The Cost Of Ignoring Your Fans

July 29, 2016

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When we think about our fan bases, we tend to consider two critical questions:

  • How do we keep our current fans?
  • How do we get new fans?

These two simple questions build the foundation to every sport property’s strategic plan and budget projections. A significant portion of us in the sports industry often answer these questions by just listening to the loudest voices among our fans or thinking of implementing game experiences we have heard were successful at other properties.

You are probably shaking your head knowing that you have done it, or you know someone who has. It is OK. We trust our gut without always taking the steps to hear from our fan base and stakeholders.

However, why aren’t more schools adopting the modern “suggestion box” mentality when it has such a positive impact on satisfaction and retention? Aspire’s philosophy revolves around asking fans what they want and giving it to them, but there are sport properties who:

  1. a) don’t ask,
  2. b) ask and let the results sit on their desk, or
  3. c) ask but do not know how to analyze the data to make accurate recommendations.

Even worse, they assume and invest capital based on often erroneous assumptions.

The simple solution is integrating market research throughout your organization to gather insight on exactly how to satisfy your fans. You can find useful insights by analyzing internal documents, reviewing social media comments, and by talking with your fans face-to-face or on the phone. However, the most standard and consistent way of conducting fan research is through surveys.

We use quick and easy to administer on-line fan surveys, which yield very high survey response rates and hence great reliability, to do three simple things:

  • Tell us what we do not know.
  • Validate what we think we know.
  • Show the customer they matter.

Aspire has had enormous success doing post-game and post-season fan surveys for both collegiate and professional client partners. That success comes from our client partners executing actionable steps realized from the survey results. More and more fans are opting-in to complete surveys because they recognize their feedback is implemented (sometimes before the next home game) to enhance their engagement and experience with the team. Ask Your Fans What They Want, And Give It To Them.

Surveys are based on objective data and eliminate the wild guesses to provide you with the foundation to make educated decisions regarding allocation of your resources.

A post-game survey conducted by Aspire for Georgia Tech football accurately predicted they would renew 93 percent of its season-ticket holders. How would you like that intel going into a budget or strategy meeting for the next fiscal year?

When you isolate the costs of conducting surveys per each fan, it costs pennies on the dollar to do a season’s worth of post-game surveys and a postseason survey of season ticket holders to find out their level of satisfaction and their likelihood to come back.

Consider the risk in not doing end of season research and therefore not knowing, in advance, which fans will not renew and their reasons why. Many defectors can be won back if talked to in a timely fashion.

The season ticket holder is willingly communicating their propensity to renew for the next season or their dissatisfaction with their current experience. The risk is the thousands, maybe millions, of dollars in ticket (and consequently donation) revenues because you didn’t talk to your fans.

Suddenly, those pennies on the dollar of their season tickets don’t seem so inconsequential.

Whether you conduct the research in-house (costing anywhere from staff time to $1-15k+ for technology platforms) or through a third-party (costing anywhere from $5-50k+), research costs should be projected and integrated within your annual budgets and strategic plans.

If you survey fans and actively apply their feedback, it will allow you to move the attendance and revenue needle by retaining fans, growing your casual fans, and acquiring new fans. Our research with partners across the globe has identified ways to increase revenue by simply finding the fans who did not feel valued.

If we concentrated on those fans and gave them another touchpoint with the team to increase their value, the research concluded that we would double their likelihood to come back and tell others about their game day experience.

What happens when you identify unhappy customers? We call them. At the core of surveying your customers is Fan Relationship Management. Use their data to follow up with fans’ concerns or negative feedback.

Spend the time and money to listen to your fans. The implications and massive return on the research investment will surprise you.

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