What Tournaments Teach Us

Last weekend I managed to watch some of a college basketball tournament, an exceptional high school basketball tournament and a little college playoff hockey (less than exceptional). It’s that time of year when sports fans being seated at a restaurant ask for that perfect spot where they can “see all of the games.”

In one of the basketball games I watched with my best friend, we saw a talented post player use his last foul on a three-point shooter. His competitive nature got the best of him, and as a result he ended up on the bench for the rest of the contest.

I remember my high school coach once mentioning me in a media interview, saying that I “thought I was Magic Johnson.” It was not meant as a compliment. I was a point guard with Pete Maravich aspirations and Dennis Rodman dribbling skills.

Just like you don’t want your center chasing down three point shooters, you don’t want your serviceable point guard throwing behind-the-back passes. Success in sports is about minimizing your weaknesses and maximizing your strengths. The aforementioned Dennis Rodman rarely put the ball on the floor. Instead, he is in the Hall of Fame because he is, pound for pound, the best rebounder who has ever lived.

Marketing your business works the same way. The first two parts of the good old SWOT analysis are meant to provide a realistic starting point for your efforts. No player is good at everything (James Harden of the Houston Rockets, for example, is an All-star offensive player who often looks hilariously bad on defense, gazing into the stands like a six-year-old looking for his grandparents ). In the same way, no business can be all things to all people.

When my students choose a client for a project, their first mistake is often to identify that client’s target audience as “everybody.” Wouldn’t we all like to sell our products or services to everyone? But that lack of focus can be very dangerous. Rather than concentrating on passes with a difficulty rating of 9.9, my teammates would have benefited far more from me focusing on basic techniques and sound fundamentals. Alas, much of my creativity on the court resulted in opponents grinning madly as my errant passes landed directly in their hands – or out of bounds.

Instead of spreading yourself too thin, play to your strengths. The Pareto principle may be ancient, but it is still true – 80% of your business comes from 20% of your customers. Determine what you are doing right with those folks, then make the most of it. Google’s core business of search has paid off handsomely. Most of their attempts to branch into hardware (I’m looking at you, Google Glass) have been duds.

If your customers think of you as fantastic, but expensive, then you may want to embrace that luxury positioning. Your marketing can say “quality is worth it” or even “there is a reason that we’re the most expensive.” Don’t chase the low-cost leader. Don’t try to block that three pointer. It takes discipline, but it is worth it.

Give us a call here at Anchor, and we can turn your SWOT into a successful game plan. It’s what we do.