Losing Your Following? How to Keep Fans Coming Back

RollerDerby_Entertainment(Part two of a series on roller derby fan retention.)

In the previous blog post on fan retention, I suggested changing the notion of “by the skater, for the skater” to “by the skater for the fan.” The post received an outpouring of comments, questions and ideas. Thanks everyone for ringing in.

Nothing is more important than playing. Period. The sport draws a rich subculture and instills confidence unlike anything else I’ve experienced. If playing is the focus and drawing a crowd isn’t, that’s fine.

But if your business model includes playing to fans, make it a goal to continually get more attendees to return and one day build a sustainable fan base.

Change Your Perspective

First off, don’t confuse family and friends with fans. Those who know skaters and staff account for a significant number of people, but their attendance fails over time and they often don’t return after “their” league-member leaves.

Fans are customers. If a restaurant sells food the owner likes, but customers find unappealing, change the menu or accept the consequences. Separate your opinions from that of the paying customer. You can give fans the night they want and they’ll return.

You can give fans the night you want, which might work, but fans won’t necessarily grow to like it.

There is no second chance.

Consider Your Impression

Are skaters qualified to play? New leagues sometimes rush into games without the skill or the stamina to make a good impression. As excited as it is to get out there, slow-moving, unstable, sloppy skaters trying to execute high-level strategies are difficult to watch.

Those who play prior to mastering minimum skills jeopardize themselves, teammates and opponents. Many serious injuries I’ve witnessed, (such as compound fractures) occurred during a league’s first game. As badly as we feel for the skater, the medical attention and screams impact the crowd. Imagine how it affects kids in the audience.

Be patient. To get your skating fix, scrimmage until the team is ready.

Speed of the Game – Controversial?

It need not be. The WFTDA rules allow for many styles of play. Can game play or speed itself create retention problems? Yes, but to what extent is unknown. I’ve had many exchanges with hardcore fans that left dissatisfied with the experience. My family no longer attends games.

In 2010, using the same/very similar pack definition rules, Detroit’s Racer McChaser put up a short-lived record of 36 points in one jam. Amazingly, her opponent was on the track the entire time. No stopping, no bracing and she put up a 36-0 run against her opponent. It took a skilled use of both offensive and defensive blocking. Would that look the same today? It’s highly unlikely, though many elements of the speed differentials used and the offensive blocking remain valid strategy today.

There are many ways to play. Half the fun of coaching is developing something new. I see 50 games a year or more and quickly notice teams that execute situational defenses/offenses all night, when offensive blocking would produce far greater points and excitement.

Simple Solutions

Try to keep nights within 2 ½ hours. Warm-up time is a necessity, but 30-minute halftimes (especially during double headers) and long breaks between games thins the crowd quickly.

Often, leagues leave seating wide open. Don’t. Put the skaters on the far side of the venue and the crowd on the other, facing them. Cordon off a section specifically for the fans so that they all sit together. The venue looks more full, the crowd feeds off each other and it’s easier for the league to interact with the audience.

Plus, it’s louder.

7 Pre-game Entertainment Tips

  1. Don’t allow fans to walk into a quiet venue with only player warmups to watch.
  2. The time prior to the anthem and intros is where a DJ can really go all out.
  3. Run league trivia on the scoreboard. You could even have announcers do it. Make it suspenseful, with a list of answers—have each wrong answer disappear until the right one is chosen.
  4. As fans enter, make sure they are walking through the merchandise area. Always put this in a high-traffic area.
  5. Set up a table near the entrance that is clearly labeled for derby newbies. Explain the game with a sketch of the track, moveable pieces to represent skaters, and a single-sheet handout of basic derby rules. Encourage them to return at breaks with questions.
  6. Run video compilations for the crowd showing great moves, big hits, revving them up for the action to follow.
  7. Have each team finish their warmup by forming a pace line. Take a few minutes to get that line moving as quickly as possible, wowing the crowd and blowing the hair back of those in the suicide seats.

Dramatic Intros

If you have entrance photos or videos for your teams, run them while players are introduced. Make it dramatic. Dim the main lights and run specialty lights if you have them. No need for taglines, just announcers projecting with emphasis on player names, like they do in pro-sports arenas.

Engaging Fans During the GameRoller-Derby-Fan-Retention

Kudos to WFTDA for appointing emcees to this year’s playoffs. As emcee of the D1 Madison tournament, I hyped the crowd, ran fan games during halftimes, and was turned loose to entertain. The role generated a lot of positive feedback.

Give announcers an appropriate, family-friendly leash. During timeouts and downtime, let banter flow. If announcers are having fun, so are fans.

Fan games. During some D1 tournaments, fans looked forward to musical chairs and scavenger hunts. In Madison, we threw dance contests, lip-sync contests, hula hoop races and had original games.

Kids’ games. Make them clever, don’t just give in to running races, dress-up races, three-legged races. I am the biggest kid in the room, no matter where I go, so interviewing the little ones is a must. What they say during interviews is half the fun. Besides, it’s catering to families.

Skater skills contests. Hold a skills contest at halftime and raise money for charity. Have buckets with each skater’s name at the merch booth. Have “runners” take the buckets into the stands to sell raffle tickets. Give the audience a stake in who wins – the audience places each ticket into the container of the skater they think will win and the winning skater then draws the ticket from his/her bucket.

7 Contest and Entertainment Ideas

  1. Fastest average lap. It takes a stopwatch and a little math, but you can time skaters and translate a lap’s average mph. I’ve done it and the crowd loves it. Run each skater one at a time to prevent contact.
  2. Backwards laps. Same thing.
  3. Measure Apex jumps.
  4. Run an obstacle course. Limbo bar, cone slalom, obstacles to jump. The fastest wins.
  5. Ask local entertainers to participate. Jam skaters, extreme sports athletes, family-friendly comedians, dance and tumbling squads.
  6. Jeerleaders, a more tongue-in-cheek cheerleading squad. Milwaukee’s Beerleaders not only cheered, they did a dance routine at every game.
  7. Supervised kids’ areas, where the little ones can color, bowl down pins with skates or play other games.

Be creative, keep the night moving and above all, enjoy it.

How do you keep your fans entertained? Ring in below; we would love to hear your ideas.

Roller Derby >

Dear Derby, the Honeymoon is Over. Now What?

Fan-Retention-RollerDerbyMarketing(Part one of a two-part series on fan retention).

For nearly ten years, derby enjoyed amazing crowds with little marketing. We were a viable entertainment option. So why, in the last few years, have so many leagues cut back on travel, lost money or their venue? They are not catering to the fan. Rat City’s crowd funding to save their practice facility should have been the wake-up call of all wake-up calls. Keep in mind that this is the same league that set the national attendance record a few years ago.

No more mainstream TV shows or movies about derby. The honeymoon period is over.

Business Acumen is Crucial
Lately, my role announcing is not nearly as important as being a business resource to leagues. My BA in Business Management followed by years running department stores, helps me see wasted money and missed opportunities. I managed budgets, marketing and personnel issues for stores that generated millions of dollars annually and was accountable when sales went up or down.

Trust me, when I say that general proper business practices lack at all levels of roller derby.

By the Skater for the Fan
Once you sell tickets, you are a business. Don’t worry about losing control; your league is yours.

It’s time to look at fans as customers. There are many decisions to be made in order to make a profit. Profit increases by generating more income (grow your fan-base, sell more merchandise, increase fundraising) or lowering expenses.

So, if your league is struggling, what will it be? “By the skater, for the fan?” I hope so. Unless you don’t mind playing for fun behind closed doors (nothing wrong with that), adapt your production, strategize your ticket sales and give fans a night to remember.

Fan Retention
Even if you pull in a fair number of fans, why do so many not return? There is a disconnect between what you offer and what fans hope for. I can give you solid ideas on how to increase the crowds coming through the door, but if they’re only coming once, your pool of new fans continually gets smaller.

Wondering what your fan retention is? To get a good visual, use your phone and take a panorama of the crowd at the beginning of your event, then after halftime and again at the night’s conclusion. You’ll see about how many stay for the whole game.

Speed of the Game
First off, it’s not WFTDA’s fault for the speed of the game and the way it’s being played. They made revisions to try to better define the game and it only takes one to find loopholes that many follow. Yes, the slower, stop-and-go-style of game confuses fans.

My job, as an announcer is to succinctly explain what is happening. It’s impossible, in a few sentences, to relay pack destruction, reformation and why they stop. People are confused; they don’t understand how a game on wheels can be slow.

You decide if this ends or not. If you are unsanctioned, play the game you want to. If you are sanctioned, use it when it makes sense. If you hate it, let your WFTDA BOD know.

Make the Night Memorable
Don’t kill production value; make it better. The evening needs to entertain from start to finish. A few ideas:

• Engaging openings for teams and videos for the screens or jumbotrons
• Keep skaters accessible to fans – autograph tables on the way in and way out
• Make each half-time short but memorable with acts or contests

Nobody wants teams to experience financial issues or constant worry that every bout has to be “the one.” Give fans what they want, make it consistent, sell more tickets and get fans to return.

Stay tuned for my next post in the series on fan retention. I’ll explore specific, creative ways you can keep ’em coming back.

How is your league retaining fans in derby’s post-Honeymoon stage? Comment below with your tips and experiences. 

Roller Derby >

Top 5 SEO Tips for Event Planners

search-engine-optimization-events-1George Freitag swooped in to the Brown Paper Tickets community space to teach event planners search engine optimization. He wasn’t wearing a cape, but we’re pretty sure he’s some type of SEO superhero.

Exhibit A: he has a wealth of experience listed on his website. B: He works for Portent, Inc. an 18-year-old digital marketing firm based in Seattle. C: He gave free advice and tools event planners and promoters can use to achieve higher rankings, sell out shows, kick butt online. In short, he knocked our socks off. Then just as quickly as he appeared, he vanished into the gray Seattle sky, not even helping himself to a doughnut.

SEO Basics for Your Events

1. Be online
Be findable. It may seem obvious, but nonetheless, it is a good place to start. Your event needs to live on a permanent website or page, so fans and prospective attendees can find you. Create a website or page or at minimum, fill out all the fields when you create your event page.

You’re not done yet. Make sure your website or page has text, as search engines like Google cannot read text on an image file, so simply uploading your band’s flier to a website won’t do much to improve organic traffic.

Freitag’s test: see if you can copy and paste the text. If you cannot, search engines won’t be able to read it.

2. Be useful
Details, details, details. Add the event name, date and time, location and other need-to-know information. But don’t copy and paste the description from one site to the next – search engines see this as spammy, useless duplicate content. Craft new event descriptions for every page and site listing your event.

Add a call to action (CTA). Visitors to your event page need to know where to buy tickets, so make sure you have a nice bright button or text link. Buy Now. Register Today. Sign Up for This Crazy Awesome Event. Brown Paper Tickets lets you embed a CTA button or text link right onto your webpage.

When setting up your event, you can put one of these buttons right on your site:

Marketing-BPT-CTA

You can contact us 24/7 if you need help setting up your event on our site.

3.  Be relevant
Say you just got back from Paris where you learned to soufflé with the best of the best and you now you want to teach a French cooking class.

How will prospective attendees find your class? You have to talk the talk. Use words in your descriptions people will use to search for classes. In the SEO-sphere, these are called keywords.

How do you find keywords? Search on Google for “French cooking course” and scroll to the bottom to see suggested search terms. Or use Ubersuggest to see popular searched-on terms. Look for terms that get a lot of traffic, but aren’t too competitive. Find out whether it’s better to use the term “course” or “class” or other words in your event title and description.

Don’t overuse keywords though. Use them naturally – sprinkle them in.

Don’t do this: Want to come to my French cooking class? Please come to my French cooking class. My French cooking class is January 3.

Freitag recommends Google Webmaster Tools so that you can check in on your SEO efforts, conduct keyword research and understand how others are finding your site.

4. Be popular

SEO-Tips-Events

After the workshop, we practiced “being popular.” Follow us on Twitter and join in on the fun.

Search engines favor popular sites that have a lot of high-quality links, mentions, shares. A few marketing and social media efforts can help you become naturally popular online.

Link your event page on our site to your web page. Have a good PR plan in place to attract media attentions and mentions from journalists. Submit your event to calendar listings. Freitag said to “get as niche or regional as you can.” He also advises to include display buttons, so your friends, fans, and others can share your Zombie flash dance, punk poetry slam or whatever you have going on.

5. Be pretty
Freitag said, “Yes, we mean be pretty in the most superficial way possible.” Make sure you have clean event titles that use 50-65 characters. Title tags have a direct impact on your rankings (how high you are on the page), so pick a title carefully. Your meta description does not have an impact on your ranking, so you don’t need to worry so much about keywords, but make sure it’s grammatically clean and includes all the important details because it will be pulled in when people search for your event.

Use the Portent SERP Preview Tool to preview what your event listing will look like in search results.

And remember, the more “popular” you are, the better. So make sure when people share your content, it’s looking sharp. Freitag recommends Twitter Card to beautify your content when it is shared.

And more:

Freitag gave event planners so much useful advice, we couldn’t possibly list it all. View his whole presentation and comment with your own thoughts on SEO.

 

 

Event Tips >