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10 Ways Marketing Is Like Bowling

OK – before any professional or semiprofessional bowlers get indignant, let’s get the disclaimer out of the way. This is written by a very occasional, casual, recreational bowler who has been known to break 100 about once every 10 games. Take it for what it is … a fun new way to look at marketing.

Thanks to my friend, Rebecca Joy, for getting together a group of gal pals for an interesting afternoon/evening of bowling yesterday at the new Lucky Strike Lanes at CityScape, in Phoenix. I got to meet and hang out with 3 other authors and one marketing master – overall, a pretty amazing and accomplished group of women. As it turns out, the one thing none of us happens to be is a skilled bowler. But we soon found out it wasn’t about the score. Rebecca conjured several other kinds of contests: who could throw the ball the hardest (she won, at 15 MPH); who scored best throwing Granny Shots (I think Gina DeLong took that category); and who broke the most fingernails (Stephanie Quilao topped out at 3). June Cline rounded out our team of five.

As we were playing, it occurred to me that there are marketing lessons to be drawn from the bowling alley. Here are my Top 10:

  1. You need the right equipment.

    Marcie, the sexy bowler

  2. Success lies in your approach.
  3. Aim for the target (aka pocket, in bowling parlance).
  4. Mind the fault line.
  5. Sometimes you need to reset.
  6. It’s better when you have support.
  7. Make friends with your neighbors.
  8. Beer can greatly improve the experience.
  9. Don’t overdo it.
  10. Have fun!

You need the right equipment. Whether it’s determining the right blog platform, e-mail client, or postcards and mailers, marketing doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Just as you need appropriate socks, shoes, and the right size ball for bowling, when it comes to marketing, you need to determine which tools are appropriate for which phase of your marketing campaign and utilize them to their fullest potential.

Success lies in your approach. Watch professional bowling for a while, and you’ll notice the one thing virtually every bowler has in common: an elegant approach. They may differ on starting location, speed, and finesse, but they each make it look easy and effortless. Your success as a marketer also begins in your approach. How well do you know your prospect or target client, and have you tailored your approach to their needs, wants, and potential responses?

Aim for the target (aka pocket, in bowling parlance). This one might seem obvious, but you’d be amazed how many businesses view the whole world as their market, or try multiple, unfocused, scattershot approaches, hoping that just one will be successful. Who IS your target audience? Where do they hang out? How do they want to be approached? Until you know the answers to these questions, your marketing strategy will likely languish.

Mind the fault line. The fault line in bowling is the line separating the approach from the lane. If your toe crosses it, your throw doesn’t count and you don’t get credit for any pins you knocked down. Essentially, the marketing comparison is to take care not to breach the unwritten rules. If you borrow a concept, give credit where credit is due. Know your audience so that you avoid inadvertent language faux pas. You might have heard about the guy with the caskets in Jakarta. I happen to think the people in this incident seriously overreacted, but his stunt backfired nonetheless; it might not have, had he been minding the fault line.

Sometimes you need to reset. Occasionally, in 10-pin bowling, the pins get stuck and you must ask for help to reset them. Should your marketing campaign flounder, don’t be afraid to reset. Don’t quit – just reevaluate, refocus, and relaunch.

It’s better when you have support. Did I mention that we are casual bowlers? I think our record for broken nails (6.75 for the four of us) surpassed our record for strikes. But we still had fun. Even when one of us hit NO pins in our two attempts, we cheered each other on. You need to do the same. Get yourself some support for your marketing campaign, rather than trying to do it all alone.

Make friends with your neighbors. Usually when you bowl (unless you’re in a giant group, league, or at a party), you and your co-bowlers will occupy one lane, meaning there’s a group of strangers sharing the ball return and located somewhat in “your space.” Things go much more smoothly if you get to know them and are friendly, than if you take a hostile attitude. Same goes with others in your business or industry. Get over viewing them as competitors, and start to see them as colleagues. Who knows – perhaps you could pool resources to launch a shared campaign?!

Beer can greatly improve the experience. It doesn’t have to be beer, per se, or even alcohol. But is there a way you can make your marketing campaign social and inclusive, like a girls’ night out at the bowling alley? What are you doing to help your target market get to know you on a personal level so that they want to do business with you – and readily refer you to others because they so enjoyed the experience?

Don’t overdo it. A bowling ball can be heavy, and repeatedly hurling it down the lanes can take its toll. Be smart and know your limits. What can you reasonably accomplish with your marketing without overpromising and underdelivering?

Have fun! I think this is probably the most important of all ten tips, because if you’re not enjoying what you’re doing, it will be transparent to your prospective clients and they’ll likely move on to someone who really has a passion for the work. OK, so the funeral or insurance business isn’t usually what we’d generally think of as fun, but even in a challenging industry, are you enjoying the work and deriving pleasure from helping people? The minute it seems like you’d rather be doing something else, you probably should find something else to do.

Feel free to give me your feedback on this list!

If you do like this post, please feel free to check out my other blog: Write | Market | Design.

Until next time … from the nail salon!

Laura

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Originally published by Laura Orsini on the Write|Market|Design Facebook page. Drop by for a visit – and if you like the page, “Like” it. You’ll have access to a great ebook, “The First-Time Author’s Guide to Hiring the Right Editor for YOU!”

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