What Running 30 Km Taught Me About the 6 Keys to Marketing Success in 2016

What Marathons Can Teach You About Marketing

Last weekend, I ran 30 km on the trails with zero practice. No training, no stretching and no couch-to-5k to build up to the big 30-km day. Can you believe it?

I hope the answer is no, because going from zero to a 30-kilometer run is pretty much impossible and definitely something no one should attempt to do (you’ll definitely need to call in sick the next day).

We all know you can’t go from zero to hero in one shot, so why do we fail to take that advice when it comes to digital marketing?

As a digital marketer who’s worked with mom and pop small businesses to multimillion dollar corporations and everything in between, I’ve been a little amazed to learn that some marketers (and CEOs) think it’s realistic to shoot for zero-to-hero with very little planning involved.


As 2015 comes to a close, I challenge all marketers to make 2016 their best year yet – and that involves planning for success the same way you’d train to win a marathon.


1. Evaluate Your Equipment

Before I head out for a run, I need to have the right equipment, especially in this
-20 C country we live in. For me, this is usually making sure I have gloves, a jacket, my Blu-Toque Beanie and that my running shoes are not too worn out from my last run.

Your marketing strategy for 2016 should be no different. Before you even think about trying new things, investing in new technology or promoting your product on new channels, first evaluate your existing equipment – here are a few questions to get you started:

  • Which programs were our most successful this year? Which ones brought in the highest quality and quantity leads?
  • Which expenditures helped us move the needle the most and which ones had little impact on our lead generation?
  • Did we experiment with anything new this year (like marketing automation)? If so, did we track it properly and can we see clear results?
  • Did we properly document all our processes, from the way we process new leads from digital marketing efforts versus from third-party promotions?


2. Get Dressed (for Success)

There was this one awkward run where I left the house without getting fully dressed… just kidding. Although, I may give it a try this holiday season like these Santa Speedo runners – it does look cool (literally).


Although it’s pretty hard to forget to get dressed for a run, it’s very easy to forget to make sure that your marketing processes are dressed for success in the New Year. How?

I’m talking about having a clear process and action plan in place so that all your efforts across multiple channels are coordinated and running cohesively (kind of like how Netflix remembers where you left on, when you switch from your desktop computer, laptop to smartphone).


3. Map Your Run

I usually don’t leave the house and just start running – I have a plan and direction in place (at the very least, so my wife knows where to find me in case I’ve collapsed from exhaustion or lost in the woods). You need to map out your marketing strategy similarly.

Now you’re probably thinking well, of course I have a marketing strategy mapped out – to which my question is – but is it ready for 2016?

In 2015, I saw businesses understand the importance of a content strategy – content marketing isn’t just a buzzword anymore, it’s a vital part of our work and the work we do for our clients who want to reach their ideal demographics. This will only become more important in 2016, as more and more consumers say they want brands to give them relevant content that helps them solve their problems.


4. Ready, Set, Run

Once I’ve got the right equipment and I know where I’m going, it’s time to run. So what does this mean for marketers? It’s time to take that marketing strategy and execute on it:

  • Which programs are you going to run in 2016? Which ones will deliver the best results for your spend?
  • What do you need internally to get this done? It could be devoting more of your budget to hiring another marketing mind, or developing a more cohesive process so Sales knows how to hand off their leads to you and so you can run upsell programs to them


5. Re-charge & Re-align

After I run, I’m usually out of commission for a bit while I recover. Once I do though, I analyze my performance – how far did I run? At what pace? Was I more tired than usual or less?

I do the same as a digital marketer. After we run any program, I analyze a few key metrics:

  • Lead generation (quality vs. quantity; cost per lead acquired, etc.)
  • Engagement (how engaged are these leads? What actions are they performing or not performing?)
  • Marketing to sales funnel (how many are we passing off to Sales? Does Sales know what to do with them? How smooth is the process from prospect to happy customer?)

Analysis isn’t an after-thought when I run and it shouldn’t be an after-thought when you execute on marketing programs, either (no, it’s not something you just do when you have time at the end of the week).

6. Shopping Time

Finally, the last thing I do is evaluate what I need to make my run more successful next time – what am I missing that I could add to my mix and see better results?

For marketers, I’ve noticed this often falls into three categories:

  • Reaching more of the right demographic. Is your brand awareness improving but you’re not actually reaching the ideal demographic you want to reach? You may benefit from working with influencers who will promote your brand as a trusted company to their networks
  • Failing to take advantage of new channels (and falling behind). There was awhile where I absolutely didn’t see the benefit of spending $1.99 on a new fitness app that everyone was using – but once I did, it changed the way I ran and gave me better insights. You need to consider if you’re failing to take advantages of channels that will give you a more direct connection to your consumer – channels your ideal consumers are already using like Periscope for example.
  • Standing out from the competition. Is there something you can do to stand out more from the competition? That might be having an influential spokesperson promote your brand or getting an award that is recognized by families and signals that your product is tried, trusted and true


Over to You

I hope the New Year brings more planning, strategizing and analyzing (so we can know what all those long days and nights of sweat and tears actually achieved).

Which of these six steps are you focusing on for 2016?