Taking a customer to a game: Five rules for success

Taking a customer to a game: Five rules for success

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Taking a customer to a game: Five rules for success

Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The big game is coming and your company has tickets. Follow these five simple rules to land the big deal and avoid an embarrassing situation.

Sports are the ultimate ice-breaker. They are discussed in the board room, the break room, the corner office, and the warehouse. The universal appeal of sports leads companies to spend over $20 billion a year on tickets and suites to live events to get valuable face time with customers and prospects.

When used correctly, tickets are a terrific business asset separating successful companies from the pack. When used incorrectly, however, they can unintentionally insult a customer and do more harm than good to your business. Follow these five easy rules to get the most out of your tickets:

1. Invite a plus one

Sports connects your customers with their passion. Inviting a plus one dramatically increases attendance. Key decision makers are busy and value their free time. Time with family and significant others is worth more than the price of admission to many of them. Giving them a night out together at a hard-to-get event or an experience with their kids is priceless and something they will remember. Karen Cage, director of sponsorships at HP, recalls two very similar events with the San Francisco 49ers. One involved customers and the other the customers with their kids. The kids event filled up four times faster than the adult event.

Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

2. The earlier the better

Executives and decision-makers are fans with busy schedules who know when the big games are. Inviting a guest to a big event has more clout when done early. We all learn months in advance when Tom Brady and the Patriots or LeBron and the Cavs are coming to town and want to brag to our friends we’re going. Get that invite to them early and let the tickets work for you.

On the flip side, never invite a big customer at the last minute unless they approach you or drop a significant hint. Inviting someone to a game 24 hours before it starts, when it’s been scheduled for months, tells the prospect they weren’t the first choice and does more harm than good.

3. The quality of the game matches the guest

Not every game is created equal. Inviting an important customer to a Saturday game against the cellar dwellers sends the wrong message. Unless it’s their hometown team or they ask, you’ll be doing more harm than good.

This rule goes both ways though. Too often, highly sought-after games are squandered on the wrong customers. Sporting events can transcend popular culture and become must-see events, like the Seahawks vs. Patriots Super Bowl, the Red Sox first World Series clincher, or undefeated USC vs. undefeated Texas at the Rose Bowl. It is a waste of resources when those assets are wasted on a marginal prospect.

Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

4. Research embarrassing conflicts

Although it seems obvious, this rule is broken over and over. Yes, your prospect may be a fan of the team, but make sure you’re not inviting Coke to a game at the Pepsi Center.

Is your customer a big sponsor of Big State? If so, it’s likely best not to invite them to a game at their rival school State Tech the same day. Are they lifelong Yankees fans now living in Los Angeles? They likely don’t care to see the Red Sox play the Dodgers and are hoping for that Yankees invite. A simple Google search can save embarrassment and damage to your business relationships.

5. Send something memorable

Make the memory last and avoid the common mistake of giving away gifts at the event. Your goal is to get the keepsake into the customers’ hands where they will keep it for the long term.

If you are giving them a keepsake you’d like displayed in their office, such as a signed photo with a celebrity at the event or a jersey, send it directly to their office after the event. It helps tie the event to their day-to-day and will act as a reminder for the long term. If you’d like to get something to their home, deliver direct and reap the benefits of being forever tied to such a wonderful memory.

Using tickets the right way is an art. When done right, they can be a major differentiator as proven by the billions spent by firms trying to align themselves with what their fans are passionate about. Now go enjoy the game!

***

Tony Knopp is CEO of TicketManager, where he is responsible for the day-to-day technology and management of over 30 million sports tickets annually. Tony previously held positions as an early member at StubHub and with AEG Worldwide, and has over 15 years experience in the technology and ticket markets. 

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