How does a graduate in Software Engineering with an established career in his field, all of a sudden tell his parents that he no longer wants to continue doing that, and instead wants to get into the sporting events business? Burhan Ehsan who is founder and president of theFanchize had to experience just that. Being born to South Asian parents, that was probably his toughest hurdle in life. But with a venture that has reaped the rewards by getting into the Toronto Raptors-ticket selling game early, being called on by many media outlets due to the craze amongst Toronto sports fanatics, and now boasting over 4,000 clients – which most of them are recurring – breaking the news to his parents went fairly smoothly.
Back in 2004, Burhan already a rabid Toronto Raptors fan, decided with a friend to purchase season tickets in the upper bowl of the Air Canada Centre (ACC). Something the Toronto Raptors organization wholeheartedly welcomed as the NBA team just wasn’t performing well on the hardcourt, nor in ticket sales at the time. Burhan utilized his time wisely while at these games and during ho-hum affairs, or breaks in between games, he would coolly network and schmooze with anyone affiliated with Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment – owners of the Raptors – such as Ushers, Security and also ticket sales representatives that worked directly under management. The sales reps took a liking to Burhan and made him a deal to try and attract more visitors and put bodies into the empty seats at games. He took up the challenge. With no social media outlets at the time, he did use what he was good at: Word of mouth. Talking to his family members and friends, Burhan showcased the Raptor ticket as valuable as a Toronto Maple Leafs ticket. When he needed to get more exposure, he resorted to an obscure mass texting application as the growing use of cellphones was apparent at that time. The phone calls then started to come in. Perks were given directly to Burhan from the Raptors such as playing time on an NBA floor at the ACC, meet & greet with players and also receive gifts such as jerseys and t-shirts using this as leverage to bring in more customers. With the client base growing and time becoming more and more scarce, people had to be hired to man the phones, the former website Raptorfan.com had to be designed and set up to take in orders. Now flash forward to 2016, the business has morphed to service not just basketball fans, but hockey fans, baseball fans, concert goers and also road trip warriors to take groups to games outside the city and even country to provide that ‘experience’ they have now come to be known for.
Some of the challenges that faced theFANchize was the fact that there was a growing presence of service outlets that were already established or slowly gaining momentum in providing sports enthusiasts tickets to various sporting events in the Greater Toronto Area. With that in mind, President and Founder Burhan Ehsan developed a business model that would provide, not just mere tickets, but a whole in-game experience for sports fans. Giving this type of ‘experience’ would entail custom scoreclock messaging (ie. engagements, birthdays or shout-outs), gift pack giveaways and the chance to rub elbows with celebrities along courtside or in private boxes. Along with this, was how to reach a mass audience and get them to trust their brand to show that fans would get more value for their money.
Solutions & Strategies:
Burhan adopted an all-out social media presence with various outlets such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to ensure customers were engaged and made aware of what theFANchize offered and presented past and current client testimonials. theFANchize didn’t just post ‘call-to-action’ type postings onto social media, but has become a go-to source for sports news, humour and recognizing homegrown athletes just so a larger number of views and connections are made with a wider audience. Gamification techniques were also utilized by implementing small contests and events and employment opportunities which has “strongly attracted” a great number of people according to Burhan. Posting all kinds of updates and photos of some of the experiences his customers have had has drawn a huge following that displays the vision this organization wishes to push across to the masses. As social media has become a mainstay in the marketing department, theFANchize has had to hire a team of mainly young social media-savvy students that possessed the love of sport to handle a lot of the relaying of messages across these sources to customers to keep them informed and connected with the organization.
With the advent of social media taking businesses by storm, a huge component of it also stems from tracking Social Data or information gleaned from the reactions of all postings and engagements through those chosen channels.
Tracking your social media analytics is essential because it helps you figure out what is or isn’t working, enables you to track your progress throughout a given time, and ultimately saves time – a precious commodity in the marketing world. – Alexa Fox (April 26, 2013 – Segue Technologies)
Burhan was ahead of the curve when Facebook launched a beta version of its target marketing feature of its site and he paid $100 to get his venture off the ground and enable it to track and provide data as to where the hotspots were geographically and demographically as to where people were following his business model. Since then, Burhan has not let up and employed some of the data analysis tactics through Hootsuite and Shopify to give him the information he requires to further his brand. From the data he acquired, he was made aware as to the times he should be posting, what type of posts he was getting better recognition on and where the inconsistencies lie in order to adjust his strategies. With the valuable Social Data he was receiving, he was able to increase online sales and expand his client base.
With all the techniques and strategies Burhan has implemented at theFANchize, it’s no wonder , according to him, that they now boast over 4,000 clients with recurring service to almost 70% of them on a yearly basis. Loyal customers are consistently viewing Tweets, Facebook posts and acknowledging Instagram photos as well. On top of that, theFANchize has become the face of the growing sports fanaticism in the Toronto area as many media outlets such as CP24, CBC and the Toronto Star have all taken comment from this established organization. With the growing popularity among the younger generations, theFANchize has been able to tap into a Canada-wide market and also into the US market to some degree by developing road trip packages as well. On top of this, employment opportunities have increased and is a hot destination for students to develop their skills and establish internships. Especially when the level of service needs to be upheld, the staff at theFANchize are always there to ensure follow up contact is made to get reviews and to handle any concerns or complaints in a quick and efficient manner.
Lessons for Others
After speaking with Burhan Ehsan, the President and Founder of theFANchize, he concluded with this:
Believe in Social Media. Learn it. Embrace it. Or get left behind.
The basis of all businesses are sales, and they only come from customers. The growth of Social Media has risen to the extent that cold calling, door to door contact and direct mail have become secondary options. Social Media customer engagement needs to be adopted and followed through so the marketing of the company can be executed in a much faster and more efficient manner. Keeping customers engaged with the brand and with the services allows for a deep relationship to be forged and kept going in the long term. Burhan did add that “fear breeds negativity” and that Social Media can definitely make a positive impact on any organization as long as the strategies and techniques are being used properly. And a lot of that can be determined by the Social Data that results from those techniques. Due to that, theFANchize has established themselves as a go-to source to not just attend an event, but to enjoy its experience.
The Fanchize Inc.
Industry: Entertainment, Sports, Tickets
Name of Organization Contact: Burhan Ehsan - President & Founder
Authored by: Safi Habib
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