The San Francisco Giants baseball team recently hit a CRM home run with a personalized, e-mail marketing campaign aimed at the 25,000 members of its Rewards Club. With a new 41,000-seat, privately funded park, the team decided to focus on customer retention rather than acquisition -- especially since three-fourths of Pacific Bell Park's seats are sold on a seasonal basis to some 11,000 account-holders. Though the team's ticketing system had been collecting e-mail addresses, messages were text-only, mass e-mail blasts for simple items like a change in game time. They weren't dynamic or personalized -- and hence not revenue building -- according to Jerry Drobny, interactive marketing director for the Giants.

Shortly before the first pitch was thrown in April, Drobny chose Phoenix-based ASP TouchScape to build and host the online Rewards Club program, including a Web site where members can register, track their game attendance by entering a unique ticket code (which must have passed through the stadium's electronic turnstile), and tally their reward points. When fans register online, the application captures demographic and lifestyle data into a database. Just in case a fan is sensitive about privacy, most questions have a "decline to answer" option so fans can opt out.

Unlike prior years, the Rewards Club program now requires an e-mail address and Web access to participate. In return, members receive personalized, monthly communiques, detailing points earned and announcing upcoming events and promotions at the park. Drobny confirms that click-through-rates (CTR) range anywhere from 15 to 20 percent -- not bad considering the industry standard for CTR is usually between 2-4 percent. Club members also receive priority to purchase next season's tickets, a cool prize indeed since as many as 40,000 members purchased tickets on the same day! "It's hard to give a VIP experience with those numbers," says Drobny. But next season, members will be grouped by activity level to determine when, over the course of several days, they'll be eligible to purchase.

The new program is only four months old, but Drobny says he's already seeing ROI. In addition to sky-high click-throughs, "We already have more active participants -- 6,500 earning points and entering sweepstakes so far this season vs. 6,000 last season," says a pleased Drobny. He's also seeing a rise in the quality of customer data he's received, which is already stronger than before when all he'd know was whether a person came to a game and if she swiped her card at a kiosk. With the new program's unique ticket codes, he can now profile fans who are using other people's season tickets and track how tickets are "distributed around" -- vital information for future marketing efforts.

Other future plans call for the finer parsing of Rewards Club members, including looking for those interested in receiving spring training information, or those who want to be notified of non-baseball events at the park, and customized offers to special games. "There's a real fan club mentality," says Drobny. "The program gives everyone a chance to say, 'I'm associated with what the Giants are doing." As far as CRM is concerned, it looks like the Giants are batting .1000!

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