Winning Marketing Plans – What Marketers Can Learn from the World Series


The 2016 MLB World Series was intense, incredible, inspiring, historic…I can go on and on.  And, yes I am a Chicagoan and a lifetime Cubs fan.  The entire World Series and especially Game 7 gave us an opportunity to learn so many things about the game, and individually, as fans.  After basking in the glow of the winning team, I started to think about both the simplicity and complexity of baseball and the uncanny link to marketing plans.  So what did the World Series have in common with marketers and what can this spectacular sporting moment teach marketers in developing and executing marketing plans?   Here are 5 ways…let’s go!

  1. Vision & Communication – Win the Division; Win the NLCS; Win the ALCS, Win the World Series. Each World Series manager communicated this vision before the season started and reinforced it throughout the baseball season and postseason.

Strong marketing leadership clearly states goals aligned with business objectives, setting the criteria for plan development and the communication required for stakeholders in the organization (C-Suite, board, marketing, sales, channel, services, etc.).   Strong marketing plans are inclusive of the business goals and department vision to support the organization, such as: Grow existing customer revenue by XX%; Establish X% market share in new industry segments; Increase brand awareness of refreshed company position; Support and align sales and marketing, and many others. Do your plans and vision have this covered?

  1. Data & Information – The World Series managers (both excellent at what they do) utilized analytics pre/during/post game. For example, they used data to match up team line-ups facing specific pitchers.  Pitchers have data/information to determine the tendencies of the hitters including when they will swing and take specific pitches.  Complete game plans are then set and executed upon.

Marketers sift through market data, employ additional research and invest in technology to help provide insights to buyer/customer behavior, customer/prospect engagement, sales integration, brand preference, etc.  Marketing departments also have to change organizationally to harness the power of this data to make the right investments in campaigns and individual program activities.

  1. Players & People – Team leadership understands player skills and mental strength to successfully compete day in and day out.

Marketing leadership uses this same discipline.  They bring together and trust the talent and expertise to build out a comprehensive marketing plan.  This team has deep understanding of branding and awareness, demand generation and sales enablement.  They use their experience and knowledge to apply tools and processes as the foundation for building out detailed plan activities that are then executed and measured.

  1. Variability & Situations – Going in to the game and having a plan is just the starting point. Sometimes the game goes as planned and sometimes things happen.  An error in the field, or an average player having an incredible game defying past performance and logic can greatly impact a single game (e.g. customer sale) or overall series (e.g. quarterly/annual performance).

Marketers are faced with these same challenges.  The best marketers are not only tracking results of activities, but are looking at the competition’s performance, industry events (e.g. acquisitions, new partnerships, new personnel moves, etc.).  They are also working tightly with sales to determine what is working and what is not.  Last, the marketing organization must be prepared to quickly accommodate and act based on market variability and situational changes.

  1. Creativity & Immediate Action –  Game 7 of the World Series was full of surprises and creative moves.  A starting Cubs pitcher was used as a relief pitcher.  This pitcher hadn’t been put in that position in 9 years.  The best relief pitcher for Cleveland did not perform as expected.  The Cubs pitcher that is supposed to be the most reliable in a particular situation did not perform.  The managers on both teams had to make decisions on the fly.  Did they use data? Yes. Did they have to be creative in the use of the players now that the game situation changed?

The best marketers recognize that using data to make good decisions will only work to a point.  Winning decisions can require making immediate changes.  These changes are at both the plan and activity level.  Finally, impactful changes must be inclusive of real-time market visibility, scheduled activity campaign/program measurement, and individual sales effectiveness.

Thank you Cubs and Indians for giving us the best World Series ever and teaching us some important things we can apply to our profession along the way.








Author: Jeff Rappaport, CEO and President, Outlook Marketing Services


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