To CRM or not to CRM?

Ever since the announcement of GDPR, professional sports clubs have started looking at CRM systems as the “Holy Grail” to solve all data issues in the club. Granted, when it comes to “Managing the Customer Relationship”, a CRM should be on top of your mind. But is a CRM your digital Swiss army knife?

Sports club vs commercial business

When having a closer look at sports clubs and comparing them to other commercial businesses, you’ll notice a very interesting difference between both.

In a “regular” commercial company, the sales and marketing team is responsible for developing the market, attracting new prospective customers and convincing them to become customers. To manage and support this whole process, the sales and marketing team can use a CRM system.

Then, at some point, both parties come to an agreement, which is when the company will need to deliver the goods and services that were agreed to. To do this, the work and related responsibility will be shifted from the sales team to the “factory”, the part of the company responsible for delivering the goods or solutions.

This part of the company however does not use a CRM system. They will rely on an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system, a system that automates all the internal processes from sourcing to invoicing. For a nice animation check this (non-iXpole) youtube video.

And this is where the sports club will operate in a different way from other companies. The sales and marketing team in a sports club assumes 2 roles. On the one hand the classic sales and marketing as in “regular” commercial companies. To support them in this task they can use a CRM system.

But about 20 times per year, the sales team is also “the factory”. Three to four weeks before match day, they will be responsible for delivering the services which were agreed to: issuing tickets, assigning seats, managing catering reservations, briefing the hospitality personnel, …

Clubs are striving to offer more and more personalized services to their business partners. The more flexibility, the more options, the more difficult it becomes to manage these processes.

iXpole solution

Finding the “one-CRM-fits-all” solution is the current quest for the holy grail in any club going through a digital transformation project. But in their process to seek the best possible CRM, they forget one important detail: their sales team has 2 roles. They are sales and factory. And to properly run a factory, you need an ERP. If you don’t complement your CRM system with an ERP, spreadsheet will keep on ruling your operations.

This is where iXpole comes in. iXpole is an ERP system for all B2B specific operations, allowing a sports club to automate all internal processes. No CRM can offer this, no matter how powerful it is. In a nutshell: a CRM focusses on data; an ERP focusses on processes.

CRM Focusses on data

an ERP focusses on processes

The thing with business partners is that their customer journey starts way before the game takes place. There are multiple customer touch points in the customer journey of your business partners.

There are the well-known, match-related, touch points like arriving at the VIP parking, arriving at the VIP entrance, being directed to a table, being served a lavish meal, sitting in the most comfy business seat, …

But there are many other touch points: the partner wishes to know which services are still available (LED boarding, seats, …), he receives a proposal, he receives and signs a contract, he places an additional order, he gets an invoice according to certain payment terms, …

Enterprise Resource Planning

If you have a proper ERP system in place, you can create multiple self-service touch points, i.e. touch points where your partner can manage certain actions himself online or in an app: order additional seats, confirm a catering upgrade or order catering options, … As long as you stick to spreadsheets for your operations, you can’t automate these touchpoints and the customer journey is lousy.

At iXpole we are intimately convinced that the customer journey of the club’s VIPs and sponsors can be drastically improved, provided that you optimize your organization and processes. A CRM is not the right tool for this purpose, but an ERP is.

We at iXpole will never tell you to get rid of your CRM system. You need it to optimally manage the commercial relationship with your fans and business partners. But when it comes to servicing your business partners, and offering them the best possible customer journey, before, during and after the game, you need the best possible ERP system.

Fortunately iXpole is an open system which can easily integrate with your existing CRM system.

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About Luc

Luc is Business Development Manager at iXpole. Luc is on the constant lookout for ways to grow the iXpole community. This means of course a lot of evangelisation with sports clubs, fixed venue event operators and other potential users of the platform. Aside from that Luc also forges strategic partnerships of all kinds and looks after our marketing and communication.

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