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Hoop Tales: A Magic Plan To Create Your Next Customer

Orlando Magic Exec’s Lessons For Technology Marketers

Anthony Perez had all his plans in place for the 2011/2012 NBA season – until it became apparent there might not be any season at all. What would you do if the big product intro which formed the core of your company’s marketing plan was scrubbed at the last second?  Or your new, nifty web site or Facebook corporate page or  Twitter promoted tweet program fell into that black hole of endless reviews and tweaking?

Perez is the director of business strategy for the Orlando Magic and is the exec living on the line between technology and business. When I first spoke with him about a year ago he was developing new loyalty programs, new business analytics and essentially figuring out how to fill the Amway Center to capacity with happy fans spending money on merchandise at every game.  You think you have to deal with a wide variety of sometimes opposing influences? Try dealing with player unions, NBA rules, Ticketmaster and the knowledge that every empty seat at a game is a revenue opportunity lost forever.

I caught up with Anthony again this January while working on an article on trends in business intelligence (he is a big user of SAS Institute), and I was curious how he survived going from an almost scrubbed season – it is back on in an abbreviated sixty-six game season for you non-basketball fans – to trying to implement his technology business strategy into a compressed timeframe.

“The social media piece is very important to us,” said Perez. The Magic uses social media mainly as a communication tool where they are careful to draw the line between useful content and spam. Season ticket holders are the core customer base for any sports team and Perez leveraged communication and benefits based on a customer loyalty card program to first, when it looked like the season might be scrubbed, use the card to hold the season ticket value with interest rather than face season ticket returns  and second – once the season was on – to make it easier for customers to resell seats and get loyalty discounts at concession stands.

The next step for Perez was to figure out how to transfer the learnings from the season ticket holders to individual game attendees. He used a combination of bar code scanning and special concession based prizes (two courtside seats to an upcoming game) to start to identify and apply business analytics to the individual game attendee. After a year of on again, off again schedules, the possibility of a big trade such as the Magic’s Dwight Howard leaving is much easier to deal with.

There is obviously a lot more to the being a marketer and business strategist for a professional sports team. And while some techies – the Maverick’s Mark Cuban and the Rocket’s general manager Daryl Morey (former VP Information for the Celtics) – have done great in the the sports world, there are some lessons here for tech marketers interested in not only creating new customers but keeping the old.

  1. Starting with the customer. This might sound like a time worn phrase, but tech marketers in my experience often lose track of a customer after a sale. Loyalty programs work in every other industry but tech seems to spend a lot of time at the top of the funnel and less time measuring satisfaction, expectations and future purchase plans after the funnel.
  2. Use the tech you sell. The business intelligence market is growing fast for a very good reason: it work.  Measuring the value of marketing programs, segmenting customer response by offers and knowing the return on your marketing dollars really can and should be part of your marketing operations.
  3. Learn from other industries. Pro sports can offer more than fun night out at the sports bar. Take a look at how other industries are utilizing the technology you are marketing.
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