I recently went to a gun range (as a Canadian living the US I am mildly obsessed with American Gun Culture). The experience was thrilling and exciting and fun and scary all at once, and there were a number of valuable lessons that I learned that can be applied to marketing.
Lesson 1: Spray and Pray is NOT the Most Effective Approach
In the “spray and pray” approach you don’t really aim or focus on the target – you fire off as many bullets as quickly as you can and you hope that some of them hit the target. Based on the sheer # of bullets you fire you have some chance of hitting the target. This is like what spammers do – they send a large number of untargeted messages in the hopes that at least a few hit the target. Even if just a few hit, it can pay out. The issue is that there are a lot of wasted bullets (which cost money). It is far more efficient to spend time upfront focusing on the target and hitting it dead on in one shot.
Lesson 2: Strategy Counts for Nothing if the Execution Sucks
I was kind of scared by actually firing the gun – I’d be calm, line up correctly, take a deep breath and then sort of cringe and look away right before I fired. All the setup counted for nothing because I lost it during the execution. The same is true in marketing. A great strategy is only the first part of the equation – execution counts for everything. The problem is that execution is often seen as a small detail and is handled by the least experienced people on the team. Especially in social media – execution is everything – make sure that it is appropriately resourced and given the right level of attention to be successful.
Lesson 3: Don’t try too Hard to Fit In – Or You Won’t
I was really excited about going to a gun range – so I did what any Canadian would do – I dug out my army green pants and but on a sweet camo hat and shirt. Seemed appropriate (or at least funny). Everyone else was dressed in normal attire – many wearing the same clothes they wore to work. In my effort to fit-in in an unfamiliar environment I went overboard. The same is true in marketing – be yourself and take some time to assess the landscape before juming in. Especially in social media – sit back and observe the community, the norms, the ettiquette and be yourself. Don’t try to hard based on stereo-types or preconceived ideas.
Lesson 4: Pay Attention to Your Surroundings Before You Commit to a Lane
They assigned us to a lane in the gun range and beside us were a few guys with a giant gun (I don’t know what kind). The shells from their gun were flying into our lane making it difficult to concentrate and focus. We should have looked for a lane with nobody beside us or at least surrounded by people with smaller guns. The same is true for marketing. Before you pick your focus area, look around at who will be beside you. Take note of your competitors. If their guns are way bigger than yours it can be very distracting and difficult to stay focused. Select a niche with few competitors to distract you.
Lesson 5: Safety First – If You’re Gonna Play Understand the Rules.
When you get to the gun range they give you protective ear wear and safety glasses. Prior to entering the range they make sure that you understand the safety precautions. The same goes for Social Media – be sure to understand the rules before you jump in. Lots of people and companies rush in to social media without understanding the rules and etiquette of the community. Before you dive in, spend some time to understand the rules and norms of the community. You’ll be less likely to screw up.