A CMO’s View: How The Palace’s email marketing brings Detroit Pistons fans home
As CMO for the Palace at Auburn Hills, Charlie Metzger says its his job to bring people together and provide a fantastic fan experience.
As the CMO for Palace Sports and Entertainment, Charlie Metzger is charged with bringing a packed house to The Palace of Auburn Hills, home to the NBA’s Detroit Pistons and a regular venue for top performers like Adele, Kanye West and SIA. In his role, Metzger drives a wide range of marketing initiatives.
“I oversee our club’s marketing, our production and programming, our public relations, community relations, what we call ‘brand works’ which is our digital, social, web and email, and retail as well,” says Metzger. “It’s a fantastic job.”
According to the CMO, his big picture remains focused on bringing people together in the world, a vision he keeps front and center for his team.
“Whether it be at a concert here at The Palace, like Adele last night, or a Piston’s game, we have a responsibility to our customers to provide a fantastic fan experience and make sure that we know their time being spent with us is one that’s going to be very memorable,” says the CMO.
Today, Metzger shares how his team uses email marketing to connect with Detroit Piston fans and concertgoers alike, keeping audiences entertained and informed — and why he’s bullish on where email marketing is headed.
Amy Gesenhues: To start, what role does email marketing play in your overall marketing strategy?
Charlie Metzger: Email marketing plays a vital role with us, and the reason it does is [that] we are in the relationship business.
We have members that have elected to join with us — whether it is a season ticket package with the Pistons, whether it’s the corporate partnerships that they’re investing with us, or whether it is music customers — we segment our lifestyles and our customers.
Relationship marketing, and specifically, email marketing, plays a very important role because, ultimately, we’re moving towards as much as possible one-to-one customization and being able to deliver value to all of those members. Email plays an important role because it’s a great way to keep people, obviously, informed on upcoming events, and to help them navigate through their busy lives.
AG: Do you have a team dedicated to email, or is it a shared responsibility across the department?
CM: It’s a very important role, and we do have a dedicated email marketing team. They represent the Pistons, as well as our outdoor and concert venues.
AG: Approximately how many email campaigns are you sending a month?
CM: Between all of our revenues, it’s about 56 campaigns per month.
Obviously, it’s is branding. It’s communication with our members. We use it for lead nurturing, [and] it’s transactional — certainly to drive revenue for direct ticket sales or merchandise, for example. And then, also, to get smarter about our customers and fans, we do profiling surveys, queries and things like that.
So when I say it’s at the center of a lot of our campaigns and communication, it really is, and it does run the gamut in terms of the goals for each one of these campaigns.
AG: Have you discovered any specific email content that plays better with your audience or drives more engagement?
CM: It depends. In general, the ones that have the highest engagement are when we do things that have higher value proposition. That might be sponsored team giveaways — and also, including data that is contextual — so that we’re doing more than just sending an email to somebody. There’s a reason for them to want to open it up.
AG: What channels are you using to build your email lists?
CM: The combination of both traditional things, display and search — but we also are very active with on-site activation and capturing data. Pretty much in every single quarter at every basketball game, we’ve got an opportunity to build our database, and then be able to take the data that we’re getting there and drive it back into all of the campaigns that we’re building.
AG: Can you tell me more about how you use that data to segment and personalize your email lists?
CM: Broad base, we build for affinity clubs — loosely defined as men, women, kids, and the blue room, which is our live entertainment. In addition to that, we look at our season ticket members and segment those based upon lifestyle and also based upon where they may be sitting, and based upon some of the other decisions that they make in terms of the relationship they want to have.
We segment our corporate partners, and we have a pretty robust methodology in terms of who they are, and the most important thing in the segment is why they are here — then we do find similarities across those. And so, we will segment based upon those choices.
It is fascinating — there are so many different reasons why people want to come to a game or come to a concert, and some are pretty basic — that they are interested in the team, or they’re interested in the performer. But there are other reasons why people want to come here, and so we are constantly looking at our segmentation, making sure that it’s robust, but also that its built upon the driving value.
And then in terms of personalizing, the best example is a pregame email we do for the Pistons. Again, instead of just sending someone an email, we use location to show them traffic.
Detroit Pistons interactive “Gameday Guide” email
It becomes a real time email. We piloted that last year, and then it changes, obviously, based upon the time of the game and the time they open the email — and then we will continue that experience post-game and give them stats, etc.
So we look at email as part of the overall experience, and make sure that it’s — in this case, geographically — targeting them.
AG: How do you measure the the success of your email marketing, and what tools are you using to analyze your campaigns?
CM: We’ll use the standard set of KPI — so open, click-to-open, time spent, plus opt-out to make sure that we’re on-target — and we certainly A/B test, etc. And, if we’re doing retail campaigns, we’ll look at conversions as well.
For technology, a couple partners — we use Litmus to ensure that deliverability is going to work across all devices, and then Movable Ink — which is what I talked about with the interactive Gameday Guide that was previously a standard email message.
When we think about our customers, it’s not just when they get to the arena or concert venue — we know getting here is actually part of it, and so we wanted to re-imagine the static pregame email. So now we’ve got live data in it — this is where we partnered with Movable Ink and can use their technology to give live-game creative.
As I mentioned, we put in a live traffic map so that, again, it’s about laddering back up to bringing people together and thrilling them.
AG: What kind of results are you seeing with the emails where you include the live data like the traffic maps and player stats?
CM: We’ve seen roughly a 10-percent lift in reopens, a 49-percent lift in mobile engagement and
18 percent in click-through rates compared to the static version — so we’re really pleased with the results of that interactive game-day email.
AG: How have your email marketing results and engagement informed your overall marketing strategy?
CM: Just to pull back a little bit, with email marketing, you want to make sure that you’re sending something that’s of value and that’s going to make, in our case, our customer’s day a little bit better or their experience a lot better.
I think you can take that lesson and apply it, obviously, to the world of e-mail marketing, but you can apply it to the guest experience when they’re in arena. You can apply it to the content that we create through our programming that works.
Again, big picture — it’s about customization, and then providing dynamic content. Ideally, when we send a campaign out, we like to say somebody should be really looking forward to getting that email. That might sound a little altruistic, but I think if we’re hitting on all the different cylinders, they are excited.
The flip side of that is we’ve definitely learned about not sending too many emails. That’s, I think, a trap that certain people or companies can fall into when all of a sudden they’re like, “Well let’s just send more and more and more.”
I think, as we all know, you have to be selective in terms of what you’re saying, when you’re saying it, and making sure that it’s adding value to your fans or our customer’s day.
AG: Before we end, what are your thoughts on the future of email? Do you see it going away any time soon?
CM: I remember those days when everyone said, “Geez, email marketing is going to be dead, and look at what social media has done, and mobile apps.”
But I think that as a way to build relationships and maintain relationships, email marketing is going to continue to be an important lever. I think it’s going to change — as we talked about, it’s not just a static email — it will start to be more interactive and do some of the things that we are doing.
As a way to have to have a relationship, I would compare it to how LinkedIn has carved out a really interesting space for themselves, more the B2B place. I think email marketing is different than what we’re doing on all of our social channels. I think it will continue to be a really important lever.
It has to continue to be mined correctly. And, as we all know, personalization is important everywhere. I think for major retailers — I know companies such as ours — that email address is still a piece of gold, and you have to treat it the right way and make sure that you’re treating it with value.
We’re bullish on where email marketing is going.