I like to think of myself as a runner. But, honestly, I’m an inconsistent runner. This on again/off again dedication has consequences and parallels in professional services (proserv) marketing. Let’s explore.
In running: When you haven’t run in a while, it’s much harder to get going again.
In proserv marketing: If your brand has sat on the shelf and had little activity, it’s difficult to raise short-term awareness.
In running, your legs and back are stiff and you’re much more quickly out of breath. Frankly, running is pretty miserable after a long layover. Sometimes I think to myself, “Why am I even doing this?!”
In marketing, lack of activity means that your brand’s image awareness atrophies. After just six months of letting up on dedicated investment, it begins to slide off the radar of your target audiences. When a brand push resumes – in byline articles, advertisements, third-party commentary, social media and other initiatives – opportunities are harder to secure and overall ROI feels low, to the point of questioning the process.
You simply can’t turn on and off your brand awareness. You need to keep the tap open. And, if you don’t want sore legs after running around the block, you need to lace up your shoes more often.
In running: Your mileage is low when you put your running shoes back on, and it doesn’t feel like it will ever go back up.
In proserv marketing: When you start marketing in earnest after a long hiatus, the total number of activities and positive outcomes is often fairly low.
The tools to run – whether around the block or a 5K – are the same, the clothes, the shoes, etc. And, in terms of total effort, the early days of running often feel more challenging than when you have been doing it for a while and are actually going on longer runs. The same applies to marketing. Getting going again is challenging and often involves many fits and starts and some dead ends. Your time “spend” may feel high, even though months later it will be more but feel like less. The process, in each case, leads to results.
In running: When you start running again, you can get early delusions of grandeur.
In proserv marketing: Early success can get to your head and set unrealistic expectations.
There are really, really good runners – super-fast sprinters and distance runners with unbelievable endurance. However, for the most part, there are people like me – 5Ks are great. 10Ks are a little ambitious, and anything longer than that requires more training than I have time or interest. It’s important to keep perspective: finishing races is great. Winning them or going from a 5K to the Boston Marathon isn’t realistic. It’s far better to set and consistently achieve attainable goals.
What’s the parallel? Well, writing a byline article for a bar publication isn’t a direct stepping-stone to being quoted in The Wall Street Journal. Running and marketing are iterative processes that reward your effort. One can go from couch to 5K to the Boston Marathon, just as one can go from an accounting trade to the New York Times. It takes effort, skill and some degree of good fortune. (It also helps to have a coach.)
In running: Not running tends to be bad for your waistline.
In proserv marketing: Not marketing tends to make your brand complacent and sluggish.
Running is good for a person on many levels, including burning a lot of calories and shedding some summer excess or winter “lining.” If you don’t run, as a person who runs for exercise, you tend to get heavier, slower and more tired – a trifecta of sloth!
Consistent marketing keeps company and personal brands agile, attractive in the marketplace and renewed. Brands that sit on the shelf go out of the public’s mind, lose out on business development opportunities and fail to attract talent.
Runners should run, regularly. (Trust me, I know.) And, professional services brands should market, regularly. Both just make good sense.