Monday, December 24, 2018

Marketing - Learning to skate before you play Ice Hockey

 My University, Northeastern, below, wins 'the Beanpot.'  

2018, 'The Beanpot' is a favorite tradition in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, where I lived for ten years and went to college. It's an Ice Hockey Tournament between Boston University, Boston College, Northeastern University (my college) and Harvard.




Jack, my ten-year-old son, is learning to play Ice Hockey. Of course, first He's had to learn how to skate. No point teaching him how to use his hockey stick to hit a puck into the goal, when he can barely stay on his feet on the ice.

So every week We go down to the Ice rink in Bayswater, London, and he gets to skate for two or three hours. Last week, we bought him some Ice Hockey skates and had them sharpened.

- Initially, he was actually a lot more unsteady on his feet, as he adjusted to the new Ice Skates.
I see this effect when we initially bring digital transformation to Marketing or start to use more sophisticated CRM.

However, within a few hours, Jack was actually skating faster. I timed him, and he was about a quarter more quickly around the rink with the new skates.

Next month he starts his Ice Hockey classes. 8am on a Sunday morning. That'll be the big test.

My son, Jack, at his first Hockey class

Our coach, wearing the Boston College shirt, is from Boston, where Jack was born.




A lot of companies can't skate at all, but they want to be Wayne Gretzky (a famous Ice Hockey player, who won a lot of championships) within, let's say, six months.

- and often, when they're not skating like a superstar after six months, they change their trainer

As a Marketing leader, you could tell your leadership team that We will achieve some notable victories, but 'first we need to learn to skate around the rink without falling on our behinds'.

Of course, that doesn't sound very good. So a lot of Marketers, sort of skate around the issue and say 'Sure, we can do that. But we do need to do x, y, z first' and just hope that this expectation will go away.

But the truth is that marketing is hard. Digital Marketing is even harder. It takes a lot of time, testing, experimentation. It's not something that works with constant micromanaging.

It doesn't work overnight.

You see gradual, incremental improvement over time, with a lot of work.

You will also see better and faster improvements when the entire company is entirely behind the marketing efforts.

-but frequently that does not happen.

I know it's a pain in the ass to hear this - particularly in this high expectation, low concentration world we live in, but when it comes to effective marketing.

- The adage is not 'Seize the day.'

- It's 'Rome wasn't built in a day.'

Marketing automation and analytics are the same. So why do a lot of startups expect this sudden, dramatic change in six months?

Impatience? Frustration? Lack of thought? These are all possibilities for their desperation. But I believe their problems stem mainly from not understanding how Digital Marketing works.

The standard rules of business often simply don't apply to startups.  Just like the world of Ice Hockey, the world of startups is crazy and chaotic. Sometimes fights break out in the middle of the action. Sometimes the action just carries on regardless. It's actually amazing how similar the two worlds are!

Marketers in the start-up industry need to start being more honest and say 'sure we can achieve some fantastic results. But it'll take a lot of time, commitment, effort and yes, some money too. Plus we can't guarantee that you'll win the Beanpot this year.

'I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat' (Winston Churchill)  is a robust but effective message.

- But it's also a hard message to hear.

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