Years ago, I had a 12-year-old martial arts student who was eager to start sparring. At every new belt, he asked when he’d get the chance to put his fledgling skills to the test. Once he advanced to a belt rank high enough for me to put him in the ring, he couldn’t wait for the next tournament.
The day of the tournament finally arrived, and he was ready to go.
During his first match, he moved around the ring, bobbed and weaved, pretty much ignored everything we talked about before the match…and got scored on, repeatedly. He got frustrated, the experience so far from what he’d imagined all the months leading up to the big day. Suddenly, he threw a picture perfect cross-step axe kick that scored.
“Two points, red!” shouted the referee. My student was transformed.
Suddenly, all he could do was throw axe kicks. No more punches. No more roundhouse kicks. Forget about blocking. He used none of the myriad techniques he’d learned in class. It was all axe kicks, all the time. The black belt instructors shouted from the corner, “Use your hands! Back kick! Side kick!” Nothing penetrated his absolute conviction that axe kicks were the way to victory. And when he won his match, he was even more certain.
I have marketing clients just like that student. They try a bit of everything, with no sense of a deliberate game plan. Maybe they’ve seen a competitor succeed with a particular technique (“We have to gamify!”) or they’ve been successful with one campaign and are reticent to branch out into new ideas. They get stuck in the “axe kick only” mindset.
Successful marketing efforts, however, are like successful fight plans. You identify and amplify your strengths. You scope out the competition and recognize where their weaknesses allow you to score. You sacrifice and train hard, preparing for the fight. And you listen to your coach once you’re in the ring…or in the marketplace.
A wicked axe kick is one of my favorite tools, too. But I know when to use it, and when a fake front roundhouse to the head is more effective. What’s even better is having a full toolkit of techniques, using every skill I have, including a basic front kick and a stiff right jab. Sometimes a fancy virtual reality asset really is the right way to go, but it’s always better when it’s mixed up with a basic suite of fundamental marketing tools. Never neglect the essentials that meet the needs of your particular industry. Don’t get seduced by the flashy stuff that works for consumer products if you’re strictly no nonsense B2B. We aren’t all Bruce Lee.
After that tournament, I gave my student push ups every time he used an axe kick in sparring class. Painfully, he learned that the best way to fight was to keep his opponents guessing. He became a well-rounded (and very successful) fighter and, more important, a well-rounded human being.
It’s still the best way to get your hand raised…in a fight or in the marketplace.