• September 1, 2008
  • By Marshall Lager, founder and managing principal, Third Idea Consulting; contributor, CRM magazine

The 2008 CRM Market Awards: Elite -- Toledo Mud Hens

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The Toledo Mud Hens have been having a good decade. The minor league baseball team, the Triple-A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers and a favorite of M*A*S*H’s Max Klinger, has been breaking ticket-sales records ever since it moved to its new home at Fifth Third Field back in 2002. Since then, it’s been a story of winning seasons and rising attendance, topping out at nearly 600,000 attendees in 2007—an 88 percent jump that year alone. Great news—except the team’s sales division hadn’t upgraded its systems or processes since before the move, and agents were having a tough time keeping up on all fronts.

Sales reps were writing completed sales information on scratch paper or, on a good day, filling out a form—either way, they had to hand that off to the accounting staff, who had to key the information into Microsoft Dynamics GP. And if a sale happened to include a food order, that had to be hand-delivered to ballpark concessionaire staff, who spent a total of 300 hours a year double-checking account information with sales and accounting personnel.

“The last thing we wanted was to force sales representatives to do busywork during normal business hours when they could be selling instead,” says Scott Jeffer, assistant general manager and director of marketing, advertising, and sales for the ballclub. This meant reps often waited until the end of the day to create invoices. “The manual invoice process led to orders falling through the cracks or major issues on corporate sales, where tens of thousands of dollars could be involved,” Jeffer says. “In addition, invoices could pile up, leading to an unpredictable workload for accountants.”

The company had some CRM—FrontRange Solutions’ GoldMine as a glorified Rolodex, and an effort with Microsoft CRM 1.2 in late 2005—but the setup wasn’t built for the expanded tasks. The Mud Hens looked at other vendors, including Salesforce.com, but since Microsoft products were already in place, decided to pursue an upgrade to Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0.

“They were using CRM, but it wasn’t really integrated. There were lots of duplicate accounts and contacts, which led to lots of wasted time,” says Hollie Cox, vice president of consulting for First Tech Direct, the Microsoft partner that the ballclub hired in August 2007 to handle the integration. “Reporting was done in Microsoft Access, which wasn’t ideal, and salespeople were using Microsoft Office Word to generate invoices.”

The initial goal was to eliminate those pesky duplicate records—but even that required preliminary efforts. “We first needed to streamline account tracking and then integrate Microsoft Dynamics CRM with Microsoft Dynamics GP to automate the delivery of sales orders to accounting,” Cox says.

First Tech Direct customized the sales screens of Dynamics CRM to map to the ticket department’s two primary revenue streams—season tickets and group sales. Another tweak enabled the corporate sales staff to manage advertising packages. Custom reports now generate invoices and booking letters that are sent to customers to indicate that a group purchase has been made.

Staff can now create highly targeted marketing campaigns within the CRM system by searching through customers based on a range of criteria, such as number of tickets purchased, ZIP Codes, or type of seats purchased. “Before Microsoft Dynamics CRM,” Jeffer says, “we would ask, ‘How are the calls going?’ and people would reply, ‘Great.’ [Now] we can get more detail and actually measure the success of our campaigns.”

The ballclub is so happy with the results that it’s trying for a triple play: As it expands operations to include a $105 million multipurpose arena that will be used by the Toledo Walleye Hockey Club and an arena football team, the same office staff will share central business information for cross-selling opportunities across all three sports clubs—something that might never have been possible without the new system. 

Real Results : Toledo Mud Hens Baseball Club

  • Saved the staff 2,050 hours by eliminating manual processes and duplicate records.
  • Reduced the ballpark concessionaire’s annual spending by $50,000.
  • Freed salespeople up to make more visits and sales calls, resulting in $55,000 in additional revenue.
  • Simplified the handling of more than 20,000 student accounts.
  • Expanded the CRM system to simultaneously service another venue with two other sports teams.

To read about the other 2008 CRM Elite winners, click here.

For the rest of the 2008 CRM Market Awards, click here.

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