Strategic Plays: Lessons From Football Teams For SME Digital Marketing Success


This Friday, the UEFA Euro 2024 competition is about to start in earnest (the first game is Germany vs Scotland on 14th June), and people around the country are getting settled in for a great summer of sport. With the ICC Cricket T20 World Cup already underway and the Summer Olympics to look forward to in July, 2024 is going to be a fun year for sports fans.

What never fails to fascinate me about professional sports teams is how coordinated everyone is. Football and cricket teams, in particular, operate almost as a single organism, with hair trigger reactions and an extremely highly developed sense of situational awareness that allows each player to know exactly what his or her colleagues are doing at any given moment.

Are there any lessons that SMEs can draw from successful football teams that can be applied to the arena of digital marketing?

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Team collaboration and specialisation

Successful football teams collaborate well, but are also teams of specialists. In a football team, each player has a specific role to play, without which the team couldn’t collaborate effectively. You do get some all-round players, but most footballers are specialists in a particular element of the game, e.g. defenders, midfielders, strikers, wingers, goalkeepers etc.

This is similar in SME marketing. The most successful marketing and sales strategies include designated specialists in content creation, social media management, analytics, account management, and SEO. When people are unclear about their roles, or you have people trying to be jacks of all trades and take on everything, it plants the seeds of confusion and wasted effort.

A well-rounded and balanced team makes it easier to execute a well-rounded strategy. Note that you don’t have to employ all these specialists in-house. Working with an agency will give you access to the same skills – on the same team – without having to do everything yourself.

Goal setting and strategy

Before each match and each campaign or competition, football teams set clear goals (pun intended) for what they want to achieve, and SMEs should do the same for their digital marketing efforts. Like in sport, there are plenty of variables in the world of business, but establishing measurable objectives – e.g. increased website traffic, lead generation, revenues, brand awareness – makes it easier to sustain direction and focus, keeping all stakeholders pulling in the same direction.

Adaptability and agility

A strategic plan is foolproof right up to the moment of the first whistle. After this, it’s the team with the most agility and adaptability to changing circumstances that is the most likely to pull ahead. Winning football teams have the capacity to adapt their gameplay based on their opponents’ strategies, injuries, and weather conditions, often at a moment’s notice.

In a similar way, small businesses benefit from keeping a finger on market trends, the actions of their competitors, and any news and developments affecting their customers, building agility into the fabric of their marketing plan itself. This allows you to quickly pivot your approach to digital marketing, optimising your performance and adapting your content to meet the current needs of your market.

Coaching, mentorship, and support

Behind every successful football team is a knowledgeable coach – in fact, there is a whole team of coaching and support professionals involved behind the scenes in pro sports. Even though these people play no direct role on the field, their input is instrumental to driving the team towards success.

There’s a lesson to learn in terms of marketing for SMEs here. While a football team could, in principle, win a game or competition without a good coach, having a good coach and support team makes it that much easier. In the same way, SMEs stand to benefit from the digital marketing expertise of knowledgeable agencies and consultants, who can provide mentorship, guidance, and best practices to help elevate their sales and marketing strategies and achieve more sustainable growth.

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To find out more about our digital marketing and consultancy services, and how we can help you achieve your marketing game plan with confidence and success, please get in touch with JDR today by clicking here.

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