July 27, 2017

Racing Ahead of the Competition

James-Michael Sullivan, Intern

Racecar driving is not only the greatest adrenaline rush sport ever, but is also very rewarding when planned and performed correctly. Racing requires similar time and dedication as the business of marketing.

During my time as an intern at Blakely + Company, a full-service advertising agency in Colorado Springs, I’ve discovered how closely associated racing and marketing are. Both industries require multiple important elements to preserve long-term success, rise through the ranks and achieve your objectives.

I’ve brainstormed four key things I’ve learned as a racecar driver that are also valuable in the business of marketing.

Think strategically when you race or do business

Preparation is the first element that is relevant to both racing and marketing. The average driver will have a good understanding of how to drive fast and bring the car home in one piece. However, the very best drivers will take extra time to research where they will be racing for the upcoming weekend. One of the greatest American racecar drivers of all time, Mario Andretti, quoted by CBS Sports Radio, “The more you prepare, the more relaxed you are because you feel more confident, and that’s very important. Confidence is the key to be able to deliver results and feel even safer and more calm.”

This is also true for marketing. Planning ahead by having strong short- and long- term strategies pays dividends and help operations run smoothly. According to Entrepreneur.com, “A business plan, with an accompanying marketing outline, are important blueprints for success.”

Developing a comprehensive strategic marketing plan for each client will help you keep the big picture in mind, know which tasks and deliverables to work on each week, and keep you on target with deadlines to meet your objectives on time.

Additionally, in today’s racing era, you have to be more than just a driver, you have to be the total package. There are so many racecar drivers who can drive fast, but do they look the part? Can you trust him/her to appropriately construct an interview? How do they act under pressure? Can they rebound after a 20-race winless streak? The more assets a driver has and the more flexible he or she is, the more attractive they will appear to race teams and sponsors.

Similarly, there are assets that make a marketing business more appealing to clients. Being trustworthy, having the right group of people, providing a wide range of services, and protecting a well-known brand will keep current customers happy and open doors to other opportunities.

Train for your business like you mean it

My next element is training yourself above the call of duty. Most drivers try to label themselves as only an open wheel driver, NASCAR driver, or drag racer. The problem with this is that drivers can be so focused on becoming the next great driver in the “category” they want to race in that they miss opportunities in other racing series. Training yourself to be well-rounded opens doors you might not have had if you were only focused on one area of motorsports.

This is relative to marketing because an organization of individuals needs to be flexible and resilient. All employees should be willing to test the waters within the corporation and learn more than their own line of work. Being well-rounded not only helps the company, but is beneficial for individuals and gives them a better appreciation of co-workers’ roles and encourages collaboration in the workplace.

Measure outcomes

If every company or employee followed through with accurate preparations, worked to become the complete package, and extensively trained to be the best in every area possible, then how can you demonstrate you’re the right one for the job or to land a proposal with a client?

Simply put, you must win. This is easier said than done, but in both racing and marketing, winning is the key to keeping all hope alive. Winning doesn’t always mean coming in first place. Winning could mean accomplishing the team’s, or your own, or your client’s, objectives in order to reach the peak. For example, a marketing win could be going above and beyond what the client’s looking for and helping increase their market share, all because of your team’s proper marketing and advertising expertise.

I’ve made countless mistakes, whether it was spinning out on the track, or not knowing what the term SEO stood for in marketing. Learning and improving over time is a process, but will eventually pay off when you win clients, contracts or races.

Drive forward

As we all know, the more you win, the more opportunities you’ll have, and more success will result. Winning consistently leads to new deals and can expand your business or career.

These key elements I’ve learned from being a racecar driver helped shift me over into the business world of marketing. I hope you find them useful in your future business (or sporting) endeavors.