Early summer is one of my favourite times of year. Not just because of the long evenings and the hope of some good weather, but also because it’s the best time for those of us living in UK to enjoy top quality tennis, particularly at Queens and Wimbledon. Other sports are, of course, available, but tennis is my personal love. It got me thinking that there are a lot of similarities between winning at sport and achieving success with your marketing. That’s why, by bringing across their knowledge and experience of winning, successful sports people can do well at marketing.
When you watch great sportspeople, they make it looks easy, just like great marketing. In truth, there’s always a lot of effort which goes in to making it appear this way.
So, what lessons from sport can we bring into our marketing approach?
Equip yourself to win
You need to do the groundwork to set yourself up to compete – know your competition, what they’re good at, where they have weaknesses. No top sportsperson steps on a court, pitch or track without having comprehensive information about who they’re up against.
Understand your own strengths and weaknesses and be honest with yourself about these. Once you’ve acknowledged your weaknesses, you can work on them to make yourself better, while at the same time continuing to develop your strengths and to add new elements to your game.
Get a great team around you – people with complementary skills and knowledge and who are a good fit with your personality and ethos. Remember that your team is much larger that those who are actively involved in playing. The back-office people who help get you match fit and ready to compete are a critical part of helping you deliver the goods.
Get your team working together. Understand what each person is best at or the particular job that they’re in the team to do. This brings mutual respect and clear responsibility for making decisions on different areas.
Ensure you have the right tools for the job – such as the right shoes for grass courts, the latest in racket technology, the best diet to power your efforts. There are usually lots of options out there, so take time to find the ones which work best for you. Not everyone benefits from or finds a comfortable fit with the same things. In your marketing, think about aspects like Customer Relationship Management Systems, Social Media channels and scheduling tools, Email management packages and so on.
Bring in expert or specialist help if you need it. Sometimes an external perspective will help you see more clearly, or you may want input on a specific aspect which only someone with the right experience can bring. Lots of top tennis players bring in previous Grand Slam tournament winners to help them get even better at winning the big games.
It’s a basic, but make sure you know all the rules and regulations which you have to compete under – you don’t want to be penalised or disadvantaged simply through a lack of knowledge about what is and isn’t legal, particularly when things change. What happened to Maria Sharapova is an example of what that can cost you. She and her team missed the fact that a drug she had been taking legally for many years moved onto the banned substance list, which resulted in her being banned from the sport for 15 months.
Develop your strategy
You need a strategy to win. Are you going in hard and fast like the hare or taking a more tortoise like approach? Which element of the competitions’ delivery are you going to focus on? What do you do if a key element of your game isn’t working well? It is possible to succeed without a strategy, but you’re much more reliant on your competition failing rather than achieving through your own efforts.
Use all the information you have available to develop your winning strategy – play to your strengths and exploit the weaknesses of your competition.
Be prepared to respond to change as things may not be as you anticipated when you get into the game. Your strategy will provide the framework to guide your response. Whatever you decide at the outset, it’s vital that you’re prepared to adapt your initial strategy to meet what you find.
Be willing to take calculated risks. Winners almost always need to do something a bit special to get on the podium. You can’t rely on having good fortune, you need to make your own luck.
Put energy into all your efforts. Having great technique can beat energetic running around… but put them together and you have a winning position.
Stay at the top
Recognise that you’re now a target, as well as someone to be looked up to. How you’ve achieved success will be studied by your competitors. They’ll aim to learn from the way you have got where you are. They may adopt a similar approach or adapt the best bits for their approach. Be under no illusions, they’ll be coming for you as you’re the one to beat.
Keep up with developments and trends so you’re not left behind. That means continually monitoring what is happening and being alert to new developments which might help you. What worked well last year may not be good enough next time around.
Agile footwork is almost always one of the most important aspects in staying ahead. If moving slightly will put you in a better position, then be prepared to do that. Being in the right place will make it easier for you. It will help your accuracy and make your shots/communications more effective.
Having supporters who cheer for you can make the difference. It’s like having an extra man on the team if you can get them on your side and talking positively about you. And if they think you’re getting something wrong, they’ll tell you, often very vocally. They may not be right, but it’s definitely worth listening to what they have to say and considering whether you need to make changes.
Don’t become complacent. We’ve all seen them, people who enter the game with all the gear but no idea, and we may have had a slight chuckle to ourselves. Remember that everyone has to start somewhere, and those people will learn and grow and if you’re not careful could overtake you in the future. You need to make sure you’re constantly updating your information, keeping ahead of the competition and continuing to strive for success.
The top players, teams and brands make it look effortless and easy. That’s not because it is easy and not always because they are the best, but because they’ve done their homework, developed a strategy to win and never rest on their laurels.
If you think this way in your marketing, you won’t necessarily win, but you’ll certainly be the best you can be and ensure you give the competition a real run for their money.
Images of one of the best, Rafael Nadal, who I was lucky to see practicing for his semi final appearance at Wimbledon 2018