In most sports, there are great analogies to marketing strategy. Successful teams go into games with a solid strategy and game plan. They don't just show up expecting the results they've mapped out on the white board prior to the game. Instead, they've considered their competition, studied how they can overcome them and devised a way to reach their ultimate goal.

Proactive marketers are always on the offense - perhaps even the 'attack'. They're constantly running their game plan methodically to consistently cross the goal line. They're in control and they're getting results. Companies that take this approach with their marketing will achieve success.

Consider the alternative. Suppose you choose to be reactive. Without a game plan, you're going to realize mediocre results. And, your sales team is going to be winded and on their heels worn down from battling the aggressive competition. Rarely are companies in this mode able to attain their goals and often they become frustrated at their inability to 'move the ball'.

Before running out on the field (or the marketplace), consider your game plan and how you're going to implement a goal-reaching drive. When you take such an approach, your marketing and sales team will be efficient and consistently successful.

It's amazing how much we put up with in this world that simply isn't worthwhile. Take advertising for instance. How many times have you been offended by advertisers making wild assumptions about your preferences? Do they really know you? And what about bombarding you with unwelcome messages over and over again? When you've had enough, it seems a sign like this may be appropriate:

Wouldn't it be nice if marketers took the time to know their potential buyers before making broad generalizations or assumptions about you? And think about the effect this would have on their marketing execution. Creative is great and cleverness has its place, but making a strong connection to a buyer is key. Demonstrating that your product or services will easily solve a problem or efficiently address an issue is the objective of your marketing.

Don't play games and don't fall into the trap of pestering your market. If you do, you'll quickly find that you're not welcome!

Instead, be tactful and strategic. Pinpoint where you need to distribute your messaging and promotions. And, do it in such a manner that it is well received - consistently hitting the mark. You'll soon find that such an approach will prove to work well and help grow your business.

Last year, Bruster's Real Ice Cream and Nathan's Famous teamed up to offer consumers the best of good ole homemade ice cream and world famous hot dogs - at one stop. These two mega brands have joined forces to combine complementing eats that are sure to please. Rather than run out for a nice, fresh ice cream cone, why not dine on a Nathan's hot dog AND then grab a cone. What a deal. From a business perspective, this helps drive day time business for Bruster's and continues to build brand equity for Nathan's Famous.

Bruster's stores now carry signage for the unmistakable Nathan's Famous brand. The combination of Bruster's red/black with Nathan's green/yellow takes a little bit to get used to, but certainly grabs your visual attention. Regardless, the teaming has been well done and does not come across as an afterthought or 'slap it up there' idea.
So far, it appears this co-branding initiative is working. Bringing together two of America's favorite foods has got to be a winner. And the folks at both companies recognize that. Too often co-branding is done, 'half-baked' (had to use that), with mediocre results. When it makes sense, it works. We'll definitely keep an eye on our Bruster's and Nathan's buddies. Let's just hope there isn't an ice cream eating contest added to our July 4th flair in the future!

Believe it or not, but I've actually seen companies refer to marketing as a game, race or contest of some type. Having spent 20 years dedicated to this profession, this is insulting not so much to me, but to businesses out there. Let's be very clear about this: marketing is a continuous process. It is not a game, there is no finish line, and no winner is declared. Any kind of thinking along those lines suggests that marketing actually ends. If that's the case, then you can kiss any sales increases goodbye, say so long to revenue growth...you get the picture.

The idea is that properly planned and strategically executed marketing activity will influence your sales and business development efforts and ultimately help you achieve revenue goals. BUT, that's not where it ends - otherwise, pull down the blinds, shut your doors, and hit the showers. As a continuous process, marketing will keep your sales engine running well with the right amount of fuel. You never want that well to dry up.

Always consider the criticality of your marketing strategy, plan, execution, implementation and measurement. Keep that engine running and your marketing roadmap clear of obstacles and dead-ends. Doing so will put you on the path to business growth...not the end of the line. And, when you have a moment, check out MarketingSherpa's wisdom report.

Gatorade has a couple of interesting 'League of Clutch' commercials that have been airing for several weeks. In particular, the one featuring Kevin Garnett (aka KG) caught my attention and that of my client, Chip Felkel of The Felkel Group. While discussing his business, brand promise and unique attributes, this commercial came to mind. The key point is that you have two choices: be history or make history. That's pretty powerful and bold. But, when you think about it, this makes sense. I liken it to being a sideline observer or jumping in the game to make a difference in the outcome. That's what happens in the marketing arena - spectators achieve no results beyond the satisfaction of watching while those that are engaged with the market, customers, etc. are reaping the benefits of their efforts. But remember, marketing isn't a game - it's an on-going effort that continues to pay-off for your business.

As Gatorade suggests, you can be history or make history. Which one is for you?

Malcolm Gladwell became an even better known author after his book "Blink" soared on the business book best seller's chart. Following up with "The Tipping Point", Gladwell seemed to hit pay dirt.

In the latter work, there really isn't any big revelation, but he certainly makes strong, compelling reasons why it only takes a small 'thing' to finally tip something (an idea, fad, product, etc) into popularity. In some cases, this may be due to a circle of influential people who are always willing to spread (dare I say, be 'viral') the word about a new idea, service, product, experience - you name it. However, it is also true that these circles cross all social lines. Yes, there will always be the one's out there who are information junkies and feel the need to pelt their social networks with their formulated opinions. And, in a lot of cases, this activity indeed tips the scales. But, the same holds true with circles and circles of people at all kind of levels. In other words, no exclusivity.

Recently, Duncan Watts - professor of sociology at Columbia University - threw in his two cents worth about the role of influencers as they relate to that unique 'tipping point'. In an article published by Fast Company, Watts challenges the Gladwell assessment. It's an interesting read that makes a few good points, but not one that persuades this marketing mind.

Consider how buying decisions are made and what influences the purchasing process. Wherever you fit within our social spectrum, it is highly likely that somebody, somewhere, some how influenced your decision. Were these people only the 'wealthy'? Doubtful. Only the 'jetsetters'? Probably not.

Decisions are influenced by the opinions we receive from those we trust - whether a friend, colleague, neighbor, a business - whatever. That's how it works. So, a respectful 'tip of the hat' to both Gladwell and Watts who both make good points (although our loyalty resides with Gladwell).

For years, I observed with great internal humor co-workers attempting to be more than they really were. In a Fortune 100 corporate environment, that's not too surprising as everyone seems to be vying for position and using every political maneuver known to man to make their special mark. What humored me was to watch well-educated, talented and skilled people take on the persona of something they were not.

As in many big corporations, executive management level personnel like to wear the standard issue navy blazer when it comes time for client meetings, internal departmental meetings, special events, etc. This became increasingly popular when the casual attire rules became wide spread and ties were no longer required. We've all seen them. Executive VP's would drop in from corporate headquarters adorned in their special navy blazer to check on the worker bees.

Why? Well, you have to set yourself apart somehow to demonstrate your authority over others. I guess a title and hefty salary aren't enough.

The sad truth to this is that those who thought they were executives did the same thing - wearing the navy jacket to meetings. It seemed that if you had anyone that worked under you, then you must put on the special coat. Not everyone played this game - including myself.

Part of this story works - setting yourself apart in business from competitors is a must. You certainly want to distinguish your services, solutions, products, people, etc. from all the rest.

However, it is the other half of the story that can bite you on the backside. If in your attempts to be singled out or distinguished means looking like everyone else or doing what others are already doing, you haven't accomplished anything.

That's what happened with the navy jacket scenario - the wanna-be's wore them too which degraded the purpose of the coat. I even had a colleague who was new to the company, asked me about the jacket situation, then decided to wear one himself to a group meeting - as a joke. Turns out that none of our executive management members wore theirs! Purpose defeated.

And that's the point - have purpose to your efforts to stand out. Create value distinctives that are unique to your business. Develop a company snapshot that no one else can claim. Plan to succeed with a strategic roadmap that specifies where you need to focus your marketing efforts. Be creative, noticeable and attractive to your intended market. Leave the navy jacket at home.

It's been said that 'strategy is everything'. There are certainly good arguments to support that statement especially those that pertain to your business.

Most people wouldn't dream of taking a road trip without a map. But many businesses feel they can 'fly by the seat of their pants' and do just fine. No plan, no map, no strategy and no real direction. Where does that usually take you? In most cases, the land of frustration which is full of shattered dreams, missed opportunities and plenty of headaches.

Your remedy? A well defined plan. If you are expecting great results from your business efforts, you have to put a plan in place to indicate where you are going to go. Because your marketing is the primary driver behind your sales efforts, you must put a strategic roadmap in place that defines where you want to go, why you should go there, what opportunities there are, what you can expect to achieve, how you will conquer and who you will win.

Your strategic marketing roadmap becomes the guide that answers the logical who, what, where, when, how and why questions. It includes a schedule, time line, resources required and budget needed to meet that revenue bogey that you established.

Knowing which pathways to take and include within your roadmap are key. And, knowing which 'vehicles' to use is equally important. You'll also want to be certain that your tactics are prioritized and are in logical sequence.

Capture results and measure the effectiveness of your plan. Simply having a plan doesn't guarantee anything. It is how you put your roadmap together, execute and manage it that will determine its effectiveness.

Go out there and enjoy your revenue-seeking travels...and be sure you know where you're headed!



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