What can B2B marketers learn from marathon running?
Even if you’ve never run a step and have no plans to, there are powerful lessons we can all learn from marathon running that significantly align with successful B2B marketing.
I’ve been running marathons since 1998 and working in online communications and marketing since 1984 — two pursuits that may initially seem quite dissimilar, but which have much in common when you get down to it.
The eleven marathons and ultra-marathons I’ve run — and the training to prepare for them — have taught me life lessons that have continued on long after any particular race has finished. Let’s take a look at a handful of the many take-aways that B2B marketers can learn from marathon running.
1 — The Power of Proper Pacing
In B2B marketing and in marathoning, always keep your goal in mind and map out the steps you need to take along the way to achieve it.
Pacing is knowing when to take each of the actions that will make your goal possible, whether it’s running a sub-three-hour marathon or forming a business relationship with a Fortune 50 company.
Pacing in B2B marketing is still more of a marathon than the sprint of the B2C marketer, even with buying cycles that have changed during the pandemic.
Being as precise as possible when it comes to segmenting your goal into bite-sized and achievable parts is a trait that successful marathon runners and B2B marketers share.
Map out all of those segments in a way that makes sense to you — whether it’s in the form of a timeline or another organizational technique — with an eye for keeping a pace that you can sustain throughout the entire effort.
“If you want to run, run a mile. If you want to experience a different life, run a marathon.” — Emil Zatopek Click To Tweet
2 — Putting In The Training
In running, knowing your own sustainable pace comes from miles and miles of training. In B2B marketing, deep knowledge of potential client pain points and an understanding of the route their buying journey is likely to take combine to get results.
Every runner will ultimately train differently, and those who don’t allow themselves flexibility when working with a prescribed running training plan will likely pay the price in the form of setbacks such as injuries or frustration.
Successful B2B marketers also each train and work in differing ways using varied tactics — so trying to stick too stringently to somebody else’s playbook without customizing it to create your own unique approach can ultimately dampen opportunities.
Part of the joy of running marathons and B2B marketing is finding your own best training plan, and then seeing it come to life on race day or when the big deal is finally signed.
“If the marathon if a part-time interest, you will only get part-time results.” — Bill Rodgers @BillRodgersRACE Click To Tweet
3 — Going The Distance With Endurance
When it comes to endurance, it’s key to keep in mind that it takes two forms — physical and mental — and to understand that the two are forever intertwined, each playing a huge role in success in both marathon running and B2B marketing.
In marathon running it’s often said that the race doesn’t really begin until mile 20, and that 90 percent of running is a mental game and a mere 10 percent a physical one, especially as the distance run goes up and into ultra-marathon territory.
Focusing exclusively on physical training will build a strong body that may be able to run far and fast, however without a dedicated effort to build mental endurance, runners can’t reach their ultimate potential.
In B2B marketing, relying only on using an ever-increasing number of automated tools and utilities or worn out conventional strategies can’t provide the results that come from a cohesive approach that also features the power of mental endurance.
“Motivation remains key to the marathon: the motivation to begin; the motivation to continue; the motivation never to quit.” Hal Higdon @higdonmarathon Click To Tweet
4 — Pushing To New Levels & Finding Your Limits
Another beautiful and rewarding aspect that marathon running and B2B marketing share is that both allow you to push yourself to new levels of success, and to ultimately push those limits and break through barriers that may have previously seemed impossible to budge.
Expanding our limits is a phenomenon that transcends running and marketing, working its magic in many aspects of our lives when we learn how to carefully find our limits, train to expand them, and then successfully break through.
There’s nothing like the first glimpse of the finish line up ahead in a marathon, as it seems to release your body’s final, hidden stores of energy — a special boost that only seems to come when the body knows its work will soon be done.
If a runner is ever going to feel euphoric, it’s most likely going to come in the final push to the finish line of a marathon, knowing that nothing is going to stop you from crossing that line.
It’s a great time to savor the moment and celebrate the weeks, months, or years of hard training and planning, and the same can be said for the culmination of a comprehensive, well-executed award-winning B2B marketing campaign.
“Everything you ever wanted to know about yourself you can learn in 26.2 miles.” — Lori Culnane Click To Tweet
Continuing Marathon & B2B Marketing Success
By practicing proper pacing, putting in the training, going the distance with physical and mental endurance, and pushing your limits, the world can be your oyster when it comes to running marathons or B2B marketing.
We hope you’ve learned something new to help put an extra hop in your marketing step as we push ahead towards 2023 and a new year of marathon and marketing opportunities. For a deeper dive into the parallels between B2B marketing and running, check out our in-depth “26.2 B2B Marathon Marketing Lessons.”
With hard work and smart training, a successful marathon can involve setting a new personal best, winning an age-group award, or at the highest level even winning a race outright.
In B2B marketing, a stellar campaign can set company performance records, or even go on to win industry recognition, such as at this year’s Cannes Creative B2B Lions awards.
Running marathons can help elevate our lives, enhance fitness, and bring a new appreciation of each day, and great marketing can do the same as we increase our B2B marketing fitness.
Today more than ever, crafting award-winning B2B marketing that goes the distance takes considerable time and effort, which is why more brands are choosing to work with a top digital marketing agency such as TopRank Marketing. Reach out to learn how we can help, as we’ve done for over 20 years for businesses ranging from LinkedIn, Dell and 3M to Adobe, Oracle, monday.com and many others.