I always enjoy the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. My memories date back to 1977 when Marquette (from my hometown of Milwaukee, Wisc.) won the dance card and took home the trophy. After that victory me and a buddy ran outside hooting and hollering and played some hoops and pretended to be the players we had just witness win it all. What pure fun.
The NCAA does offer some great insights to marketers as well. Here are seven takeaways you can apply to your marketing:
1.) The small can dominate the big. If you have a small ad shop, a challenger brand or are a start-up, the NCAA tourney should give you renewed hope that you can compete -- and win -- even against larger competitors who will likely outspend you.
2.) It takes a great team and awesome leader (coach) to be at your best and push one another. The best individually deep team rarely wins the games; it's the best coached unit that excels as a team that wins more often than not. A great coach only helps.
3.) A bit of luck helps, so if you get lucky, take advantage of the opportunity you have. Very few had Connecticut and Kentucky in the final. If you get a bid into the tournament, take full advantage of the opportunity and make the very best of it. Sounds like wise business advice to me.
4.) Think like you can win it all. Play like you have been there before, or at least prepare better than your opponent. The best prepared teams, in the NCAA and in business, usually prevail. Hard work and opportunity really can intersect to create a winner.
5.) Perfecting the basics can take you very far. Look at the Wisconsin team that made the final four. They got there by doing the small things correct and made less mistakes than most of their opponents. The same can be said in marketing.
6.) Enjoy the ride and have fun. Yes, great sports at all levels takes hard work. So does business. But have fun, enjoy the victories and discover how to improve from your losses and mistakes, and, with enough opportunities, you will win it all one day -- likely sooner than later.
7.) Have a deep bench. In sports, as in business, the role players can make the difference between wins and losses. Not everyone can be the star. Groom talent from within and hold them to high expectations when it's their turn to compete.
Of course, there are many more lessons we can gleam from the NCAA that apply to business, marketing and life itself. The bottom line is knowing your strengths, weaknesses and talent, and then preparing with more detail so that when you need to adjust, and we all need to change course more often than we think, we can do so with the confidence that it will lead us to victory.