It was a normal, sticky and humid Monday afternoon in 1983 where the only thing that caught a fifth graders attention was the pace and temperature of the cold air blowing out of the a/c window unit. Unlike hundreds of other boring Mondays at the elementary school, this day delivered an unexpected, but welcomed announcement -- St. Joan of Arc Catholic school in LaPlace, Louisiana was starting a soccer team.
Introducing soccer to the kids of LaPlace was much like asking them to throw a baseball with the opposite arm. It was like eating chocolate ice cream and onions or bananas mixed with ketchup. In the land where football and baseball reigned supreme, the sport of soccer was introduced by a gentleman named Frank Herkes. Coach Herkes was from Delaware, where soccer was widely accepted and played in the parks every Saturday mornings. As for the kids at St. Joan of Arc, the only thing they ever kicked were plastic cups at a Mardi Gras parade. Getting the families and kids of this community to embrace this unfamiliar sport would be a monumental task, so coach Herkes certainly had his hands full.
Today, we are on the tail end of the 2014 World Cup. Many people are still a bit hung-over from riding the wave of excitement created by the inspirational play of the US National Team. While soccer brought the nation together for a few weeks, the world cup (as it always does) left many casual soccer fans wondering why a country so rich in athletic talent struggles to succeed in the world’s most popular sport. The success (or lack thereof) of the US soccer team is an extremely debatable topic, and the core of this topic can be traced back to the lack of technique taught at an early age by coaches in America. The elite countries in the sport of soccer like Germany, Argentina, and Brazil teach the fundamentals of the sport at a very early age. In the beginning, these countries worry less about the competition and trophies, and pay more attention to teaching the fundamentals of the sport.
The same holds true for Inbound Marketing. Before any business owner or marketer dives into tactics like blogging, search engine optimization, social media marketing, and email marketing, there should be a larger effort to learn the basics. In the world of Inbound Marketing, every successful campaign can be connected back to the lead marketer’s knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals.
The kids who were fortunate enough to have been coached by Frank Herkes reaped the benefits of learning the correct techniques of soccer at a young age. Whether you are talking about soccer or Inbound Marketing, coach Herkes can teach many soccer fans and Inbound Marketers alike a true lesson on the importance of the basics.
Some of these lessons are:
1. Start with technique – Because Coach Herkes played and coached soccer in Delaware, he was able to transfer his years of experience into the skill development of the youth at St. Joan of Arc. The kids were his blank canvas –eager in spirit, but clueless in their abilities within the sport. Learning the basic techniques of the soccer, like how to trap, dribble and strike the ball, presented a wonderful foundation for growth and development as players. Within the world of Inbound Marketing, developing a persona, creating marketing campaign goals, studying the principals of search engine optimization, and amplifying this content in the appropriate manner via social media can be an overwhelming and uncomfortable challenge for any new marketer. Taking a step back and learning the fundamental steps of Inbound Marketing will prepare anyone for developing a real-day marketing strategy.
2. Winning Is A By-Product of Learning The Basics – Coach Herkes knew that focusing on winning tournaments and games were secondary to establishing a process of learning the fundamentals of soccer. In fact, in the first year, coach Herkes did not have his teams compete in any “real” games. Practice was the focus for Coach Herkes as he knew that competing would come at a much later date, and winning would be a by-product of the techniques learned at the beginning of the journey. In Inbound Marketing, focusing on search rankings and lead conversions before learning the basics is a prime example of “putting the cart before the horse." Focusing on the end-result without putting the time and effort into building relevant and marketable content is a recipe for disaster.
3. Walk The Walk – Coach Herkes was a player, coach, and referee in the sport of soccer. Both his son and daughter played the sport as well. He lived and breathed it, so he could then pass down what he learned through his rich experience within the sport. In marketing, how many agencies advise companies on marketing, but do not use the same principals within their practice? If you are a true Inbound Marketing Agency, you will “walk the walk” in the Inbound Marketing world just as coach Herkes did within the soccer community.
4. External Factors Are Irrelevant – Coach Herkes had no clue or care for what he was facing at St. Joan of Arc when he introduced the theory of kicking to a community who only knew how to tackle and hit home runs. The fact that soccer was completely foreign to the community did not deter the drive of coach Herkes to teach the fundamentals of the sport. His focus and determination of introducing the sport to the youth of this community outweighed any external factors that may have affected his efforts. In marketing, there will always be uncontrollable circumstances that develop within a campaign. Experienced Inbound Marketers will learn to focus on the factors that are within their reach, and ignore the circumstances that are beyond their control.
In 1986, coach Herkes led the St. Joan of Arc soccer team to a Louisiana State Championship. The same kids who initially tried to use their toes to kick the ball (not proper technique) were winning state championships four years later. The success of this state championship team is a microcosm of what works well in both soccer and marketing – focus on the fundamentals before you do anything else. Coach Herkes taught his players that winning was a by-product of learning the basics at an early age. I guess both the marketing sector and the world cup community should take a page out of the book of coach Herkes.
If you are a marketer in the Baton Rouge area and want to learn more about Inbound Marketing, there will be a Baton Rouge HUG gathering on Friday, July 11th at 9:00am. At this meeting, we will introduce a step by step guide on the basics of Inbound Marketing. If you would like to learn more about the Baton Rouge HUG event, please click here.