Baseball is the second most popular sport in the United States, second only to football. But it didn’t get that way overnight. Great players, a season format that promotes suspense and great marketing has helped Major League Baseball maintain and expand viewership through generations.
But how does this help your business?
While the Major Leagues might seem so large it doesn’t apply to a small business, there are still marketing lessons you can learn from the MLB.
In 2015 Rob Manfred was elected as the new MLB Commissioner. Manfred has worked within the MLB since 1987, but when he took over in January, he was faced with an archaic system that had not optimized itself for the current age.
As a newly elected leader, Manfred had the bravery to question how baseball’s viewership had changed in a fast-paced, digital age where people’s interests and attentions flit among subjects, concerns and thoughts.
As a leader in your business, constantly ask these difficult questions: “How are our customers or clients changing, and are we adaptive enough?” And then take action. Manfred didn’t simply ask difficult questions — changes are already on the way.
He has promoted inning changes in less than three minutes and has vocalized concerns about pitchers who loiter on the mound and slow down the game. He has even supported the use of warnings and fines to the worst perpetrators.
These are great examples of how leaders can address issues with swift action. Manfred saw a problem with the MLB’s product and implemented changes to rectify it.
2. Serve Your Customers Better
He has also employed outreach agencies for a more diverse demographic fandom, such as LatinWorks, which has constructed the MLB’s largest-ever Hispanic-centered marketing campaign. In this campaign, Manfred has identified a market that he knows can grow.
Do the same for your small business. Identify the markets and demographics you haven’t reached. What steps can your business take to expand and include this new market? For the MLB, this may mean ads in Spanish and highlights of great Hispanic players.
Video can grab the eye far more easily than still frames. For a locally owned pub, for instance, you could target college students by designating Wednesday or Thursday nights as College Night — drink discounts for those with a student ID.
While these might be two very different examples, they both identify a market and then grow the business in that specified direction.
3. Social Media
Only 18 percent of millennials follow baseball media, states Hannah Kurtz, the Digital Coordinator at Maven Communications, on LinkedIn. That’s the same percentage of people over 65. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, the MLB is aware it needs new customers to maintain viewership.
Consumers, but millennials especially, increasingly get their media from mobile devices and the Internet. Social media is where many young people spend their free time.
The MLB has utilized Twitter for real-time news updates that reach a younger audience. Furthermore, many teams give discount codes for tickets and sweepstakes on their Twitter accounts, which promotes engagement and loyalty.
As a small business, you can use social media in a similar way.
Provide exclusive content and contests for those who take interest via the web.
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Jon Rognerud and Chaosmap work with Fortune 500 companies, small business and entrepreneurs to create digital traffic strategies that scales up customers, leads and sales. Mr. Rognerud wrote a best-selling book (Buy On Amazon), “The Ultimate Guide To Optimizing Your Website” (Entrepreneur). Connect directly here.