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Avoid Letting Marketing Outkick the Coverage
by Laura Patterson, President, VisionEdge Marketing

 
       
   

It’s August and here in Texas that means the return of football.  If you’ve ever seen the movie Friday Night Lights, you know that football is nearly a religion in Texas.  Die hard football fans count the seconds until the season begins.  Like football, business is also a team sport. Players must work together to execute well-orchestrated plays in order to succeed. We’re all aware that weak players create vulnerabilities that can be exploited by the opposing team.  Football metaphors abound in business, and one often forgotten involves outkicking your coverage, which is an example of when an overly strong player can actually be harmful to a team’s performance.  Before we talk about how this applies to business in general and marketing in particular, we should probably explain to those less familiar with football what the term means. The phrase comes from when an exceptional punter kicks the ball so far down the field that the runner for the receiving team aided by his blockers, actually has has a greater chance of gaining precious yardage for the big play.

How does “outkicking your coverage” apply to business and marketing?  A team is a system and therefore all organizations are systems. A system is comprised of interdependent and interacting elements that function together to form a whole. Systems serve a purpose and are usually made up of subsystems.  Marketing and sales are part of the business system and each is a subsystem.  Keeping the system in balance is critical to optimizing performance.  Over-performing elements can just as easily knock a system out of balance as an underperforming one.  Maintaining balance between all the moving parts is a real skill (which is why coaches and CEOs earn the big bucks).  Externally this might translate into maintaining balance between your company and your customers. Internally, this translates into making sure your marketing team doesn’t get too far ahead of the rest of the organization.   

Here are some examples of when marketing “outkicks the coverage”:

  • When a product or service is announced before the organization is prepared to support the orders for the new products.
     
  • When the marketing organization deploys programs that produce too many qualified leads for the sales team  to process.

  • When marketing and sales over promise features and benefits product development may not be able to deliver.

When these situations occur, real opportunities may whither and die and good customers and suppliers may defect.  We can borrow solutions to these scenarios from football as well.  Remember, the goal is to make sure that everyone arrives to the ball at the same time.  This takes exceptional communication and synchronization.  The kicker and the ten players on the field need to work together, otherwise the players will be moving blindly down the field. In football some ways to achieve this goal is to increase the hang time, this is the time the ball is in the air, in order to allow the rest of the team to get into position.  Other techniques involve the kick clearly communicating where the ball is intended to land, such as on the right side of the field, so that everyone will know to move right. 

In business we can apply some of these same ideas.  For example prior to launching a new product or service, create a special “launch” team to include representatives from sales, customer service, IT, product development, marketing and media/public relations so everyone knows the intended focus of the launch.  Work to make sure everyone is in ready to support the launch and has adequate time to prepare.  It should clear to everyone on the team where the marketing organization is aiming, a new market segment or a specific customer persona so everyone can be moving in the same direction. 

It is up to the coach to make sure there is adequate lane and depth coverage.  As the CEO you need to make sure your organization is synced up and that the organization is ready and enabled to address the opportunities generated by your marketing.  Football teams practice and practice.  They run plays and work different scenarios. For business this means having well-defined processes in place; processes to manage product and service launches, processes to evaluate and prioritize leads and processes to align internal and external expectations.  For example, your company may need a lead scoring process to help decide which opportunities can be closed now versus those that may need further nurturing.  Without a well-defined process to score leads, your sales team may take a “let’s-see-what-falls-out-of-the tree” approach.  This approach wastes time and can result in poor choices that translate into lost revenue.  And finally, does your organization have a process to ensure clear communication and expectations between marketing, sales and product development?  Believe it or not, many companies do not.  At the end of the day, the right-hand and the left-hand need to be in sync otherwise the imbalance will result in loss opportunities.

       
   
 
       
   

The Author

Laura Patterson

Marketing Metrics in Action

Laura Patterson is president and co-founder of VisionEdge Marketing, Inc, a leading data-driven metrics-based strategic and product marketing firm located in Austin, Texas. Her passion and experience for connecting marketing to business results enables the company to specialize in consulting and learning services that help organizations improve and measure marketing performance. For more information, go to www.visionedgemarketing.com.  Laura’s newest book, Marketing Metrics In Action:  Creating a Performance-Driven Marketing Organization, has just been published by Racom Communications.

VisionEdge Marketing enables organizations to leverage data and analytics to facilitate marketing accountability and operations, measure and improve marketing performance, develop dashboards, and enhance marketing and sales alignment in order to accelerate revenue  and create a competitive advantage. For more information, go to www.visionedgemarketing.com.

 
       
   
 
       
   
Many more articles in VisionEdge Marketing and Marketing Insight in The CEO Refresher Archives
 
       
   
 
       
   
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Copyright 2009 by Laura Patterson. All rights reserved.

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