I love it when two of my passions collide! In this case, business and sports, specifically, “footie” (aka in North America, “soccer”).
In 2007, the Toronto Football Club (TFC) joined Major League Soccer (MLS); North America’s professional soccer league. TFC is owned by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Inc (MLSE) or to most sports fans in Toronto, the “Evil Empire”. MLSE’s other notable assets include: Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Marlies (farm-team) and Toronto Raptors.
Earlier this month, MLSE announced a hike in season ticket prices (a big chunk of their revenue) to the dismay of many of their dedicated fans.
“Toronto FC fans reluctant to renew”-CBC Sports
Now, if you’ve been to TFC match or if you’re a soccer fan and follow the team, you know that each and every game is quite entertaining because of three fan-groups that occupy sections of the stadium. They cheer loud, play instruments and sing catchy songs tailored to specific TFC players or the team as a whole. They are the talk of the MLS soccer world, often cited as the best fans in the league and where visiting teams hate to play. They are, in fact, part of the brand, the product.
As a protest to the price hikes, these fan-groups remained silent in the last game of the season. They had enough. Three years going and the product on the field was dismal. TFC had not made the playoffs for another season; a strong measure of a team’s success.
Most fans say they will reluctantly accept an increase in ticket prices if the product on the field is good; that is, qualifying for the playoffs and ultimately, a Championship. The execs at TFC (well, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment), decided to withdraw the price increase and then created a series of town-hall style meetings as a way of “addressing complaints”. I call it dealing with bad image and PR.
“Toronto FC: The fans have had enough”-CBC Sports
What’s the lesson here? Well, I see two:
1) MLSE did not know their customer. Town-hall meetings BEFORE the price increase would have probably been a better approach for MLSE. As a small business owner, you can have your own version of “town-hall” meetings; all you need to do is keep in touch with your existing customers. By asking the simple question, “how is [fill in product/service name] doing for you?” You will be pleasantly surprised with the wealth of information you get from your customer on this simple question. Don’t expect rosey answers all the time, if so, great! If not, listen carefully and make any necessary changes. Know your customers, they will help you grow your business.
2) Provide a superior product or service. In the end, it will ALWAYS come down to the quality of your product or service. The market will pay for a great product. If you know your customer (see #1), you will know how much that is! Too many times have I come across companies with a great presentation, an excellent pitch, a fantastic idea, but in the end, their product or service doesn’t deliver and that’s why they are not growing or just simply failing.
By knowing your customer, you can provide a superior product or service. By doing this, you WILL grow your business.
Be a good listener. Be a strong product or service. Be Real.
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