BUSINESS | COMMUNITY | SUCCESS
If you’re a business owner or marketing manager, and chances are pretty good that if you’re reading this you are, you know quite well that every dollar you spend on marketing initiatives needs to be an investment. Whether it’s a billboard advertisement, or your monthly adspend on Google Adwords, you need to spend your marketing budget on items that have a reasonable chance of showing some ROI. And while some marketing initiatives are obvious, others require a little out of the box thinking.
If you know me personally, you know that I am a pretty big hockey fan, and I especially appreciate the fact that here in Grand Rapids we have the Grand Rapids Griffins playing at Van Andel Arena downtown, whose AHL franchise serves as the main affiliate to the Detroit Red Wings. A couple years ago, business had grown to the point where we could invest in season tickets as a marketing and outreach initiative. And while I certainly enjoy using the tickets personally here and there, I had no idea just how profitable this investment would become.
This article is partially inspired by Neil Patel’s gem How a Ferrari Made me a Million Bucks.
So how did a simple $2,000 investment in a Grand Rapids Griffins season ticket package help us earn over six figures* in revenue over the past years? Through sales of course. We use the tickets for a variety of corporate initiatives, which we will outline below. But first, it’s important to point out that simply purchasing the ticket package isn’t what drove sales. It’s the relationships that were formed and/or were strengthened as a result of those efforts.
*Includes 2015 projected revenues based on signed contracts.
Sales is a function of relationships. And relationships work best when they’re give and take. Real World Example: In late 2013, we gave a pair of tickets to a colleague in a similar field who ended up giving the tickets to her husband. A short time later, that same colleague awarded us a contract totaling $8000 over six months, and referred two more potential clients to our agency. One of those projects closed for another $6,000 in revenue.
Speaking of relationships, if you’re trying to earn the business of a marketing manager or business owner, you’re certainly going to first have to build rapport with a Gatekeeper. After all, secretaries and assistants can either be a brick wall or your ticket to entry, and they can also provide insights as to the schedule, motivations and other important items of interest with respect to the decision maker. A business owner or executive may not think much of a pair of minor league hockey tickets, but the mom or dad whose young son or daughter has never experienced a live hockey game before would love the opportunity, especially when the seats are in the second row!
Real World Example: In December of last year, we were close to closing a deal with a prospective client for marketing and SEO retainer based services. After a short period where contact with the business owner had gone stagnant, we dropped some tickets off to his assistant. Within a week, we were back in contact and in January we closed on a deal worth around $30,000 annually.
OK maybe ‘excuse‘ isn’t the best way to put it. But if you’re in sales, sometimes you need a creative way to reach out to a prospective client. Often sending an email like “I have a pair of tickets to this Friday’s Griffins game – could you or anyone around your office use them?” This gives you a quick opportunity to drop by and see how things are going… you can tell more from a 3 minute face-to-face encounter than from a email.
Being a Grand Rapids Griffins season ticket holder carries a level of prestige that I hadn’t really anticipated.
When you own or are able to do things that in general are perceived as ‘expensive’, people tend to look at you a certain way. If you drive a luxury car, people assume you are successful. The same paradigm holds true when you tell people you’re a season ticket holder. Even if it’s something as casual as saying ‘My seats are in the second row – if you ever want to check out a game I’ll hook you up‘, people assuming that your business is successful is a good thing. People want to do business with other successful people.
“In order to be successful, one must project an image of success at all times.” – Buddy Kane, American Beauty
Being able to give tickets to a charity or to individuals who’ve never been to a game in-person is always a good thing to do. And when you have tickets to every single game, it’s pretty easy to do. When you give someone a pair of hockey tickets, you’re giving them an experience.
After you’ve attended a few games in the exact same seats, you start to notice people and it becomes pretty apparent who the regulars are. Over time, this and other exclusive events become a good opportunity to meet other season ticket holders. I’ve met and cultivated relationships with others who are fellow business owners themselves and those connections may very well lead to new relationships and opportunities.
I once attended a Griffins game with a prospective client and by the start of the third period, we’d come to terms on a contract that has been worth over $30k to date. After all, you gotta talk about something over the course of two and a half hours!
Griffins tickets are a great way to express a meaningful thank you to an employee, vendor or referral source.
Giving hockey tickets to relevant parties is not a bribe, and should not be viewed as such. As I mentioned, this is an exercise in forging and strengthening relationships, which are vital to sales. We’ve given tickets away to a lot of games, and only a fraction of those transactions have contributed to earned business. And that’s OK. It’s also entirely reasonable to speculate that those deals would have closed no matter what. The bottom line is that no one has ever signed a contract simply because I gave them hockey tickets. It’s all part of the bigger picture, which is to cultivate a meaningful relationship with the people you’re working with and/or hoping to do business with.