Conferences can be boring. They can be really boring. To not be boring, they need just the right mix of educational sessions, knowledgeable presenters, engaged participants, and beneficial networking time to make all involved feel like the event was worth attending.

I have been to conferences that have felt stale, run-of-the-mill, and outdated. I have also been to conferences that have a continuous buzz about them, leaving everyone involved feeling energized, creative, and ready to make a difference in the business when they return back home. PACnet 2014 most certainly falls into the latter category, as it provided a fantastic setting for conference participants to engage, share, and learn from each other in a truly collaborative setting. Turnkey was fortunate enough to be there for the three day conference, and while a true recap would likely turn into a short novel, I want to focus on two trends that emerged as key themes of the week: lead generation and integration.

Lead Generation: Generating leads is a vital component to staying relevant and continuing to generate revenue for a property. Many stadiums are seeing declining attendance figures and battling the enhanced at-home entertainment experience for fans’ time (and money), so it is important to generate as many

[targeted] leads as possible. While it is of course necessary to please and retain current fans and stakeholders, those who don’t generate new fans and new business soon fall behind. Taken from various sessions at PACnet, here are a few lead generation concepts currently in use at Paciolan institutions:

  1. Referrals. This is tried, true, and simple. Why not ask your best customers for people they think could become your next best customers?
  2. Sweepstakes. Text-to-win and various sweepstakes where you require a name and email to enter are a fantastic way to engage current and potential customers and garner more leads.
  3. Online Queues. Checkinline is a new way for properties to engage consumers, and gather key lifestyle and consumer information about them. This company specializes in having fans “get in line” online for highly anticipated events, and then is able to interact with these fans while they “wait.” Check out their website for a clearer explanation and demo.

Integration: During PACnet, a topic that came up over and over again was the fact that colleges have two large sources of income (athletic departments and development offices), yet those departments often work without any knowledge of what the other one is doing. These two departments are traditionally siloed, and that doesn’t necessarily make for optimum business practices. One prominent CMO for an FBS-level school put it best when he said that many schools could have a $5 million donor ask to buy season tickets, and the athletic department would have no idea that this person was a major donor. This could be one of the school’s best customers, but no one in the athletic department would know that, and vice versa if the same were to happen to a major STH showing up at the development office.

This underlies the fact that there needs to be more integration between the two departments at every university. If development is asking alumni for money, they should know each alumnae’s athletic purchase and transaction history. Conversely, if the ticket office is trying to sell a lead season tickets, they should have access to that person’s donor history. Fortunately, PACnet showed that integration is picking up steam, with schools like ASU and Cal starting to utilize data warehouses through companies like SSB. It isn’t a quick or easy process to effectively integrate, but if time is taken in the beginning to do it right, athletics and development will be able to utilize all of their data in a manner that is beneficial to both departments, and ultimately, the university as a whole.