Content Marketing
6 Lessons Small Businesses Can Learn from March Madness

6 Lessons Small Businesses Can Learn from March Madness

March 10, 2017
3 min read

March Madness is one of the most exciting times of the year for sports fans, and it’s right around the corner. But even if you’re not that into sports, there are some key business lessons you can learn from the March Madness tournament. Let’s take a look at them:

1. It’s okay to be the underdog

The March Madness tournament is arranged so that the favored teams, the number one seeds, have the easiest path to the Final Four. This makes the odds even steeper for underdogs. But when an underdog does win, such a victory is all the more inspiring.

One of the biggest tournament upsets in history occurred in 2012, when Norfolk State, a number 15 seed, knocked out Missouri, a number 2 seed, in the first round. Missouri had been favored by 21.5 points—a large advantage for a March Madness game.

Let that and other March Madness upsets be a lesson to you as a business owner: If you’re an underdog, don’t count yourself out. When you emerge victorious, that success will be all the more impressive.

Business underdogs can employ a variety of winning strategies, including creating high-quality content, investing in SEO, and reaching out to influencers to help with marketing, among others.

2. Have a central place to send consumers

Although there are many ways to watch March Madness online, the March Madness Live app is the official place to stream the tournament. Having an official app reduces confusion about where to go to watch the games and increases the size of the audience.

By the same token, your business needs to direct customers to a central location. That location will be either an official website or an app, depending on the type of business you are running. Make sure your marketing campaigns provide potential users with a very clear, direct way of going right to your website or app.

3. Celebrate teamwork

In basketball, the assists are just as important as the baskets. The most brilliant plays are the ones that have all five teammates touch the ball. If a team member has a lapse in focus and isn’t in the right place at the right time, a play will collapse.

Remember these principles when shooting for success in your business. Celebrate your team’s “assists” (like good website design, fresh copywriting, and organized account management) just as much as their “scores” (like closing big deals or securing huge investors). Regularly remind your team that everyone’s role is important, and you cannot succeed as a group without everyone working together.

4. Make your team feel like they’re losing…a little

An analysis of 18,000 NBA games found that a team down by one point at half time is more likely to win a game than a team ahead by one point at half time. The lessons is: Losing by a small amount is extremely motivating.

You can apply this principle to the way you give your employees feedback. It’s great to see positive numbers, but you don’t want your people to get too comfortable and start coasting because they’re seeing those positive numbers. In order to keep your growth trend going, find something that everyone can improve upon.

5. Don’t be afraid to take risks

In basketball, going for a three point shot is more risky, because the chances you will make the basket are lower. But the payoff for the three point shot is higher than for a layup. An analysis of risk-taking in basketball (going for more 3 pointers), found that when a team is winning and their lead is decreasing, they tend to become risk-averse. And not taking enough risks can be costly.

This is true for your business as well. You need to find the right balance of playing it safe and taking risks. The payoff of taking risks in basketball may not directly translate to taking risks in businesses, but the general lesson is this: If you find yourself hesitant to take risks, ask yourself why and ask yourself whether that is really the best decision. You may be choosing a bad strategy based on a fear of losing.

6. Rival responsibly

Rivalries can be good and bad for sports teams. On the one hand, a rivalry seems to improve performance. Basketball teams, for instance, tend to play stronger defense during rivalry games. In this way, a rivalry between you and business competitor could motivate your team to work harder and smarter.

On the other hand, rivalries can also increase unsportsmanlike conduct. So if you are going to play up a rivalry, be sure you emphasize that you have to win fairly and courteously—no cheating and no nastiness.

March Madness has something to offer everyone—basketball fans and business owners alike. If your office that loves sports, present these strategies in terms of basketball; your people will likely be much more engaged.

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Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner is an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula", and Founder of Marketing Insider Group. Recognized as a Top Content Marketing expert and Digital Marketing Leader, Michael leverages his experience from roles in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as his leadership in leading teams and driving growth for thriving startups. Today, Michael delivers empowering keynotes on marketing and leadership, and facilitates actionable workshops on content marketing strategy. Connect with Michael today.

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