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My Team Just Won the NBA Championship… How Does That Apply to Marketing?

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You’ll have to forgive me. I’m from Cleveland. We don’t do this winning championships thing very often. The last time it happened, the Beatles had come to the USA earlier that year.

So when my world-champion Cleveland Cavaliers completed the greatest comeback in NBA history on Father’s Day, I wasn’t exactly sure what to do.

As my foggy mindset cleared in the following hours, it became apparent that I had to blog about the topic. What seemed natural was relating some lessons learned and applying them to the marketing industry.

Don’t Let Anyone Say You Can’t Do Something

After losing for the third time in the opening four games of the series, the Cavs had to win the final three games of the best-of-seven series to win the NBA Championship. That had never been done in the history of the NBA. Add to that they only had to do it against a Golden State team that had the best regular season in the history of the NBA.

When you look at it that way, it becomes very overwhelming. Facing a cross-country flight from Cleveland, Ohio to Oakland, Calif., it’s easy to just pack it in and make vacation plans.

But the Cavs didn’t do that. They came together as a team and focused on accomplishing something that had never been done before.

Just because it’s never been done before doesn’t mean it can never be done.

You may own a staffing company. You may work for a staffing company. Or maybe you are in a totally different industry. You have an idea on how to improve an area of your current job or maybe you have a great idea for a new product or service. With your co-workers, family or friends, you toss it out there and everyone says it’s crazy because nothing exists.

That doesn’t mean you should get discouraged and just stay in your routine. Believe in yourself. Find some talented teammates that believe in you and your idea. Then put in the hard work.

Focus on the Process

Let’s go back to the last section where the Cavs had to win the final three games to win the championship, something that had never been done in the NBA. If they were to do that, it would be the greatest comeback in NBA history against the team that won the most games ever in the regular season. Let’s not forget the fact that the city of Cleveland last won a major sports title in 1964.

I’m glad the Cavs believed in themselves, because boy oh boy, it was hard to as a fan.

So what did they do? They broke it down.

The Cavs focused on winning the next game. You can’t win three games before you win the first one. Then they broke it down even further. Win the next quarter. Win the next possession. If something goes well or if something goes poorly, move on to the next one quickly and see what happens when the game is over. Breaking down goals makes it easier to focus as it feels less overwhelming.

We all want to be successful overnight and almost all of the time, it doesn’t work that way. Staffing companies need to implement a process, improve that process and find a way to slowly be successful. Once a little momentum is gained, you can expand and try to continue that growth.

You want to be a $10 million company but right now, you have nothing. You need 100 clients and only have seven. So what do you do? You create a process to keep landing clients one at a time that slowly increases revenue. Don’t focus on getting 100 but focus on going from seven to 10. Then from 10 to 20. Before you know it, you might be at that $10 million level.

That’s similar to what the Cavs did as they didn’t make the task of winning three straight games seem insurmountable. They focused on winning one game. One quarter. One possession. They believed they could do those small goals because they could.

And before you know it, they had won three games in a row and made history.

Before you know it, you’ll reach that revenue goal.

Talent and Hard Work – a Lethal Combination

A lot of times we forget about the importance of talent. Yes, there’s a legendary quote that “hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.” And that’s true in a lot of cases. When you can put hard work and talent together, there’s nothing better.

LeBron James is blessed with the physical gifts and mental IQ that make him one of the most talented athletes ever to walk this planet. But that’s not enough. A lot of people have natural athleticism (maybe not as much as LeBron, but a lot). For the true superstars in sports (or in the non-sports world), it’s the talented performers who work hard that really stand out.

The same applies to your staffing company. The most frustrating workers are the talented ones who don’t work hard. Some of the most satisfying employees are the hard workers who don’t have as much natural ablility. The best ones? The top performers with that natural ability and relentless work ethic. Those are the “A” players who make a real difference.

An Emotional Connection

My teammate Brad Bialy talked about this a little bit in his blog earlier this week, but there’s nothing like creating an emotional connection with your audience. In sports, it can be a lot easier than in the staffing industry, but it’s definitely not impossible for staffing companies to do that.

Think about ways that your staffing company can make a difference in someone’s life. Are you able to provide them with their first job? Are you able to provide them with a new job with better hours so they can spend more time with their family? Are you able just to provide them a job that puts food on the table? That emotion won’t go away over time.

Go to Twitter and search “AllIn216.” You’ll see dozens of videos, photos and other multimedia showing how fans got together prior to the championship with their families and then even more content after the game was over of fans celebrating with their friends, family and strangers. Listen to sports radio in Cleveland and hear stories of fans getting emotional on the air. I heard fans talking about watching the final moments of the game with their parents who have cancer. I heard fans talking about watching the game with three generations of family members. I heard stories of fans crying in their living rooms when the final buzzer sounded.

Marketing isn’t about selling your products and services. That’s advertising.

Marketing is about developing a relationship with your audience. It’s about creating such a connection with your audience that they would never think about going to your competitor. They think of you each time they have a need for your company.

That’s something we see in sports all the time. It provides a unique value to the lives of sports fans. Think about how you can provide that emotional connection to your audience.

You’ll Always Want More

Initial success is great, but once you get a taste, it’s never enough. Your staffing company reached that $10 million level, but I’m pretty sure you don’t want to stop there. $20 million sounds a lot better. Upgrading your car from the standard sedan to a luxury sedan feels just a little bit better with the leather seats instead of the cloth upholstery. Maybe you were able to take a vacation to a destination you always wanted to visit. Next year, two of those vacations sounds better, doesn’t it?

Add that’s ok because if you are a competitive personality, then you’re never satisfied.
In the past two days, I’ve done exactly that. Winning one championship is great and no one can ever take that away from Cavs’ fans. No more jokes about Cleveland being a city that can’t win a championship. The long-term benefits are almost better to me than that championship moment.

You know what sounds better? Two-time champion or maybe three titles in four years. With belief, a process and talent, the formula is there.

For right now, the world champion Cleveland Cavaliers sounds pretty good to me. (I’m even going to Cleveland this weekend to buy a T-shirt. Or five).  

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