The Results Are In: Going For the Gold

We all knew it was coming, but I didn’t want to face it.  Ready or not, the 2016 Rio Olympics have come to a close.  For a sports fan such as myself—and my husband would tell you that is an understatement—I am feeling a distinct sense of loss, unless we’re talking about sleep where I have suddenly found the two additional hours a night that mysteriously went missing two weeks ago.

Looking back over these last two weeks, there are so many points of inspiration, lessons, and parallels that I could possibly give you a blog a day for the NEXT two weeks…and I just might.  But for now, I want to reflect on the “sideline” interviews, you know, the ones where the athletes, fresh out of their competition, can hardly get enough breath to string three words together.

The reporters there on the sidelines all have the same goal—in the few precious moments, as the athletes are leaving the arenas, they need to find the story angle that will get them a compelling quote.  And as the Olympics kicked off at the pool, Michele Tafoya was on a roll, from getting Katie Ledecky to laughingly admit that she almost threw up in the middle of the race, all the way to the “I’m not a fan” quote from finger wagging Lilly King.  But it was another of her interviews that really made me sit up and take notice. 

Nathan Adrian was coming out of a qualifying heat, and while he was successful, he didn’t dominate the swim.  Tafoya asked him how he felt about it, and he said he felt pretty good, but he knew others were going to come off the block faster so he’d have to come on stronger off the turn.  Tafoya then reminded him of what his coach had said he needed to do during the race to succeed, and Adrian flashed a dimpled, knowing grin.  Then she asked him if he thought he had done it.  Still smiling, he said, “Well, I’ve just finished it so I need go see the film and I can answer that in about 15 minutes.” 

From that point on, I paid very close attention, noticing the same story over and over again, sport after sport, country after country.  And it is a story we all need to take to heart. What was it?  It was the story of the road to success.  Let’s look at the components of that story that, regardless of who was being interviewed, never changed:


  1. Ongoing Training & Coaches.  Forget the fact that these Olympians have supernatural, innate, astounding talent. Not one of these athletes woke up and said, “I’ll think I’ll be an Olympian today.”  The minutes, sometimes seconds, we see on this global stage are the culmination of years of grueling work that we will only glimpse if that athlete is deemed compelling enough to get a 3 minute spotlight.  But that’s not all; don’t miss the coaches. These are the elite of the elite, and every single one of these athletes has a coach.  These athletes are dedicated to learning how to improve. They lean on their coaches for their experience, insight, and expertise, and then they put what they learn into practice.
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  2. Constant Metrics and Measurement.  From digitized movement trackers to hundredths of a second finish times, these athletes track and measure their every movement and stat to know their own strengths and weaknesses to determine what they need to work on. There is no shame in the weaknesses, because every one identified represents one more step toward success.  It is just research on the front end to determine what they need to do and then again on the back end to determine how they did.  
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  3. Conduct Competitive Research.  They know the other athletes they are facing. They are pouring over competitor “game film,” they are analyzing how they move, what their strengths and weaknesses are, how they handle pressure, etc.  They study the competition to know what they have to do to win.
  4. Have a Plan.  Based on all the above, they go into every competition with a plan.  Sometimes they execute it to great success, and sometimes they don’t, but they never go in without a plan.
  5. Do it Again, Just Do It Better. Guess what, just when you think you are done, it starts all over. It is a never-ending, virtuous cycle of reviewing, measuring, learning, researching, adjusting, planning, and executing all over again.
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Why did this strike me so strongly?  Because I’ve been deeply embedded in analyzing the data from our annual Energy and Utility B2B Marketing Benchmark Study.  The report, out today, not only looks at this year’s results, but also goes back to the past three years to draw out meaningful trends in our industry marketing.  And I recognized our marketers in these athletes’ stories.

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Let’s face it, we are all striving to win.  Our jobs are to propel our companies to the highest level of performance, often on a global scale. But even if we aren’t trying to reach outside of geographic borders, the aim is the same.  Success.

So looking at the story these elite athletes laid out for us, how are we doing?

52percent 52% provide budget for ongoing training and marketing education for their staff.
32percent 32% have an executive in the C-Suite.
21percent 21% say that market research is not recognized as important in their companies.
33percent 33% say that while it is recognized as important, research is not well funded.
29percent 29% say they do not measure marketing effectiveness overall.
42percent 42% measure using only one metric.
87percent 87% believe they have good competitive intelligence and it is therefore not a barrier to their success.
57percent 57% indicated that they do have a documented marketing strategy.
27percent Another 27% say they have a strategy, just not documented.

Admittedly, we are not Olympic level yet, and some might argue that we’re a bit closer to the junior regionals.  But download the report and dig into the data and you will see that energy B2B marketers are making moves in the right direction.

Without a doubt, the challenge can be daunting, but make a plan to start somewhere and build from there. Remember, in the 2004 Athens Olympics, Usain Bolt failed to advance in the 200M event.  Did he just pack it in and go home?  Did he come back doing exactly what he did before hoping the results would change?  No.  In 2005, he changed coaches, made necessary adjustments, and the rest, as they say, is history. 

We all have to start somewhere, and by making small changes that have big impact, today can be the day your history is made.

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