Today I get a kick out of my job, but for some time in my younger days, kicking was my job. I was an avid martial arts student as a youngster, winning state and national competitions in taekwondo. I eventually branched out into different disciplines but started gravitating to more combat spots like kickboxing. Between my undergraduate and graduate school studies, I actually moved to Japan to try to compete professionally.
Professional fight organizations were very big in Japan at that time and I opened a school with a partner in Kawasaki to supplement my income. I fought for some organizations there and developed my skills as a kickboxer. I gave myself a two-year plan before heading back to the U.S. to attend business school.
Although kickboxing was not part of the curriculum at B-school, it taught me a lot. Just about everything I learned in the ring has proved to be transferable to my role today as a chief marketing officer.
As examples, here are my Top Six Kickboxing Lessons for Marketers:
- You need to be coachable. In the marketing business, as soon as you think you know everything, you’ve lost. Learn to take guidance, and know whose guidance you should seek out. Never stop learning; the world is changing rapidly.
- A sturdy work ethic is a fundamental requirement. To quote Woody Allen (who never was a kickboxer, to my knowledge), “80 percent of success is showing up.” So show up every day to work out and take guidance to improve. Talent alone is not enough to win. Assume the competition is working twice as hard.
- Be prepared to get hit and to keep fighting. It’s important to develop the kind of mentality that anticipates a shot to the midsection, to nurture the stamina, endurance and toughness not to flinch but to keep on fighting. It’s not easy in the ring or in the workplace. Establish credibility by sticking up for what you believe and embrace the tough discussions the customer wants to have with you.
- Understand whom you’re fighting and adapt your style to their approach. In the business world it’s essential to understand who your customer is and move forward with the right marketing mix. You shouldn’t fight a taller fighter with the same reach as you’d fight someone shorter. Customers are different and marketers need to understand that.
- Don’t overcommit. I once cracked my ribs because I overcommitted on a punch and got out of position. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, because that strategy can jeopardize your ability to win. For instance, avoid throwing everything into just a webinar—diversify your resources to include email campaigns, content creation and other elements for a balanced attack.
- Don’t over-train. It’s about value, not volume. Training too much wears on the body and the mind. Similarly, marketers need to understand what’s the optimal frequency to engage the market. If you spam prospects endlessly with emails disconnected from a strategic campaign, you’re not being smart. Evaluate how many touch points are tolerable and optimal for your prospect. Pace yourself and train smartly to make bigger gains.
While not every CMO may have been in the ring, my hope is the lumps I’ve taken provide some valuable tips for you in the marketing world.
So train smart, hit hard, and have fun!