Before the pandemic, I had many conversations with premium buyers around the country. They all offered up some variation of, “We are looking to scale back our investments in season tickets because we no longer see the value of the full package.”
Whoa! This intelligence was backed up by other folks that work directly with these buyers. As the pandemic has gone on, folks have been given cover to change their buying habits.
Our challenge is figuring out if these changes are permanent. My attention has been on rethinking the go-to-market strategy so that no matter the environment, premium ticket sellers are on the front foot, winning business based on value.
Let’s take a look at three steps we can all take to ensure we are focusing on the right things with our premium buyers.
We are in a weird period right now where our research is likely to betray us because people can have intention to act in a certain way with no way to act out their intentions. A lot of quantitative research is likely a waste of time. What we can do is talk to small groups and observe folks where fans are allowed.
One great example is the work the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo has done, getting fans back into the stands and using technology to help reduce coronavirus risk.
The need to order on mobile is a necessity, but through observation, they’ve also noticed larger F&B orders and the increased likelihood of impulse purchases. It has added over 10% to the average spend per customer this year.
Beyond observation, focus groups and one-to-one conversations can provide good insight into what people want, need, and miss about live events. All of this insight provides fuel to position offerings around these things as a way of overcoming any reluctance or competition as we emerge from the pandemic.
Re-Engage with the Benefit Ladder
The Benefit Ladder concept is a simple way to visualize the benefits a product or service delivers for customers. In the way I use it, there are five levels:
1) The base is the actual product.
2) The step up is focused on features.
3) The third step up is product benefits.
4) The fourth level is customer benefits.
5) The top rung is emotional benefits.
If done correctly, you push to get as high up the Benefit Ladder as possible. You can’t always get to the top rung, but you can always do better than just selling at the product level.
The reality is that in sports business, it is almost always possible to get to the emotional level. You must focus on hitting people with the benefit that really matters. Think about the way that St. Jude’s pulls at our heart strings when they are asking for donations.
The big point is no product or service is destined to be a commodity, which is especially true in sports business. So fight your way up the Benefit Ladder to the highest point you can realistically reach.
Revisit Your Strategy
Coming out of the pandemic, the need to revisit the foundations of our strategy should be a priority. In strategy, we are really going to dig into the holy trinity of segmentation, targeting, and positioning.
Start with research, qualitative and quantitative when it is appropriate. But we aren’t doing it just to feed our data machines. We are doing it to get a better map of the market. Your segmentation is a map of the market and should always reflect the behaviors of the market.
This step is worth repeating. Segment the market based on behavior. I take my clients through a 12-step process, but the key to segmentation is to understand what the market considers meaningful and what drives them to take action. Actions speak louder than words.
Next is targeting. If segmentation is the map, targeting is picking the destination.
A good segmentation yields around six to eight potential segments. Focus efforts to maximize impact. In advising people on targeting, I suggest picking one or two segments where the opportunity is greatest. And, if things aren’t going the way I want them to, I’m inclined to target fewer segments, not more.
Finally, positioning. Positioning is a must. You can either position about you or against your competition. But the key is you have to position yourself. It’s your way of telling the market why it should spend money with you.
In looking through a few premium websites, a lot of aspects get stripped out of the marketing copy, the uniqueness of the experiences removed. Don’t let this happen. Your positioning is your marker in the market that differentiates you against all of the other options people have to choose from.
To recap, segment based on behavior. Pick a target, maybe two, where you can win a lot of business. Pick a position that allows you to stand out in your market.
By going through the process of research, strategy setting, and fighting your way up the Benefit Ladder, you give yourself a chance to win in your market that other businesses shouldn’t be able to compete with. We are only selling once-in-a-lifetime every night, right?
What’s your playbook for post-pandemic B2B sales?
Write to Dave at firstname.lastname@example.org.