Customers and Baseball – It’s Not Just About Home Runs

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Photo by Jason Weingardt on Unsplash

I’m not one to use a lot of sports analogies or references in business, but I’m going to ask for your forgiveness just this one time.

In the recently completed 2019 season, major league baseball players hit home runs at a higher rate than ever before. In total, across all teams and players, 16.12% of all hits left the ballpark. In the 2018 season the rate was a bit lower, but at 13.62% it was still the 3rd highest home run rate in MLB history – including the so-called “steroid era” from 1995 to 2004.

This past season my local Minnesota Twins battled against the team that has been their nemesis in recent years, the Bronx Bombers, aka New York Yankees, until the very end of the year to see who would claim the record for most home runs by one team in a season. I’m happy to report that our mid-market team bested the mighty Yankees by one single HR, 307 to 306. To further illustrate the trend, four teams in 2019 (Twins, Yankees, Astros, and Dodgers) and one in 2018 (Yankees) eclipsed the previous record, set by the 1997 Seattle Mariners who walloped a mere 264 dingers.

The home run, it seems, is having greater impact and visibility than ever before.

Or is it?

Between 2015 and 2019 the number of total home runs increased by 27% (4,909 to 6,776). The total number of runs scored, however, only increased by about 13% (20,647 to 23,467).

In reality, then, the big dramatic home run may be getting more visibility and generating more excitement for players and fans, but its actual impact doesn’t match the hype.

I think customers are similar. They look for home runs from their product suppliers and service providers. They look for big breakthroughs in performance, in cost reductions, and innovative products and services. Customers, just like fans in the stands at an MLB game, hope to see something dramatic that changes the game and gives everyone a reason to get up on their feet and cheer.

But here’s the thing: Without hitting lots of singles, doubles, and a few triples to make those home runs more productive – you may not be scoring as many runs. Without the day-to-day execution on things like product quality, customer service, on-time delivery and accurate invoices, the home runs are fun, but may not actually help you win.

What this means for anyone managing relationships with key customers is – you’ve got to remind them of the smaller accomplishments that produce incremental value. Make sure they’re aware of the changes you’ve made to product, service or process – the singles and the doubles, and if you’re lucky, a triple – that help them to save money, time, and effort. Time and time again customers tell their suppliers and service providers to remind them of the value you’re creating. Because, at the risk of carrying the analogy too far, that value usually doesn’t come in the form of a game-winning homer over the center field fence.

How do I know? The Twins didn’t win the World Series. It’s some consolation that the Yankees didn’t, either.

(Series Champ: Washington Nationals – 231 HRs in ’19)

[All statistics from Baseball Reference]

Eric Engwall
President of E.G. Insight, Inc. Experienced consultant and business leader in the areas of strategic customer and employee feedback processes, customer loyalty, and sales effectiveness. Primary focus is using stakeholder feedback to improve critical relationships, make operational and service improvements, and pursue growth opportunities with key customers.

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