Internet Marketing Lessons from the Olympics

Marketing Lessons from the 2012 OlympicsIt is hard to believe that the Olympics have already come and gone.  The level of competition was simply stunning and it’s staggering to consider all of the memorable events we witnessed.  Whether it was seeing Michael Phelps become the most decorated Olympian of all time or watching any of the other simply heroic athletic efforts we felt our hearts challenged to reach beyond ourselves for our own personal greatness.  You only have to look to your local gymnastic studio, swim club or volleyball camp to see how the Olympics have inspired the youth of America to pursue their own personal gold.

Now that the closing ceremonies are a distant memory and we’re back to the typical summer television doldrums I have been thinking about some of the more obvious lessons internet marketers and other marketing professionals can glean from London 2012 Olympics. While there are numerous reports about the 2012 Olympic use of social media and how Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram literally transformed our perspective of the Olympics, I wanted to provide some personal insights about how the Olympics can inspire us as marketing professionals.

Lesson One – Competition can motivate us to greatness

As marketing professionals we face daily, relentless competition.  Whether it is in helping drive more traffic to our websites, increasing the number of qualified leads we are able to produce, or even just improving our search engine exposure we are in a continual competition.  Like the Olympic athletes, this competition can help push us beyond ourselves and motivate us to improve to new heights.  This is where the creation of key performance indicators (KPIs) can be a huge help.   KPIs help us visualize what “success” will look like and how we’ll know if we’re making progress.  Imagine if a runner ran a race and never considered the time of his race or how we placed.  He simply ran and then took great satisfaction in the physical activity and went home feeling quite satisfied that he was physically active.  Unfortunately, this is something that can happen all to easily in the marketing communications industry when it comes to managing your website.  KPIs help us evaluate our effectiveness and know where we need to focus to improve our performance.  In numerous Olympic events we found ourselves not only focused on if a competitors was going to win the gold, but were they going to set a record for that event.  In some cases, it was enough to know that the athlete had set their own personal record during the competition.

Lesson Two – Judges Set the Standard, So Pay Close Attention

If you are involved in internet marketing you know that we all have a very influential judge that can largely determine our online success.  We may not always agree with this judge or the basis for the way they judge the participants, but we must understand what they are telling us is important to them and what they will be watching.  There were times when we watched the Olympics and were simply baffled by the scoring or a particular judgment.  As I watched the athletes in these situations, they expressed their frustration, but then went on to give the judges what they had communicated was important to them.  I can think to one instance with beach volleyball, where the one team thought the judge was going to make a specific ruling and stopped playing.  They had taken their eyes off the ball and as a result they lost the point.  The same can be true with internet marketing.  Keep your eye on “the judge” and make sure that we give them what they are expecting and not just something that we might have done in the past.

Lesson Three – Relentless Work and Commitment

Most of us have a relentless commitment to continual improvement.  We’re always reading, learning, and applying.   We’re not satisfied with what we did in the past, but are continually seeking to get better.  The Olympics showcase a commitment to continually trying to improve.  To reach new levels of performance.  The same is true for us as marketing professions.  It has always amazed me to monitor how even small, modest improvements in performance can have a profound impact on a companies website.  Whether it is driving more traffic or even getting a marginally better result from that traffic can literally transform a business.  In addition, the entire concept of continual process improvement means that we’ll be continually “practicing” which in turns means we’re not always going to hit a home run every time.  I cringe every time I watch the gymnasts compete on the balance beam, but when they nail a routine it’s simply breathtaking.  We need to develop a commitment to relentlessly push the boundaries to reach new levels of marketing effectiveness.

Conclusion – The Olympics has provided us, as marketing communications professionals, the opportunity to get inspired all over again to reach new heights, to consider new perspectives, and push ourselves even further to reach the gold.