My wife and I recently watched the movie Brittany Runs a Marathon – a comedy about a woman who moves from an unhealthy lifestyle to running the New York Marathon. In my opinion, it was an enjoyable movie, and one with which I can relate a bit. I’ll likely never run a marathon personally, but I attribute training to run and adopting better habits to improving my health.

As I was running my twice-weekly neighborhood jog this morning, I tried to think of a topic about which to write, but all I could really think about was running. So, after running about four miles, I thought maybe we could discuss marketing in the context of running. After all, we “run” marketing projects, campaigns, and programs. So, here we go…

Marketing Sprints

In running, a sprint is when a runner moves at top speed for a short amount of time over a short distance. The 100-meter dash, for instance, is a sprinting competition. Sometimes when I run I do interval sprints where I’ll sprint for 30 seconds then jog for a minute, usually 10 times in a row. 

In Agile project management, a “sprint” is defined as a short period of time within which a team produces a work package. In marketing, perhaps we can think of the components of campaigns as sprints – that one-time email, the social post, the press release, a postcard mailing, the 30-second video commercial, etc. These short-lived pieces of content help us to communicate our value proposition quickly and effectively, when done correctly. Adding these to the overall plan can create those immediate wins for short-term goals.

Marketing 5K

The 5K (five kilometers or 3.107 miles) is a popular running interval around which many charity running events are based. Challenging but surmountable, they are mile after mile after mile of concentrated energy to achieve a goal of either placing or, at least, finishing. We might consider a multi-channel or omni-channel campaign project as the equivalent of a 5K. Here, we’re building awareness plus engagement leading to a sale. We have to be committed, patient, and watchful over time (let’s say a month to three months). A project may include blogs, search-engine-optimized landing pages, marketing automation funnels (drip campaigns or other automated sequences), search ads, and display ads (but it can include those other “blasts” on email, social and direct mail). Vigilance and watching the accruing data including impressions, clicks, downloads, etc., allows us to learn, iterate, adjust, and redeploy to maximum results similar to the nuanced adjustments we may make on the hills and vales of a cross-country jog.

Marketing Marathon

26.2 miles of nonstop running – the weak and weak-minded need not join this test of endurance, sticktoitiveness, and speed. I personally cannot discuss much about a marathon – the furthest distance I’ve ever run is 10 miles, and that wore me out for days!

The long-term marketing plan and its program – or sequence of projects – I see as being akin to a marathon. This involves looking at where we are at today and making assessments of the current state of the organization (the starting line) and then we set our sites on the end goal for, let’s say, the year or the quarter (the finish line). Then, as marketing directors, working in collaboration with the stakeholders within the company including executives, fellow marketers, and staff, we need to map our route with the projects and campaigns that are going to be the tactical steps which comprise the strategy.

I think that a healthy marketing operation has components of each of these durations. What do you think?