As Vancouver 2010 draws to a close, here are seven lessons for marketers to consider:
The value of practice. Olympic athletes train all their lives for a moment in the spotlight. They practice daily, drilling the basics of execution. In contrast, many in marketing expect to win instantly, sometimes never even repeating a campaign, let alone practicing it.
The importance of the game. Regardless of adversities, disappointments, or less-than-favorable conditions, the game goes on. Sports performance is not a given: favorites fail, miracles happen, unusual circumstances change outcomes. Yet, in marketing, performance is expected and many times the marketer is experimenting rather than executing a plan.
The advantage of focus. Rather than competing in every sport, athletes specialize. The more narrow the focus, the greater the chance of success. Many marketers feel they can do everything, thus hampering themselves with experimentation, and a lack of consistency and planning.
The lesson of competition. Consider Evan Lysacek of Team USA who won gold in men’s skating. Russia’s Yevgeny Plushenko sputtered, moaned and displayed every sign of a sore loser. Lysacek continued to take the high ground, saying favorable things about his competitor even when goaded to do otherwise by news commentators. As a marketer, how do you react to the competition?
How competitive pressures change performance. Some competitors do well under pressure. Snowboarder Shaun White bested his own performance to win gold in the men’s halfpipe finals just because. Men’s aeriel skier, Jeret Speedy Peterson performed the difficult hurricane trick to even though it did not earn him a higher score. Dozens of other performers in similar situations had disappointing results.
How crowd favoritism affects perfection. Curling or Nordic skiing doesn’t generate the excitement or public awareness as hockey or figure skating. Yet, these sports have a place as part of the Olympic whole. Similarly, the behind-the-scenes efforts of a customer follow-up plan may not draw raucous approval in the boardroom, while a series of Tweets could do that. The moral? Judge your marketing on its true worth, not its general popularity.
The advantage of support. Look at any event and see the coach, the parent, the spouse, the supporters behind the athlete. In the Olympics, as in marketing, your success is determined by those who surround you. From coaches with the wisdom of their own wins to family who believe in you, support makes a significant contribution to success. To market your business effectively, find your support.
What “Olympic moment” will you put into your marketing?
Robert’s business grew quickly, passing the million dollar mark with ease. Two partners, three senior staffers and five additional employees produced volumes of work. Revenues increased. The firm survived fifteen good and not-so-expansive years. Then, things changed.
Contracts slowed or stalled. Jobs fell off. The application pile of good job candidates increased and so did the pressure inside the company.
“Money’s tight these days,” Robert said. He introduced weekly meetings to discuss ways to close more deals.
“Nobody does what we do,” he emphasized and brought in a sales consultant. The staff got quotas.
Robert fought down a panic attacks: “What if nothing changes?” he wondered.
I sat down with Robert (not his real name) to discuss a marketing plan. We began with a SWOT analysis.
- What is the firm known for?
- What do repeat customers cite as their reason for doing business here?
- How has innovation played a role in the firm’s success to date?
- Are there known vulnerabilities?
- What kind of deadlines, time constraints and money pressures are facing the firm?
- How has the firm been impacted with market changes?
- Where in the industry is the least competition at this time?
- Could joint ventures present monetary advantages?
- What projects earn the highest rates or highest margins?
- Will market demand change in the near future?
- What unconsidered obstacles might emerge to impede progress?
- Is sustainable financial backing available for the foreseeable future?
Once again Tiger Woods claimed the mainstream media spotlight. Widespread coverage of his press conference to apologize emphasized the importance we give to “bad boy” sports figures and their mistakes.
The key, of course, is the game. As a country, we seem ever-willing to forgive athletes: NFL quarterback Michael Vick, who pleaded guilty to dogfighting, is now yesterday’s news and he continues to play. NBA star Kobe Bryant, once front page theater is no longer of main-stream interest and he continues to play.Bode Miller, known for bad behavior and excessive arrogance at previous Olympics is now relished for his ever-present humility and, of course, his ability to win. Chris Del Bosco, the American/Canadian Ski Cross competitor has turned his life around and deserves a chance to be recognized for sobriety. He, too, wins and in so doing commands our respect.
- Does my brand benefit from the score, the wins, this athlete brings to the game?
- Do those numbers outweigh the potential pitfalls of losing?
- What values (think morals) are important to me and to my brand?
- Can this star incorporate those values so my business is better because of its association?
- Is there a match in brands between my company and this athlete?
- How will my business fare if something goes wrong?
- What protection do I have for my product if this athlete makes a mistake? (i.e., a morals clause in the contract)
Author Steve McKee quoted Robinson in his book, “When Growth Stalls: How It Happens, Why You’re Stuck, and What to Do About It.” The book contains dozens of quotes and anecdotes from people who’ve been there, woven together from the perspective of a CEO confronting his own company’s stall.
Don’t be misled by McKee’s frank discussions about the big five problems: market tectronics, lack of consensus, loss of focus, loss of nerve, and marketing inconsistency. This isn’t just the story of an advertising agency derailed. When Growth Stalls offers research reflecting what happens when product- and service-oriented businesses confront real-life obstacles.
The second half of the book, McKee’s “What to do About it,” continues his meld of common sense advice, research-supported, real-life examples.
I find myself recommending When Growth Stalls with enthusiasm. What makes this business book likeable is the juxtaposition of cliché, commentary, questions and definition. Here are just a few of my favorites:
“Not my fault. Is my problem.” …McKee’s internal advice for dealing with trouble.
“The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.”
On branding: Whatever good branding births, poor execution can kill. You can’t starve your brand. (The short-term gain of cutting the marketing budget is more than offset by the long-term problems it creates.)
- Effective marketing communications are 60% about likability: helping the buyer to like what you offer as well as who you are.
- The marketing equation: I choose X. I choose X is simply the way the world of buying and selling works.”
Definition: Fragflation – “As media grow more expensive and less efficient, it’s more difficult every day to seed any kind of identity in the marketplace.”
Question: Are you more opportunistic than strategic in your marketing?
Disclosure: I read “When Growth Stalls” because Steve McKee agreed to speak to MARKETLINK, a series I facilitate for WESST. I recommend When Growth Stalls because it’s relevant for entrepreneurs in an ambiguous environment.
JD planned during his corporate years. Once he began his consulting practice however, he was too busy to plan. Rushing from project to project, he juggled deadlines and appointments. Frequently, “marketing” appointments for his business went by the wayside in order to make more time for “cash customers.”
“Is there a better way?” nagged at him from time to time, but it was hard to argue with success. Sales seemed fine.
He continued to work on strategic themes for customers: website focus, messaging consistency, increased visibility.
And when it came to his business, the planning continued to wait. He struggled to find the time to do anything but work.
Had JD recognized the power of planning and commitment, he might have enjoyed aggressive growth sooner.
When he finally got around to planning , JD simplified his day-to-day tasks, thus adding time to his schedule.
For every 15 minutes spent in planning, you can reap 90 minutes of production time according to Brian Tracy in his book Time Power. Fifteen minutes a day may not sound like much if this is your framework: “What can I accomplish in just a quarter of an hour?”
Fifteen minutes a day totals 5,475 minutes or 91.25 hours in one year.
In real world terms, you might think of it as adding one day per quarter to your calendar. Now that kind of time found makes planning worthwhile.