Spring Training for Your Marketing Plan


It’s that time of year again. Pitchers and catchers reported in mid-February and Spring Training games started this week. One of the great things about sports is that we start over again with each new season. If you won the World Series, or if you came in last place in your division last year, you will start the season with a 0-0 record. Your record from last year only provides experience that you can use to apply to making this season more successful.

There are some great parallels between marketing and the world of sports. Here are some of the ideas you can borrow from the world of Mike Trout, Brice Harper and Buster Posey.

Honest Performance Assessment

In baseball just about every aspect of the game is captured in statistics. It is very easy to compare one player against another and see where they may fall short. Comparing a leadoff batter’s on base percentage versus other leadoffs is an objective tool for evaluating this one aspect of the player’s performance. Perhaps the player can work on strike zone discipline in Spring Training and see if he can improve his walk rate?

One tactic to use in business is to ask “Can we do this better?”. Benchmarking against folks in other industries that you think handle a task better than you can provide some insights on how you can improve.

Your Opponents Are Getting Better

In baseball, each team compiles statistics on every player, both on their squad, and their competitors. Each team has a spray chart which indicates where each batter is likely to hit a ball based on the game situation. In 2014 only a few teams used severe shifts on defense based on the hitter’s spray chart. Now, every team has customized spray charts that adjust the defense on each pitch.
In marketing, the people that follow your marketing more closely than anyone else are you competitors. They see what you are doing, decide if it is a good idea and copy it if they can. As in baseball, marketers must continue to evolve each year by trying out new ideas, reacting to competitors strategies and refining.

No One Notices the Work on the Back Fields

Getting better at any skill involves working on drills that focus on making each skill feel natural. Many times it is said that you drill not until you get it right, but until you can’t get it wrong. This drill work is often done on the back fields at spring training far away from the stadium and fans. This drill work is what makes fielding ground balls look effortless during a game.

Developing a marketing plan based on data that is timely and accurate is critical to making your marketing plan work. Working on data quality issues is certainly not as exciting as web/email/direct mail creative but is just as critical to the success of your plan. Standardization, NCOA, preference, data enhancement are the critical skills that you need to develop in the “back office”.

Try to Win Each Game

The baseball season last 6 months with 162 games. You can’t play every game as if your whole season depends on it. You prepare the best you can for each game and make decisions each day that put you in the best position to win that day.

Similarly, in marketing you can’t win every customer. But what you can do is make the best decisions for each customer that put you in the best position to satisfy their needs. If you pay attention to how consumers react you can adjust your strategy to meet the next customer’s needs.