5 Marketing tips from Major League Baseball
Now that the baseball season is over, let’s look at what regular businesses can learn from the Major Leagues about competition, winning and losing, marketing to fans, and creating a following.
No matter what business you are in, we all face competition. Sometimes it is obvious and direct, as in the case of baseball teams trying to win the same division over the course of a season. Other times it’s two law firms, insurance brokers or financial advisors in the same town, or a mom-and-pop retailer figuring out how to survive the onslaught of a big box that has moved in. There are a lot of companies out there competing for your customers. In almost every field and every town, you have your pick of restaurants, banks, real estate agents, software companies and office supply vendors.
In New York during the baseball season, you’re either a Yankees fan or a Mets fan – rarely both. Sometimes it’s a matter of heritage. If you grew up in the Bronx, you rooted for the Yankees. If your parents were Yankees fans, you are likely a Yankees fan, too. The Yanks have an advantage because of longevity. The Mets joined Major League Baseball in 1962, giving the Yankees a half-century head start at building a fan base. The Mets were created in response to the desertion of the New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers to California in the 1950s. When the Mets took the home field for the first time fans were leery to make a commitment. As an expansion team, the Mets were put together with cast-offs from the other Major League teams, which each had to give up a couple of players. Even their manager, Casey Stengel, had previously managed the Yankees.
Marketing Tip #1 – Plan
When Major League Baseball decided that the N.Y. Metro area was sufficient to support another baseball team, the Mets were not an instant success. The new team’s front office had to put together a strategy and identify specific marketing results and goals that they could measure in order to become a financially viable franchise. They hired people in various capacities and roles with responsibilities to carry this out (front office, management, ticket sales, etc.). How could the Mets compete for fans against the vaunted Yankees?
Marketing Tip #2 – Audience identification
While there might be overlap in the audience you target, every company (team) must find what resonates with its particular audience. In marketing, we go through a practice of identifying ideal customers through persona development and needs analysis.
In 1962, the Mets knew they couldn’t win a championship (that first year they won 40 and lost 120, a new record for losses) so instead they were scrappy. Stengel (nick name: The Lip) was famous for saying funny and outrageous things. The team told potential fans that they would at least have a good time at the ballpark. It worked. People came out to see the oddballs playing ball, including Marv Throneberry, the team’s first personality. Throneberry, who that year set a record for errors by first basemen, became known as Marvelous Marv. Fans wore shirts printed with the word “VRAM,” which is Marv backwards, and supposedly chanted “Cranberry, Strawberry, we love Throneberry.”
The Yankees, of course, are pretty good at marketing their stars, too. Babe Ruth played his last game in 1935 and still represents the greatness of Yankee tradition. And they have been great, winning the World Series 27 times, more than any other team in any sport has won a championship.
Marketing Tip #3 – Content and messaging
In our major league analogy, this is the branding of your team to the local market. The colors, the culture, the mascot, the entire fan experience were to become points of differentiation for the Mets. It’s no coincidence that the Mets’ colors are Dodger blue and Giants orange. The Mets’ new stadium, Citi Field, is family friendly. At the “new” Yankee stadium, which opened a few years ago, you almost have to take out a home equity loan to buy a round of beer.
Your business can’t win the World Series, but you have customer success stories that certify that you and your business are competent. Maybe you’ve garnered awards and recognition proving you’re above your competitors. Highlight your subject matter expertise. Start telling your story.
And while you won’t have Babe Ruth or even Marv Throneberry to attract attention, you have your own personalities to help you succeed. Look at George Steinbrenner, the egomaniacal owner of the Yankees for so many years. He took risks, instilled discipline and bullied his players and staff while insisting that coming in second was unacceptable.
You and your business are unique, whether you are the long-standing leader in your field or you are more like Avis, the perennial No. 2 who “tries harder.” Tell potential customers what makes you different. (But don’t bully your staff.)
Marketing Tip #4 – Content distribution
Professional sports teams sell naming rights to stadiums, advertising in the form of signage and luxury box seats in addition to merchandise and ticket sales. Did you know the Yankees have a LinkedIn page … and a Facebook account (with almost 8.5 million “likes”), and a Twitter account and an Instagram page? Management recognizes that Yankee fans are active on all forms of social media. It allows the organization to communicate with fans across many channels.
Marketing Tip #5 – Measure, Analyze & Adjust
As you build your business it’s important to determine your progress and tie your efforts back to your original goals. Test new ideas (like the Mets’ Free Shirt Fridays). A little creative marketing goes a long way. Make adjustments based on data. As a reminder, winning is a good way to fill seats. In 1970, the year after the Mets won their first World Series, they broke the Yankees’ previous Major League record for attendance by selling nearly 2.7 million tickets.
Take Aways & Give Aways
Showing prospects you can fill their needs and solve their problems builds the trust necessary to begin a relationship and gives you an opportunity to begin the conversation. Who knows? They might become fans for life.
Inbound campaigns are a great way to build a mailing list. A successful inbound campaign follows 10 steps. To learn all the steps successful Inbound marketers follow, download your free copy of our Inbound Checklist. The checklist covers all the steps you need to take to create a repeatable campaign process that grows your subscriber base. Get your free checklist here.
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- Create content that separates them from their competition
- Become subject matter experts in their field
- Measure the effectiveness of their marketing $$
- Generate a consistent pipeline of high-quality leads for less
- Turn clients into evangelists
Topics: marketing results