't buying tickets.
A dedicated website that is focused solely on reminding people what they're missing out on by not coming to the stadium/arena is integral to the process.
Another key piece of the puzzle is making sure you are focusing on the unique positioning of the program you're promoting. We built RaiseUpCarolina.com to appeal to a specific fan base. Our focus there is UNC Alumni and former season ticket holders. People that have an affinity for UNC and Chapel Hill already. However, we're building a ticket sales website for SMU right now that focuses on an entirely different market. Due to a smaller group of existing alumni and fans in the area, we're focusing our efforts on people with no existing ties to SMU football. And to do that, we have to position the messaging on this site differently than did the UNC site.
The comparison to the movie industry holds true here as well. The Avengers website didn't utilize the same template, look and graphic style as the Peanuts Movie website. Why? Because the audience they're appealing to is entirely different. We can't treat all sports fans the same just like we can't treat all movie fans the same. Potential ticket purchasers for Avengers: Age of Ultron aren't the same as potential ticket purchasers for Finding Dory. Potential ticket purchasers for SMU football aren't the same as potential ticket purchasers for Duke basketball.
We have to stop assuming that people already want to come to our games. And we have to stop thinking we can appeal to all fans the same way.
Marketing automation is all about getting the right message to the right person at the right time. It's about communicating with your fans based on their interests and converting fans into ticket purchasers. It's about following up with them after the purchase to drive additional revenue through apparel sales and gameday opportunities. And it's about making all of this happen automatically without having to lift a finger.
The details about how marketing automation works and everything it's capable of are too complex to outline here. But we'd be happy to walk you through an online presentation if you'd like. Just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll set something up.
Marketing automation will help increase ticket sales. A dedicated website will help increase ticket sales. A uniquely positioned marketing campaign will help increase ticket sales. But none of them are as effective on their own as they are combined. Old Hat takes these three very effective marketing tools and combine them into a revenue producing machine. The results for UNC speak for themselves and we anticipate having similar results on the other ticket sales sites we're currently working on. If you have empty seats, call us. We'll fill them.
For the last 12 years, Old Hat has made the NACMA conference our biggest single focus of the year. Planning starts early in the year and takes quite a bit of our time in the spring leading up to the conference. We devote hours and hours to formulating our strategy, creating marketing pieces and configuring our booth so everything is exactly the way we want. Each year we revisit our NACMA strategy and assess what it is that should be our focus, not unlike what our clients do with their sports programs each season. But why do we place so much importance on one conference? The short answer: it works.
When I say "it works", I mean that in every sense of the phrase. Yes, we see revenue growth that can be attributed to the conference, which is as important for our company as it is for your athletics department. But there's much more to it than that, so I want to share some other benefits we get from attending the NACMA conference.
1. We see immediate results - people come to our booth. The NACMA staff understands how to drive attendance to the trade show hall, and surprisingly there are plenty of conferences that don't do this well. Here are a few things off the top of my head that probably help get people to the hall. If you can institute these at your next home sporting event, I'd almost guarantee higher attendance.
free food and drinks, and giveaways at every turn
short time commitment
captive audience - there's nothing else going on at the time
2. We get to share with like minds in the world of sports. It's not all about selling a product or service for us. This is the place to hear about the trends and challenges that everyone in sports is facing. And every year there are new problems and opportunities to discover, most of which can be found by glancing over the breakout sessions in the agenda.
3. It's important to be seen. I don't think this can be overstated. It would be unheard of for Old Hat to miss out on a NACMA conference, it's where our clients and prospective clients have been accustomed to seeing us each year. Yet we couldn't fully grasp the impact that our presence has unless we decided to skip the conference one year. We don't plan to do this, so let's just agree that it's important to be seen.
4. It's also important to see. Yeah, we want to be seen. But we want to see you too. It's no fun looking in a mirror all day, unless it's one of those that makes you look like you have a really tall torso and short legs. Those are pretty cool, but that's beside the point. We like to see our clients and get to know what's going on with them beyond the workplace. NACMA is a great place to get to know people and form lifelong friendships.
5. We come back energized. I would venture to say everyone attending NACMA comes back with more energy. We all have this new knowledge we want to take back and share with others in our department or company. It's probably no accident that NACMA happens right before the busy season hits, while that knowledge is fresh and backed by some newfound energy.
6. We enjoy the experience. What's not to enjoy? It's basically a learning vacation that takes place with people you [generally] enjoy being around. And when you get tired of socializing and sharing good ideas, go sit out by the pool.
If I haven't convinced you that NACMA is the place to be every June, read my blog again. Or read one of these other NACMA-related blogs. And when you finally do decide to attend, be sure to stop by the Old Hat booth and tell me I was right.
Whew! What a whirlwind past five days its been! Zac, Robert, Kevin, Joel, and I adventured alllllll the way down to Dallas for #NACMA16. As much as I love our annual roadtrips to Orlando, I do have to say, it was very nice only having a three hour drive this year. As I recap our trip, I've included some photos and SNAPCHATS! We just got an Old Hat Snapchat account (user: oldhatcreative), so we had some fun with it.
About 20 minutes into the trip, Robert discovered he left his wallet behind in Norman. We could have made him suffer without it, but we were nice and turned around to go get it.
We made it to Texas! We stopped at the rest stop and of course had to take some photos.
We stopped for a quick lunch at Jimmy John's before unloading and setting up our booth. #SNACKchat
Then, we arrived at the hotel and surprisingly quickly set up our booth. It came together very nicely.
My favorite part of NACMA is being able to see Old Hat clients in person. It's so fun getting to catch up and discuss upcoming projects for the next season. I got to see the team from Utah and Brad from Illinois to name a couple during the trade show. I'll be seeing both of them again soon, as we already have on campus video shoots scheduled this summer.
Me with Michael, Ann, and Grant from the U!
Me with Brad and my friend Shawn Johnson (not the gymnast) who I went to grad school with at ISU.
Per tradition, Katie Caliendo (Menlo College) came by the booth for some handstands. #retiredgymnasts
After two days of trade showing, it was time for Kevin and Zac to present on raiseupcarolina.com and marketing automation with the team from North Carolina. They had three sessions, and each time, the room was filled to capacity...actually over capacity! People were standing in the back! I think the presentation was very beneficial in introducing marketing automation to a lot of athletic department staff, and I think we will be talking about it more and more in the future.
Before we knew it, the booth was all packed up, and we were on our way back to Oklahoma. Overall, I would say we had a successful trip. I can't wait to see what new projects we do with current clients this year and what new clients may join our family in 2016. Until next time!
Here's a few more photos from our trip:
And saving the best for last, Zac and I faceswapped on Snapchat. Oh my.