A producer with whom we work reminded me of the “Hail Mary” pass play in football when he said that what he likes about his marketing is the way we “chip away, chip away, chip away, not trying to achieve everything at once.” It’s too bad the NFL season isn’t with us all year. If for no other reason, football is such a great analogy for how you should approach your marketing.
Despite having a reputation as one of the most violent popular sports in America, football has far more to do with calculated strategies than with the jarring collisions that make up highlight reels. Coaches and players prepare for games by watching less-than-exciting hours of game film, looking for all the possible actions an opponent might take, and preparing for them. Plays are drawn up for every possible scenario. And, while teams include the heart-stopping Hail Mary in their preparation, no team wants to be in the position of having to call it. They’d much rather move methodically down the field – chipping away to achieve success.
In marketing, the Hail Mary is a gamble with dire consequences. The same client who told me he likes to methodically chip away also recalled the time he was doing his own marketing and “went for it all.” He referred to it as his personal horror story. This is not to say a person won’t connect once in a while. That’s what luck is.
Your goal in marketing should be to achieve the highest possible average price over time. This doesn’t come by throwing caution to the wind. You get there with prior planning, discipline and consistency. When you’re thoroughly prepared for whatever the market may do, you’re in a better position to recognize profit opportunities and pull the trigger to make a sale when the time is right. It’s a far better approach than hoping to win back your margins on one play.
In the commodity business, prices offered by the market over the years tend to average near the average producer’s breakeven. If you prepare to methodically capture as much opportunity as you possibly can—within a reasonable risk parameter—you’ll do better than average, ensuring your success long-term.
It’s been written that Vince Lombardi, the legendary former coach of the Green Bay Packers, after whom the Super Bowl trophy is named, learned the importance of preparation by studying game film. As I’ve written before, you’re no stranger to preparation when it comes to planting and harvesting a crop. Apply the same focus on planning to your marketing, and you won’t ever feel the need to make a desperation play.
By the way, for the football fanatics interested in a little trivia, former NFL quarterback Roger Staubach coined the Hail Mary pass when he made a desperation throw and completion to win a 1975 NFL playoff game. As the story goes, reporters after the game asked him what he was thinking when he threw the ball up for grabs. “I closed my eyes and said a Hail Mary.” Good thing Mr. Staubach wasn’t a marketer.
Scott Stewart is president and CEO of Stewart-Peterson, a commodity marketing consulting firm based in West Bend, Wis. You may reach Scott at 800-334-9779, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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