As some of you know, I spend my weekends yelling at children, some of whom are my own, while pointing excitedly and wearing polyester.
Don’t laugh. I will red card you into the stone age.
I think I’ve learned a few things as a youth soccer referee that translate nicely into marketing strategy.
Everyone has the potential to be great
More than anything, I enjoy getting to see great plays made an arm’s length away. While I wouldn’t call myself a soccer fan, even I can appreciate a good pass, trap or fake. And you know what? Every game, I see every kid on the team make a good play–even the klutz who trips over blades of grass. Maybe that one play I saw represented the best play they’ve ever made. However, it reminds me that anyone on your team can have a great idea. I’ve seen account coordinators write great copy and producers come up with spot-on media placements. Sit back and let them do it.
Do – Learn – Do
As I said, I can’t call myself a soccer fan. A lifetime of indifference to the game put me at a disadvantage when becoming a ref (disclosure: I only did it to get my son on a team). Even after passing the tests for the lower two classes of referee, I felt shaky. However, getting onto the field and putting the learning into practice really helped. Pointers–and pointing and laughing–from experienced refs helped me even more. When I called my first offiside, I felt as if I had accomplished something great. The same goes in marketing. Try stuff. Learn from your successes. If you can, help less-experienced marketers learn. Then do it again.
Don’t agonize over mistakes
I make mistakes every game I officiate. From awarding out-of-bounds to the wrong team to missing the occasional shove, I miss things because I can’t see the whole field all the time. While I don’t like the inherent unfairness of a missed or blown call, I got over it after a few games. If I had the last call on my mind, I found that I wouldn’t make the next call properly, either. Even when eight-year-olds play, the game moves too fast to mull over every decision. Fortunately, the game offers two convenient points–halftime and after the game–to discuss. I learned to ask the other officials on my team what I missed and what I could have done better. The parallel to marketing should be clear: don’t agonize over every single decision, but build in time to learn after the fact.
Tomorrow and Sunday, I’ll lace up my Sambas and do my best to make the right calls for the kids. After that, I’ll do the same thing for my clients, which may be easier. I don’t have to take any flack from my clients’ parents.