The Pittsburgh Pirates’ minor league affiliate, the Indianapolis Indians, already had reason to brag: consistent ticket sales have helped the organization turn a profit for the last 38 years. But the 2011 season may take the cake. With help from ExactTarget, a provider of on-demand email marketing and interactive marketing solutions, the Indians were able to sell a record-breaking number of single-game tickets online — a 64 percent increase over last season. How did the Indians do it? By using a personalized approach with its loyal fans.
"Our audience includes core fans who feel a unique emotional connection to the team," says Chris Herndon, director of marketing for the Indianapolis Indians. "One way to try and strengthen that bond is to provide information or special offers that are unique to them or offered to them first."
That's exactly what the Indians did. An email campaign sent in a timely fashion with relevant content announced the upcoming sale of single-game tickets. The campaign allowed core fans to purchase tickets two weeks in advance of the stadium box office opening, helping to build brand loyalty. A follow-up email campaign announced a new ticketing system with lower fees, helping it generate a 30 percent open rate.
Fans that received the emails were either returning customers or they'd opted in to receive messaging from the Indians. These same fans will be engaged throughout the season via e-newsletters advertising various promotional offers.
The Indians chose ExactTarget not only because it could help the team set new records for ticket sales, but also because "we had confidence they could integrate with our new ticketing partner," says Herndon. "ExactTarget's sending, tracking and reporting interfaces are more user-friendly than what we've used previously."
Social media played a significant part in the Indian's success, too. All email campaigns were supported by the team's Facebook and Twitter pages. Both feeds made exclusive offers to people who like or follow the team via special codes and discounts. The offers stressed a sense of urgency as they were available for only a limited time, forcing fans to act quickly before the deal expired. The Indians also engaged its fans via social sites with fan Q&A sessions. This opened the door for valuable two-way conversations between the team and its fans.
The Indians plan on using ExactTarget's solutions in the future. ExactTarget's surveying tools will allow Indians’ fans to complete surveys via email, providing the club with valuable information that its marketing team can leverage to improve customer service. The Indians will also be running multiple email campaigns throughout the season targeting more than just its core fans.
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