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How thinking like a triathlete can help you achieve marketing success

Phil Lindsay By Phil Lindsay

Which challenge do you find most daunting: managing a successful marketing programme, or competing in a triathlon?

Both endeavours are sure to set pulses racing for most, of course. But luckily, Consider director Phil has become a dab hand at marketing programmes and triathlons over the years.

During the week he’s our Technical Director, doing all the complicated stuff that baffles the rest of us. But come the weekend, he’s swimming, cycling and running with the best of them.

Over the years Phil’s spotted some startling similarities between the two disciplines, and how each can inform the other. We’ve seen Phil put himself through a lot of physical, mental and emotional strife to gain this insight. But as you’ll see, it’s all been worth it. Because today, we can share those secrets with you.

Getting Started: The Swim/The Brief

The swim seems straightforward, but it’s the point where you can best influence how well the rest of the triathlon goes. A focused and disciplined swim gives you the best chance of finishing in the top part of the leader board.

Similarly, putting together a great brief is the key to the right start for your marketing campaign. Make sure it’s focused and confident – with a very definite end-result in mind. An unclear brief puts everyone involved in the project at a disadvantage. So do yours right and make sure everyone understands it properly.

First Transition: Have Everything In Place

You may have trained for months, your body and mind might be in tip-top condition. But if you’re dripping wet, running around in a panic between the swimming and cycling stages – all because you don’t remember where you put your bike – you’ll quickly lose any early advantage and momentum.

No matter how confident you are in your brief or your plan, you’re going to need to rely on other people, organisations, software and more. Make sure everything gels ahead of time.

Has everything that needs a sign-off been accounted for? Does every element work together? Are you prepared to follow-up on responses and enquiries?

Discovering last minute that your printer hasn’t booked in your job, or your main case study hasn’t agreed you can use their story publicly, are just two of the things that can lead to catastrophic failure of a campaign. So check and check again, it will save you a lot of frustration and/or money down the line.

Now We’re Flying Along: The Cycle/Programme Launch

The cycle is where you most need to be aware of what’s going on around you, and your reactions have to be swift. Once you hit the road you need to hold tight and work as hard as you can to stay on top and avoid being overtaken by everyone else.

If you’ve followed the steps so far, your marketing programme will be in great shape at launch time. Once you give the go ahead to your printer or hit ‘Send Campaign’ on your mailer software – there’s no going back.

Make sure responses are dealt with or followed-up properly – especially if you’re working with a cold audience. This is likely the last chance you’ll get to engage with people if they never hear back from you.

Expect the unexpected and be ready to deal with it. Even really successful campaigns can go wrong if you become overwhelmed by the responses coming from all sides.

Lastly, look for opportunities. Fill any gaps that appear and always make sure you’re on top of what’s going on. 

Second Transition: Keep Up That Pace

The switch between the headlong dash of the cycle, and the gruelling commitment of the run, is where triathletes take stock. They refuel, check how they’re doing and focus on what they have to achieve in the final section. This is where they can make up time or keep steady, saving their reserves for the final sprint.

Here’s the point where you make sure all the pieces are still the right place. What’s happened so far? Are all the links in the chain still holding? Is everyone on your team ok? Do you need to adapt any processes? 

All good? Then let’s run that final section.

The Run: Seeing It Through To The End.

This is the part where many people begin to flag. Having come so far, and worked so hard, they lose sight of their objective – particularly if they’ve suffered the odd setback along the way. The run can be really gruelling, and people begin thinking ‘next time I’ll do better’, rather than completing the task as best they can. 

In our modern working world, it’s rare that you’ll be able to focus all your attention on your marketing plan. Other opportunities and demands for your time are guaranteed to come up. 

But to achieve true marketing plan success you have to keep your focus, and there’s a handy trick triathletes use that you can employ here. Rather than working towards a solitary final goal – that metaphorical finish line – set yourself a series of goals along the way. The best triathletes will hunt out trees and signposts in the distance and treat getting to each as a goal in itself.

Find the trees and signposts in your marketing programme to make your workload more exciting and manageable. We reckon thinking this way will help you keep focused – right until project end.

The Finish line: Evaluate, learn and improve 

Successful triathletes are usually the ones who evaluate their performances when the race is over. They note what went well and what didn’t, so that they can improve on their weaknesses and develop their strengths.

Evaluating how your marketing programme performs is essential too. It can be daunting, especially if you have lots of data and you’re disappointed with the initial result. But you risk making the same mistakes over and over again if you don’t sit down and figure out whythings happened the way they did.

If your programme was a huge success, evaluate – find out why so you can repeat it. If it was a bit of a disaster, evaluate – find out why so you can avoid it happening like that again.

Always set time aside after a programme launch to review, analyse & report. What worked? What didn’t? What surprises were there along the way?

Identify the positives, whatever the results. Determining your strengths and identifying those marginal gains keeps you motivated and can provide valuable insight when it comes to working on the bits that you weren’t so happy with.

Ready For Your Next Challenge?

If running marketing programmes are a part of your job, no doubt you’ll have another coming up soon. So try thinking like a triathlete and see the difference it makes.

Keep in mind too, that we’ve got decades worth of collective experience in marketing programmes here at Consider. So if you like the ideas above, but feel you’d like some more hands-on support, give us a call. We’ll be happy to have a chat and let you know what we could do for you.

Phil Lindsay

Phil Lindsay

Co-founder & Managing Partner

Phil is responsible for the overall operational and financial efficiency of Consider. Originally our Technical Director, Phil now looks after our amazing team, keeps a keen eye on our finances, and is helping develop the structure and tools we need to grow. You can read Phil's latest thinking on our blog.