On most weekends, you can usually find me on the golf course. I love the game and have been playing for more than 10 years. One of the benefits of a four-hour round is that you can do a lot of thinking. Recently, I started thinking about the similarities between golf and marketing.
As both the CEO of a digital marketing agency and an avid golfer, I felt it only natural to share my thoughts and conclusions. Take a look at the 10 ways golf is like marketing.
1. Understand the Fundamentals
Before you step onto the course, you must know the fundamentals of golf. Keep your knees bent and your head down; never take your eye off the ball; and keep your feet shoulder-length apart.
Sometimes these fundamentals take years to master, but to create successful marketing strategies, you must at least have a grasp of the fundamentals, such as key performance indicators, personas, the buyer’s journey, etc.
2. Own the Right Tools
Each golfer has his own bag of unique tools. Some tools are universal—a divot repair, for instance. But some golfers use laser range finders, ball retrievers, pull carts, or coolers. I myself have a special watch that tracks my distance and analyzes what club could improve shots for the next round.
Likewise, marketers need the tools that make sense for their business. How robust your analytics tools are depends on what you’re hoping to measure and learn. Not every tool is right for every marketer, but the tools you choose should align to your business objectives.
3. Realize the Impact of Your Clubs
Every club in a golfer’s bag gives him an advantage depending on where the ball lies at that time. A 3 iron gives him power to strike the ball far, but a 9 iron often provides more precision at a shorter distance.
A marketer, too, must know how each tactic he implements impacts the overall goals of the strategy. Pulse campaigns can drive many new leads, but nurture programs are designed to qualify and shorten the sales cycle.
4. Know the Course
Just as a golfer must understand the complexities and nuances of a golf course—type of grass, the softness of the greens, density of trees, etc.—a marketer must completely understand the market landscape before launching a new campaign.
Moreover, marketers must look out for outside influencers of the market. Like a forceful gale, a shift in the marketplace could affect where your messaging lands. Always keep an eye out for volatile weather.
5. Aim for a Clear Target
Every shot you take should have a clear target. On dogleg holes, you might not see the green from the tee box, so you select a temporary target.
In marketing, we call these milestones. What are your goals for this week, this month, this quarter, this year? Don’t overcommit yourself to large goals without understanding how you’re going to get there step by step.
6. Know the Competition
In golf, you have two main competitors. The person you play with and yourself. The same goes for marketing. You should always know your competitive landscape, but it’s just as important to measure against yourself. Set benchmarks of where you are currently so that you know the impact of where you’re going.
7. Let the Club Do Its Job
Often, inexperienced golfers get in trouble by over-swinging. They believe the amount of force they put into their swing is proportional to the distance of the shot. Any experienced golfer will tell you this just isn’t true. In fact, it’s not about the force, but about the precision. If you connect the center of the club head with the ball, the club will do the rest.
Sometimes I see marketers and even salespeople rush to the hard sale. They shove the “Buy Now” button down a user’s throat, turning everyone off. Oftentimes, the softer, more personalized touch does the trick.
8. Keep the Game Social
Golf, above all, is a social game. I love the sport for a number of reasons, but by far my favorite aspect of the game is that you play with your friends. You have conversations on the course you can’t have anywhere else. You meet people you’d never meet anywhere else, and you cross paths with people from all different backgrounds.
Marketing, I argue, is also a social game. You work with people across all departments: design, UX, development, account management, analytics, etc. Marketing cannot take place in a vacuum. Collaboration is key to any successful strategy.
9. Finish Strong
Golf is not about the first shot, but about the final putt. Sometimes I tee off and shank my shot into trees. For a moment, I think all is lost. But as I reevaluate my lie, I realize there’s still hope. With a little effort and a nice short game, I can get my ball back onto the green.
In marketing, you don’t always hit every KPI 100% of the time (try as you might). But you measure, you learn, and you iterate. You get better as you go, and you slowly but surely start closing the gap on your shortcomings.
10. Stay Patient and Persevere
Professional golfer Gardner Dickinson once quipped, “They say golf is like life, but don't believe them. It's more difficult than that.” Golf can be one of the most frustrating, stubborn, and difficult sports to play, let alone master. However, you continue to play because you love the twists and turns a round can take you. You love the camaraderie. You love the smell of fresh grass. You love the sun on your back. And you absolutely love those incredible moments golf so often doles out to those who persevere.
Marketing is not easy and requires dedication, ingenuity, and hard work. But when you keep at it, you get to celebrate those moments when all your efforts pay off and you exceed your goals.