“Winning cures all problems.” – Kevin Harvick, professional racecar driver
Oftentimes in sports we’re told that winning is the cure to all problems. In the sports business, winning is certainly wonderful – but over the years, our sports customers have taught me that the real secret to success is collaboration to create a winning team on and off the court, ice, pitch, or field.
I recently had the chance to connect with the back office team at the Tampa Bay Lightning, the reigning Stanley Cup Champions of the National Hockey League. Travis Pelleymounter, Vice President of Tickets Sales & Service and Christina Kori, Digital Marketing Manager for the Tampa Bay Lightning, joined me for an Oracle Customer Spotlight Series webinar in advance of the first game of the new NHL season.
What I learned about how to improve collaboration between sales and marketing will likely help sports teams and other industries. Here are three important ways to increase sales and marketing collaboration.
1. When emailing your customers, remember that less is more
It’s really economical to send a lot of emails. Even millions of emails can be sent to huge email databases for a relatively small amount of money. But while the out-of-pocket cost may be fairly small, the cost to your customer relationships could be large. As an alternative, brands can give email subscribers the chance to customize what information they want to receive, in what format, and at what frequency.
For the Tampa Bay Lightning, the marketing team was able to demonstrate that the key metric wasn’t the count of emails sent. Instead, they concentrated on increasing engagement with the emails sent by targeting their messages to the right audience. Season ticket holders were sent a link to a simple survey to complete, which populated the subscribers’ preferences directly into Oracle Eloqua Marketing Automation. As a result, the Lightning reduced the overall number of emails they sent while increasing engagement rates from 12% to consistently over 40%.
As Christina said, “Putting the right message in front of the right fan has been key to us increasing our engagement rates and reducing the non-engaged contacts from our email marketing database.” As those engagement rates went up, marketing was able to learn more about season ticket holders to direct salespeople to reach out to contacts with the highest potential. This prioritization helped ensure that salespeople didn’t waste any valuable time on cold leads, which in turn increased the sales team’s trust in the marketing organization.
2. Remember the “third leg of the stool” – include analytics
Travis Pelleymounter has worked in the sports business for over 20 years. While many salespeople rely on their “gut” for their next decision, Travis sees the value in comprehensive analyses and attribution to effectively sell and confirm season ticket holders.
For your sales and marketing teams to collaborate more effectively, actively involve your analytics team. They can provide clear marketing attribution dashboards to help optimize communication channels and provide a roadmap for next steps to connect with customers. As an example, the team sent out a campaign drip after their win to help sell Stanley Cup Championship gear across a whole set of marketing channels after their impressive Stanley Cup victory in September 2020. Notably, for the Tampa Bay Lightning, email proved to be their most productive channel for direct conversations into revenue, generating almost a third of the revenue from all of the channels.
3. Strive to “wake the dead,” and don’t give up!
Sales and marketing teams don’t have magical powers to actually “wake the dead,” but many face the challenge of leads or contacts that have “gone cold.” For the Tampa Bay Lightning, that meant designing a campaign with multiple touchpoints to help segment previous non-responders into new groups that could be appropriately targeted. Their approach led them to segment subscribers into four categories: Engaged, Sleepy, Zombies, and Ghosts (see diagram below from the team). From that segmentation, they developed an Action Plan that had the best chance to engage those fans and reconnect them with the team. Marketing was able to awaken some of these customers and appropriately engage the sales team to focus on warm leads.
Their campaign to fans who weren’t renewing or had put their renewal on hold was extremely successful. The campaign helped boost the renewal rate among these fans by several percentage points, which generated at least $160,000 in incremental ticket revenue.
I’m so grateful to have seen Travis and Christina’s close collaboration successfully grow their fan following. I’ll continue cheering for the Bolts as they launch their new NHL season. If I had a trophy to award for collaboration, I’d hand it to Christina and Travis for a victory lap and a toast of celebration. Sales and marketing teams in all industries can learn from their secrets to success.
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