It's over, but not forgotten for the Dallas Mavericks.

The most exciting team in professional sports closed its season May 29 in the Western Conference finals during a spirited series with the San Antonio Spurs. While the Mavs came *this close* to the NBA finals, the better story is how Mark Cuban bought a clunker of an NBA team in 2000 and overhauled it into the best, operationally and marketing-wise.

The unrelenting grassroots marketing efforts of Cuban and his back-office team signaled to loyal and new fans that it's OK to be a basketball evangelist again. It's marketing how-to for the record books.

To understand the reasons why is to first X-ray the mind of Mark Cuban; he's a rebel with a cause. He wants to win, certainly, but more importantly, he wants fans to have fun.

That makes Cuban different from other sports team owners. He wants to overthrow the egalitarianism of the NBA, introduce new levels of marketing sophistication to the sport and bring fans closer to a game that has been declining in popularity since 1997.

Secondly, Cuban says his biggest competition isn't other teams. It's entertainment: movies, restaurants, shopping.

Compete against a foe bigger than seven-foot-giant Spur Tim Duncan, such as Hollywood, and suddenly entire strategies change. Cuban's strategy works. The results so far:

  • During the 1990s, attendance was barely half of capacity. In 2002-03, the team sold out every game.
  • Under Cuban, the team's revenues have doubled, to $100 million this season.
  • Forbes says the team's franchise value has skyrocketed from $167 million in 1999 to $304 million in 2002.
  • Merchandise revenues have come out of the basement and now reside in the top 10 of all NBA teams.
  • A survey conducted by ESPN of 64,000 fans across all professional sports leagues ranked the Mavs number one in fan relations.

There are four lessons Mark Cuban and the Dallas Mavericks can teach business owners and marketing professionals about turnarounds and how to create customer evangelists who propel your organization's success:

  1. Connect with customers every day
  2. Focus on the customer “experience”
  3. Create a cause bigger than a championship trophy
  4. Build a responsive and flexible marketing team

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Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba are the authors of Creating Customer Evangelists: How Loyal Customers Become a Volunteer Sales Force.