The “Sweet” 16: March Madness Lessons on Marketing, Analytics, and Life–Part 2


Welcome back! This is Part 2 of The “Sweet” 16: March Madness Lessons on Marketing, Analytics, and Life. In Part 1, we covered some key lessons on brand, analytics, and organizational culture. Today, let’s talk about competition and leadership.

On Competition:

Lesson #9: Respect your competition. Don’t rest on your laurels.

If achieving success is hard, sustaining it can be even harder. Even when marketing campaigns are generating results, it’s important to respect your competition and remain observant. Pay attention to what your competitors are doing, what works well for them and what doesn’t. It might be their SEO, or their social media game, but there’s almost always something they’re doing well, and maybe even better than your organization. Marketing and business are ever-evolving landscapes. Don’t be afraid to learn from competitors’ wins and losses just as much as your own. 

Tip: If your organization values internal SWOT analysis, consider conducting similar SWOT reviews for your top competitors. Be as honest and unbiased in your assessments as you can, for the most value. 

Lesson #10: Rivalry is good. It raises standards and expectations.

March Madness is also the time for fierce rivalries. Whether North Carolina vs Duke or Louisville vs Kentucky, there’s just something about a long-time rival that brings out the best in a team. In business and marketing, there will always be rivalries as well. And that’s a good thing! Strong competition raises the standards and expectations for everyone. But just because you respect a rival doesn’t mean you have to like them, either. It’s okay to relish those key wins that “feel” bigger in the moment, and these are key times to recognize valuable team members for their contributions.

Lesson #11: But the most important benchmarks are your own.

Having said all that about the value of competition, let’s not forget: the most important benchmarks will be your own. There are many factors in competitive industries that simply are not within your organization’s control. You cannot control your competitor’s budgets, their teams or internal resources. You cannot control the myriad of algorithms that platforms use to disseminate content and visibility. Heck, from working with multiple pest control companies, Overit’s learned you especially can’t control the weather!

With so many things outside your control, it’s critical that you remain focused on what IS within your control. In that regard, improving upon your own baselines and benchmarks is more important in the long run than how you stack up against a specific competitor at any given time. Competition will change, so self-improvement provides the best long term barometer of success.

Tip: When conducting annual marketing reviews, be mindful of where you started and where you are now. Integrate personal benchmarks, not just competitive metrics. Don’t let strong competition convince you progress isn’t still progress.

On Leadership:

Lesson #12: Don’t be afraid to make halftime adjustments.

Sometimes no matter how much you planned or prepared, things don’t roll your way. At these junctures, what separates truly good leaders from average ones is their ability to identify and then implement the needed changes and adjustments. You see it every March, when a coach sees his well-coached zone defense getting shredded to ribbons and calls in a switch to man-to-man. Not what they practiced or wanted, but what was needed at that time and moment to correct the course. 

Good leaders aren’t embarrassed or concerned about the best laid plans that go awry. They remain humble enough to know when sticking to the plan simply isn’t cutting it anymore. Making changes doesn’t negate the value of prior planning, decisions and work by the team. Rather, they simply preserve their value of those efforts for another day, by moving forward.

Lesson #13: Trust your star players….

Let’s be honest. Really strong teams typically have some star players. Whether from raw talent, sheer effort, or some mix in between, the highest performers demonstrate not just excellence but provide consistency for that excellence. Good leaders don’t overcomplicate things when it comes to their stars. They know when to just roll the ball on the court and give them the room and resources to do what they do. Enabling your strongest performers and removing obstacles from their paths is one of the critical challenges for leadership in any organization.

Tip: For high-performing members of your team, identify the most persistent obstacles that pose a challenge to their success. Work with them to implement ways to reduce or eliminate those obstacles to greatness.

Lesson #14: …But, also keep an active bench.

But trusting your stars doesn’t mean you’re not equally invested in developing the next ones. Strong teams also have deep benches, with players who can rise to the occasion, providing good effort and value to their organization when called. Not every “star” started out as one. While there will always be the naturally talented and gifted among us, in all endeavors and walks of life, many of the highest achievers were quite average earlier in their lives and careers. Organizations that keep an active bench promote the personal growth and development that they can turn to when it’s time for “next woman up”.

Tip: Don’t neglect the bench players simply because they aren’t stars (yet). Conceive of each member of the team as a potential star and provide them the unique challenges and opportunities that they need for overall experience and growth.

Lesson #15: Make Greatness attainable by all.

Ok, this one I stole entirely from John Wooden, the legendary UCLA coach who led the Bruins to 10 NCAA championships in his time there, including a record SEVEN years in a row. You don’t win that many times in March and not know a thing or two about leadership. Heck, I keep a copy of “Wooden on Leadership” on my bookshelf and recommend it highly. This lesson is the 12th chapter in that book, which Wooden begins by observing: “Each member of your team has a potential for personal greatness; the leader’s job is to help them achieve it.”  Wow. 

Wooden understood that the team’s greatness was the cumulative result of each individual’s greatness, something which could only be measured in relation to their own potential, and no one else. When we identify the highest potential for each member of our team and provide them the tools and resources they need to reach that potential, we are ensuring greatness is truly attainable by all. And for the team to reach its highest potential, each individual must first reach theirs. After all, if some team members still haven’t reached their own highest potential, how can the organization? 

Tip: Provide ample time and resources for training and professional development among your team. Help them reach higher and higher levels of their own potential and watch their impact on the overall success of the organization grow. 


Final Thoughts…

Lesson #16: It’s only marketing. (Have fun!)

This last piece of advice I got from my very first boss in SEO and marketing. Whenever there was a bad day, she would remind me “It’s only marketing. No one is going to die.”

She meant that lightheartedly but also dead earnestly (pun intended). It was a good reminder that just like with sports, what we get to do as marketers is a privilege and in the bigger picture, the outcomes are neither as great nor tragic as we might think from 9 to 5.

Tip: Don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s only marketing.

Alright folks, that’s all for this year. Have a great March Madness!