ProAthlete Inc. is a Kansas City-based eCommerce company aimed at providing its customers with a winning experience, service, and products. Founded as a brick and mortar store in 1989, they are now the largest online retailer for baseball and softball bats and gloves in the U.S. They might look like they are a sports agency or a sports training facility because of their unique culture, but they aren’t. They are an eCommerce company that specializes in the sale of baseball and softball bats and gloves. They have a major league caliber culture, they have a passion for what they do, and they love to have fun.
Brick and mortar roots
Kansas City, MO is a classic sports town. Beyond the high-profile professional teams, the region is home to a robust youth and recreational sports scene. In 1989, the Hedrick family founded Pro Athlete Inc. to make it easier for local athletes to find great sporting goods and an enjoyable buying experience.
Fast forward to 1997, when Pro Athlete became an early adopter of Internet-based retail. They placed their first Internet order, but shipping was $15 for ground service, the phone number was hidden deep in the site, prices were too high, and no confirmation emails were sent. It was an awful customer experience.
Recognizing an opportunity to capture an important competitive advantage, the team at Pro Athlete went to work building its first website built, BeaPro.com. By 1999, the online version of the retail store saw more products going out the back door than coming in the front door. Today, Pro Athlete is a full-time, full-scale online retailer.
Unnecessary obstacles hinder the growth
Running the business was no small feat. As a small but growing company, Pro Athlete had just one or two employees available to manage marketing activities and each juggled multiple tasks and while wearing multiple hats. They were using a variety of disjointed tools to blog, send emails, publish and monitor social media, and track website performance.
The company had a sizable list of existing customers and potential buyers and the team would send one-off email blasts announcing upcoming promotions and sales to consumers using SilverPop. Emails went out to every contact in their database—regardless of their preferred sport and equipment needs—but couldn’t be personalized to individual recipients.
Promotions for fastpitch softball bats would reach baseball players and messages about special deals on baseball gloves were sent to softball players, resulting in sky-high opt-out rates and low conversions. And, since the team was new, they weren’t following best practices on social media, which eventually began hurting the business. “We only interacted via blog posts or on social media if we were trying to sell or promote items,” Inbound Marketing Specialist, Greg Moore, explains. “That quickly translated to losing followers, customers, and brand ambassadors.”
Lacking a tool to organize and streamline their marketing efforts, Pro Athlete was creating unnecessary obstacles for themselves and minimizing any opportunity for success.
Adding HubSpot to the active roster
Wanting a better, easier, and more efficient way to manage their marketing efforts, Pro Athlete conducted a thorough search for a new marketing platform by testing out and trialing several leading systems.
“HubSpot was, far and away, the best solution. The differentiator was how easy it was to build segmented lists, create workflows, and send emails,” Greg says.
With its HubSpot purchase, the team aimed to improve overall marketing efficiency and sales by providing a better internal user experience. HubSpot offers intuitive, user-friendly tools integrated into a single system, allowing the Pro Athlete team to perform marketing tasks like creating personalized emails from one system instead of needing a different tool for every activity.
“HubSpot allows us to have full control. Now, our marketing team can log-in and manage, publish, and track all of our marketing efforts from a single place. With other marketing software and tools, we were constantly left with unanswered questions or having to manage multiple platforms with just a couple of people. HubSpot allows us to not only be efficient but positions us to be successful.”
Moneyball for marketing
Purchasing HubSpot and learning its inbound marketing methodology required a change in mindset for Pro Athlete—including how the company measured success. Before HubSpot, the company monitored email open and click rates as just numbers, focused solely on revenue generation as the key measure of success.
“That was the biggest hurdle we had to clear,” according to Greg. “If we sent an email out to 150,000 contacts, we didn’t necessarily care that we were losing 300 or more contacts because the revenue that the email generated was good. Basically, the more emails we sent out, the more customers we blasted, translated to what we were judging success by revenue. We were judging success incorrectly.”
With HubSpot, Pro Athlete can achieve greater email marketing success by focusing on measuring open rates, click rates, opt-outs, subject lines, content, and personalization. At the same time, the company has added new initiatives this year, aimed at using HubSpot’s workflow and automation tools, for example, recapturing revenues lost through shopping cart abandonment with targeted campaigns and custom workflows.
“HubSpot has fundamentally changed the way we look at and approach marketing,” Greg says.
HubSpot has helped ProAthlete achieve a massive return on their investment and the hard work of their team.
Traffic and overall engagement across JustBats.com and JustBallGloves.com have risen significantly in just the last year. Blog readership has increased 4.5X this year, while email conversion rates have more than doubled.
As importantly, the cart abandonment campaigns have been wildly successful.
According to Greg, one cart abandonment nurturing campaign alone generated over $100K in revenue. “We were not doing any sort of cart abandonment emails before HubSpot,” Greg says. “Now, our JustBats.com Abandoned Cart email campaign has recovered nearly 300 customers and is responsible for 37% of our automated email revenue within 6 months. At the risk of a cliché, we hit a Grand Slam.”
Pro Athlete’s huge success has the team primed to double down on its efforts in 2017. The company has adopted HubSpot sales and CRM tools to encompass the full HubSpot Growth Stack, giving the team of all-stars the complete lineup of professional tools and skills it needs to dominate for years to come.