Manage a team at the world cup like a digital marketer.
The world cup has come to a close and the challenges football coaches face during tournaments have been obvious as in the Brazil - Germany game where Brazil lost 7 - 1. Both Scolari’s serious misjudgements and Loew’s triumphs are in many ways similar to what digital marketers are battling with on the drawing table, or the “plan”.
Let’s imagine you end up a football coach at the world cup for a day, what’s the first thing you would do? Personally I would pull out my digital marketing framework and get to work.
What’s the situation?
The first thing you’d probably want to do is to find out about the situation by doing an inventory of resources, abilities, strengths and weaknesses not only of your team, but also of your opponent and the rest of the qualifying group. Even weather conditions and referee would go into defining what type of game will be most appropriate to serve our goal. In digital marketing we do this through SWOT, customer / product / market insight, competitor and trend analysis etc.
Define Objectives for the game
Just as we have KPI’s in digital marketing, so has football. Without KPI’s it’s difficult to not only assess game-performance, but also to constructively adjust the game at half-time. The objective to win, tie or even lose are broken down into ball possession, corner kicks, shots on target and of course goals. In marketing we find Impressions, click through rates, leads, conversions etc., as part of customer decision journeys. Without defining these, managing a team as well as a digital strategy becomes not only difficult but also a frustrating.
A cunning strategy
Once you’ve decided on objectives and KPI’s that measure these (i.e., tie the game) a strategy needs to be formulated to achieve this objective. Playing a counterattacking, defensive vs. offensive game are all examples of strategies that attempt to utilize strengths of your team while at the same time exploiting weaknesses of your opponent.
“Strategy is the making of an integrated set of choices that collectively position the firm in its industry so as to create sustainable advantage relative to competition and deliver superior financial returns.” (Roger Martin, Rotman School of Management)
A well executed digital strategy is similarly made up of a “integrated set of choices” (or tactics) that all utilize an understanding of the target-audience to achieve its end. Likewise, the football coach utilize an understanding of his/hers opponents to create a sustainable advantage relative to its competition.
Tactics are all about what needs to be in place for implementing the strategy. Should we play a 5-4-1 or 4-4-2 formation to play a defensive strategy? How many strikers and midfielders? Who will exactly play where and at what position for how long? Will this change during the game? A set of tactics are what most people find the most daunting in digital marketing as communication-channels have virtually exploded. To be at the right place, at the right time with the right message to “score” might seem daunting, however, just like selecting the starting eleven in football, tactics will always be a bit of a gamble. However, all tactics don’t need to perform well all the time as British coach Sir Alex Ferguson once said:
“A winning team does not, in fact, require everyone to play well all the time — or even any of the time. Sir Alex Ferguson struck a deep truth when he said that in football you only need eight players to perform well to win.”
Eight, not eleven, which to some is still an understatement. What is most important in football however (as in any communication strategy) is a couple of core players (or tactics) that perform well and do the majority of the work, carrying the rest of the campaign.
“X will flank the opponent and cross the ball in midfield to Y and Z to head it in”.
Once tactics are defined it comes to defining exactly who does what, when and where for the game. A plan of action needs to be in place to implement a strategy broken down into tactics. In football, players have assigned roles and responsibilities, however get a lot of continuous feedback / instructions from the sidelines during the game, and is therefore naturally more “agile” than digital marketing where you define what content goes where for how long by whom, a more “waterfall” or “plan-deploy-watch” process. However, as we see more “live oreo blackout tweet” type of marketing emerge in social media where content adapt to unexpected circumstances, the role of the digital marketer becomes increasingly like that of the football coach.
Quality content for a campaign is what a quality football player is for a game. It not only implements a strategy and tactics, but also needs to be versatile enough to adapt to changing conditions on the market. Good ideas transcend volatility in taste and technology, as much as a talented football-player is able to play many types of setups, opponents, weather and under varying pressure.
Measure and Improve
No plan is perfect but needs constant measurement and improvement. Checking in on KPI’s and analytics at halftime will show if a strategy is performing as expected or not. Actionable data is what allows for adjusting either strategy, tactics, or execution in attempts to improve chances of reaching set objectives.
Even if digital strategy might seem daunting, we see that it’s nothing but a fairly common sense plan even found in football (or any other areas in life where we set up and achieve goals). A plan fairly straightforward to execute, however takes time to master.
Nicolas Makelberge [Strategic Planner]