Monday, 22 August 2011

Chasing the ball

England seem to be quite good at cricket for a change. That's assuming India aren't very bad at it anyway and all the press coverage reminded me of a nice marketing cricket analogy.

Cricket fans sometimes talk about captains "chasing the ball". It means that when your team is fielding, you constantly rearrange your fielders to cover where the batsman hit it last time.

It's not a good strategy.

Captains who do it, tend to find that the ball will keep finding the spaces between their fielders as each gap you cover, opens up a new one for the batsman to exploit.

A good captain on the other hand, analyses the strengths of his bowlers and the strengths of the batsman, then forms a plan to force the batsman into playing the loose shot that he wants. He works the opening over a number of balls, knowing that his fielders are placed correctly for when his plan delivers. If it's not working after a few overs, fine, you might change the plan but you don't abandon it just because one ball found a gap.

It's very, very tempting to run your marketing by chasing the ball; seeing sales drop this week and running tactical press ads to try to recover, or piling your budget into a product that's selling well this week without understanding why it happened.

A good marketer is like a good cricket captain and analyses his and the competition's strengths, forms a plan and then gives it the chance to succeed. Statistical analysis of the past - a few years' past, not just a week - can give you insights that help to develop a good marketing strategy, in the same way that analysing a batsman's play over a season will give you a better chance of bowling him out than chasing where the previous shot went.

In marketing, just as in cricket, analysis is rewarded, while chasing the ball is ineffective, frustrating and ultimately, will lead to defeat.

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