I don’t have to argue the fact that the hottest ticket revenue leads, year in and year out, are your current customers … people who have experienced your product and hopefully like it! Some sports organizations are fortunate enough to have a waiting list, but for the majority of teams this is not the case and we must focus our efforts on getting that renewal percentage to 80% and above!
So HOW and WHY do clients renew? Over the course of several years in sports business I have observed some key factors that I feel are essential to a successful renewal season.
Start Renewal Season Early
Start your renewal season early and don’t be afraid to launch the process during a current season! It may seem obvious to strike while excitement is in the air, but I have seen many organizations wait until after the season ends to approach their ticket plan holders about renewing their tickets for next season.
It never hurts to start prior to the playoffs, of for that matter, before playoff seeding is decided (hey, less than perfect seasons happen to everyone). Approaching your fans while they still have that ‘playoff hope’ might help you elude the “our team sucks,” NO WAY responses.
Make Paying Easy
In my early years I witnessed the “escalating” payments approach to season ticket renewals. The thought process here was to get fans committed to purchasing season tickets with a low down payment and then hit them with the big payments when they were excited for the new season. The problem we encountered with this method is that in general, most fans are not good at budgeting and people could never make the “balloon” payment that was due before the season. The solution? Budget for them!
Years back I was buying a car and was astonished by the number of people in the dealership wanting to talk about their monthly payment … that was literally the first and most important thing on their mind. If your customers want a monthly payment well then, give them a monthly payment! We took this to heart and implemented a 12-month payment plan with auto-billing to a credit card and our clients enjoyed the easy, low payment option. Of course, for a full 12-month payment plan to be an option, you have to “Start Early”
Note: I would suggest you offer a handful of payment options to cater to your clients, but keep it as structured as possible. Too much flexibility will bog down your sales staff and 80% of their work will be done for 10% of your ‘needy’ clients. Leaving less time to make focus on the new sales!
The Warm Fuzzy
Season ticket holders want to feel special … and they should! They are a huge lifeline to your organization. To keep them feeling special focus on adding value to their renewals, giving them a sense of being in that ‘exclusive club’. This could be anything. Something as simple as an exclusive sweatshirt or as elaborate as the new push towards a “Membership Model” which outlines year round exclusive events and access for continuing to be a faithful client.
Season ticket holder gifts are great, discounts are not-so-great. I suggest you avoid the “discount for renewing early” option. Many of the customers who renew early will do so even without a discount and you end up giving away a percentage of your ticket revenue. Instead of a discount for paying early it may be beneficial to incentivize paying in full by a certain date, for cash flow reasons of course.
So, in a nutshell … the key to a successful renewal season is to have a highly functional plan so that you can quickly get to your 80%+ renewals and then focus your sales and marketing efforts on new sales!
If you’re lucky you utilize a software like iSportsTix that automates the renewal process quickly and easily.