OMAHA!! Data-Driven Marketing and the Audible

OmahaThe guy is amazing. Not only did he set the record for the most career touchdown passes in NFL history, but he also orchestrated (and had his receivers practice) the practical joke of playing keep away shortly after (see video here: http://digg.com/video/peyton-manning-record-ball).

How successful would Peyton have been if he did the following:

  • meticulously studied and analyzed his opponents
  • used complex machine learning to predict behaviors of the other team
  • prepared a play book
  • executed every single play in order throughout the entire game

Not very – because football requires responsiveness and constant flexibility.

During the course of a game, you have injuries, flukes, odd plays and tons of other things a quarterback doesn't expect. So, a modern quarterback has to blend the analysis he did prior to game-day with a plethora of real-time event information to make sound decisions based on the situation and capabilities of his team. In fact, what you'll see is the quarterback on the sidelines reviewing images from plays that just happened, because he's got to make adjustments.

If you watch a football game, especially a game with Manning in it, you'll hear terms like "Omaha" which means he's calling an audible. He's essentially saying "Hey guys, you know the play we said we were going to run? Well, I'm changing it right now because I see something that suggests there's something better for us to do."  Ben Roethlisberger, the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback will often call two plays in the huddle (that little 10-second team meeting before they square off for the next play). He will make a signal and yell out something if they are going to use the second play.

Winning football teams do this extremely well. What about companies and more specifically demand generation?

You may embrace data-driven marketing with predictive scoring and multi-touch nurture flows, but are your prospects cookie cutter? Do your competitors act the way you expect them to act always? Do you get to read analyst or press stories before they come out? Your capacity to adjust to take advantage of situations is just as important (if not more) than big strategic programs. In fact, "adjustment capacity" should be a strategic imperative.

Adjustment capacity is your organizational agility essentially. Not just how fast you run, but how quickly you can go from running in one direction to another. This isn't just about having people that can easily change directions, but this is also about the systems and processes you have. 

The executive team comes to you and says, "We're feeling some competitive pressure. We need to move up the timeline to make some noise about an upcoming product. We've got these deliverables  a blog, landing page with a form to capture leads, we want an e-mail blast, some PR, sales education and lead routing along with a nice homepage promotion."

Then they say they want it done next Wednesday, four business days from now. I think a lot of us have dealt with stuff like this, but could this be something that doesn't have to be a firedrill? Imagine if your "adjustment capacity" was highly rated and this wasn't a problem. If that's the case, think of all the other amazing programs that can be run with maybe 10-days advanced notice.

Oh, and for the record, this scenario is almost exactly what the marketing team was asked to do just a few weeks ago. We pulled it off and got a lot of beneficial kudos from the whole company as well as great pipeline.

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