This past year I have tried my hand at CrossFit. A friend recently opened a "box" (the term this tribe uses for gyms), so I decided to give it a go. After trying it for several months, I'm happy to say I have seen great results and have enjoyed it - a lot more than I expected to. My time at CrossFit has shown me how much the principles taught there are applicable in the marketing realm as well. So in the spirit of the new year which is right around the corner, (along with resolutions), here are 10 things that I've learned in CrossFit that transfers into the marketing realm:
1. Consistency pays off. To see results as a part of a gym membership, you have to actually go. The same with marketing - you can't just have a marketing team, and budget, and a marketing plan. You actually have to execute it. If you do, and have a consistent advertising presence in the marketplace, you will see results. It's science (well, at least business science). You hear a lot of people complain about the cost of CrossFit. At nearly $200/month, it ain't cheap, especially when you are accustomed to the $30/mo gym like I was. But I have found that that investment gets me up 4-5 mornings a week at 6:15 to actually go. The same will be true of your marketing plan. If you invest a good bit into it, you will work to consistently execute it and reap the rewards.
2. Have a plan. When I was a member of the other gym, I used to go a few times a week, but it was very sporadic and not focused. I would decide as I changed into my gym clothes what exercises I would do. But I kept a pretty slow pace with lots of breaks - and usually it resulted in me just wandering around the gym until it was either time to go so I could make it to work on time, or be home in time for dinner. It was ineffective - but I doubt it is that different than most peoples' experience. Because my time was not planned, I did not best use it - thus saw no results, so it was much easier to justify not going the next day. What was the point? In the same way in marketing, if you have no media plan and just test new ideas whilly-nilly without any clearly- defined goals it is hard to quantify success. And it's even harder to get the 'higher-ups' to approve next year's marketing budget if you can't showcase how this year's spend marketing worked. Along those same lines...
3. Have achievable, clearly-defined goals. When I first started at CrossFit I could barely do a pull up unassisted (I was weak - don't hate). There were also several movements I didn't know how to do at all - like the clean, jerk or squat clean -- much less with any substantial weight. But I started small, wrote down some goals and slowly began to chip away at them. As I reached goals, it made me want to go more often to achieve more. The same is true in marketing. Setting SMART goals helps you measure what is working or not working. Then you can spend your marketing dollars in a wise way.
4. Focus on the major muscle groups. Prior to CrossFit my workouts usually focused on smaller muscle groups - because I knew I could do them and the results seem fairly noticeable. These are exercises like curls and crunches - everyone's go-to, right? But one mantra with CF is to lift heavy weights focusing on the major muscle groups. Doing this you quickly realize that in making those larger groups stronger -like your legs and chest -other smaller muscles get stronger as well. This is applicable in marketing, too. Focus on the major goals - selling and promoting your high-margin products - and the smaller goals will be met as well. Go big or go home.
5. Form matters. With CrossFit it's not enough to come in and throw around a lot of weight. You actually have to do the movements correctly to see improvements and strength gains. The coaches there really harp on form so that you not only get stronger but also prevent injury. They often encourage you to go with a lighter weight if your form is suffering. In marketing it is important to execute your plans well, too so your program remains strong. For instance, you don't want to go live with a digital campaign without knowing what your call to action is, or without custom landing pages that match your creative. As they say, if it's worth doing, it's worth doing right.
6. Incorporate variety. When I started CrossFit I had no inclination to do handstand push-ups, or flip monster truck tires around a parking lot. But now I can say I actually enjoy it and am proud of what I'm now capable of. You should try new things in your marketing as well. It may work, and it will surprise you. And even if it doesn't you've tested a new idea and no doubt learned something which makes you a better marketer.
7. Pace yourself. This is probably the hardest thing to learn. When you first start out you are comparing yourself to the athletes around you that have been doing this for a lot longer. Naturally they are faster and can lift more weight than you. Starting small is crucial though so you don't get discouraged or worse hurt and then quit. The same applies in your advertising plan. If you're a start-up, it's probably unrealistic to think you can produce a new TV spot and run a national campaign in your first year. Maybe starting some social channels and executing an effective email campaign is a more realistic place to start. Start with small wins and build from there.*
8. A quality team matters. If you've talked to Crossfitters, you've probably heard them talk about the community of their gym. When you're doing this hard work all together it binds you together. Plus it's built in accountability - you want to get up early because you know a team of 10-15 other folks are there expecting to see you. Another benefit is that the staff sets the workout of the day - you just have to show up (and of course do the work). They have thought through the movements and weights, factoring in what you did yesterday and even last week. I feel that's a large part of what you are paying for - that professional perspective and experience to get stronger. Likewise, it is crucial in marketing to surround yourself with a quality team. Pick good agency partners and ad vendors that will serve you and make your success a priority. Partners that you can trust will infuse your marketing with fresh ideas and keep your mind at ease that your marketing budget is in good hands.
9. Diet matters. We all know it's true, that you can't just work out hard and eat horribly and expect to see significant changes. It's very much a "both/and" scenario with your diet. Your should also take an integrated approach with your marketing. Get other departments involved. Find out from sales (yes, sales!) the common objectives they encounter and design a campaign to combat it. Pick the CFO's brain for ideas about how your most analytical prospects may be making decisions. When you get out of the marketing department with all its buzzwords and hipster glasses you'll be surprised the practical things you can learn!
10. Evaluate - Finally no type of workout plan is effective unless you stop and evaluate your progress. Our gym does strength cycles every other quarter or so where we focus on getting stronger in a few major lifts like the back squat and bench press. A key part of this is writing down your weight and reps for each exercise - then you can track your progress each week. The same is true in advertising. You have to track results to see which programs worked and which did not. How many returned coupons did you get from that FSI program? How many attendees to that webinar resulted in actual sales or projects? Did that digital banner campaign result in a high CTR? If so, what about the post-click data? Did they engage once they landed on the site, or quickly leave? We are data hounds and huge proponents of not taking data at face value, but rather digging into it to glean what you can. Then you can adjust your plans and market in a smarter way.
That's a snapshot of some that I learned this year in CrossFit that made me a better marketer. I hope you found this post helpful and you resolve to be a smarter marketer in 2016. If we can help you do that, certainly let us know!
*I don't think this detracts from my 4th point, "Focus on the major muscle groups." You should still focus on your main business objectives even if you are starting small and pacing yourself.