Editor’s Note - This story was originally published in September, and is part of Loyalty360’s “Best of 2016.” We wish you and your family a happy holidays, and will return to our regular content schedule in 2017!

One of the key tenets of the job description for Kelly Linstroth, Assistant Director of Relationship Marketing for the Chicago Cubs, revolves around customer data and its impact on customer loyalty and customer experience.

As the 2016 Major League Baseball regular season draws to a close, with the Cubs perched on the cusp of franchise history and expectations surrounding a possible World Series title (which would be the first since 1908), Loyalty360 caught up with Linstroth to learn more about the team’s push for enhanced brand loyalty.

“Our primary challenge thus far has been collection of data,” Linstroth explained. “My role was created to add the marketing layer to our overall CRM approach, specifically, to build our volume of 1:1 customer profile data. Step one was to assess the breadth and depth of data we have on individual customers. Step two was to determine the specific data points we deem most valuable to know about individual customers. Step three was to then source that data. We are now in step three and are compiling customer profiles. Our challenge now, and in the subsequent 18 months, will be to then analyze that customer data to inform forward-thinking business decisions. It is a delicate balance for us to ensure we are accurately capturing customer data while using that data in an informed, customer-friendly manner.”

Linstroth said the Cubs evaluate customer loyalty in different ways, depending on the customer and their level of interaction. She offered two examples:
1) Season Ticket Holders: “The ultimate evaluation of Season Ticket Holder loyalty is their renewal of season tickets,” she explained. “In addition, we evaluate their number of games attended personally (vs. shared with others or sold) toward the number of games purchased in their package, among other metrics. We also evaluate purchase behavior across ticket types.” 
2) Not all customers are able to attend games as much as a Season Ticket Holder. “In fact, with such a national fan base, it is important for us to remain engaged with our fans regularly on various platforms, which is why we closely track their engagement on social media,” she said.
Customer loyalty is a very high priority for the Cubs.
“We must put the fan first,” Linstroth stressed. “In order to do so, we must work across all departments to ensure their experience with the Chicago Cubs – regardless of if you are a follower on social media, or a casual game attendee, or a Season Ticket Holder – is a positive experience that builds your loyalty to this team. Being a Cubs fan is a very personal experience for our fans – something you grow up with and grow old with – so it is essential we take that fandom very seriously and invest time and effort into treating our loyal fans with the respect they deserve.” 
From a technology standpoint, Linstroth said the Cubs are focused on marketing automation to better personalize communications for their fans.
“While email may seem passé, our fans rely heavily on it,” she said. “Marketing automation obviously extends beyond email and will be critical for us to focus on as we continue to have compelling game and player content to distribute across digital channels to our fans.”
Linstroth sees a correlation between her previous job and her current one.
“Trends can sometimes be dictated by the industry you play in,” she explained. “For example, my previous job was in retail. A few years back, the buzz was to create a loyalty program to capture and track customer purchase behavior at the individual level – hence, every retailer started a loyalty or rewards program. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. One trend I think is more recent in customer marketing that spans industries is the need to connect your product with customers in a more compelling way – i.e. don’t have just a purely transactional relationship. That trend is causing marketers to find ways for customers to engage with their brand in other ways, like creating compelling content to disseminate on social media or partnering with a lifestyle brand.”

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