The excitement is building for March Madness 2013! Often regarded as one of the year’s best examples of pure athleticism and competition, the annual NCAA basketball tournament, is full of drama, hard work, strategy and goals. Similar to marketing, the stakes are high. Teams are working their tails off to win, and there’s tons of mental and physical preparation that goes on before and during games. Inspired by March Madness, here is some education on seven marketing best practices to achieve champion level marketing.
Fundamentals are the keys to any team’s success. For basketball players, you won’t make it to the big games unless you’ve perfected the absolute basics like physical conditioning, dribbling, layups, etc. The same idea applies for marketing. Make sure you and your team have a phenomenal understanding of essential marketing concepts. When creating a campaign, always start with a solid foundation — know who your audience is, keep your messaging consistent with your brand, be simple and concise, and know the end goal of every campaign. When creating any marketing collateral like landing pages, emails, articles, graphics, white papers, case studies, and anything else, start with the basics.
It doesn’t matter how talented your roster is; if you don’t have a strategy, you’re just not going to win. It takes a coordinated effort with teammates moving in sync. Marketing works along the same principles. Projects done on a one-off basis with no regards to big picture goals or team coordination may produce short-term results at best, but it’s a long-term recipe for disaster. Instead, strong communication, analysis, and foresight are the only way to succeed — both on the hardwood and in the office. Take the time to plan each campaign and discuss what needs to get done, what role everyone needs to play, how campaigns will be done effectively, and what data will measure the success of the campaign.
A coach’s strategy goes far beyond just looking at their team and what they have to work with. The ability to defend and counterpunch is critical in any sports, but particularly so for a high-stakes 64-team tournament like March Madness. Scouting the competition is absolutely critical, and this holds true in marketing as well. You might learn something from the competition and adapt it into your own strategy, or you may simply just discover the best way to outmaneuver them. Be sure to know who your competition is, what their value statements are, what your differentiators are, where are they allocating majority of their resources, etc. In any case, it always pays to be prepared — in sports and in business.
Players come with their own strengths and weaknesses, and so do the members of your marketing staff. A good coach (or boss) understands this and pushes people towards their strengths while working to improve weaknesses. Many teams have to work quick and lean, so it’s important to also know what your team members preferences are. If they are doing something they enjoy, the passion and dedication will be reflected in the end result. Tackle projects as a team with open communication and give team members roles where they are comfortable or excel in, and this will greatly improve any marketing campaign.
When the Kentucky Wildcats won the 2012 NCAA tournament, fans basked in the glory of the moment — but behind all of the effort to win that final game came hours and hours of practice. Practice isn’t glamorous but it’s absolutely necessary to succeed. We all know that effective marketing comes from continuously optimizing everything that you do. Look at past campaigns and mimic the areas that have generated success. Do testing with emails, landing pages, PPC, SEO, social media, etc. All marketing efforts should be evaluated regularly to find areas that could use improvement. It takes time and patience to get campaigns to run just right, and they’ll always need tweaking, but it’s important to run tests and watch analytics to improve results.
Smart pivoting allows basketball players to maneuver and adapt, even when the defense is closing in. In marketing, campaigns and strategies may need to be flexible as well. Whether the competition has an unexpected surprise or a campaign just isn’t working as well as you’d hoped, a smart pivot opens up a variety of possibilities. Don’t let yourself get stuck going the wrong direction. It’s not always easy to stop and change things around, but it’s important to look at where you started, where your end goal is, and if you’ve made any progress or are going in circles.
The roar of the home crowd can be a huge boost to athletes; it gets the adrenaline rushing and provides that little something extra to power past the competition. In the office, you may not have thousands of fans cheering and chanting, but your biggest fans may be much closer than you think. From customers to your social media followers, there are always opportunities to engage and get people outside of your team talking about your organization. Think about ways you can “gamify” your marketing campaigns. Create fun contests, utilize social media for posts or submissions, provide incentives for participation — it always helps to give away free stuff! Be creative with ways to get your audience engaged and have fun with whatever you do.