In Marketing, Like Golf, You Need to Use Each Club for Its Purpose

90% of Fortune 500 CEOs play golf. But I don’t.  It’s not that I don’t know how to play golf, I actually do. I am just not willing to dedicate the required time to become good at it.  Regardless of my personal preferences for the sport, with so many CEOs fond of the game, it seems that this game is a good place to tee off this article.

Research suggests that nearly nine in 10 organizations “expect their CEO to lead the organization on a strategic growth trajectory.” Perhaps you are among this group who holds these expectations. Maybe you are among those to whom this expectation is applied. If you fall into the latter group, likely you also expect to be able to lead from a solid foundation.

Many CEOs expect their Marketing leaders to drive revenue growth, own the customer experience, dig in to data-based insights, operate in real-time, and master metrics that matter. To live up to expectations and improve business performance, Marketers need to channel PGA Championship winner, Jimmy Walker, and be proficient with all the marketing “clubs in our bag.”

What It Means to Be Proficient

Proficiency suggests skillful expertise. It means being thoroughly competent, not merely capable. However, reaching this state of mastery doesn’t happen overnight and it depends on a variety of factors. One factor is how fast you can come up the learning curve.

The length of your learning curve plays a key role in determining how fast you’ll become successful when you embark on the task of acquiring a new skill. With the surge in data, proliferation of channels, and customers taking more control of the buying process, your Marketers are faced with the monumental task of learning new skills a regular basis.  It was only a short time ago that Marketers were learning about digital marketing.  Now it is a fundamental skill – a standard club in the bag.  Likewise, the focus on customer insights and performance management is forcing your marketers to come up the learning curve on data, analytics, and metrics as these too are becoming standard clubs in the bag.

To shorten the length of their learning curve, there are three techniques successful people use:

  • First and foremost, successful people seek out a coach. Coaches provide honest feedback, help you measure your progress, and bring proven techniques and processes to learning.
  • Secondly, experts have shown that learning takes a lot of practice over a long period. In fact, German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus concluded from his studies that learning is more effective when it is spread out over time rather than jammed into one intense session.
  • Third of all, those who thrive hold themselves accountable. As part of being accountable, they work to establish objectives, set deadlines, and define measurable milestones.

 What Clubs Your Marketers Need in their Bag?

On several levels, golf provides a wonderful metaphor for marketers.  Each course is unique and has a slope and course rating (degree of difficulty) that offers a variety of challenges from teeing off to putting in.  Even if you play the same course, the play is seldom the same because holes are deliberately and regularly changed on each green; the weather is also beyond your control. Just as in golf, in marketing, every customer journey and market is unique.  Similarly, the customer journey is subject to change and there are aspects of each journey that are beyond your power.

Golf, like Marketing, is a game of efficacy. It is also a game of efficiency.  Each golfer has the same opportunity at the start of each game with the key objective to reach each “hole” in as few strokes as possible.  Naturally, how deft you are with your clubs on the green will make all the difference. Golfers use different clubs depending on their skills, the course, the conditions (amount of wind, type of grass), distance to hit (driving versus putting), and type of ball strike.  This is what Jimmy meant by being proficient with all the clubs in the bag. Being able to skillfully and expertly select and use each club in the bag at the right time for the right purpose is what makes a winner.

If you’re only competing in leisurely games of Putt-Putt golf, then by all means, stick to your putter and hone your putting skills.  However, if you want Marketers to move beyond this type of play, they must be able to skillfully and expertly select and use each of the 12 clubs in their bag: 3 woods, 8 irons and 1 putter.

Using the IDC’s report Worldwide Marketing and Intelligence Taxonomy, 2016: Guidelines for Resource Allocation and Organization, there are 12 clubs that should be standard issue for every high-performance Marketing team.

  1. Advertising
  2. Analyst and Public Relations
  3. Business, Competitive, Customer, and Market Insights and Intelligence
  4. Campaign Definition and Management
  5. Content, Digital, Direct, Event, Influencer, and Social Marketing
  6. Creative Services and Brand Identity & Governance
  7. Field Marketing and Sales Enablement
  8. Loyalty and Advocacy Marketing
  9. Marketing Operations and Technology
  10. Partner Marketing
  11. Performance Management
  12. Product and Solution Marketing

As the CEO, you need your marketers to be able to adeptly apply each club based on whether you are driving for new customers or aiming to grow business with existing customers. To utilize each club effectively during a match, however, takes practice. It takes time and the right resources to become proficient in using all the Marketing clubs. To give your Marketers their best chance at avoiding mulligans, check out the Learning Center  for resources that will help your Marketing team bring their skills up the learning curve faster.