Creating a winning game plan for your company

Whether it's on the gridiron or in the boardroom, structure and identity are essential


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All organizations need to attract and keep customers, and they need to keep them properly serviced and satisfied. This concept holds for all profit-centred, not-for-profit and government organizations. To achieve this goal, every organization needs a winning game plan.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 02/03/2019 (1264 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

All organizations need to attract and keep customers, and they need to keep them properly serviced and satisfied. This concept holds for all profit-centred, not-for-profit and government organizations. To achieve this goal, every organization needs a winning game plan.

While countless books have been written on sales and marketing, nothing has linked the discipline of developing a game plan for a professional football team to the creation of a marketing plan for an organization.

The combination of my football experience — as a professional player and as a university player and coach — with over 20 years in senior sales and marketing roles and nearly 15 years in management consulting provides a wide and deep range of insights to describe the link between football and marketing success. Knowing what it takes to win in football and what it takes to be successful in business are both built upon understanding fundamentals from the ground up.

Jason Halstead / The Canadian Press files Like grinding for yardage in football, business success often requires planning and consistency.

Football is measured mostly in yards, as one team tries to gain them to score while the opposition tries to stop them. Some football teams can only score on “big plays,” such as a long run or pass. Others “grind out” victories by consistently gaining yardage in small chunks that add up over time to a touchdown. Some teams are so adept at defending that they do not allow the other team to gain enough yards to score points, and some games are decided when one team can stop their competition an inch short of the goal line, thus preserving a victory.

Success in marketing is not always simply the bright new product or concept. Most of these are copied or replicated by others to diminish the first-mover advantage. How, then, can a business grow into the future if it cannot come up with regular breakthroughs? The answer is to comprehensively align every activity designed to attract and keep a customer with every interaction an employee has with a customer or potential customer, to be focused on details that will accrue gains regularly. The cumulative effect of these consistent “inches of marketing growth,” coupled with the occasional “big play,” can build a culture and game plan for ongoing customer growth and marketing success.

The fundamental elements of preparation, competition and review that a football team goes through can be applied to help an organization operate more successfully and increase the ability to adapt to changes in their marketing approach. In particular, the organization can create solutions based on its customer’s needs, balanced against competitor activities in the future. This is how businesses create a winning game plan.

Professional football teams operate in a very structured manner. Successful teams have created an identity and difference among the types of players they have on their roster and the style of play they employ. The ongoing review, re-focus and adjustment of their plays and concepts results in the ability to go forward with a higher probability of success because the entire organization knows what the team’s identity really is. In football, there is an obsession with fundamentals because you must have a strong foundation before trying to add more complex and innovative plays or schemes.

When you combine the on-field product with the internal operations, administration, game-day operations and overall fan experience, successful football organizations are consistently some of the winningest teams in any league. These teams are often the most financially successful because of the diehard fans who have been created.

A business can employ this same overall approach to its operations to develop an identity — what you will stand for and against — and the expectations of your employees to deliver a winning marketing performance, no matter what department, for the benefit of the paying customer. Just as important is the relationship with the internal customer, the co-workers.

Most organizations conduct some level of marketing or business-planning activity each year. Many organizations also craft a strategic plan that looks to the future. And most plans, according to research, fail because of poor execution and the inability to adjust to changing operating assumptions. An organization needs to ask one simple question: “How many times in the past five years have we achieved all the goals in our annual plan?” Without a disciplined approach to building on the fundamentals of knowing your customer better, defining and building on your strengths and creating differentiation, you will not have your employees driving forward with a common winning purpose.

Tim’s bits: A key success factor is the concept of the team. The adage “there is no ‘I’ in team” holds true in sports and business. Each player has their responsibility on each play. And it is the collective efforts that can result in on-field success. In business, each employee has their job to do. When employees do their job and trust teammates to do theirs, this combined and consistent effort from the entire organization leads to long-term success.

Tim Kist, CMC, a certified management consultant by law, works with organizations to improve their overall performance by being be truly customer-focused.


Updated on Saturday, March 2, 2019 8:56 AM CST: Photo added

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