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The Marathon of Marketing

The Marathon of Marketing

Last Sunday I completed the New York City Marathon after following a 16-week training program.  Like the other 50,000+ plus runners, we entered the race months ago, we followed a strict training plan, set goals for ourselves and stayed committed to the very end.  After the soreness in my legs faded and I could actually walk up the stairs to get to work, I thought about the parallels between running – and training for – a marathon and marketing strategy.  Here are a few thoughts:

Sign up. Get in the game. Get off the couch. 

I entered my name into the NYC marathon lottery in January 2016, along with tens of thousands of others all vying for a spot in the November 2016 marathon.  Though it was easy to enter on my laptop from the comfort of my couch, getting chosen then ultimately training for and running the marathon  was quite another story.

In marketing, you need to get your business out there. Cut through the noise of competitors.  Build your website, develop a social media presence, create advertising campaigns. The important thing is to build awareness and fulfill a customer need.  Just like runners who toed the starting line, you need to plan your beginning and get in the game.

Set goals. Monitor the goals as you go and shift if necessary.

Leading up to a marathon, runners set goals for themselves, whether it be to simply finish the race and go home with a medal or to beat a personal best. Seldom does a runner have a perfect race or does a marathon fall on a perfect weather day, so it’s important to be flexible with your goals and reevaluate as you go. The start of the NYC marathon this year was windy, so it was important to adjust my race strategy. Instead of running at a specific goal pace, I ran by effort, even if it slowed me down a few seconds per mile. Once the wind died down it was back to my goal pace.

The same holds true with your marketing strategy. You need to have a goal when developing programs, but just as important, you need to be agile and realign your goals if conditions change. As we’ve seen in the past, the market could crash, the economy takes a turn for the worst, a new competitor enters your market or a hurricane devastates a region. The only way to succeed is to be ready to adapt to change and refocus your efforts swiftly.

Be committed. Success takes training and research.

Marathon training takes weeks and months of preparation. The only way you’re going to succeed in a marathon is by making a commitment, even if it means lots of early morning runs in the Las Vegas heat and saying goodbye to late nights out.  Without proper training, you’ll pay for it on race day. 

In order for your marketing strategy to succeed, you need to make a solid commitment. Without the dedicated resources to build and execute your strategy, your efforts will fail.   You must develop a method to track and benchmark your programs, carefully monitor your campaign response analysis or continually adjust keywords on your website. Success in marketing takes preparation, commitment and a will to succeed.  

It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

This sounds cliché, but to a runner it’s true.  With 26.2 miles to cover in a few hours, you need to learn to be patient. Start slow and work your way up to your goal pace. If you start too fast, you have plenty of time to slow down and make up for it during the race, and vice versa.  While running, you need to keep a long-term mentality and you’re not sprinting mile to mile (unless you’re a professional runner, of course). You’re in it for all 26 miles.

To achieve successful long term growth in your marketing, there’s no quick fix – no short cuts.  You need to put the time and effort into building a website, a media plan or developing direct marketing strategy to reach the targeted audience. You must define and understand your competitors and your audience through research. Research results can be shaped into a plan, decisions made and priorities executed.  Just like training for a 26.2 mile race, you’re in it for the long haul… one step at a time.

The moral of the story?

Marathons are grueling and marketing isn’t all that easy either.  If you’re prepared, do your research and be flexible, there’s no stopping you! 

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