Selling premium by applying customer orientation and the first theory of marketing…

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I just finished reading a pretty interesting post by Mark Ritson in Marketing Week in the UK about market orientation.

Many of you are going to recognize my focus on the market from any of the hundreds of blog posts I have written here.

That’s important because I think it offers a nice reminder of the key concept of marketing which is that you should always be focused on the customer.

Earlier in the week, I wrote a piece on premium seating and pricing that talked about the simple concept that if “everything is premium, nothing is premium.” Which at this point in most stadiums and arenas is what is largely happening.

I don’t have the stated statistic that I saw somewhere on the ALSD’s website that talked about the massive growth in premium seating, but I can say that I know it is above 25% now…which is likely too much.

When you combine the premium aspect with many of the other factors like raising prices, lower real attendance (not stated), and dropping TV viewership, you either have to return to the key principle of marketing or you have to stick your fingers in your ears and pretend to:


In too many cases, the experience that happens at a sporting event seems to fit the mold of, “I work in sports, I like this. It must be good.”

Unfortunately, that’s entirely incorrect.

The key concept we have to remember as marketers is that we aren’t our market.

Let’s just view this through the lens of premium sales and service for a few moments and the way that premium is sold in most cases.

It won’t take long for me to search on premium seating sites and find lists of benefits and features that are not at all enticing to the premium buyer. As an example, we see a lot of emphasis on premium sites and sales material that talks about:

  • The right to buy extra tickets
  • Upscale furniture
  • Hi-Def TVs
  • Catering
  • A VIP entrance

All of these are great, sure, but they are also expected.

At this point, if you don’t have these things…you aren’t seriously selling premium.

Yet, over and over, I hear too many people selling themselves that this stuff is really “luxury” and that all these amenities that they are offering are really moving the needle.

Again, you don’t have to look around too much to notice all the sparsely filled or empty suites and premium areas to understand that this theory doesn’t work.

True market orientation would make sure that you asked yourself is “What will move the needle for my premium customers?”

Not the opposite question, “What would move the needle for me?”

Revisit my 3 strategy questions for a second:

  1. What value are you trying to create?
  2. Who is your buyer?
  3. How do you reach them?

If you change that to the premium ticket market, those questions change slightly to:

  1. What does my premium prospect need to accomplish with my premium options?
  2. Who is the real buyer here?
  3. How can I make sure that we offer them something that will really help them achieve their goals?

This is a big difference between leather furniture, TVs, and a fridge.

This talks about the impact which is the only thing that we should be focusing on in a business.

How do we flip this around to fill buildings?

Number one, focus on the customer.

You know that there are certain things that B2B buyers want from their investment in sports as a business development tool and that is the ability to connect with and entertain their clients and prospects.

In that way, you need to go and ask your potential buyers:

“What are your goals?”

“Where are you stuck?”

“What could we do to help you overcome your challenges?”

Since I just had this conversation with my lady about the premium purchases she makes for her firm to entertain clients, I’m going to be able to give you some examples from a top consulting firm and law firms POV.

Their goals are simple: build relationships and close business.

They are stuck like so many of us: attention is precious, time is short, and connecting with their prospects is more difficult than ever before.

How can you help overcome this?

Here are 5 options off the top of my head:

  1. Provide special members-only experiences that the suite or premium buyer can invite clients to. As an example, I was invited to a special event like this about a year ago by Monumental where we heard Ted Leonsis and his team discuss the direction of their business and some of the cool things that they were going to try and do. There was networking before on the Wizards practice court and in the suites during the Caps’ game afterward.
  2. Use insights to help offer suggestions on ways that your team might be able to encourage attendance and connection. Here’s another one from my own experience, again, involving Monumental, but one time they invited my son to come with me to an event and gave him a tour of the Wizards practice court. If you are working hard at providing insights, you could easily design a special experience that encouraged family participation and likely deepens the relationship. Again, I know when you speak to me or Kathryn, if you do something nice for Cormac, we will pay attention to you. If you treat him like he isn’t around or not important, we will shut you down.
  3. Get a list of the target accounts and cross-reference them with the ones you work with. Can you create connections?
  4. Do things involving your sponsors or local businesses that are fun or unique. Back to Kathryn, she’s done two events that are pretty amazing as ways to engage her target accounts. One, she threw a blow-dry party at Dry Bar in downtown DC that enabled her to talk with 18 of 20 targets. The other thing was she had a target that she was struggling to make headway with and she rented an ice cream truck on a really hot day and had it parked outside of their office, called up the person she was trying to reach and said, “I have put an ice cream truck outside of your office because it seems like a great day for ice cream…send your staff down.” You mean to tell me that you can’t use your partners and creativity?
  5. Be creative and ask them if there is something that they think is over the moon crazy and figure out whether or not you can make it happen. Not every request is going to happen, but by asking your buyers what is over the moon out there, you likely open the door to understanding their mindset better. Again, customer orientation.

I think we get stuck in the idea that there is only one right way to do anything. The truth is that we are only limited by our imagination.

The first thing we have to do in creating more demand for premium products and services is think about what our market wants and the second thing we have to realize is that we aren’t our market…or at least most of us aren’t.

If you spend a lot of time at the Four Seasons, you are your market…but if your business travel doesn’t put you up at the Four Seasons all the time, its better to ask the real customer what is truly premium.

What say you on the topic?

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