The Stadium is Now the Studio and May Soon Be Empty

Professional sports attendance is under pressure.

A couple of stats to ponder: 41% of the NFL teams had home attendance under 95% this past season. That compares to 28% of the teams in 2009.  The NBA is even worse: 60% of the teams had home attendance under 95% in 2010 vs 47% in 2009.  Source: ESPN NFL and NBA

Why? Ticket, concession, parking prices, and the economy play a role.

But how about the fan experience? Would you rather go to the game or be at home with the widescreen HDTV, comfy chairs, hot food and cold beer?

Ray Compton at AdFed Fort Wayne. Photo courtesy of Kevin Mullett (@kmullett)

Ray Compton spoke last week in Fort Wayne.  Now the Czar of Compton Strategies, he was behind many successful promotions for the Indianapolis Ice, the Pacers, and the Colts …. all when they were in their darker, struggling days. One example, he held a noon free thow shooting contest for a midseason Pacers/Cavs game when each were lucky to win 20 games a season.  Buy one ticket, get five free with every made free throw. Result: Lots of media attention, large crowd for the game, many seeing their first live game. Better than empty seats, no concessions, etc.

He stressed that it is the total fan experience that drives attendance. If teams don’t pay attention to the total experience … fans will stay home with the HDTV and there will be more empty seats.

So what? Teams will still get the TV money which is much greater than live venue revenues. But a team without strong fan attendance has problems. TV audiences see empty seats and the team looks like a loser regardless of the outcome.  Merchandising can be at risk, and you can bet that cities and tourism boards will be howling when the economic impact of the games start to drop. It will sure make that next “build me a stadium” drive much harder!

Who else sees the home viewing experience as a big risk? Mavs owner Mark Cuban. His blog post,  The Fan Experience at Sporting Events – Never Look Down really makes the point. By-the-way, Mavs home attendance has been at or above 104% since 2009.

One more point, My post (The) Experience Counts! discusses new research that shows people are happier spending money on experiences instead of on material things.

How have your attendance habits changed?

– Don Kincaid

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Concrete, Facebook, Lemonade

I clicked on an ad displayed on my Facebook page.

Now I bet you’re thinking … one of those smarmy ones and things started going downhill fast. Nope.

It was a local contractor Nick Dancer Concrete promoting stained concrete countertops. I’ve seen some beautiful stained concrete and was intrigued,  so I clicked … but I hit a 404 fail page. I dropped a quick email to Nick and went on my merry way.

I received a nice response from Nick thanking me. I made a note to write a blog post about the power of a Thank You.  First thing this morning, I get a small Amazon eGiftCard from Nick saying thanks for catching the problem and allowing him to correct the link.

Wow!

I don’t know Nick’s work – yet. But he understands the key to Social Media Marketing. Build two-way relationships with your prospects. Traditional media is one way telling. Social Media is all about having conversations. Both have their place in your marketing plan.

When things went wrong,  he corrected the problem and started a conversation with me. It’s the old but valid – When you’re given lemons, make lemonade.

Good luck with the business Nick!

– Don Kincaid

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Why Build the Smart into the TV? Beats Me.

The Consumer Electronics Show opens this week and everybody will be falling over themselves showing their version of smart TV. As a consumer, why would I want to buy a major consumer item with built-in obsolescence? I don’t.

Build it into a component – Blu-ray player, game console, or set-top. It’s easier to sell me a Blu-ray player with internet access for a couple hundred bucks than risk my $1-3K flat screen investment disappearing because of a 1st gen ‘Smart’ implementation.

Just ask the manufacturers that were banking on Google TV for the holidays. Then Google asked them to delay announcements because of poor software reviews.

Two good articles concerning what I call the current “State of the Mess”:

Fortune Tech

and WSJ.com.

That’s just my opinion. I could be right. (Apologies to Dennis Miller)

What’s yours?

– Don Kincaid

[Edited 1/4/2011 to add Fortune Tech article]

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Retail Merchandising Oops! Now What?

I walked up to a FedEx Office location late this afternoon and this is what I saw:

image

Good promotional poster, but wait, it expired 12/31/2010 and today is 1/2/11.

Seeing expired promo material in a store is a real pet peeve of mine. If the store team doesn’t notice out-of-date merchandising, will they pay attention to my job?

I mentioned the issue to an associate and the reply was ‘they’ don’t do a good job of paying attention to take down dates.

This contrasts with a similar experience I had at Costco last Friday. When checking out, I noticed I was overcharged $20 for an item. I went back to the store display to double check. A manager walked passed and asked if she could help.

When told of the issue, she immediately apologized, accepted responsibility, and refunded the amount. She said her and her team members were responsible for double checking price displays every morning before opening and the issue would be addressed.

In an earlier post, I discuss how I try to keep my surroundings from being too familiar.

Mistakes happen. How we and our team responds speaks volumes about our business.

Am I too particular? I welcome your thoughts.

– Don Kincaid

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Mall Christmas Shopping – Stepping Away From The Desk

In recent years, I’ve done a majority of my Christmas shopping online. This year was different. I went to the mall two days before Christmas. Was I out of my mind?

With my experience in customer satisfaction and the challenges of the retail shopping experience, I decided to put mall shopping to the test.

Plus, it didn’t hurt that my wife kept dropping hints about Macy’s @ Glenbrook Mall, Fort Wayne. But there were very few hints about what she really wanted.

First to Macys.com to check for online coupons. Scored four – 2 for $15 off with $50 purchase, a $25 off with $100 purchase and a $50 off with $200 purchase. The good news: They were valid on sale merchandise. The bad news: Lots of category exclusions like fragrances, electrics, etc. That could be a problem.

My first stop started with a challenge. Ysatis by Givenchy is one of my must gifts. Call it a husband’s responsibility to keep his love stocked in her favorite fragrance. I went straight to the Givenchy display and ….. it wasn’t there. A Macy’s associate apologized and told me that they didn’t carry it and offered to help me find a new scent. Good try, but nope, that won’t work. She understood she wasn’t going to get a sale and told me that Perfumania carried the scent.

Because she helped me find the fragrance, she ensured Macy’s would be given another chance for the rest of of the purchases for the day. Otherwise, I would not have returned. I always try to reward a store when an associate provides good service.

When I returned to Macy’s after buying the perfume, I had three other good experiences:

1) Brigitte in the Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics space greeted me promptly, answered my questions and made good suggestions.

2) Upstairs, the associate offered to hold merchandise while I was on my hunt. She also was always available for questions without hovering.

3) Shoe department. Saw a pair, asked about the sizing and the associate had it to me in less than two minutes. He was also very accommodating while I sorted the gifts to take the best advantage of the coupon savings.

Overall Thoughts:

1) Good service means helping the customer even when you can’t fill the need. I respected that she didn’t just say that she couldn’t help and leave me to flounder. It paid off for Macy’s. I returned to buy gifts. If she had just let me go, I would have shopped at their competitors for my other gifts.

2) My experience with the other associates indicate that there is a good service culture at the store.

3) They may want to start stocking Ysatis. When I went to Perfumania, the lady in front of me was buying Ysatis.

What lessons did you learn from your holiday shopping experience?

– Don Kincaid

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The Megamind of Miami. Nope, Not Lebron

One of the best performing mutual fund managers for the past ten years is Bruce Berkowitz. His $17 billion Fairholme Fund has an annualized return of 11.6% over 10 years in which the S&P 500 has risen just 0.7% a year on average for the same period.

The fund normally keeps a double digit percentage of cash and keeps a very concentrated portfolio. Currently, the top five holdings make up nearly 40% of the portfolio.

In this Fortune profile, Berkowitz talks about why he stepped away from the northeast financial world and moved the operations to the Miami area. Yes – no income tax and warm weather were factors, but also

“the biggest reason was that he wanted to put some space between himself and Wall Street. In Short Hills, his office was in a building with several other money-management firms. And no matter where he went in town, he was in danger of running into know-it-all investors who might pollute his thinking. “I had to get away,” he says.”

Will he falter like others that have when high flying funds grow too large? There’s a chance and even Berkowitz is candid on the subject in the profile.

A very interesting read.

– Don Kincaid
Disclosure: I own shares of the Fairholme Fund.

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Here Comes the Chrome – Google’s New OS Laptop Piloted

Since last Friday, I’ve used Google’s new Chrome OS CR-48 notebook virtually full time as a part of the approx. 60,000 unit beta test.

If you use Chrome as your browser, you know Chrome OS. Except, unlike using it on Windows, it is on the screen full-time. There is no desktop.  Everything is a tab and you must be connected to a wireless network. Either Wi-Fi or on Verizon 3G. VZ gives 100MB free/month for 2 years. A new app store is now up and available to all users of Chrome – the browser and the OS.

The best thing is – it is fast. Less than a minute to start-up and just a few seconds to wake-up. As a web device it is very solid for a beta test. The only time I had to quit using it was when I had a Webex conference. Otherwise, Google docs and the web have worked well.

My least favorite thing – You must use Cloud Print to print.  What’s that? Wireless printing through Google’s cloud and then down to a local PC connected to a local printer. That was a problem for me. We didn’t have an always-on PC on the network.  I took one of the laptops in the house, loaded Chrome Beta 9 (neccessary for Cloud Print), and now I can print from the CR-48. I think you should be able to directly access your printer on your local network.

Quick note on the hardware. I don’t know if the beta unit will bear any resemblance to the production units from Acer and Samsung expected in mid-2011. The CR-48  specs are: Intel Atom processor, 12-inch LCD display, full-size keyboard and oversized touchpad, webcam, built-in mic, USB and VGA monitor port.  It weighs 3.8 lbs.,  has a flush mount battery and gets slightly warm but not hot.  Google states 8 hours of active time and a week of standby time. I haven’t tested the battery life, but it sounds close.

Overall First Impression – This can be a good net appliance, especially for distributed companies that supports their business apps through the cloud. It won’t replace an iPad,  but the keyboard is a welcome relief over tablets or a smaller netbook when you need to type.

There are many unanswered questions: Will Chrome OS support tablets? Is there room in Google’s stable for both Chrome OS and Android? What will be the hardware price points? .. and many more.

Google does have one thing in its favor. In the late 90’s, CEO Eric Schmidt was with Sun Microsystems and failed with a 1st generation ‘internet machine.’ The difference this time: Moore’s Law has had about a dozen years to make the infrastructure dramatically more powerful, faster and cheaper.

More to come in the near future.

– Don Kincaid

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