What Athletes can Teach us About Marketing…hint: a lot

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By Sue Brady

Archery Head on
What with the Olympics and all, I’ve been thinking about what athletes have to do to succeed in their sport. My son Bryan is vying for a spot on the U.S. Men’s Archery Team for the 2016 Rio Olympics, so the Sochi Olympics captivated my interest all the more. How do you get good enough to perform on a world stage? What does it take?

Passion. Passion is the most important thing, and I heard this over and over again from the Sochi athletes: they love what they do. Loving your work makes it feel like you aren’t working. Not everyone is that fortunate but when you love your work, your passion helps you be your best at what you do. It’s why Bryan is willing to live the life of a pauper while he pursues his dream. He has the passion. And that’s true of any kind of work, not just athletic. I have always done my best work when I’ve loved what I was doing.

Learning. Learning is a continual process. That’s why Olympic athletes have coaches. They learn from them, every day. Bryan is learning from a friend of his, a silver-medal archery Olympian. And he’s learning from his coach, a man who has produced Olympians in the past. And, he reads. He reads a lot. He reads books like With Winning in Mind, and The Inner Game of Tennis as well as current material from sources like Archery Focus Magazine. He wants to learn more about how to keep himself focused.

The same is true in marketing. Since Al Gore invented the Internet <joke>, marketing has changed dramatically. Does direct mail still work? You bet it does. But if you aren’t combining your offline strategy with an online one, you are leaving opportunities on the table. (Read about grabbing some of those pay per click opps here.) I worked at AOL for eight years and saw the business grow from one million to ten million subscribers. I was fortunate enough to work with some of the best marketing minds in the country, if not the world at that time. And I was like a sponge. I learned formative things during those years about taking risks, thinking outside the box (as corny as that sounds), about controlling your testing, watching the competition, and about how to understand your customer. Today I continue to read a lot. I read what Seth Godin has to say, I refer to Ries and Trout and David Ogilvy. And I read about what digital marketers like Joe Pulizzi, Ann Handley, and Mark Schaefer have to say. Why? Because you can’t stop learning. It’s a career killer.

Sponsorships and Endorsements. In the sports world, sponsorships are huge. Monetarily the benefits for athletes are obvious, and for younger, newer athletes on the scene, sponsorships bring credibility. That’s how young athletes finance their training and competitions, if they’re lucky. It’s why Bryan knows he needs to shoot exceptionally well in the earlier tournaments this year. He wants to attract a sponsor as soon as he can so that at least some of his tournament trips will be paid for.  Brands understand the value of sponsorships perhaps as well as athletes. If Bryan wears Lancaster Archery Supply branding or uses their equipment, the up and coming shooters see it at the tournaments. And their parents see it too and want to make sure their sons and daughters are using the same equipment that the exceptional athletes are using. It’s proven to be effective and benefits everyone involved.

Many brands use spokespeople. It’s risky business because a spokesperson can ‘go bad.’ Doubters need just to remember O.J. Simpson and Hertz or Kobe Bryant and McDonalds. You can read about celebrity endorsement fails here. But the upside of celebrity endorsements is what they can do for a brand. It’s a simple concept: If a consumer likes a certain celebrity, and that celebrity likes a certain brand, then perhaps they too should like that brand.  Movies continue to earn revenue from strategic product placements. It’s an implied endorsement when a star is drinking Coca Cola in his latest blockbuster movie.

Word of Mouth. Why is this important in sports? Because of the section above – endorsements. Those ‘talked about’ athletes get the calls. Look at Gabby Douglas, the young, talented gymnast from the London Olympics. She lit up Twitter during the games. Her talent made people notice her, but her personality extended that conversation. Not only did Philip Krupp produce a Lifetime movie about her (view that here) but she is also doing a celebrity cruise competition on Royal Caribbean Cruise line with Tom Daley and Ian Thorpe. It’s big money.

Word of mouth is marketing gold (tweet that!).  And with the Internet, it can be immediate. Remember the old Faberge shampoo commercial where “they’ll tell two friends and they’ll tell two friends and they’ll tell two friends?” Never has that been a faster process than it is now. This concept is what is making advertising on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and the like successful. Brands want their fans to ‘share’ something about their product, be it an ad, a video or a link to a coupon. Why? Because they’ll tell two friends, and they’ll tell two friends and before you know it, they’ve gone viral (if they’re lucky!). According to McKinsey and Company, word of mouth is the primary driver of 20-50% of all purchasing decisions. Here’s another impressive stat: When a website has customer reviews, 63% of purchasers are more likely to make a purchase (iPerceptions, 2011). Tweet that! And those are typically reviews by total strangers!

Word of mouth is what’s making celebrities out of ordinary, not famous people. Frontline has coined the phrase, Generation Like and it refers to the under 25 crowd. They created a documentary that talks about some regular kids who have gotten themselves noticed on Twitter and Youtube and are benefiting from it financially. Why? Because brands know that if they can get someone who has 1 million fans viewing their Youtube videos to ‘endorse’ their product by wearing it, eating it, or making public appearances on their behalf, that person’s fans will see it and think about trying their product. And they’ll tell two friends, and they’ll tell two friends…

Good Sportsmanship. There were a number of examples of this at the Olympics this year. Two of my favorite examples: when the gold medal winner waited almost half an hour to be able to shake the hand of the last place finisher in the cross-country ski event. And when the Canadian coach gave a Russian skier a new ski to replace the one he’d damaged during a cross-country race.

Bryan has told me stories at the archery tournaments where a shooter has a broken piece of equipment and his fellow archers offer theirs as a replacement for use while shooting. These are young men and women who are competing against each other for a few top spots. Less competition makes it easier for them, but that doesn’t make them any less kind.

You might ask what on earth that has to do with marketing. Remember the writers I referenced earlier? They are sharing their secrets for success. They don’t care if their competition reads it. Yes, they want to make a name for themselves or reinforce themselves as thought leaders, but they are happy to share their knowledge in the process.

You can be the best. Remember to be passionate, keep learning, and understand how marketing tactics can help you shoot for the stars (pun intended).

And if you liked this post, please tell two friends, so that they can tell two friends, so that they can tell two friends…

Bryan shoots

How I Added Two Hours Back to my Day

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By Sue Brady (back to marketing topics next week!)

Working from Home

I work in a virtual office environment.  And I’m not the only one either. My whole company at RM Factory, all 25 of us, work from our homes. Our homes just happen to be in several states across the country. We have real jobs at a real marketing agency where we all work 50+ hours a week. We don’t have kids at our feet, do laundry in between conference calls, or coffee clutch with the neighbors every afternoon.  We’re a motivated, hard-working and focused group of folks, and I’d argue that we are more productive than your typical office worker.

Don’t get me wrong. All of us have held jobs where we commuted to an office every day.  So we know what that’s like. Some of us even worked for very large ad agencies on Madison Avenue.

This virtual arrangement has so many benefits, only one of which is increased productivity.  How am I more productive at home, you might ask? Aren’t there too many distractions, like the refrigerator or kids? The answer is no. There are not too many distractions. In fact, a key driver of our productivity is that there are fewer distractions. In addition, there is less stress and less wasted time.

Here’s a typical day for when I used to work outside my home: I’d wake up, have a run, shower, dress and make myself presentable. I would drive an hour to get to my office. Once there, sometimes frazzled from the drive, I’d grab a cup of coffee and start my day. Any number of people would stop by my office in the morning to say hello, ask me a question about work, ask me a question about my kids, ask me if I had plans for lunch…you get the idea. I’d attend many meetings.  At lunchtime I’d walk with everyone else to the cafeteria. Then I’d head back to my office, where inevitably, the parade of employees, coworkers and meetings would continue. And then I’d head back home, in my car for another hour, at the end of the day. I was exhausted by the time I made it back to my family!

My typical day as a remote employee is very different. I still get up, have a run, shower, dress and in general make myself presentable. But from then on, everything changes. I walk down the stairs to my office where I can close my door if needed, put on my fuzzy pink slippers (every new employee receives a pair) and get to work. My only distraction is an occasional visit from my cat. If I had young kids in the home like some of my coworkers do, I’d have to arrange for child care.

edible arrangementWe occasionally do fun things too. We celebrate birthdays, but not in a conference room with cake. Rather, each employee receives an edible gift at their doorstep on their special day. And this year we even had a virtual holiday party. You can read about that here.

I stay connected with the outside world. I still have meetings and calls throughout the day with coworkers, employees and clients over Zoom, Skype or ooVoo, but they are concise meetings that cover the subject matter at hand, without a lot of wasted time. We use instant messaging to communicate as well, so easy questions are answered quickly and efficiently. If I don’t understand a response, a phone call can clear that up. And we use other productivity tools like Google Hangouts and Megameeting  so that we can share our desktops or files as needed. And at the end of the day, I turn off my light and go upstairs and start my evening.

Joe Pulizzi, the Founder of the Content Marketing Institute says: “Our decision NOT to set up a traditional office location was, perhaps, the best decision we’ve made as an organization.” You can read his virtual office story here.  This life is not for everyone. It takes a disciplined, self-starter kind of person to make this type of arrangement work. Here’s another article from the examiner on the subject.

If I really analyzed my time, excluding my commute, I’d guess that I’m two hours more productive at work each day than I used to be.  Two hours! Plus, I have two hours of commute time a day returned to me to use however I’d like.

What would you give to get two hours back every day?

Tune in next Thursday for: “How to setup Your Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook Pages for your Business”