Walleye targeting new fans

Toledo Walleye executive
Scott Jeffer speaks to group at BGSU. 10/20/09 (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)

After a two-year hiatus professional hockey is back in Toledo, as the Walleye dropped the puck for the
first time this past Friday.
Finding ways to target fans for the newborn franchise and grow support using newer direct technologies
was the topic of their marketing director Scott Jeffer’s talk Tuesday titled "Launching a Product
in Today’s World".
Jeffer, the assistant general manager and director of marketing for the Walleye, Mud Hens and Bullfrogs,
was one of five speakers at BGSU’s marketing symposium held inside the Lenhart Grand Ballroom at the
Bowen-Thompson Student Union. In his 55-minute talk, Jeffer spoke about the importance of knowing your
core product and market and how the Walleye have used new computer technology to get ahead.
"There are a lot of things in the marketing world that are totally behind the scenes," said
Jeffer. "These are things you may not even think about, but they’re partnerships that can help you
quite a bit."
One the partnerships that Jeffer and his marketing staff have utilized for ticket sales and managing
relationships with new Walleye fans is the partnership that they developed with Microsoft.
After moving from the Lucas County Recreational Center in 2002 to Fifth Third Field, the Mud Hens were
breaking ticket-sales records just about every season, topping out at close to 600,000 attendees in
2007. One upgrade missed in the move of facilities was an upgrade in sales information, as ticket sales
representatives were writing invoices on scratch paper and the invoices were piling up on the team’s
accountants.
In 2005, Jeffer and the Mud Hens received a software license to upgrade to a customer relationship
management software program known as Microsoft CRM. The Mud Hens immediately profited from the upgrade
and were selected by Microsoft to be used in a global case study.
"We saved collectively on average 2,000 hours of work that had to be done manually on ticket
sales," said Jeffer, who joined the Mud Hens’ staff in 1993, as an intern. "The time
efficiencies alone from the program have been very profitable. If you can get 1,000 more hours of your
sales representatives talking to your customers instead of doing paperwork, you’re going to have a lot
more success."
Since Jeffer joined the Mud Hens, the staff went from seven people to now close to 50 individuals. With
the increase in numbers, better means of communication became key.
"The program allows for any sales representative to log on and see all thing things another has
done," said Jeffer. "It also updates where different ticket sales are going, so we know for
example how many tickets have been sold to an particular company without having to track down all the
information like before."
The time saved paid off for Jeffer and his staff, as the group was busy at work the past two years
selling season ticket packages, completing corporate sales and advertising opportunities and selling out
all 20 corporate suites at the new Lucas County Arena.
"Those were the things that were the groundwork for us," said Jeffer. "They generated
revenue to help pay for the $100 million arena we did with Lucas County. Without the business
commitments we got, we wouldn’t be where we are today."
Over the past eight years, the Mud Hens have averaged 560,000 fans at Fifth Third Field and array of
marketing tools were used by Jeffer to help bring fans to the ball park.
Scarborough research, a Chicago-based company, helped the Mud Hens with studies in demographics, while
Great Lakes Marketing helped with phone surveys.
Another big technology tool used was e-mail surveying, which helped Jeffer target certain groups with
newsletters or advertising campaigns.
"In the old days, we’d send out mass a e-mail and you’d never known what happened to them or if
people opened them," said Jeffer. "Using this new technology I can do an advanced find and
find every individual that lives in Bowling Green who attended a Mud Hens game in 2007 and it might spit
out 600 or 700 names and I can do a targeted newsletter just to those people."
Online ticket sales have also jumped over the years from 16 percent to 32 percent this past season, as
the fans are finding it easier to buy online thanks to online ticketing efforts.
From all the research, it was found that one of four people in the Toledo region attend a Mud Hens game
each year. Jeffer and the Walleye staff would like to see that continue over to their new efforts with
the Walleye and Bullfrogs.
"It’s all about affordable family entertainment," said Jeffer. "Whether it’s the Mud Hens,
Walleye or Bullfrogs, we do things that we can control, which is not the winning or losing, but we can
control that no matter what happens these people are going to have a fun time. This new technology has a
lot to do with that."