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Your 2015 Marketing Strategy, Courtesy of Bill Belichick

While the NFL still tries to wrap its head around the genius Patriots formation that no one has seen before, we wonder if there are valuable lessons for marketers here.

What Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots did on Saturday has been called deceitful by some and smart by others. If you ask Tom Brady, you’ll hear: “Maybe those guys gotta study the rulebook and figure it out.”

The question is: Are there takeaways for today’s leading marketers? Is it time to get more imaginative with your marketing playbook?

With the ushering in of a new year (hello 2015) we all tend to get excited about new budgets – but before you start jumping into those budgets, you might want to step back and consider these simple, yet powerful lessons from New England’s Coach, Bill Belichick, and how they may be relevant to your 2015 Marketing Strategy.

We came across a great article from Forbes that spoke to some specific strategies that Bill Belichick has consistently leveraged throughout his career:

  1. Keep opponents off balance
  2. Save momentum
  3. Remain flexible; and
  4. Experiment relentlessly

Now, what if you looked at your current 2015 marketing strategy with these four points in mind… would things change?

Keep Opponents Off Balance

You worked hard with your team to create a dynamic strategy that allows you to share your value proposition and market your product/service, but is it predictable? Are there any surprise “moves” in your playbook for the year?

If no, maybe this is the moment to step back and look a little deeper at what your competition is doing, where they are doing it and what you might be able to do differently. Find areas where your competition doesn’t exist or are weak. And, then confirm if these are areas where you feel strong. Surprise your customers and your competition with some new tactics in 2015.

Whether you excel at content creation, understanding new social channels, creating dynamic visuals, customer service… whatever it is, own it. It might just be the year to stop spending valuable time competing head to head with your competition and it just might be the year to embrace a whole new world of ideas.

Save Momentum

It’s a new year and we all get excited and energized  by new initiatives. Then, as the year progresses, our enthusiasm tends to fade, but we must remember that it’s a marathon not a sprint. Being prepared for the whole year is important. Often, when we think about and focus on the long-term, we are more open to innovation. Sometimes in the short term, we run into “shiny object” syndrome. Before jumping into the latest “It” marketing idea, think about how it supports your larger strategy.

At the same time, keep your team energized beyond Q1. Incentivize and reward them to think creatively.

Remain Flexible

You’ve created an awesome 2015 marketing strategy, but it’s not working right out of the gate. Do you stay the course? Do you consider adjustments? Your strategy may be questioned and your team needs to be ready to manage those questions and concerns. Being open to change can be key to your marketing success. Many successful businesses know the value in taking a flexible approach to managing marketing strategies.

Look at Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon. I remember reading an article where Bezos said “If you’re not flexible, you’ll pound your head against the wall and you won’t see a different solution to a problem you’re trying to solve.”

It’s early and we don’t want you banging your head against the wall. Be open to the idea of ongoing evaluation and adjusting as needed. This may mean strategy adjustments, team adjustments, or small tactical adjustments. Just remember the big picture.

The key is to get out of your comfort zone, to not get trapped into doing something simply because that’s how it’s been done in the past.

Experiment Relentlessly

2015 is bound to have plenty of surprises for marketers. So, it is even more important to be open to ideas and to learn new lessons.

Experimenting is key! Being open to new ideas, alternate tactics and novel innovations is important to every marketer. We continuously face new tools, techniques and offerings and need to consider how we factor those into our marketing plans. One important question to ask yourself: Is your team/culture set up to encourage ideas and experimentation?  If you agree with us that experimenting is key, then you need to consider how you create that kind of culture.

The great thing about marketing today is the ability to test ideas with minimal expense (for the most part). Thanks to the overwhelming amount of data and ease of access to data, we can learn quickly from our experiments. The idea “fail fast, fail cheap and fail often” isn’t new, but 2015 might be the right year to give it another try. Look at Belichick and the game this past weekend, his experiment paid off. They may not all pay off, but that’s when you move on. This idea isn’t about lack of commitment to your strategy or marketing goals, but rather it’s about continuous quality improvement. So, in 2015 we vote for conducting tiny experiments – and be ready to move on, if needed. Or, simply enjoy the success.

Take an example from us. Recently we were engaged by a technology company to help increase sales. They heavily drove the strategy to push email blasts focused on immediate sales, rather than creating and sharing content and developing a true content-based inbound strategy as we recommended. With their price point and market demographics, this just wasn’t a realistic expectation. After some weeks of undesirable results (failure), they began to listen to our message: “create a content strategy that sticks”, and the leads started pouring in. Failure forced them to consider an alternative strategy that  worked for them. 

Failure often teaches us the most valuable lessons. So, embrace the unknown and accept that you may not know exactly what will work until you try it. Smart testing and an agile mindset will help you refine your strategy as needed.

Make your 2015 Marketing Strategy ROCK!

We hope to see 2015 as the year that marketers find the best approaches to delighting customers. Make a commitment in 2015 to expand on your customer-centric approach to marketing by taking a taking a lesson from one of the most successful coaches in football history. Remember to keep the competition guessing, think long-term yet be agile enough to take chances.

We welcome your thoughts and feedback. Did any of these ideas make you rethink your 2015 marketing strategy?

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