What better way to close out three days of intense knowledge-share, networking, and pleasant surprises (ie. John Ragsdale chucking an Intermec phone at a wall in the CRM Mobile Revolution session to show its sturdiness for field sales forces) at CRM Evolution 2012 than with some baseball?
For all the sports fans (and non-sports fans) alike that attended this year’s conference and stuck it through to the end, conference chairman Paul Greenberg offered the next best thing after a field trip to Yankee Stadium – he rallied an extra-special closer of a panel discussion with Scott Jeffer, manager of CRM strategy for the New York Yankees; Jill Golden, sales manager for the Oakland A’s, and Jerry Drobny, vice president of strategic revenue services of the San Francisco Giants. Baseball teams today “are competing on every single thing that a discretionary dollar gets spent on,” Greenberg points out.
I was most intrigued by the talk around customer relationship management from both the sales side and the fan loyalty side, because, as we all know, major league baseball has a specific “window” of business during season, and plenty of operational and marketing challenges.
If you’ve ever wondered what CRM systems a baseball team uses, look no further: the Yankees use Microsoft Dynamics 2011; the Giants use Salesforce.com and the Oakland A’s are new users of NetSuite after transitioning from ACT! “I’m in the sponsorship department, [and for us] it’s always about pricing efficiencies,” said the A’s Golden. “We look to NetSuite to help us become more competitive. We are small [with a $55 million payroll, the second lowest in MLB if you can believe it] overrun by alot of large budgets, and with many different challenges,” like the dire need for a new stadium.
For the Giants, Drobny mentions that it can be a difficult thing to build up engagement with players, who might not always show up for fan signings, so the team looks to its sales force to step in. “Our sales reps become rockstars,” he said of season ticket member benefits. The Giants offer an “inside connection” ie. a client relations account manager to members, who acts almost as a field-side concierge, ensuring your experience is as comfortable and seamless as possible.
Drobny made the point that when it comes to group sales, you can’t always assume that an individual is a fan of your team. So the Giants are figuring out ways to message their customer with “business communication” speak in addition to using lingo reserved for fans.
Social media, of course, is part of the equation when it comes to fan relations. “A big part of why we moved from an in-house solution to Salesforce.com was because of social media and what was coming,” Drobny said. “It wasn’t fair to put it on our IT department to take on the fast moving technology that social media brings.”
Similarly, the Yankees’ Jeffer says the proliferation of social and mobile tools, sales reps’ use of tablets, and the addition of an esignature solution into its CRM fold have all altered the relationship it keeps with its fans and season ticket holders, as well as the corporate sponsorship and sales side. In the case of the Oakland A’s, a Twitter campaign let the team bring sponsors into the game through a scavenger hunt, which “was fun and easy and people responded to it,” Golden noted.
When it comes to building and maintaining team loyalty, Drobny explained that “most of our successes and connection to the fan has been on the retention side…I’m often struck by the fact that [many focus on] acquisition” in MLB.